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Rage Becomes Her

The Power of Women's Anger



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About The Book

NPR * The Washington Post * Book Riot * Autostraddle * Psychology Today

Refinery 29, Book Riot, Autostraddle, BITCH

Rage Becomes Her is an “utterly eye opening” (Bustle) book that gives voice to the causes, expressions, and possibilities of female rage.

As women, we’ve been urged for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode our bodies and minds in ways we don’t even realize. Yet there are so, so many legitimate reasons for us to feel angry, ranging from blatant, horrifying acts of misogyny to the subtle drip, drip drip of daily sexism that reinforces the absurdly damaging gender norms of our society.

In Rage Becomes Her, Soraya Chemaly argues that our anger is not only justified, it is also an active part of the solution. We are so often encouraged to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Approached with conscious intention, anger is a vital instrument, a radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power—one we can no longer abide.

“A work of great spirit and verve” (Time), Rage Becomes Her is a validating, energizing read that will change the way you interact with the world around you.


My parents’ 1965 wedding was a lavish affair that went on for more than twenty hours, with over five hundred guests in attendance. Photos show glamorous women in long evening gowns and smiling men in carefully tailored black tie standing, in glittering groups, around a cake that covered the expanse of a five-foot square table.

Among the most prized gifts my parents received that day was their wedding china. These white-and-gold plates were more than an expensive gesture: they were an important symbol of adulthood and their community’s and family’s approval of marriage in general and of this marriage in particular. For my mother, they represented a core aspect of her identity: that of being a woman, soon to be mother, the nurturer of her family. Growing up, these look-but-don’t-touch dishes were at the top of a hierarchy of plates that my mother established. When my siblings and I were small, we used them only on the rarest and most special occasions and always with great care.

That’s why, one day when I was fifteen, I was dumbfounded to see my mother standing on the long veranda outside our kitchen, chucking one china plate after another as far and as hard as she could into the hot, humid air. Our kitchen was on the second floor of a house that sat perched at the top of a long, rolling hill. I watched each dish soar through the atmosphere, its weight generating a sharp, steady trajectory before shattering into pieces on the terrace far below.

While the image is vivid in my mind, I have no memory of any sound. What I remember most was that there was no noise at all as my mother methodically threw one, then another, then another, over and over until her hands were finally free. She didn’t utter a sound the entire time. I have no idea if she even knew anyone was watching. When she was done, she walked back into the kitchen and asked me how my school day had gone, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I desperately wanted to know what I had witnessed, but it didn’t feel like a good time to ask questions, so I sat and worked on my homework as my mother prepared dinner and the day morphed into night. We never talked about anger.

Why do we so rarely learn how to be angry?

Like most of us, I learned about anger in a vacuum of information, by watching the people around me: what they did with their anger, how they responded to other people when they were mad. I don’t remember my parents or other adults ever talking to me about anger directly. Sadness, yes. Envy, anxiety, guilt, check, check, check. But not anger. It turns out that, for girls, this is par for the course. While parents talk to girls about emotions more than they do to boys, anger is excluded. Reflect with me for a moment: How did you first learn to think about emotions, and anger in particular? Can you remember having any conversations with authority figures or role models about how to think about your anger or what to do with it? If you are a woman, chances are the answer is no.

As far as my own early understanding of anger, the plate-throwing incident said it all. My mother may have been livid, but she gave every appearance of being cheerful and happy. By staying silent and choosing this particular outlet for her feelings, she communicated a trove of information: for example, that anger was experienced in isolation and was not worth sharing verbally with others. That furious feelings are best kept to oneself. That when they do inevitably come out, the results can be scary, shocking, and destructive.

My mother was acting in a way that remains typical for many women: she was getting her anger “out,” but in a way that explicitly separated it from her relationships. Most women report feeling the angriest in private and interpersonal settings. They also prioritize their relationships—at home, work, and even in political contexts—in determining, consciously or not, if and how to express negative emotions.

Throwing plates is an example of a coping mechanism, but it is not an effective or healthy way to express anger. Coping often involves self-silencing and feelings of powerlessness. Getting anger out in this way is not the same as envisioning anger as a transitional tool that helps you to change the world around you. Plate throwing did, however, allow my mother to be angry without seeming angry. In this way, it allowed her to be a “good” woman, which, significantly, meant not being demanding, loud, or expressing her own needs. Even though this episode happened more than thirty-five years ago, it remains true that social norms continue to dictate how we think and feel about emotions, especially when it comes to women and anger.

But first, what happens when we experience anger? Feeling anger involves a constellation of factors, including physiology, genetics, and cognitive processing. These make up the character of anger. For example, you might be a person who tends to get angry quickly, known as “trait anger”; or you might be slower to anger and experience it mainly when provoked. That is called “state anger.” Context is equally critical, however. Our responses to provocation, our assessments, and our judgments always involve a back-and-forth between character and context. Where you are and who you may be angry with, as well as the broader social construction of anger (part of what’s called an “emotional culture”) matter.

While we experience anger internally, it is mediated culturally and externally by other people’s expectations and social prohibitions. Roles and responsibilities, power and privilege are the framers of our anger. Relationships, culture, social status, exposure to discrimination, poverty, and access to power all factor into how we think about, experience, and utilize anger. Different countries, regions—even neighboring communities in the same state—have been shown to have anger profiles, exhibiting different patterns of behavior and social dynamics. So, for example, in some cultures anger is a way to vent frustration, but in others it is more for exerting authority. In the United States, anger in white men is often portrayed as justifiable and patriotic, but in black men, as criminality; and in black women, as threat. In the Western world, which this book focuses on, anger in women has been widely associated with “madness.”

Anger is also not unidirectional but part of endless mental, physical, and intellectual feedback loops that operate below our conscious understanding. It is sometimes called a “secondary” emotion—resulting from other, often hidden, feelings of shame or fear. You might not always identify anger as part of what may be causing you discomfort, pain, or distress, but chances are that if you look closely, unexpressed or inadequately expressed anger plays a part in what you are experiencing. For some of us, being angry causes anxiety, which, in turn, makes us angrier. For others, anger becomes part of our bodies, causing physical discomfort, which then makes us short tempered, unhappy, and impairs our health. These anger feedback loops often directly implicate unacknowledged social injustice. One of the most common feedback loops that women live with involves anger caused by discrimination that, if denied, intensifies, increasing stress and its effects.

Of course, everyone feels anger. Studies show that differences between men’s and women’s experiences of feeling angry are virtually nonexistent. Where there is a difference, they defy stereotypes about men being the so-called angry sex. For a variety of reasons, which we will explore, women report feeling anger more frequently, more intensely, and for longer periods of time than men do. Most episodes involving anger do not involve physical interactions but verbal ones, and women are more likely than men to use angry and aggressive language. Additionally, men more frequently associate feeling powerful with experiencing anger, but women, notably, associate powerlessness with their anger.

If everyone feels anger, why focus on women? Why does gender matter?

Because while women and men feel anger similarly, there are stark differences in how we respond to those feelings and how they are received by the people around us. Men and women also tend to have different physiological responses to anger-stimulating provocation. Gender-role expectations, often overlapping with racial-role expectations, dictate the degree to which we can use anger effectively in personal contexts and to participate in civic and political life. Despite differences, women’s responses are routinely ignored in public discussion, in analyses of anger dynamics, and in many proposed “anger management” solutions.

Binary gender schemas are being challenged and dismantled every day, but they still profoundly govern our lives. Gender schemas—organizing generalizations that we learn early in life—simplify the world around us, but they also reproduce problematic discrimination. Male and female categories assigned at birth immediately form the basis, in our families, for how we assign roles, attributes, responsibilities, and status. They determine just as powerfully how we experience our feelings, as well as how they are perceived and responded to by others.

At home, children still learn quickly that for boys and men, anger reinforces traditional gender expectations, but that for girls and women, anger confounds them. It’s as children that most of us learn to regard anger as unfeminine, unattractive, and selfish. Many of us are taught that our anger will be an imposition on others, making us irksome and unlikeable. That it will alienate our loved ones or put off people we want to attract. That it will twist our faces, make us ugly. This is true even for those of us who have to use anger to defend ourselves in charged and dangerous situations. As girls, we are not taught to acknowledge or manage our anger so much as fear, ignore, hide, and transform it.

On the other hand, anger and masculinity are powerfully enmeshed and reinforce one another. In boys and men, anger has to be controlled, but it is often seen as a virtue, especially when it is used to protect, defend, or lead. Anger is thought of in terms of disruption, loudness, authority, vulgarity, and physical aggression and domination, and couched in terms of violence and clichés of masculinity. Boys learn early on about anger, but far less about other feelings, which handicaps them—and society—in different ways. Socially discouraged from seeming feminine (in other words, being empathetic, vulnerable, and compassionate), their emotional alternatives often come down to withdrawal or aggressive expressions of anger.

As we move from our families to our communities, we become engaged in systems that distribute not only resources and cultural capital but also emotional expression. Gender combines with race, class, age, and other aspects of our identities and social status to alter how we behave and are treated.

There is not a woman alive who does not understand that women’s anger is openly reviled. We don’t need books, studies, theories, or specialists to tell us this. During the past several years, I’ve spoken to thousands of girls and women at schools, conferences, and corporations. Without fail, afterward they come up to me to say the same two things: they want to know how to stand up for themselves “without sounding angry or bitter,” and they want to share stories about how, when they do express anger about issues specifically relevant to their lives as women, people respond with doubt and often aggression.

Women experience discrimination differently, but we share the experience—in anger or merely when simply speaking assertively—of being told we are “crazy,” “irrational,” even “demonic.” If we are worried, and, as studies show, compelled to repackage, ignore, divert, or trivialize our anger, it is because we well understand the costs of displaying it. Our society is infinitely creative in finding ways to dismiss and pathologize women’s rage. I have always understood that being seen as an “angry woman”—sometimes simply for sharing my thoughts out loud—would cast me as overemotional, irrational, “passionate,” maybe hysterical, and certainly a “not-objective” and fuzzy thinker.

When a woman shows anger in institutional, political, and professional settings, she automatically violates gender norms. She is met with aversion, perceived as more hostile, irritable, less competent, and unlikeable—the kiss of death for a class of people expected to maintain social connections. The same people who might opt to work for an angry-sounding, aggressive man are likely to be less tolerant of the same behavior if the boss were a woman. When a man becomes angry in an argument or debate, people are more likely to abandon their own positions and defer to his. But when a woman acts the same way, she’s likely to elicit the opposite response. For some of us, considered angry by nature and default, the risks of asserting ourselves, defending ourselves, or speaking out in support of issues that are important to us can be significant. Black girls and women, for example, routinely silenced by “Angry Black Woman” stereotypes have to contend with abiding dangers of institutionalized violence that might result from their expressing justifiable rage. The fact that men, as studies find, consider anger power enhancing in a way that women don’t, makes sense because for men, anger is far more likely to be power enhancing.

The lessons are subtle and consistent. We go from being “cute princesses,” to “drama queens,” to “high-maintenance bitches.” Girls who object to unfairness or injustice are often teased and taunted. Adult women are described as oversensitive or exaggerating. Representations and responses like these, whether in families or in popular culture, teach us that our anger is not something we or anyone else should take seriously. Women come to expect and dread mockery and ridicule as likely responses to their anger. This persistent denial of subjectivity, knowledge, and reasonable concerns—commonly known as gaslighting—is deeply harmful and often abusive. Women’s anticipation of negative responses is why so many women remain silent about what they need, want, and feel, and why so many men can easily choose ignorance and dominance over intimacy.

Women’s anger is usually disparaged in virtually all arenas, except those in which anger confirms gender-role stereotypes about women as nurturers and reproductive agents. This means we are allowed to be angry but not on our own behalves. If a woman is angry in her “place,” as a mother or a teacher, for example, she is respected, and her anger is generally understood and acceptable. If, however, she transgresses and is angry in what is thought of as a men’s arena—such as traditional politics or the workplace—she is almost always penalized in some way.

Women aren’t somehow magically protected from these ideas and social norms. We frequently internalize them, seeing our anger as incompatible with our primary designated roles as caretakers. Even the incipient suggestion of anger—in themselves or in other women—makes some women profoundly uncomfortable. In an effort not to seem angry, we ruminate. We go out of our way to look “rational” and “calm.” We minimize our anger, calling it frustration, impatience, exasperation, or irritation, words that don’t convey the intrinsic social and public demand that anger does. We learn to contain our selves: our voices, hair, clothes, and, most importantly, speech. Anger is usually about saying “no” in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but “no.” Even our technology incorporates these ideas, in deferential female-voiced virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, and Cortana come to mind) for whom the responses “yes” and “what can I do for you?” are prime directives and raisons d’être.

A cultivated feminine habit of prioritizing the needs of others and putting people at ease frequently puts us at a disadvantage. In particular, girls and women learn to put aside anger in order to de-escalate tension or conflict, lowering the temperature of encounters or situations that put us or others at risk. We understand that abandoning our anger is a necessary adaptation to a perpetual undercurrent of possible male violence. In a society where male violence toward women is a reality for many of us, we simply cannot know how a man—whether someone familiar or a stranger—will respond and if he will be violent. We can only trust, hope, and minimize risk.

Layered on top of these habits is pervasive silence around the fact that we are constantly making these assessments. And so, as we will see, the men around us at home, school, and work often actively deny our experiences or can be ignorant of the constant calculus we make when it comes to expressing ourselves. If men knew how truly angry the women around them often are—and understood the structures enforcing women’s silence—they would be staggered.

It’s important to note, up front, how much these behaviors are learned and tied to gender specifically. There are plenty of men who exhibit stereotypically “female” anger behaviors, just as many women display “male” habits. People who score higher for masculine traits are more likely to express their anger openly and to feel comfortable doing so, whereas those who are more feminine exhibit more control over their anger, often masking it in other expressions. Androgynous, nonbinary/gender-fluid people, freer from gender-based displays and roles, tend to be able to express anger more productively and, in general, to develop a robust ability to control and use their emotions more effectively.

Anger is like water. No matter how hard a person tries to dam, divert, or deny it, it will find a way, usually along the path of least resistance. As I will discuss in this book, women often “feel” their anger in their bodies. Unprocessed, anger threads itself through our appearances, bodies, eating habits, and relationships, fueling low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and actual physical illness. The harms are more than physical, however. Gendered ideas about anger make us question ourselves, doubt our feelings, set aside our needs, and renounce our own capacity for moral conviction. Ignoring anger makes us careless with ourselves and allows society to be careless with us. It is notable, however, that treating women’s anger and pain in these ways makes it easier to exploit us—for reproduction, labor, sex, and ideology.

Ask yourself, why would a society deny girls and women, from cradle to grave, the right to feel, express, and leverage anger and be respected when we do? Anger has a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of all our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response to trespass, violation, and moral disorder. It bridges the divide between what “is” and what “ought” to be, between a difficult past and an improved possibility. Anger warns us viscerally of violation, threat, and insult.

Like many women, I am still constantly being reminded that it’s “better” if women didn’t “seem so angry.” What does “better” mean, exactly? And why does it fall so disproportionately on the shoulders of women to be “better” by putting aside anger in order to “understand” and to forgive and forget? Does it make us “good” people? Is it healthy? Does it enable us to protect our interests, bring change to struggling communities, or upend failing systems?

An unqualified no.

Mainly, it props up a profoundly corrupt status quo.

When we are angry and expect a reasonable response, we are walking, talking refutations of this status quo. In expressing anger and demanding to be heard, we reveal the deeper belief that we can engage with and shape the world around us—a right that, until now, has almost always been reserved for men. Saying “I am angry” is a necessary first step to “Listen.” “Believe me.” “Trust me.” “I know.” “Time to do something.” When a girl or woman is angry, she is saying “What I am feeling, thinking, and saying matters.” As the treatment of our anger and the state of our politics vividly confirm, this is not an assurance that we can take for granted.

This is the real danger of our anger: it makes it clear that we take ourselves seriously. This is true in our homes and in our public lives. By effectively severing anger from “good womanhood,” we chose to sever girls and women from the emotion that best protects us against danger and injustice.

That anger metaphors are filled with kitchen imagery—anger simmers and smolders before reaching a boiling point; a person has to “mull things over” and “cool off”; we are supposed to “contain” or “put a lid” on our anger, or it will leave a bad “taste in the mouth”—strikes me as more than an interesting coincidence. As women, we often have to bite our tongues, eat our words, and swallow our pride. It’s almost, as one of my daughters put it, as if we are supposed to keep our anger in the kitchen. Where we might, for example, throw plates.

I don’t throw plates, but I do throw words. It took me years to acknowledge my own anger, and when I did, I didn’t know what to do with it. I had the distinct sensation of being alien to myself—which was ironic, since the real inauthenticity was in my denying anger, not my recognizing it. Now I write and write and write. I write my rage onto paper and into bits and bytes. I write anger out of my head and my body and put it out in the world where, frankly, it belongs. This can cause deep discomfort in the people around me, and, at times, it has brought personal or professional costs. But it also leads to richer and more productive experiences, relationships, and life outcomes. It took me too long to realize that the people most inclined to say “You sound angry” are the same people who uniformly don’t care to ask “Why?” They’re interested in silence, not dialogue. This response to women expressing anger happens on larger and larger scales: in schools, places of worship, the workplace, and politics. A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women—not as human beings, thinkers, knowers, active participants, or citizens.

Women around the world are clearly angry and acting on that emotion. That means, inevitably, a backlash often among “moderates” who are fond of disparaging angry women as dangerous and unhinged. It is easier to criticize the angry women than to ask the questions “What is making you so angry?” and “What can we do about it?”—the answers to which have disruptive and revolutionary implications.

There is real urgency behind these questions. We are living in what feels like an age of pronounced rage and near-constant outrage. There is a lot to be angry about, and everywhere you turn, people seem furious, indignant, and impatient. Every time I see a bold, outspoken, and unapologetically angry woman, I applaud her because of what her expression represents culturally.

This book is about shifting our public understanding of anger. It is about why girls and women saying the words “I am angry” matters to us as individuals and to our society. It is not an endorsement of unbridled rage, or permission to deliver a swift roundhouse kick to the face of anyone who upsets you, or to regularly fill the spaces you live and work in with hostility and discomfort. It’s also distinctly not a self-help or anger management book. Self-help, different from self-efficacy, is frequently what you do when you aren’t getting the help you need from your society. We cannot “self-help” our way to being heard, taken seriously, paid fairly, cared for adequately, or treated with dignity. We cannot “self-help” our way to peace or to justice.

This book is, rather, an interrogation of questions that demand our attention, such as: What would it mean to ungender our emotions? What would the world look like if all of us were allowed to experience and productively express the full range of our emotions without penalty? What if girls and women were not so often and effectively cut off from this particular emotion as a function of being feminine? What do we lose, personally and as a society, by not listening to women’s anger or respecting it when it does have a voice? And, importantly, how does our treatment of women’s “anger-free emotionality” relate to democracy and put us at risk of authoritarianism?

My hope is that Rage Becomes Her will change our thinking about anger, gender, emotional life, and their political impacts. I hope that it will arm you with tools to see yourself and your environment more clearly, ultimately improving both your life and the lives of those in your orbit. Because the truth is that anger isn’t what gets in our way—it is our way. All we have to do is own it.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Rage Becomes Her includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Women are angry, and it isn’t hard to figure out why.

We are underpaid and overworked. Too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Too dowdy or too flashy. Too big or too thin. Sluts or prudes. We are harassed, told we are asking for it, and asked if it would kill us to smile. (Yes, yes it would.)

Contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and entire lifetimes of being told otherwise, our rage is one of the most important resources we have, our sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. Our anger is a vital instrument and a catalyst for change.

We are so often told to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements in this world would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Rage Becomes Her makes the case that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a new understanding of one of our core emotions that will give women a liberating sense of why their anger matters and connect them to an entire universe of women looking to make a lasting positive change.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the epigraphs that begin Rage Becomes Her and the quotes that Chemaly includes throughout the book. How do they assist in your understanding of the book? Did you have any favorite quotes? What were they and why?

2. After seeing one of her daughters standing in “a line of fifty women and children waiting for a public restroom [while men] who were freely walking in and out of the adjacent men’s room cracked jokes about women’s vanity” (p. 175), Chemaly writes an article about the experience. Describe the reaction that her article receives. Did you find it as surprising as Chemaly does? In what ways are cities oftentimes more hostile to women? Discuss Women-Work-City. Why is it so notable?

3. According to Chemaly, “A lot of the difficulty of denial [of sexism] is that women’s inequality is woven into men’s identities in early childhood” (p. 227). Have you heard the phrase “be a real man”? What does it mean to you? Describe the pervasive gender roles that children are often raised with in American society. How can they be toxic? Explain Chemaly’s argument that “much of the denial [of sexism] we encounter is constructed to protect these masculine ideals” (p. 228).

4. Chemaly concludes chapter 9, “The Politics of Denial,” with the following instructions:

Be angry.

Be loud.

Rage becomes you. (p. 255)

Why do you think that she includes this advice at the end of her chapter about denying women’s anger? Discuss the advice. Why does Chemaly consider rage to be a positive emotion? After reading Rage Becomes Her, did your perspective on anger change? If so, how?

5. What is “choice feminism”? Why does Chemaly believe that the phrase “rings hollow for many reasons” (p. 235). Do you agree? What are the perils of “choice feminism”?

6. One of the central questions that Chemaly asks in Rage Becomes Her is “How many times does a woman say, ‘I’m so tired,’ because she cannot say, ‘I am so angry!’’ (p. 64). In what ways does society teach women that being angry is a negative emotion and one that they should keep in check? Chemaly cites Rosa Parks as an example of women’s anger being denied. Why is Parks portrayed as simply tired and “quiet” in the narratives about her boycott? What’s the effect of denuding her of her feelings of outrage?

7. According to Chemaly, we learn to think of males as “the world’s risk-takers, but that is only because we don’t seriously address the risks women must take as they navigate boys and men” (p. 145). Compare and contrast the risks that each gender must navigate when interacting with the world at large. Are there notable differences to you? If so, what are they? Chemaly contends that the risks women must take are more likely to be dismissed. Explain her argument.

8. Discuss the dedication of Rage Becomes Her. How has Chemaly been influenced by her mother? What lessons did her mother teach her about anger with both her words and actions? What do you think she’s passed on to her own daughters? Are there any women in your life who have encouraged you to embrace your anger? If so, how and why?

9. According to Chemaly, her family has its own fairy tale centering around her great-grandmother Zarifeh. “As the story gleefully went,” she writes, “Here we are! A romance for the ages” (p. 185). Describe the story, comparing it to the reality of Zarifeh’s life. Why do you think her family imbued the story of how Zarifeh and her husband met with romantic aspects? What did you think of Chemaly’s great-grandfather upon learning the true story?

10. In praising Rage Becomes Her, Katha Pollitt writes, “If you want to understand why #MeToo has swept the country, you need to read this book.” Discuss the movement. How did it enable “women to testify [and force] communities to develop new and more nuanced words to talk about experiences that had largely remained incomprehensible to too many”? What does Chemaly find so striking about the movement? Why do you think that the movement “took the world by storm” (p. 189)? How has it been a turning point for women?

11. In recounting how she handled a situation in which another kindergartener knocked down her daughter’s blocks, Chemaly asks “what example did I set for my angry daughter?” and concludes “I think I set an awful example” (p. 2). What do you think? Why does Chemaly feel that she handled this situation badly? What did her actions communicate to her daughter? With the benefit of hindsight, how would Chemaly address this situation and why? What would you do if you were in her place?

12. Chemaly writes, “Graphic sexualizing of woman politicians and candidates isn’t ‘harmless’ fun, it’s a political strategy” (p. 225). Give some examples in recent elections in which women candidates were the recipients of this type of behavior? In what ways does this strategy successfully silence women?

13. Although “critics of #MeToo and similar hashtag movements hold that they ‘don’t really do anything’” (p. 218). Chemaly disagrees. Explain her argument. What purpose do hashtag movements serve? Do you think that they can be successful? What markers should the public use to judge the success of these movements?

14. Chemaly describes Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” as “one of the most moving and powerful protest songs of the twentieth century” (p. 285). What inspired Simone to write the song? How was she able to use music as a weapon? Can you think of other nonviolent ways to protest? Discuss them with your book club.

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Read Chemaly’s article “10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn” ( and discuss it. Why do you think the article struck a nerve with women across the world? Were you surprised by the words that Chemaly suggests? Why or why not? Are there any other words or phrases that you think should be added to her list? If so, share them and explain why you it is so important for girls to learn and use these words and phrases.

2. Visit, taking time to view Lela Lee’s original Angry Little Asian Girl comic strips and her animations. What did you think of them? Did any of the comics or films speak to you? Which ones and why? What did you make of Lee’s decision to rebrand her website “Anger Is a Gift”?

3. Laura Bates originally created the Everyday Sexism Project in 2012, starting the site What was the impetus for the creation of the site? Read through stories on the site and through the stories on twitter that use the #everydaysexism hashtag. Did you find any stories particularly striking? If you have any stories of your own, were you inspired to share them? Is talking about your experiences and sharing them helpful? If so, how?

4. Chemaly writes that as she researched Anger Becomes Her, “countless women shared ‘anger playlists’ of songs expressing anger, curated to be a communal resource” (p. 286). Why might women find these playlists helpful? Create an anger playlist of your own and share it with your book club. What music did you include and why?

5. To learn more about Soraya Chemaly, review coverage of her in the press, read her other writings, and find out when she will be appearing in near you, visit her official site at

About The Author

Photograph by Elizabeth Dranitzke

Soraya Chemaly is an award-winning writer and activist whose work focuses on the role of gender in culture, politics, religion, and media. She is the Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and an advocate for women’s freedom of expression and expanded civic and political engagement. A prolific writer and speaker, her articles appear in Time, The Verge, The Guardian, The Nation, HuffPost, and The Atlantic. Follow her on Twitter at @SChemaly and learn more at

Why We Love It

When I first read the proposal, our team here had such a strong reaction to the message that I knew I had to jump on it. Whether it's Hillary Clinton or Harvey Weinstein, #metoo or Time's Up, it seems like almost every day something emerges to confirm that this is the right book at the right moment. —Daniella W., Editor on Rage Becomes Her

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (May 21, 2019)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501189562

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Raves and Reviews

“At turns enraging, comforting and inspiring, Rage Becomes Her is a must read.” —NPR (Best Book of 2018)

“In this powerful essay collection, Chemaly draws on interviews, research, and personal experience to examine why patriarchal Western cultures continue to demand that women silence their rage …Intelligent and keenly observed, this is a bracingly liberating call for the right of women to own their anger and use it to benefit a society ‘at risk for authoritarianism.’ Important, timely, necessary reading.”Kirkus (starred review)

“How many women cry when angry because we've held it in for so long? How many discover that anger turned inward is depression? Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her will be good for women, and for the future of this country. After all, women have a lot to be angry about.”
—Gloria Steinem

"[A] thoughtful, in-depth exploration of female rage...An essential and timely read...Invaluable and eye-opening. "
Booklist (starred review)

"Rage is a battle-cry of a book, drawing on all corner of contemporary life, from media to education and medicine. She takes the reader through a woman’s life, from infancy to adulthood, highlighting the systemic ways female rage is suppressed, diverted or minimalised. And she provides scientific evidence to back up her ideas. If life as a modern woman is maddening, then Rage is a sanity-restorer."
The Guardian

"This explosive, vital and unapologetic book lifts the lid on a hugely important but little-discussed aspect of gender inequality. With skill, wit and sharp insight, Chemaly peels back layers of cultural norms and repression to lay bare the reality of women's rage. She joins the dots to trace the connections between misogyny, violence and the repression of female anger. She weaves a path that takes us from pornography to the playground, media to medicine. This book should make you furious. It is a battle cry for women's right to rage: teaching us that we have every right to be angry, and demanding that the world pays attention to that anger."
—Laura Bates, author of Girl Up and Everyday Sexism

“If you think Senator Warren persisted, meet Soraya Chemaly and her latest book, Rage Becomes Her…Men should read the book and the women in their lives must insist that they do so…Chemaly’s book is giving voice to how women’s voices have been suppressed. This book needs to be read.”
New York Journal of Books

“A timely, politically charged account of what it means to be an American woman today... For feminists, sociologists, and politically involved readers.”
Library Journal

“At this moment in history, when women's anger is at boiling point, this text could not be more timely. Or, more needed.”

“In this breathtakingly (or maybe I should say breathgivingly…because it will literally make you feel like you can breathe again) liberating book, Soraya Chemaly breaks down the myriad ways that women are silenced, ignored, disrespected, dehumanized, and generally spat upon by the patriarchy…It’s one of the best feminist books I’ve ever read and the first I will recommend the next time someone asks me why I’m a feminist."

“Chemaly distills years of award-winning work in writing and activism into a single profound volume on women’s rage and the complex systems of social control that silence the rage of women and weaponize the rage of men.”
Electric Literature

“Chemaly writes about injustice with vigor and flair, sharing her experiences as both a woman and the mother of daughters. She supports her conclusions with grim studies, most of them dispiritingly recent. ‘Is it possible to read a book about anger and not get mad?’ she asks at one point. Not if it's Rage Becomes Her. But as Chemaly shows, that's a good reason to read it."

—Shelf Awareness

“At this moment in history, when women's anger is at boiling point, this text could not be more timely. Or, more needed.”

"Chemaly . . . writes with clear-eyed conviction.”


“A necessary delve into a heated subject, Rage Becomes Her challenges the all-too-common perception of having an anger “problem,” and works to demystify women's anger, transforming the difficult emotion into one that’s as coveted as happiness.”

BUST Magazine

"Provocative... In Rage Becomes Her, Chemelay uses scientific research, in-depth interviews, and personal experiences to investigate why cultures around the world expect and even force women to keep their anger silent and their rage hidden. But more than that, she makes a case for why that pattern finally needs to be broken."

"Chemaly’s collection of essays, shaped by research and personal experience... shows us how anger is truly one of our most potent resources for changing the world.

"[A] provocative analysis… Calling for a ‘wise anger’ that can dismantle pervasive sexism and create a fundamentally democratic society, the book makes a persuasive case that angry women can achieve, not vengeance, but change."
Publishers Weekly

"Women’s anger is the last taboo. In this provocative examination of the forbidden, hidden emotion, Soraya Chemaly asks ‘What do we lose, personally and as a society, by not listening to women’s anger or respecting it?’ Answer: the true voice of half of humanity. If you want to understand why #Metoo has swept the country, you need to read this book."
—Katha Pollitt, poet and columnist, author of Learning To Drive

“Soraya Chemaly turns her rigorous compassion, scrupulous fairness, and microscopically sharp clarity of thought on our culture’s forced suppression of female anger…Our world will never be the same. And, yes, that’s a threat.”
—Lindy West, New York Times bestselling author of Shrill

"Soraya Chemaly issues a powerful clarion call to women to speak our truth and own our righteous anger during a time when nothing less than our rage will set us free."
—Jamia Wilson, Executive Director and Publisher, The Feminist Press

“With every chapter I felt more power flooding in where fear and shame once were. This is a book that could change your life, and the world.”
—Jaclyn Friedman, author of Unscrewed

"Men should read this book to understand women; women should read this book to understand themselves. Rage Becomes Her could save your life."
—Robin Morgan, author

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