Saturday, October 06, 2018

Rebecca Traister's got a book out called Good and Mad and it's a reminder that selling books invoking that now's the time to get mad isn't "just" a thing for people on the religious right

Rebecca Traister has a book out, Good and Mad, and a few authors have noted that it doesn't seem clear why Traister's idea of righteous female fury will 1) accomplish things at a political level and 2) why female fury is necessarily more righteous than male fury these days.

As Laura Kipnis has put it:
... “Women’s anger spurs creativity and drives innovation in politics and social change, and it always has,” she writes. Stop crying when you’re angry (tears can be tactical, but they also telegraph feminine weakness), and stop trying to make your bitchy self palatable—as Traister confesses to sometimes doing, about which she can be quite droll. (“So I was funny! And playful, cheeky, ironic, knowing!”) The small problem: “Many of us who may have covered our fury in humor have occasionally found ourselves exploding.”

Kipnis went on to note that Traister wrote that white women have powerful roles in ... banks?

White women dominate banks and businesses and all have law degrees? This is where anger and accuracy part company. I wanted Traister to step in to say that identities are more complicated than this. For one thing, class distinctions exist (a subject she barely mentions), and blurring whiteness with the 1 percent substitutes venting for thinking. Reducing the world to oppressors versus oppressed—whether that means men versus women, or white women versus minority women—may play well on social-justice Twitter, but in book form, isn’t it an offline version of those useless angry gifs?
Traister’s main question is, in the words of one activist: “Are white women going to use their power to defend their own interests” or to address the injustices faced by other women? The answer is obvious. Some will ally themselves with larger struggles, and others won’t. But even in commenting on those trying to do the former, Traister rides the white-cluelessness trope a little hard:
Another author muses on how the anger of women seems to get treated as more righteous when it literally has a maternal element.

But ... not everyone that could be identified as liberal or left finds Traister to be the person to take seriously about ... much of anything.

John Halle has singled out Traister for criticism as someone who spent years stumping for the Clintons and yet saw first-hand how bad the Harvey Weinsteins of the Clinton orbit could be toward women and about women.

Rebecca Traister-among my least favorite bourgeois , faux feminists-concludes her recent column by arguing that the ultimate solution to men such as Harvey Weinstein abusing their power in the workplace is “not just them going to rehab.” Rather it’s to “Put women in power.” This quickly, and predictably, morphs into an apologia for what consumed most of Traister’s energies over the past year, namely, her strident advocacy for the Clinton candidacy-as if there is any positive connection.
That said, there is a connection: a negative one. Weinstein was a long time friend and supporter of the Clintons, and given Hillary’s own history of apologizing for her husband’s record of sexual misconduct, it is a safe bet that her administration would have done little to aid Weinstein’s accusers, or those confronting other powerful men, provided, of course, that the latter had been dues paying members of the club, which many were .
With that in mind, it’s worth returning to Traister’s question: what would have done the most to counteract the workplace climate of impunity which made predatory males such as Weinstein inevitable. The answer is, of course, well known albeit one which Traister and others of her neoliberal orientation can never suggest, namely, empowerment of workers through collective bargaining, or, in a word, unions.

When so many of those men who were highlighted in the #MeToo moment began to turn out to be Clinton supporters would it do to suggest that the patriarchy was best understood as GOP good old boys?  Maybe not so much.  Considering that the #MeToo moment has included questions about the conduct of Native American author Sherman Alexie, too, it seems particularly dubious to think that the exploitation of celebrity to use people has to be thought of as a uniquely GOP vice.  For that matter, the Avital Ronell situation makes it seem as though the liberal arts and academics may be worse than other corporate or scientific spheres on the issue of harassment, something else Halle has blogged about.

Over at The Baffler, Jessa Crispin has written about being unconvinced that the likes of Rebecca Traister should be taken to speak for women as a subset of humanity.  Crispin wrote about two different books invoking the time for female anger, of which Traister's is one and had a few points of dissent:

Both books, of course, also tell me why should be angry. Both books say I should be angry that men on the street tell me to smile. (No man on the street in the history of my life has told me to smile.) Both books say I should be angry because women are socialized not to express anger, so they feel like they should be pretty and nice instead. (No one has ever considered me to be pretty or nice.) Both books assume that I should be furious at the unfair treatment Hillary Clinton received at the hands of the media during the 2016 presidential election.
Neither book considers the possibility, even for the length of a sentence fragment, that one thing making some women angry might have been the insistence by a certain segment of elite women leaders that Hillary Clinton was the feminist choice despite her having made the lives of an entirely other segment of women unlivable through her support of military intervention, the gutting of social welfare programs, and the financial ruin of our nation by the wealthy. We should only care that some commentators were mean about her pantsuits, and her laugh, and her hair.
Neither book tells us what to do with our anger, other than use it to drive our ambitions in corporate culture or get more exercise. Nor does either Good and Mad or Rage Becomes Her come to terms with the often selfish and self-righteous nature of anger. Both books focus on protests, on #MeToo accusations, and on the Women’s March, but neither takes seriously the criticisms that these displays of women’s rage have attracted. They ignore formidable figures like Judith Levine, who has argued against retribution and warned against the #MeToo movement turning into a moral panic, or JoAnn Wypijewski, who has criticized the idea of claiming collective victimhood, or Yasmin Nair, who has shown how complicated narratives are simplified into stories of abuse or harassment in order to further the cause. Traister and Chemaly also largely gloss over the many activists who have admonished the #MeToo movement for focusing on powerful industries like Hollywood and the federal government while neglecting the challenges faced by working class women. To them, it’s mere sexism to question these movements, and they overlook real feminist critics concerned with the aims of these efforts to complain yet again how unfair male television commentators are.
And of course neither book manages to explain how women’s anger is different than men’s. When a woman is angry in these books, it is because of injustice, not because of immigrants. An angry woman is working toward progress—she is not a white supremacist, or a mother trying to suppress trans rights for the sake of “the children,” or an online troll sending death threats. Readers of Traister and Chemaly would never guess that a majority of white women voted for Donald Trump in 2016. When a woman is angry in these tracts, she is Elizabeth Warren, not Marine Le Pen. [emphasis added]
Similarly, both books focus on the injustices done to women, not on the injustices committed by women, often in the name of anger—such as the disproportionate punishments handed out to men accused but not proven of harassment or abuse under #MeToo, or the calls for harsher prison sentences for men who commit acts of violence against women despite the widespread abuses of the prison industrial complex, or the use of pro-woman rhetoric in support of our endless war in the Middle East. But a woman who is angry about what has been done to her in her workplace or by her government and chooses to join a protest against Trump, or circulate an anonymous accusation against her coworker, is not fundamentally different from someone who is angry about their financial situation and joins the Tea Party, or shouts to Build That Wall. The most salient difference is the ideological template that interprets and channels that anger. If we assume that all women are angry in a justified, left-leaning sort of way, we don’t have to discuss how their anger is interpreted or channeled, and we can assume all women are on the side of the light.
Who in the world is only waking up to their anger now? Despite years of watching people murdered by the police on our Facebook feeds, despite decades of attacks on our right to choose and pursue private health care decisions, despite the fact that there is an entire generation alive today who has never known our country not to be at war. The answer, apparently, is that it’s the good girls. It’s the good girls who only started caring about mass deportations when Trump was doing it and not when Obama did exactly the same thing. It’s the good girls who prioritized their own ambitions and comforts over any sense of fairness or justice. It’s the good girls who saw a marketing opportunity to capitalize on in this moment in which other women who played by the rules and expected to be rewarded for their behavior suddenly realized the world isn’t fair after all. And it’s the same good girls who only recognize that injustice when it heightens their inability to continue using the system that allows the few to exploit the many.
Crispin only just barely stops short of proposing that Traister's appeal to a time for female anger is an appeal from a culturally alpha female to other aspiring culture-making females to get good and made as an intra-cultural-elite appeal.  I'm not personally persuaded that defenses of abortion cohere all that well with objections to military adventurism, so attacks on the pursuit of private health care decisions, if that decision is a euphemism for abortion, does not actually seem ultimately separable from a military adventurist state that kills in the name of human rights and human liberty. But I can appreciate a direction that seems inherent in Crispin's critique, that there's a point at which we can ask what the difference is between the anger that a Rebecca Traister invokes and the anger of all those incels who some writers believe are going to be the ruin of the contemporary West.  That Traister and other women authors have a cottage industry appealing to their fan bases that now is the time to get good and mad ... Crispin's polemics remind me that the cottage industry of targeted appeals to anger sure seems to span the spectrum.  
Take this old promotional video for Mark Driscoll's 2013 book A Call to Resurgence.
It's just "possible" that cynically selling rage to your audience that's willing to order books is not "just" the domain of figures that are ostensibly on the Religious Right.  

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