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
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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:
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