katie olson

The year of the woman

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
By Rebecca Traister
252 pages

The term “year of the woman” was originally coined in 1992, after a wave of women were elected to Congress, and it seems like another wave has crashed as a result of the 2016 Presidential election. Donald Trump’s presidency has indeed proved catastrophic for a number of populations, sectors, and policies. But it has also lit a fire under some people, mostly women and people of color, who have shown up to the midterm elections, run for public office and won, and set to passionately organizing for progressive organizations and candidates. 

In her latest book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (Simon & Schuster), cultural and political critic Rebecca Traister investigates the fire that powerful men—Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein, to name a few—have kindled and the female rage that has resulted from it. Touching upon the historical silencing of women, waves of feminism, sexual harassment, and the Trump presidency, Traister provides apt and necessary commentary on the power of women’s anger. 

Something that shone brightly throughout the pages of the 252-page volume was Traister’s highlighting of women of color throughout activist history. She outlines the work of women’s suffragist Ida B. Wells, Tarana Burke of #metoo fame, Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza, and many more. Traister also credits those of other marginalized populations, citing the real instigators of the Stonewall Inn riots were queer and transgender people of color, not Danny Winters, the white man that the 2015 Roadside Attractions film, Stonewall, suggests. 

Another interesting aspect of the book was the commentary on the many white women who, throughout history, have turned their backs on people of color. From the populations of white women who have voted for patriarchal, conservative, problematic white politicians (Roy Moore, Donald Trump, etc.), to suffragist Cady Stanton who turned on women suffragists of color and used racist tactics to further her own agenda after black men were given the right to vote before she was—Traister reveals that all is not forgotten when it comes to relations between white women and women of color. 

It is out of this analysis that one of my favorite quotes in the book came: 

“I think the reason why white women are the way they are is because the system is working for them and because they’re comfortable in their Lululemon and comfortable putting aside their law degrees. So they want us to shut the fuck up because the system is working for them.”

The quote is attributed to Saira Rao, a lawyer and editor who lives in Colorado and who, after becoming angry at the results of the 2016 election, ran for office against a Democratic incumbent congresswoman and won. In the quote, Rao is speaking of the white women she knows who label themselves as progressive and inclusive, yet still find themselves siding with the white aspect of their identities more than the female side. 

A shortcoming of the book was its strong focus on events that have already received so much news coverage in the past. For example, instead of a rehashing of the Weinstein scandal, I would have appreciated a deeper look at the history of women’s work and feminism—perhaps more on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or a few pages on feminists other than Gloria Steinem and Florence Kennedy. 

Read other reviews of Good and Mad: 
The Power of Enraged Women — The New York Times
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger — The Guardian

Purchase it from your local bookstore!

Elliott Bay Books
Books Are Magic
Skylight Books

Listen to an interview with Rebecca Traister on the Reading Women podcast. 

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