Karen Yuan / The Atlantic

Today’s Issue:

  • “Women’s anger is not taken seriously as politically consequential and valid, in part because women are sucked back into a maternal or wifely aesthetic framework,” Rebecca Traister said in an interview. “We need to understand their fury as politically and socially catalytic.”
  • Traister’s new book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, was The Masthead’s October Book Club pick. Today, in an exclusive video, Traister answers members’ questions.
  • Our November Book Club pick is The Library Book, by Susan Orlean. Details below on how to participate.

Watch our conversation with Traister here.

Introducing Our November Book Club Pick

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, tells the little-known story of the 1986 fire that engulfed downtown Los Angeles’s Central Library. “Susan Orlean has once again found rich material where no one else has bothered to look for it,” Michael Lewis wrote in The New York Times. The result, Lewis says, is “an exercise in mining [Orlean’s] intense feelings for a subject.”

Here’s how to join in: Get as far as you can in the book by November 26. That’s when we’ll launch our discussion on the forums. Susan Orlean will be joining us at the end of the month. We’ll announce those details in a future email.

Will Women’s Anger Lead to Political Change?

An excerpt from our conversation with Rebecca Traister—which you can watch in full in our video interview. Member questions and Traister’s answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Is female anger really always taken less seriously? While reading the book, a a member reminded me of the phrase, “When mama’s unhappy, everyone’s unhappy.” It seemed to her that, especially when women invoke their roles as wives and mothers when angry, their anger is extremely effective.  — Caroline Kitchener

Rebecca Traister: That is historically the context in which women have been offered what power is on the table. Their power is within a domestic sphere, within familial relationships. But if the only way we can invoke our authority is by making a comparison to a domestic and maternal sphere, that’s a very limited scope. Part of what this book is about is the fact that women’s anger is not taken seriously as politically consequential and valid, in part because women are sucked back into a maternal or wifely aesthetic framework. And we need to understand their fury as politically and socially catalytic.

Are movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp making a difference?  — Barbara Didrichsen, Masthead member

Traister: Sure, they are making a difference insofar as there’s actually a difference in how consequences are being meted out. For years, even for very specific men about whom allegations have been made, those allegations were out in public for years and years and years. Nobody did anything about it.

I reported on sexual-harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly when I was a young reporter in 2004. He remained the top anchor of Fox News, a network that was so powerful, it propelled presidents into office. So am I shocked by what has happened in the past year, that some of those very specific men lost their perches? Yes. But we should also remember that they didn’t lose their power.

It’s important to note that the No. 1 book on the best-seller list is written by Bill O’Reilly. He may have lost his perch at Fox, and that’s important, but he has not lost his voice, or his ability to make millions of dollars.

Do you think that the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings, and Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, might allow women to hear each other in new ways, and make greater strides against institutional oppressions?  — Barbara Kellam-Scott, Masthead member

Traister: What happened with Brett Kavanaugh long-term is going to be formative—ultimately, probably, catalytic—in a way that’s hard to recognize right now. What was made visible to so many Americans in those weeks of September and early October is going to have a galvanizing effect on young people.

I do some of the work I do today because I sat and watched Anita Hill 27 years ago in high school. There are young and old people whose lives and views of how power works in this country and is abused has been shaped by what has just happened. I believe that 30 years from now, there’s going to be a journalist telling us about how Ana Archila and Maria Gallagher demanding Jeff Flake look at them in the eyes in the elevator was a catalytic, communicative movement, a way of channeling the fury of so many millions of women who are isolated in their homes, who couldn’t be in that elevator and couldn’t be at that protest, but felt their fury communicated. We’re going to say that was a moment of political import, in ways that we can’t predict now.

Today’s Wrap-up

  • Today’s Question: What books published in the past year should we read for future editions of the Book Club?
  • What’s Coming: On Friday, reporter Joe Pinsker updates us on how technology—iPhones, smart speakers, iPads—is affecting kids.
  • Your Feedback: This is the first time we filmed a video with our book-club author. Did you like hearing from the author in a video?

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