Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist

badfeministI was terrible at reading in 2014. I was terrible at everything this year. I found myself attracted to television more and more, only because I could participate in it without actually having to participate in it, often “watching” TV and browsing Pinterest all at once. Not even Tumblr, guys. Pinterest. How many chocolate chip cookie recipes can one girl collect? The answer is a lot. Reading and writing require you to be present, and this year being present has also meant some sadness and rage about the bullshit happening in the world. I don’t have the right words to express that, though. I just know that more often than not, I didn’t want to think. That Simpsons marathon-event did me, and, I won’t lie, is doing me, all sorts of favors.

My mind feels it, though, and creatively and intellectually I feel stunted and dull. Toward the end of the year I was in dire need of stimulus, and managed to squeeze some reading in just before the year was out. The last book I read in 2014 was Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. I’d been following Gay on twitter for a bit, and both Bad Feminist and An Untamed State were sitting on my reading list for longer than that. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays. Topics run the gamut, some are about race, others about gender, or reproductive rights, and others devoted to Scrabble or Sweet Valley High. Gay is often funny and insightful, and, full disclosure, I agreed with a lot of her side on a huge majority of the issues she mentions. As far as I, as a reader, am concerned, she was preaching to the choir. What I enjoyed most, though, was the honesty with which she approached each topic.

One of my goals for 2015 is one I stole from W. Kamau Bell, to acknowledge my own hypocrisy. It’s something Gay does a lot and does with deft and skill. She often takes on an issue, and goes on to describe how this issue is biased or unfair. Then she goes on to further describe how her own position on this issue can sometimes align more closely to the biased or unfair side because we all have our biases. But she moves even further than that, beyond herself. Despite her own position, there are larger perspectives with which we have to look at things. Guys, it is not all about us and the way laws, legislation, prejudice and etc. etc. effect us specifically. There is more to this world than the street we live in. What an idea?!

In the book’s final pages she points out how so many of the things she likes or practices are in direct contradiction of capital F-Feminism, and while that might make her a “bad feminist,” it doesn’t make her any less a feminist. Considering the plethora of actresses in Hollywood that balk at the term, or hem-and-haw when asked the question, this idea almost feels like a revelation. It doesn’t matter that I expect my husband to do all the heavy-lifting in our relationship because he’s a man, women just don’t bring in the groceries in my household; that’s madness!! The idea that this conflict of ideas (because gendered chores are wrong, I know) would then make me denounce an entire  movement, one that I’ve gained so much privilege from? Well, that’s just stupid. (Plus, if you’re a girl and you wanna lift some heavy shit, go right ahead. All I’m saying is that this girl right here ain’t.)

Five Choice Quotes from Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“I get angry when women disavow feminism and shun the feminist label but say they support all the advances born of feminism because I see a disconnect that does not need to be there.”

“What I remind myself of, regularly, is this: the acknowledgement of my privilege is not a denial of the ways I have been and am marginalized, the ways I have suffered.”

“The way we talk about gender makes it easy to forget Mars and Venus are part of the same solar system, divided by only one planet, held in the thrall of the same sun.”

“”Justice” is, at times, a weak word. We would like to believe that justice is about balancing a crime with a punishment, but it is never an equal transaction. For many victims of crimes, justice is merely palliative.”

“Many women who work do so because they have to. Working has little to do with having it all and much more to do with having food on the table.”


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