Rage Becomes Her

The Power of Women's Anger

LIST PRICE $12.99

About The Book

“Relentless and revelatory.”The New Yorker

“Urgent, enlightening.” —The Washington Post

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.

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.

Introduction

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” (http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-05-10-simple-words-every-girl-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 AngryLittleGirls.com, 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 everydaysexism.com. 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 sorayachemaly.com

About The Author

Photograph © Karen Sayre

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 SorayaChemaly.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (September 2018)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501189579

Raves and Reviews

Praise for RAGE BECOMES HER by Soraya Chemaly

“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)

“A timely indictment of the way our society treats women’s anger.”

People Magazine

"A biting polemic that points to the pressures that women in sexist society face in common, even as those pressures are borne differently and unequally in different communities . . . . Written with energy and conviction, these celebrations of the galvanic possibilities of anger make for galvanizing reading."

The New York Times

"A work of great spirit and verve."

 TIME

"Rather than dwell on how female rage is received, Chemaly presents a thoroughgoing assessment of its causes: an account, organized thematically, of the private and public abuse, bias, and discrimination faced by women. The result is both relentless and revelatory."

 The New Yorker

“Urgent, enlightening.”

The Washington Post

"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.”
Mashable

“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."
BookRiot

“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

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

—BookPage

“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."
—Bustle

"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.
—SHONDALAND

"[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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