Tag Archives: Rebecca Traister

A Day to Celebrate Women’s Anger


Women say:

Audre Lorde:  “… while we scrutinize the often painful face of each other’s anger, please remember that it is not our anger which makes me caution you to lock your doors at night and not to wander the streets of Hartford alone. It is the hatred which lurks in those streets, that urge to destroy us all if we truly work for change rather than merely indulge in academic rhetoric.

“This hatred and our anger are very different. Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change. But our time is getting shorter. We have been raised to view any difference other than sex as a reason for destruction, and for Black women and white women to face each other’s angers without denial or immobility or silence or guilt is in itself a heretical and generative idea. It implies peers meeting upon a common basis to examine difference, and to alter those distortions which history has created around our difference. For it is those distortions which separate us. And we must ask ourselves: Who profits from all this?”  — Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism.”

Margaret Cho: “Anger has been a tremendously healing tool for me. Obviously, there’s a lot of language around not being angry and accepting and forgiving your abuser, but — I don’t want to forgive. [Laughs.] I don’t care! I’m not taking the high road. I’m not here to be the better person. That, to me, is another way to excuse rape. Why are you trying to forgive your abuser? You need to forgive yourself … My rage is really keeping me alive, my rage is my art. We’re always told by therapists and clergy and mentors that you need to forgive and heal, and I’m not there, and I don’t plan on going there.” — Washington Post, November 2015

Roxane Gay: “When women are angry, we are wanting too much or complaining or wasting time or focusing on the wrong things or we are petty or shrill or strident or unbalanced or crazy or overly emotional. Race complicates anger. Black women are often characterized as angry simply for existing, as if anger is woven into our breath and our skin … Feminists are regularly characterized as angry. At many events where I am speaking about feminism, young women ask how they can comport themselves so they aren’t perceived as angry while they practice their feminism. They ask this question as if anger is an unreasonable emotion when considering the inequalities, challenges, violence and oppression women the world over face. I want to tell these young women to embrace their anger, sharpen themselves against it.” — New York Times, June 2016

Elizabeth Gilbert: “Anger is OK, actually. Anger, we can work with. At least anger (unlike boredom and fear) has fire in it. At least anger is alive with a kind of passion. The ancients said that there are three different kinds of prayer: You can pray in gratitude, you can pray in beseechment or you can pray in anger. You are allowed, in other words, to vent your rage to God. You are allowed to say, ‘I am furious at you for what you have allowed to occur!’ Do it. Get it off your chest. (God can take it.) But make a commitment that you will not remain in that state of rage for your entire life, or else it will burn a hole right through your soul.” — The Huffington Post, October 2014

Fran Lebowitz: “I’m pretty angry, but the problem with me is that I’m always in an extreme state of rage. I have all this other rage in me from 1950.” — The Huffington Post, October 2012

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The Slimy Underbelly of Bodies

Debbie says:

The blog Pretty Dumb Things hasn’t been on my radar, but this post is enough to convince me. Chelsea G. Summers is writing about Rebecca Traister’s Salon article “The Great Girl Gross-Out”. (You may have to bypass an ad to see the article.)

Traister, using lots of examples and links, is talking about her perception that

We have edged away from a time when talking openly about the female body was necessarily a brave political statement and into one in which it can be self-promotional, potty-mouthed and kind of sweet. It is the merging of a decades-old, well-intentioned but often embarrassing feminist health project with a liberated Internet age in which people have few qualms about airing their very dirty laundry to as wide an audience as possible, and in which women have immediate access to the experiences of their peers and elders, no matter what intimate abysses, emissions or embarrassments those stories entail.

Traister concludes:

Whether or not you view female excretions as vile, or whether, lyou view menstruation as “cleansing impurities out of your body,” there is no question that many women find the process of self-revelation, as Holmes said, cathartic. It’s about breaking certain silences, yes. It’s about letting loose with long pent-up questions and anecdotes and curiosities and fears. It’s about laughing about things that might otherwise make you wail with shame or pain or fear.

And at the same time, it can be about getting attention, performing, flaunting and acting out your own vulnerabilities, getting noticed for your willingness to debase yourself or win a gross-out contest that once could have only been dominated by boys. It can be painfully self-punishing to read and self-objectifying to write. It can be liberating, and poignant, and it can also be irritating and crass. All at the same time!

This is interesting enough, and Traister is a good writer and good researcher. But Summers takes it an important step further.

I might be rushing to state this next point, and bear with me if I am because this is just a blog post ripped from the top of my fecund mind and not a fully researched article. I’m going to say it nonetheless: if you want to know what values a culture holds dear, you need to take a look at the way the culture looks at everyone from male to female, young to old, bottom to top, but if you want to see what makes the culture’s skin crawl with the inexorable creep of the horrorsloth, you need to look at the way the culture treats women’s bodies. I’m not suggesting that the way we look at male bodies, specifically aging male bodies, reveal nothing. Pictures, text about, advertisements involving male bodies with back hair, big guts, man-boobs, nasal tufts, bald heads and so on say a lot about how we think about aging and what fears we have about masculinity, but male bodies don’t serve quite the same cultural function that female bodies do. Men get a lot more latitude. Women don’t.

Reading Traister’s piece and the Jezebel pieces, and reflecting on conversations I’ve had, things I’ve written, and other things I’ve read, I realized that Traister was right about the grrrrl-power that shades the gross discourse of Sarah Silverman and the raw honest of book like Little Red. Sadie Stein of Jezebel weighs in, saying, “The female body will not be ignored: it burbles and leaks and creaks and drips and emits and produces and reproduces and generates and puffs and inflates and occasionally reeks. It is fascinating. It is scary. It is alarming. It is hilarious and silly and mysterious.”

Where Traister is both ambivalent and supportive, Summers is simply supportive:

To be a woman and to write boldly, nakedly, honestly and funnily about your own body is unquestionably a political act. It’s a revolutionary act. And someday, it may change the way we view the world of human bodies. Someday we might live in a world where every body holds beauty, every body holds secrets, and every body can poop, stink, bleed, decay and be gross, equally.

Science-fiction writer Vonda N. McIntyre said a long time ago that an artistic genre comes to age around sexism when mediocre work by women gets attention (because mediocre work by men always gets attention). I think of that when I read this, because of the cultural assumption that grossness, graphic descriptions, crude imagery somehow “belong” to men. We see it in TV shows from Men Behaving Badly to Two and a Half Men. We see it in our expectations that young boys will say “poopy head” and “poopy butt,” that teenage boys will snigger and make fun of girls, that men in their late teens and twenties will drink until they vomit and sit around trashing women’s bodies. We don’t have similar cultural expectations of girls and young women, at least not yet. So one thing I see when I see women claiming the right to be gross, crude, and completely unrefined is a kind of coming of age.

But there’s one thing missing, that I don’t think either Traister or Summers quite caught. First it was acceptable for men to be gross about women’s bodies (and sometimes about their own). Now, we’re seeing a wave of women being gross about women’s bodies. See the next step? When do women get to be completely, openly, unreservedly gross about men’s bodies? That’s what we need for “every body [to hold] beauty, every body [to hold] secrets, and every body [to be able to] poop, stink, bleed, decay and be gross, equally.”

(As I was finishing drafting this post on a public computer in a cafe in Portland, the young woman next to me said to her partner, “I don’t want to have to sit next to some smelly fat person.” Just sayin’.)

Thanks to Lori Selke for the pointer.