Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is like cotton candy from a county fair. Some bites are good, other are just too much, and once it’s melted away you don’t buy anymore for another year or two. After listening to the audiobook during the 24in48 readathon, as the days pass I can’t remember details other than unending pop culture essays. They aren’t why I wanted to listen to this book. What I wanted was a sense of Gay as a writer and a woman, and I definitely got that. I already own her new book Hunger, and hope it’s more my speed. (I have a strong interest in body image and weight-related issues.)
Let’s start with the title—Bad Feminist. This book isn’t just about feminism, but either way I dislike the title. Feminism, like many movements, should be and is about bringing diverse people together behind a common goal. Not dividing people between Bad, Good, Professional, and Existential. And that term professional feminist just frosts my ass. Gay never completely explains what she means by Professional feminist, but my interpretation is that she believes they only wear black, never have fun, never shave their legs, and certainly never give blow jobs. That’s just all kinds of ridiculous thinking. I’m offended by it and couldn’t care less which category I fit in. I support Roxane Gay’s comfort with being a bad Feminist, because I don’t think she is one. She also admits she’s uneducated about the feminist movement. Well, I submit that perhaps she should have educated herself more before writing essays about feminism.
On the flip side, Gay says, “Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights. I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.” This makes more sense! How can a “bad feminist” understand this concept so clearly? Hence, why the title and her “confession” seem disingenuous to me.
The essay about getting our news from social media was an interesting topic given the way Twitter is being used today by 45. While Gay is referencing one event, which the media under reported, it important to note that she also reminds us about why journalists are vital—fact-checking.
I appreciated hearing about her perspective on race and privilege. After reading The New Jim Crow, I agree with Gay that, “Respectability politics completely overlook institutional racism and the ways in which the education system, the social welfare system, and the justice system only reinforce many of the problems the black community faces.” Gay offers her opinions, but I encourage you to also read the aforementioned book (and plenty of others) for details and facts.
As for the rest of this collection, I’m clearly not her audience since I’m not in the realm of her popular culture brands. I haven’t read the Fifty Shades books or seen the movie. I don’t listen to Jay-Z, Chris Brown, and Robin Thicke. I haven’t watched Girls or OITNB.
I do however have a Scrabble addict husband, so I thought that essay was amusing and I might suggest he start playing competitively. But I’ll guess he won’t compete unless he can bet, and Gay doesn’t mention if any of that action exists.
My feelings about these essays are clearly mixed. Part of me is bored, part interested, and another part is annoyed or angry. It’s rare that readers love every single essay in a book, so I’m not surprised. I’ll give Gay’s book Hunger a try, and I hope I like it considerably more than I liked Bad Feminist.