Naomi Klein on the Green New Deal from "The Intercept"

Naomi Klein

November 27 2018, 7:03 a.m.

Like so many others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

It was March 2009 and capes were still fluttering in the White House after Barack Obama’s historic hope-and-change electoral victory. Todd Stern, the newly appointed chief climate envoy, told a gathering on Capitol Hill that he and his fellow negotiators needed to embrace their inner superheroes, saving the planet from existential danger in the nick of time.

Climate change, he said, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here. It’s not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children, and their children will be just as great. There is no time to lose.”

Eight months later, at the fateful United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, all pretense to superheroism from the Obama Administration had been unceremoniously abandoned. Stern stalked the hallways of the convention center like the Grim Reaper, pulling his scythe through every proposal that would have resulted in a transformative agreement. The U.S. insisted on a target that would allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees Celsius, despite passionate objections from many African and Pacific islander delegates who said the goal amounted to a “genocide” and would lead millions to die on land or in leaky boats. It shot down all attempts to make the deal legally binding, opting for unenforceable voluntary targets instead (as it would in Paris five years later).

Stern categorically rejected the argument that wealthy developed countries owe compensation to poor ones for knowingly pumping earth-warming carbon into the atmosphere, instead using much-needed funds for climate change protection as a bludgeon to force those countries to fall in line.

As I wrote at the time, the Copenhagen deal — cooked up behind closed doors with the most vulnerable countries locked out — amounted to a “grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters: I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.”

Almost exactly nine years later, global emissions continue to rise, alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet buffeted by record-breaking storms and scorched by unprecedented fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have confirmed precisely what African and low-lying island states have long-since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Indeed, at least eight Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas.

Not only have wealthy countries failed to provide meaningful aid to poorer nations to protect themselves from weather extremes and leapfrog to clean tech, but Europe, Australia, and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration — intensified if not directly caused by climate stresses — with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto “let them drown” policy to Trump’s increasingly real war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is the way the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.

The only thing resembling a cape at the White House these days are all those coats Melania drapes over her shoulders, mysteriously refusing to use the arm holes for their designed purpose. Her husband, meanwhile, is busily embracing his role as a climate supervillain, gleefully approving new fossil fuel projects, shredding the Paris agreement (it’s not legally binding after all, so why not?), and pronouncing that a Thanksgiving cold snap is proof positive that the planet isn’t warming after all.

In short, the metaphorical meteor that Stern evoked in 2009 is not just hurtling closer to our fragile planet — it’s grazing the (burning) treetops.

And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.

We are not on that pathway yet — very far from it. But unlike even one month ago, the pathway is clear. It begins with the galloping momentum calling on the Democratic Party to use its majority in the House to create the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and now backed by more than 14 representatives.

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality.

That early 2020 deadline is important — it means that the contours of the Green New Deal would be complete by the next U.S. election cycle, and any politician wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive champion would need to adopt it as the centerpiece of their platform. If that happened, and the party running on a sweeping Green New Deal retook the White House and the Senate in November 2020, then there would actually be time left on the climate clock to meet the harsh targets laid out in the recent IPCC report, which told us that we have a mere 12 years to cut fossil fuel emissions by a head-spinning 45 percent.

Pulling that off, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is not possible with singular policies like carbon taxes. Rather, what is needed is “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” By giving the committee a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing and construction, as well as health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee, and the urgent imperative to battle racial and gender injustice, the Green New Deal plan would be mapping precisely that kind of far-reaching change. This is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out.

If the world’s largest economy looked poised to show that kind of visionary leadership, other major emitters — like the European Union, China, and India — would almost certainly find themselves under intense pressure from their own populations to follow suit.

Now, nothing about the pathway I have just outlined is certain or even likely: The Democratic Party establishment under Nancy Pelosi will probably squash the Green New Deal proposal, much as the party stomped on hopes for more ambitious climate deals under Obama. Smart money would bet on the party doing little more than resuscitating the climate committee that helped produce cap-and-trade legislation in Obama’s first term, an ill-fated and convoluted market-based scheme that would have treated greenhouse gases as late-capitalist abstractions to be traded, bundled, and speculated upon like currency or subprime debt (which is why Ocasio-Cortez is insisting that lawmakers who take fossil fuel money should not be on the Green New Deal select committee).

And of course, even if pressure on lawmakers continues to mount and those calling for the select committee carry the day, there is no guarantee that the party will win back the Senate and White House in 2020.

And yet, despite all of these caveats, we now have a something that has been sorely missing: a concrete plan on the table, complete with a science-based timeline, that is not only coming from social movements on the outside of government, but which also has a sizable (and growing) bloc of committed champions inside the House of Representatives.

Decades from now, if we are exquisitely lucky enough to tell a thrilling story about how humanity came together in the nick of time to intercept the metaphorical meteor, the pivotal chapter will not be the highly produced cinematic moment when Barack Obama won the Democratic primary and told an adoring throng of supporters that this would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” No, it will be the far less scripted and markedly more scrappy moment when a group of fed-up young people from the Sunrise Movement occupied the offices of Pelosi after the midterm elections, calling on her to get behind the plan for a Green New Deal — with Ocasio-Cortez dropping by the sit-in to cheer them on.

I realize that it may seem unreasonably optimistic to invest so much in a House committee, but it is not the committee itself that is my main source of hope. It is the vast infrastructure of scientific, technical, political, and movement expertise poised to spring into action should we take the first few steps down this path. It is a network of extraordinary groups and individuals who have held fast to their climate focus and commitments even when no media wanted to cover the crisis and no major political party wanted to do anything more than perform concern.

It’s a network that has been waiting a very long time for there to finally be a critical mass of politicians in power who understand not only the existential urgency of the climate crisis, but also the once-in-a-century opportunity it represents, as the draft resolution states, “to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.”

The ground for this moment has been prepared for decades, with models for community-owned and community-controlled renewable energy; with justice-based transitions that make sure no worker is left behind; with a deepening analysis of the intersections between systemic racism, armed conflict, and climate disruption; with improved green tech and breakthroughs in clean public transit; with the thriving fossil fuel divestment movement; with model legislation driven by the climate justice movement that shows how carbon taxes can fight racial and gender exclusion; and much more.

What has been missing is only the top-level political power to roll out the best of these models all at once, with the focus and velocity that both science and justice demand. That is the great promise of a comprehensive Green New Deal in the largest economy on earth. And as the Sunrise Movement turns up the heat on legislators who have yet to sign onto the plan, it deserves all of our support.

Of course there is no shortage of Beltway pundits ready to dismiss all of this as hopelessly naive and unrealistic, the work of political neophytes who don’t understand the art of the possible or the finer points of policy. What those pundits are failing to account for is the fact that, unlike previous attempts to introduce climate legislation, the Green New Deal has the capacity to mobilize a truly intersectional mass movement behind it — not despite its sweeping ambition, but precisely because of it.

This is the game-changer of having representatives in Congress rooted in working-class struggles for living-wage jobs and for nontoxic air and water — women like Tlaib, who helped fight a successful battle against Koch Industries’ noxious petroleum coke mountain in Detroit.

If you are part of the economy’s winning class and funded by even bigger winners, as so many politicians are, then your attempts to craft climate legislation will likely be guided by the idea that change should be as minimal and unchallenging to the status quo as possible. After all, the status quo is working just fine for you and your donors. Leaders who are rooted in communities that are being egregiously failed by the current system, on the other hand, are liberated to take a very different approach. Their climate policies can embrace deep and systemic change — including the need for massive investments in public transit, affordable housing, and health care — because that kind of change is precisely what their bases need to thrive.

As climate justice organizations have been arguing for many years now, when the people with the most to gain lead the movement, they fight to win.

Another game-changing aspect of a Green New Deal is that it is modeled after the most famous economic stimulus of all time, which makes it recession-proof. When the global economy enters another downturn, which it surely will, support for this model of climate action will not plummet as has been the case with every other major green initiative during past recessions. Instead, it will increase, since a large-scale stimulus will become the greatest hope of reviving the economy.

Having a good idea is no guarantee of success, of course. But here’s a thought: If the push for a Select Committee for a Green New Deal is defeated, then those lawmakers who want it to happen could consider working with civil society to set up some sort of parallel constituent assembly-like body to get the plan drafted anyway, in time for it to steal the show in 2020. Because this possibility is simply too important, and time is just too short, to allow it to be shut down by the usual forces of political inertia.

As the surprising events of the past few weeks have unfolded, with young activists rewriting the rules of the possible day after day, I have found myself thinking about another moment when young people found their voice in the climate change arena. It was 2011, at the annual United Nations climate summit, this time held in Durban, South Africa. A 21-year-old Canadian college student named Anjali Appadurai was selected to address the gathering on behalf (absurdly) of all the world’s young people.

She delivered a stunning and unsparing address (worth watching in full) that shamed the gathered negotiators for decades of inaction. “You have been negotiating all my life,” she said. “In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises. … The most stark betrayal of your generation’s responsibility to ours is that you call this ‘ambition.’ Where is the courage in these rooms? Now is not the time for incremental action. In the long run, these will be seen as the defining moments of an era in which narrow self-interest prevailed over science, reason, and common compassion.”

The most wrenching part of the address is that not a single major government was willing to receive her message; she was shouting into the void.

Seven years later, when other young people are locating their climate voice and their climate rage, there is finally someone to receive their message, with an actual plan to turn it into policy. And that might just change everything.

Eric Whitacre's magnificent score accompanies images from Hubble

I’m inaugurating my use of the word “mind-blowing” to describe this visual feast of footage from the Hubble telescope’s deep field imagery. Eric Whitacre worked with scientists from Space Telescope Science Institute and 59 Production to produce this film to accompany his score. The score includes the voices of 8,000 people from 120 countries who uploaded their contribution to the final score.

How far we've come, how far we have to go

 By Rebecca Traister  Ms. Traister is the author of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.”  Sept. 29, 2018  Inside the room, in the morning, she spoke carefully, precisely, in a high voice; she made jokes about caffeine, asked deferentially about whether it would be O.K. to take a break. She acknowledged her terror, but remained calm, and cited her scientific expertise in how the brain responds to trauma.  Her voice trembled in moments of intense recollection; it sounded as though she might be crying, though no tears appeared to fall. She described a past sexual assault and the more recent media assault on her in excruciating and vulnerable detail, but did not yell, did not betray a hint of the fury she had every reason to feel as she was forced to put her pain on display for the nation.  That is how women have been told to behave when they are angry: to not let anyone know, and to joke and to be sweet and rational and vulnerable.  Outside the room where Christine Blasey Ford was testifying on Thursday morning, women were incandescent with rage and sorrow and horror. They were getting angry in a new way, a public way, an unapologetic way — a way that is typically reserved for men, and that would again serve men well, when afternoon came.  Brett Kavanaugh bellowed; he snarled; he pouted and wept furiously at the injustice of having his ascendance to power interrupted by accusations of sexual assault. He challenged his questioners, turned their queries back on them. He was backed up by Lindsey Graham, who appeared to be having some sort of fit of rage over people having the audacity to listen to a woman speak about her life and consider that she might be telling an ugly truth about a powerful man. And, as soon as he was finished, it certainly felt as if the white men’s anger had been rhetorically effective, that we had reflexively understood it as righteous and correct.  Fury was a tool to be marshaled by men like Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Graham, in defense of their own claims to political, legal, public power. Fury was a weapon that had not been made available to the woman who had reason to question those claims.  What happened inside the room was an exceptionally clear distillation of who has historically been allowed to be angry on their own behalf, and who has not.  And outside the room was a hint of how it might be changing.  Most of the time, female anger is discouraged, repressed, ignored, swallowed. Or transformed into something more palatable, and less recognizable as fury — something like tears. When women are truly livid, they often weep.  Maybe we cry when we’re furious in part because we feel a kind of grief at all the things we want to say or yell that we know we can’t. Maybe we’re just sad about the very same things that we’re angry about. I wept as soon as Dr. Blasey began to speak. On social media, I saw hundreds of messages from women who reported the same experience, of finding themselves awash in tears, simply in response to this woman’s voice, raised in polite dissent. The power of the moment, the anxiety that it would be futile, the grief that we even had to put her — and ourselves — through this spectacle, was intens  But it’s not just sorrow mingled with our wrath; our impulse toward tears in moments of fury stems also from an instinct that things will go better for us tactically — especially if we are white, our perceived feminine fragility more easily discernible and likely to elicit sympathy within a white patriarchy — if we emote through tears, which are associated with women’s vulnerability, rather than through rage. Crying affirms many of us as female, and if you’re a woman, comporting yourself in traditionally female ways is rewarded, while lashing out is punished.  Whatever the connection, there’s been a lot of crying in politics, and very little of it has stemmed just from women’s feeling sad.  Barbara Lee, the liberal Democratic representative from Northern California, knows well how to titrate rage in a palatable way; as a black woman in the House, she has had to learn. When I spoke to her last year about anger and tears, she recalled to me how the nation’s first black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, whose presidential campaign brought a young Ms. Lee into politics, used to cry “behind closed doors when she was hurt,” adding, “You know how pain leads to anger.” The tears, Ms. Lee recalled, were a product of Ms. Chisolm’s being “very sensitive, very hurt and very angry.”  And she was never the only one crying. In 1972, at the Democratic National Convention to which Ms. Chisholm brought her delegates, George McGovern persuaded many feminists to support him (over Ms. Chisholm and others). But Mr. McGovern then double-crossed them, instructing his delegates not to support a plank that would legalize abortion and violating an explicit promise to the women by permitting an abortion opponent to speak from the floor. The journalist (and later screenwriter) Nora Ephron covered the messy convention for Esquire: At four o’clock in the morning, Ms. Ephron wrote, Gloria Steinem “in tears, was confronting McGovern campaign manager Gary Hart: ‘You promised us you would not take the low road, you bastards.’”  The next day, Ms. Ephron trailed Ms. Steinem out of a hotel where Ms. Steinem had gone to confront Mr. McGovern directly but hadn’t succeeded. “If you’re a woman, all they can think about your relationship with a politician is that you’re either sleeping with him or advising him about clothes,” Ms. Steinem seethed, and started to cry again.  “It’s just that they won’t take us seriously,” Ms. Steinem told Ms. Ephron through tears. “And I’m just tired of being screwed, and being screwed by my friends.” Later, she said: “They won’t take us seriously. We’re just walking wombs.”  Sign up for Frank Bruni's newsletter  Go beyond the headlines and behind the curtain with Frank Bruni’s candid reflections on politics, culture, higher education and more every week.    It is a righteous diatribe, months and years of fury spilling over, and she can’t get it out without weeping.  “We cry when we get angry,” Ms. Steinem said to me 45 years later. “I don’t think that’s uncommon, do you?” She continued, “I was greatly helped by a woman who was an executive someplace, who said she also cried when she got angry, but developed a technique which meant that when she got angry and started to cry, she’d say to the person she was talking to, ‘You may think I am sad because I am crying. No. I am angry.’ And then she just kept going. And I thought that was brilliant.”  Tears are permitted as an outlet for wrath in part because they are fundamentally misunderstood. One of my sharpest memories from an early job, in a male-dominated office, where I once found myself weeping with inexpressible rage, was my being grabbed by the scruff of my neck by an older woman — a chilly manager of whom I’d always been slightly terrified — who dragged me into a stairwell. “Never let them see you crying,” she told me. “They don’t know you’re furious. They think you’re sad and will be pleased because they got to you.”  Patricia Schroeder, then a Democratic congresswoman from Colorado, had worked with Gary Hart on his presidential runs. In 1987, when Mr. Hart was caught in an extramarital affair aboard a boat called Monkey Business and bowed out of the race, Ms. Schroeder, deeply frustrated, figured there was no reason she shouldn’t explore the idea of running for president herself.  “It was not a well-thought-out decision,” she said to me with a laugh 30 years later. “There were already seven other candidates in the race, and the last thing they needed was another one. Somebody called it ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’” Because it was late in the campaign, she was behind on fund-raising, and so she vowed that she wouldn’t enter the race unless she raised $2 million. It was a losing battle. She discovered that some of her supporters who gave $1,000 to men would give her only $250. “Do they think I get a discount?” she wondered.  When she made her speech announcing that she would not launch a formal campaign, she was so overcome by emotions — gratitude for the people who’d supported her, frustration with the system that made it so difficult to raise money and to target voters rather than delegates, and anger at the sexism — that she got choked up.  “You would have thought I’d had a nervous breakdown,” recalled Ms. Schroeder about how the press reacted to her. “You’d have thought Kleenex was my corporate sponsor. I remember thinking, what are they going to put on my tombstone? ‘She cried’?”  For a while Ms. Schroeder kept what she called “a crying file,” a list of all the male politicians who’d wept publicly that year. “Reagan would tear up every time he saw a flag,” she remembered. Her file included John Sununu, who cried as he was stepping down as governor of New Hampshire, and George H.W. Bush, who was a steady weeper.  But the reaction to tears from those men was wholly different from what Ms. Schroeder got.  “Saturday Night Live” ran a skit  in which the actress playing Ms. Schroeder repeatedly burst into tears while moderating a debate.  “Women across the country reacted with embarrassment, sympathy and disgust,” wrote The Chicago Tribune. One Washington Post   writer argued that older women like Ms. Schroeder were setting the cause of young women back a century, calling it “crazy, reckless, for one of Congress’s few women” to be the one to “give ammunition to those who saw women as sugary little girls rather than serious people to be taken seriously.”  Ms. Schroeder found this last argument the most galling. Recalling a man who  had  suffered politically after he wept in public, Edmund Muskie, whose tears effectively ended his bid for the presidency back in 1972, she still wondered, so many years later, “Why don’t I remember anyone saying that he set  men  back?”  No one would say it set men back, because most men are allowed to cry and yell the way Judge Kavanaugh did on Thursday. They are allowed to rant the way Lindsey Graham did. Their expressions of ire serve as a signal of their strength and power. This is how men get to behave, to emote, to communicate.  Slowly, women are beginning to behave that way too.  This political moment has provoked a period in which more and more women have been in no mood to dress their fury up as anything other than raw and burning rage. Many women are yelling, shouting, using Sharpies to etch sharply worded slogans onto protest signs, making furious phone calls to representatives.  On Friday morning, two sexual assault survivors, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, confronted Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona as he got into an elevator after announcing that he would vote to send Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. “You have children in your family!” Ms. Archila shouted at him, pointing her finger in his face in vivid wrath. “I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”  Ms. Gallagher, weeping but also shouting, told him, “You’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them!”  “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” she added. “Don’t look away from me!”  Later, Ms. Archila  told a reporter : “I wanted him to feel my rage.” Shortly afterward, Mr. Flake demanded that the F.B.I. investigate the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh before a floor vote.  Many of the women shouting now are women who have not previously yelled publicly before, many of them white middle-class women newly awakened to political fury and protest. Part of the process of becoming mad must be recognizing that they are not the first to be furious, and that there is much to learn from the stories and histories of the livid women — many of them not white or middle class — who have never had reason  not  to be mad.  If you are angry today, or if you have been angry for a while, and you’re wondering whether you’re allowed to be as angry as you feel, let me say: Yes. Yes, you are allowed. You are, in fact, compelled.  If you’ve been feeling a new rage at the flaws of this country, and if your anger is making you want to change your life in order to change the world, then I have something incredibly important to say: Don’t forget how this feels.  Tell a friend, write it down, explain it to your children now, so they will remember. And don’t let anyone persuade you it wasn’t right, or it was weird, or it was some quirky stage in your life when you went all political —  remember that, honey, that year you went crazy ? No. No. Don’t let it ever become that. Because people will try.  The future will come, we hope. If we survive this, if we make it better — even just a little bit better — the urgency will fade, perhaps the ire will subside, the relief may take you, briefly. And that’s good, that’s O.K.  But then the world will come and tell you that you shouldn’t get mad again, because you were kind of nuts and you never cooked dinner and you yelled at the TV and weren’t so pretty and life will be easier when you get fun again. And it will be awfully tempting to put away the pictures of yourself in your pussy hat, to stuff your protest signs in the attic, and to slink back, away from the raw bite of fury, to ease back into whatever new reality is made, and maybe you’ll still cry angry tears at your desk and laugh with sharp satisfaction in front of late-night television, but you won’t yell anymore.  What you’re angry about now — injustice — will still exist, even if you yourself are not experiencing it, or are tempted to stop thinking about  how  you experience it, and how you contribute to it. Others are still experiencing it, still mad; some of them are mad at you. Don’t forget them; don’t write off their anger. Stay mad for them, alongside them, let them lead you in anger.  Rebecca Traister is a writer at large for New York magazine and the author, most recently, of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger,” from which this essay is adapted.

By Rebecca Traister

Ms. Traister is the author of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.”

Sept. 29, 2018

Inside the room, in the morning, she spoke carefully, precisely, in a high voice; she made jokes about caffeine, asked deferentially about whether it would be O.K. to take a break. She acknowledged her terror, but remained calm, and cited her scientific expertise in how the brain responds to trauma.

Her voice trembled in moments of intense recollection; it sounded as though she might be crying, though no tears appeared to fall. She described a past sexual assault and the more recent media assault on her in excruciating and vulnerable detail, but did not yell, did not betray a hint of the fury she had every reason to feel as she was forced to put her pain on display for the nation.

That is how women have been told to behave when they are angry: to not let anyone know, and to joke and to be sweet and rational and vulnerable.

Outside the room where Christine Blasey Ford was testifying on Thursday morning, women were incandescent with rage and sorrow and horror. They were getting angry in a new way, a public way, an unapologetic way — a way that is typically reserved for men, and that would again serve men well, when afternoon came.

Brett Kavanaugh bellowed; he snarled; he pouted and wept furiously at the injustice of having his ascendance to power interrupted by accusations of sexual assault. He challenged his questioners, turned their queries back on them. He was backed up by Lindsey Graham, who appeared to be having some sort of fit of rage over people having the audacity to listen to a woman speak about her life and consider that she might be telling an ugly truth about a powerful man. And, as soon as he was finished, it certainly felt as if the white men’s anger had been rhetorically effective, that we had reflexively understood it as righteous and correct.

Fury was a tool to be marshaled by men like Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Graham, in defense of their own claims to political, legal, public power. Fury was a weapon that had not been made available to the woman who had reason to question those claims.

What happened inside the room was an exceptionally clear distillation of who has historically been allowed to be angry on their own behalf, and who has not.

And outside the room was a hint of how it might be changing.

Most of the time, female anger is discouraged, repressed, ignored, swallowed. Or transformed into something more palatable, and less recognizable as fury — something like tears. When women are truly livid, they often weep.

Maybe we cry when we’re furious in part because we feel a kind of grief at all the things we want to say or yell that we know we can’t. Maybe we’re just sad about the very same things that we’re angry about. I wept as soon as Dr. Blasey began to speak. On social media, I saw hundreds of messages from women who reported the same experience, of finding themselves awash in tears, simply in response to this woman’s voice, raised in polite dissent. The power of the moment, the anxiety that it would be futile, the grief that we even had to put her — and ourselves — through this spectacle, was intens

But it’s not just sorrow mingled with our wrath; our impulse toward tears in moments of fury stems also from an instinct that things will go better for us tactically — especially if we are white, our perceived feminine fragility more easily discernible and likely to elicit sympathy within a white patriarchy — if we emote through tears, which are associated with women’s vulnerability, rather than through rage. Crying affirms many of us as female, and if you’re a woman, comporting yourself in traditionally female ways is rewarded, while lashing out is punished.

Whatever the connection, there’s been a lot of crying in politics, and very little of it has stemmed just from women’s feeling sad.

Barbara Lee, the liberal Democratic representative from Northern California, knows well how to titrate rage in a palatable way; as a black woman in the House, she has had to learn. When I spoke to her last year about anger and tears, she recalled to me how the nation’s first black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, whose presidential campaign brought a young Ms. Lee into politics, used to cry “behind closed doors when she was hurt,” adding, “You know how pain leads to anger.” The tears, Ms. Lee recalled, were a product of Ms. Chisolm’s being “very sensitive, very hurt and very angry.”

And she was never the only one crying. In 1972, at the Democratic National Convention to which Ms. Chisholm brought her delegates, George McGovern persuaded many feminists to support him (over Ms. Chisholm and others). But Mr. McGovern then double-crossed them, instructing his delegates not to support a plank that would legalize abortion and violating an explicit promise to the women by permitting an abortion opponent to speak from the floor. The journalist (and later screenwriter) Nora Ephron covered the messy convention for Esquire: At four o’clock in the morning, Ms. Ephron wrote, Gloria Steinem “in tears, was confronting McGovern campaign manager Gary Hart: ‘You promised us you would not take the low road, you bastards.’”

The next day, Ms. Ephron trailed Ms. Steinem out of a hotel where Ms. Steinem had gone to confront Mr. McGovern directly but hadn’t succeeded. “If you’re a woman, all they can think about your relationship with a politician is that you’re either sleeping with him or advising him about clothes,” Ms. Steinem seethed, and started to cry again.

“It’s just that they won’t take us seriously,” Ms. Steinem told Ms. Ephron through tears. “And I’m just tired of being screwed, and being screwed by my friends.” Later, she said: “They won’t take us seriously. We’re just walking wombs.”

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It is a righteous diatribe, months and years of fury spilling over, and she can’t get it out without weeping.

“We cry when we get angry,” Ms. Steinem said to me 45 years later. “I don’t think that’s uncommon, do you?” She continued, “I was greatly helped by a woman who was an executive someplace, who said she also cried when she got angry, but developed a technique which meant that when she got angry and started to cry, she’d say to the person she was talking to, ‘You may think I am sad because I am crying. No. I am angry.’ And then she just kept going. And I thought that was brilliant.”

Tears are permitted as an outlet for wrath in part because they are fundamentally misunderstood. One of my sharpest memories from an early job, in a male-dominated office, where I once found myself weeping with inexpressible rage, was my being grabbed by the scruff of my neck by an older woman — a chilly manager of whom I’d always been slightly terrified — who dragged me into a stairwell. “Never let them see you crying,” she told me. “They don’t know you’re furious. They think you’re sad and will be pleased because they got to you.”

Patricia Schroeder, then a Democratic congresswoman from Colorado, had worked with Gary Hart on his presidential runs. In 1987, when Mr. Hart was caught in an extramarital affair aboard a boat called Monkey Business and bowed out of the race, Ms. Schroeder, deeply frustrated, figured there was no reason she shouldn’t explore the idea of running for president herself.

“It was not a well-thought-out decision,” she said to me with a laugh 30 years later. “There were already seven other candidates in the race, and the last thing they needed was another one. Somebody called it ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’” Because it was late in the campaign, she was behind on fund-raising, and so she vowed that she wouldn’t enter the race unless she raised $2 million. It was a losing battle. She discovered that some of her supporters who gave $1,000 to men would give her only $250. “Do they think I get a discount?” she wondered.

When she made her speech announcing that she would not launch a formal campaign, she was so overcome by emotions — gratitude for the people who’d supported her, frustration with the system that made it so difficult to raise money and to target voters rather than delegates, and anger at the sexism — that she got choked up.

“You would have thought I’d had a nervous breakdown,” recalled Ms. Schroeder about how the press reacted to her. “You’d have thought Kleenex was my corporate sponsor. I remember thinking, what are they going to put on my tombstone? ‘She cried’?”

For a while Ms. Schroeder kept what she called “a crying file,” a list of all the male politicians who’d wept publicly that year. “Reagan would tear up every time he saw a flag,” she remembered. Her file included John Sununu, who cried as he was stepping down as governor of New Hampshire, and George H.W. Bush, who was a steady weeper.

But the reaction to tears from those men was wholly different from what Ms. Schroeder got. “Saturday Night Live” ran a skit in which the actress playing Ms. Schroeder repeatedly burst into tears while moderating a debate.

“Women across the country reacted with embarrassment, sympathy and disgust,” wrote The Chicago Tribune. One Washington Post writer argued that older women like Ms. Schroeder were setting the cause of young women back a century, calling it “crazy, reckless, for one of Congress’s few women” to be the one to “give ammunition to those who saw women as sugary little girls rather than serious people to be taken seriously.”

Ms. Schroeder found this last argument the most galling. Recalling a man who had suffered politically after he wept in public, Edmund Muskie, whose tears effectively ended his bid for the presidency back in 1972, she still wondered, so many years later, “Why don’t I remember anyone saying that he set men back?”

No one would say it set men back, because most men are allowed to cry and yell the way Judge Kavanaugh did on Thursday. They are allowed to rant the way Lindsey Graham did. Their expressions of ire serve as a signal of their strength and power. This is how men get to behave, to emote, to communicate.

Slowly, women are beginning to behave that way too.

This political moment has provoked a period in which more and more women have been in no mood to dress their fury up as anything other than raw and burning rage. Many women are yelling, shouting, using Sharpies to etch sharply worded slogans onto protest signs, making furious phone calls to representatives.

On Friday morning, two sexual assault survivors, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, confronted Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona as he got into an elevator after announcing that he would vote to send Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. “You have children in your family!” Ms. Archila shouted at him, pointing her finger in his face in vivid wrath. “I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”

Ms. Gallagher, weeping but also shouting, told him, “You’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them!”

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” she added. “Don’t look away from me!”

Later, Ms. Archila told a reporter: “I wanted him to feel my rage.” Shortly afterward, Mr. Flake demanded that the F.B.I. investigate the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh before a floor vote.

Many of the women shouting now are women who have not previously yelled publicly before, many of them white middle-class women newly awakened to political fury and protest. Part of the process of becoming mad must be recognizing that they are not the first to be furious, and that there is much to learn from the stories and histories of the livid women — many of them not white or middle class — who have never had reason not to be mad.

If you are angry today, or if you have been angry for a while, and you’re wondering whether you’re allowed to be as angry as you feel, let me say: Yes. Yes, you are allowed. You are, in fact, compelled.

If you’ve been feeling a new rage at the flaws of this country, and if your anger is making you want to change your life in order to change the world, then I have something incredibly important to say: Don’t forget how this feels.

Tell a friend, write it down, explain it to your children now, so they will remember. And don’t let anyone persuade you it wasn’t right, or it was weird, or it was some quirky stage in your life when you went all political — remember that, honey, that year you went crazy? No. No. Don’t let it ever become that. Because people will try.

The future will come, we hope. If we survive this, if we make it better — even just a little bit better — the urgency will fade, perhaps the ire will subside, the relief may take you, briefly. And that’s good, that’s O.K.

But then the world will come and tell you that you shouldn’t get mad again, because you were kind of nuts and you never cooked dinner and you yelled at the TV and weren’t so pretty and life will be easier when you get fun again. And it will be awfully tempting to put away the pictures of yourself in your pussy hat, to stuff your protest signs in the attic, and to slink back, away from the raw bite of fury, to ease back into whatever new reality is made, and maybe you’ll still cry angry tears at your desk and laugh with sharp satisfaction in front of late-night television, but you won’t yell anymore.

What you’re angry about now — injustice — will still exist, even if you yourself are not experiencing it, or are tempted to stop thinking about how you experience it, and how you contribute to it. Others are still experiencing it, still mad; some of them are mad at you. Don’t forget them; don’t write off their anger. Stay mad for them, alongside them, let them lead you in anger.

Rebecca Traister is a writer at large for New York magazine and the author, most recently, of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger,” from which this essay is adapted.

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