Women of a Certain Rage is the book that happened when Liz Byrski asked 20 women to take up her challenge and write her a story about rage. The result is a book that Judith Lucy calls ‘compassionate, absorbing and thought-provoking’.
Like Judith, we want to know when we can party with these ‘smart, talented, wonderful women’ but, during our current lockdown, such parties are on hold. Instead, we bring you a dispatch from America and invite you to read this mini Q&A with the generous, insightful and honest Goldie Goldbloom, who contributed the piece ‘To the Max’.
What suburb or town do you live in?
I currently live in the city of Chicago, in America. I’ve never taken out American citizenship, despite living here for many years. ‘Though earth holds many splendours, wherever I may die, I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly.’ It's cheesy but true.
Describe your piece in the book and why you chose to write about that particular moment in your life.
I was approached to write a story for this anthology shortly after the hospital death of my beloved father-in-law, a death which I watched unfold in front of me over a span of two weeks. Initially, I thought I’d write about anything else, because his death had been so traumatic for me. There were plenty of things about which I felt angry. Trump had just taken office. Climate change was accelerating. The usual personal disasters were all monstering around. Most of these things I could relegate to the back of my mind, but there was one thing that was front and centre every day and that was what had happened while I was attempting to take care of my father-in-law. I thought I’d just try writing a few paragraphs and instead, a very long missive flowed out.
Was it easy to write about rage? Why / why not?
People in general and women in particular are socialised to be nice. We are told that nice girls don’t raise their voices. Nice girls don’t say bitchy things. Nice girls wear pearls and kitten heels and don’t sweat and never ever get angry. I edit other writers’ work and the one consistent thing I notice is that people swerve away from writing anger, even when it’s appropriate to the situation. It’s hard to write rage because you have to fight against every instinct you have, every voice that’s ever told you to be sweet, to be kind, to be nice.
In your personal experience, is it socially acceptable for women to embrace and express rage? Has this changed over the course of your lifetime?
I’m a fat old grandmother. I can’t talk for the younger writers in this group, but I know that when I was younger, it was absolutely not okay for women to express rage. Sister D, in my private school, whacked hands with the cane whilst wearing the calmest, most blank expression. I still remember the cold thrill of shock I had when a girl in my class stood up on her chair and started shouting, I don’t even remember about what. And she vanished, not just from class, but from school. Permanently.
I think it’s changed a lot. For me, as a child of the 60s, rage is a scary emotion. The Black Lives Matter protesters during this past summer were often boiling with rage. Watching the news, I was afraid, even though their cause is 100% just. To me, rage seems unpredictable, dangerous, explosive. I was surprised to see so many angry, yelling women in the crowds. Maybe women were yelling at the anti–Vietnam War marches in the 70s, but I only remember flowers and cupcakes, women smiling, calm voices, little toys for the children.
My mother was a feminist and there were often impassioned debates at home about the rights of women and things that needed to change in society. But when I say impassioned debates, I mean women talking seriously and calmly, taking turns, not losing it. I know times have changed because my daughters don’t argue that way about things they feel passionate about!
How will you acknowledge International Women’s Day in 2021?
I’m going to have a meal with my daughters and talk about the stories in Women of a Certain Rage. They are universal stories. It doesn’t matter where you live. Women everywhere have many of the same concerns and fears for the future.
Are there particular reasons for women to rage during COVID or should we all just keep it to ourselves? Why / why not?
From my perspective, as an Australian living in the United States, I am furious at the way Trump handled (didn’t handle) the pandemic. Rage, of course, being so profoundly connected to fear. When I see my cousins in Western Australia having an unmasked wedding, dancing with friends, out on a picnic in the park, going to school, living ordinary lives, I understand that what I am seeing is the result of an appropriate response to COVID by people who believe in science and follow rules. I am so angry that there has been this completely unnecessary loss of life. At one point amongst the waves of the virus, I knew over 30 people who had died – 30! And if that’s not enough reason to be angry, I don’t know what is.
Goldie Goldbloom is one of 20 contributors to the book Women of a Certain Rage edited by Liz Byrski. The book is available in all good bookstores and online. Lockdown permitting, the book will be launched at a morning tea hosted by Liz Byrski, Carrie Cox and Jay Martin on Tuesday 16 March at 9.30 am to 11.30 am. Tickets are $43 per person and can be purchased here.