Reading Women’s Anger

Highlights from what I’ve been reading:

The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud

This novel launches auspiciously with a rant by a self-identified middle-aged angry woman, about the nature and depth of her anger. Methought “yes, please!” And I enjoyed it. Lovely sentences, interesting characters. But the symbolism was too on the nose. An unfulfilled, meticulous, self-contained woman artist making meticulous, self-contained dioramas of famously unfulfilled women artists. Her foil, a fulfilled, vaguely exploitative, worldly woman artist making room-sized joyful worlds out of “trash” and, it turns out, exploitation. Didn’t you hear? The Art Machine grinds people up! OTOH, Alice Munro said that all the women she knew upended their lives between 36 and 45. This is a decent story about that.

“Sick Woman Theory,” by Johanna Hedva

A deeply informed manifesto for a politics of vulnerability and care that lays squarely in the trajectory established by Donna Haraway, Audrey Lorde and other poet-theorists who carved out space for full-throttle representation of the other: in this case, people who are too sick to leave their beds for conventional political action in public spaces. The body and self are defined by their vulnerabilities. In a culture rigidly constrained by the expectation of self-reliance, the most radical act is to care for others–care for others’ bodies, hearts, and minds. Not to get too 60s about a piece decidedly more savvy and inclusive than any hippie dream, but a politics of love and care would be truly revolutionary. Unimaginable, even.


“Baby Doe, A Political History of Tragedy,” by Jill Lepore

Once upon a time in the 70s, Congress passed a bill funding universal childcare. Nixon vetoed it because he believed that exacerbating bitter social division would be more politically expedient than giving low-income women a shot at self-sufficiency. To try to make it up to those they failed, legislators instead passed a bill dramatically expanding the child welfare/child reporting system. To meet new legal demands, child welfare departments were staffed with gummint workers qualified by their seniority and not by any actual social work training. These untrained workers let parents kill children. Brutally. A destructive cycle of child welfare scandal and pointless child welfare reform ensued. We are still trapped in that cycle. Because we don’t give a shit about poor families. As a society. We prefer scandal and pointless reform and SVU to structural rebalancing of our skewed-ass priorities.

This is one of Lepore’s and the New Yorker’s most searing pieces. Her rage cuts through each sentence.

We pay for the wrong things. The wrong things.


“An All-Caps Explosion of Feeling Regarding the Liberal Backlash Against Hillary Clinton,” by Courtney Enlow

After all this, you need a laugh. About sexism.


Hillary: College should be affordable.

Twitter: Establishment puppet, no better than GOP.

Bernie: College should be affordable.

Twitter: DAD

I’ve read Twitter. This is true.

A tad more on Clinton: While my lefty, lefty heart is left of Sanders, I agree with this guy that his theory of change is woefully inadequate to contemporary political realities. I prefer Clinton, and not just because dominant MSM rhetoric about her affect and self-presentation (seriously don’t come at me with “authenticity” unless you want a sputtering, red-faced stream of brutal but grudgingly entertaining invective) inflames my highly refined sexism detectors.

Girlfriend can get shit done. At least the get-doneable shit.

Straight talk here: lefties can kvetch about incrementalism as a failure of moral imagination. Sure. But in a divided society with a divided congress, where homegrown terrorists murder to preserve right-wing social fantasies, is anything but incrementalism possible?

The revolution will be minitiaturized.

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