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Skirting fear by conforming to predetermined and often suffocating expectations is a common motif. Reading these essays arouses all of the emotional states that they contain: anguish, anxiety, disorientation, and indignation. One of the nascent themes in this collection is how the casual cruelties of other women — from elementary school and the teen years through adulthood — are often the most riling, if only because women already face so much maltreatment from our pernicious, destructive patriarchy. Not just anger, then, but also the betrayal that kindles it, are the themes that connect these essays and these books together like a network of threads — or fuses.

Anger becomes a beacon, a flare sent up to tell you when you need to be paying attention to your body, your psychic boundaries, and your very being.

Psychologists have long written about anger as a secondary emotion to fear, but I could give a shit about theory. This was gut-level; my body, my bones.

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I should not be under a desk. All these mentioned above are excellent reasons to be furious, and letting off a little steam is healthy, unless, of course, it gets coded as natural for some people and abnormal for others. 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 other words, assuming a certain level of cultural competence, and depending on who else is in the room, you may or may not feel empowered to express your anger.

The more gender-neutral simmer and blow up are recast, for women, as the expressly feminine and irrational hysterical.

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No wonder some women still need permission to acknowledge it. Burn It Down is an impressive collection of essays; nevertheless, women who want to see large-scale social change must beware the ease of stopping at mere personal disclosure, no matter how assuaging the feeling of release. Where we are divergent, they offer us a path back to one another. Consciousness raising is an initiatory step toward long-term approaches necessary to overcome our instinctive American individualism, what we see as our personal problems and stories despite their widespread relevance , the individualism which continually interrupts the construction of long-term systemic ameliorations.

Grappling with the territories of women and their anger, our individual stories are only truly valuable when they coalesce into collective activity, and we show up for each other in our homes, on the streets, in offices, boardrooms, and courtrooms. Self-help will end in self-destruction when — not if — it undermines collective support for social and legislative programs that lift all women up. Bean Gilsdorf is an interdisciplinary artist and writer based in Portland, Oregon.

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As of this writing, there have been mass shootings in , many committed by men with histories of domestic abuse. There are an estimated 3.

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The newest addition to this growing canon, the anthology Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger , diverges from these in providing a venue for 22 essays by women speaking about their anger from a variety of perspectives: as trans women, cis women, queer women, journalists, poets, actresses, first-generation Americans, women who are dealing with mental illness and physical disability; women living in New York, Chicago, El Paso, Columbus, the Pacific Northwest, and western Massachusetts; Black, Xicana, white; mothers and the childless; middle-class, poor. The diversity of subjectivities serves two main functions: readers can find at least one essay in which they identify strongly with the author, and it creates a sense of sisterhood that could hypothetically transcend the typical boundaries that keep women from combining their considerable forces to enact change.

As a person already in touch with her anger, I wondered if this volume was meant to be a form of self-help for the apoplectic, or if the essays would suggest promising avenues for change. And what of the larger questions that this collection might address: Does the expression of anger, on its own, have merit, or is anger only valuable as a catalyst to action?

Though the urgent tone and relatively short length of each essay may tempt the reader to rush through, these stories are worthy of unhurried contemplation and definitely benefit from a little breathing room. Overall, Burn It Down shares with the three books mentioned above the position that, though women have been actively discouraged from anger, they require it — to feel it, acknowledge it, express it, use it — in order to lead emotionally authentic, unabbreviated lives. Another notion the books share is that anger does not exist in isolation. Anyone who has found themselves in a similar circumstance, in which addressing an injustice directly and with honesty would make them even more vulnerable, will understand the detrimental effects that come from having to set aside your anger in the first place — a strategy that protects in the moment but over time compounds self-insult to the original injury.

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Fear, I finally understand, is the one emotion that Black women are allowed to freely explore. Skirting fear by conforming to predetermined and often suffocating expectations is a common motif. Reading these essays arouses all of the emotional states that they contain: anguish, anxiety, disorientation, and indignation. One of the nascent themes in this collection is how the casual cruelties of other women — from elementary school and the teen years through adulthood — are often the most riling, if only because women already face so much maltreatment from our pernicious, destructive patriarchy.

Not just anger, then, but also the betrayal that kindles it, are the themes that connect these essays and these books together like a network of threads — or fuses. Anger becomes a beacon, a flare sent up to tell you when you need to be paying attention to your body, your psychic boundaries, and your very being. Psychologists have long written about anger as a secondary emotion to fear, but I could give a shit about theory. This was gut-level; my body, my bones. I should not be under a desk.