I started recommending this book to people before I’d even finished it. From the introduction, I knew it was going to be a invaluable to me, and I wanted to share it.
Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is a collection of essays focusing on both her personal experiences as a woman of color, and the exploration of society and media from a feminist perspective. In the introduction, Gay writes:
“For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.”
The relevance of this idea can’t be denied. We live in a society where, on the whole, women are respected for one thing: perfection. A woman is either the shining beacon of traditional values, or a feminist leader who can do no wrong. The reality is that most people exist in between, and that really shouldn’t be a problem. The idea that women can be human and flawed and dynamic is still considered progressive. We’ve come a long way in our perception of women, but double standards like this we still have miles to go.
This is essentially what Gay means when she refers to herself as a “bad feminist.” She hasn’t read every scholarly text, and her values aren’t always perfect. And she is still a feminist. I related to Gay very much for this reason especially. I don’t know everything, and I’m still trying to unlearn a lot of internalized misogyny and problematic behaviors. That doesn’t make me any less of a feminist.
My personal experiences do, however, differ from hers. Many of her essays deal with race and how it intersects and is crucial within feminist discourse. People of color—particularly women—have to deal with being negatively affected by race on a daily basis. I am privileged enough to not be confronted by it. Gay’s essays opened my eyes to a lot of problems that are easy for me to lazily overlook, mainly because they don’t affect me negatively. But they’re my problems too. It is my job to pay attention, learn, listen, and try to help however and whenever I can. It’s important to check your privilege often, thoroughly and brutally when necessary. This book made doing so inevitable.
This book was extremely thought-provoking, and I’m struggling to condense my thoughts on it in a way that does it justice. I will say, however, that Roxane Gay has produced a well-crafted collection of essays. Her writing is intelligent but highly approachable, at times funny, and at other times dark, angry, and sad. Bad Feminist brings to light a lot of harsh truths, while remaining relatable, informative, and engaging.