incandescent rage

As I mentioned last week, I just finished Rebecca Traister’s latest book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. I first read an excerpt from the book sometime in 2018 and was automatically engaged. I love women’s anger and I love reading about it more.

The act of a woman opening her mouth with volume and assured force, often in complaint, is coded in our minds as ugly”
— Good and Mad, pg 54

Early on in the book, Traister talks about the way women’s anger has been expressed in popular culture, specifically in the work of Beyonce. She talks about the video for “Hold Up” (from Beyonce’s Lemonade) and the way in which the fire hydrants that burst forth with uncontrollable water were reflective of a woman’s anger. Later, I was listening to the song and paid special attention to its lyrics. More than ever before, Beyonce’s refrain of “what’s worse/looking jealous or crazy” struck me. Even more so when she decides that she’d “rather be crazy,” suggesting that expressing her anger--and looking crazy--was better than sitting in bitter silence. For a long time I’ve been interested in how women’s expression of negative emotions, whether it be moroseness or anger, makes them monsters in the face of the world. And sometimes women do become monsters. Because at some point, it is exhausting to stay smiling while the patriarchy continues to stomp us into the ground. And so we rage. We use foul language and create “Shitty Media Men” spreadsheets and we act ‘crazy’ because it’s what we have to do to make things change. Traister’s book primarily focuses on the moment after the 2016 Presidential Election, but she recognizes that women’s anger and revolution is not new. It goes back to the centuries. To the French Revolution even. And it’s worked. It’s changed things. It hasn’t been neat or easy or consistent, but it has worked.

Throughout Good and Mad, Traister talks about the ways in which the expression of women’s anger can backfire. How the messiness of it can undermine or derail the revolution that we seek. But as Traister recognizes at the end of the book, we must go on. We must remember this anger. Because it is our driving force. And it will save us before it ever destroys us.

Good and Mad also made think about Solange’s “Mad” and the lyric where someone asks Solange why she’s mad, and she responds: “I got a lot to be mad about”

consumption report

  • My friend Kyle made a playlist called “road trip with bloody tires” which is made for quiet and steamy summer mornings. It reminds me of something that would play all day in an old house, or as the background to scenes from Donna Tartt’s A Secret History. After giving this a listen put on Kelsey Lu’s “I’m Not in Love” which I asked to be put on the playlist but has yet to find its place there.

  • Been reading Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries which makes me nostalgic for a certain literary New York crowd that I don’t think really exists; but I hope it doest. Brown’s writing is quick and sharp, making the book easy to pick up and put down—perfect for the last lazy days of summer.

  • Saw the new Netflix documentary on Cambridge Analytica, The Great Hack, and was mildly disappointed. It’s premise: how the influence of Cambridge Analytica over the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and Brexit, specifically the data harvesting, brought about new questions about data advocacy. Should’ve been vair interesting but focused mostly on Brittany Kaiser, a former employee at Cambridge Analytica, and one of the two whistleblowers who put it all out there. As I put it to my friend Charlie: it was a movie about young people choosing power and prominence above all. And I still don’t know how we’ll advocate for our data rights against increasingly powerful Tech.

a minor but perilous triumph

I started reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which has been on my Amazon wishlist for years. Being a person who likes books and liking Joan Didion feels like the most unoriginal thing ever, but there’s a reason everyone loves her. There’s a reason she’s a legend. The book is filled with essays that Didion wrote for various publications in the the late 60s. Essays about John Wayne and and “Life Styles in the Golden Land” and self-respect. I just finished Part One this morning in which the essays are primarily reporting. What makes her reporting so good is that it’s thoughtful and poetic and moving. Concluding an essay about Michael Laski, the man who founded the Communist Party U.S.A, Marxist-Leninist, Didion says: “You see what the world of Michael Laski is: a minor but perilous triumph of being over nothingness”. Ugh, talk about magic!

I saw The Farewell with my roommates and found myself stunned with emotion for hours after. It’s about a young woman, Billi, “whose family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch -- the only person that doesn't know she only has a few weeks to live”. Awkwafina plays Billi whose close relationship with her grandmother makes it even harder to maintain the lie. She’s fantastic. The film itself is an amazing depiction of family life, especially immigrant family life. It depicts the tensions created when people move away; it perfectly captures the ways we hide from our families but never very well; and it gets the way in which culture defines family and the way in which the family unit is tied into the traditions and practices of a culture at large.

This week was filled with sweet moments and interactions with people that gave me lots of joy. To leave any interaction with a shit eating grin on your face makes you optimistic. Unfortunately, I capped the week off with a note so great moment. I made a mistake that was inconsiderate of other people around me and of course upset those people. It was a small mistake and it wasn’t too serious but I still found myself spending the entire day hating myself for it and believing that my friendship with the people I affected was irreparably damaged. But the experience was a good reminder that making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person. And that people aren’t going to hate me or cut me off because I make stupid mistakes. It’s sometimes nice to believe that you’re going through the world and not causing any ripples. That as long as you can sit still enough and not be too messy and not do anything noticeably bad that you’re safe and that people will never have a reason to dislike you. And that’s just not the case. I know it and yet everytime I falter I spend ridiculous amounts of time beating myself up. I know it and I’m still thinking about it as I type this. But I’m learning. As everyone’s favourite yogi, Adriene, says: “We all fall, we all fart, and we all cry into the pillow sometimes. But, listen, We also all have the tools”.

consumption report

  • I’ve been watching a lot of reality tv this week, specifically Love Island (which is one FIVE nights a week) and MTV’s Are You the One? Watching reality shows in which people form emotional connections based on sheer proximity is always fun for me because as silly as I think it is, I always get overly invested as if it was happening to me.

  • Reading Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. More thoughts on that to come.

  • I finally listened to “Brown Skin Girl” and almost cried. Can’t wait for Blue Ivy’s solo album