By Roxane Gay
I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.
I read Bad Feminist primarily while serving as a substitute teacher at my old high school. Throughout I was vaguely tempted to interrupt students doing their work with a “listen up guys this is important.” I also wished I had copies to just hand out to students in the hallway. Additionally, that town in the middle of nowhere that she talks about, especially in the first handful of essays, is close to me. I really got the angst of the middle of nowhere parts. My biggest fear with this book is that the people who could benefit from it the most will never touch it. I can only hope that some teachers and professors across the country will use some of her essays as a jumping off point for discussion.
I feel like I should have something profound and borderline academic to say about this essay collection. I did not take a feminist theatre class for nothing. I did give a little yip of joy when Gay mentioned “The Laugh of the Medusa.” That’s about as academic as I’m going to get here, because I mostly just felt like a fangirl the entire time. I love these essays, partially because I agree with Gay. And her voice coupled with her views being presented through a pop culture lens is just so appealing. It’s nice to be reminded that you’re not alone in your views, even if the internet is better at connecting than ever. It was great to be able to couple pain and rage with some laughs. This is a woman that acknowledges and explores the appeal of something like 50 Shades of Grey, while also talking about how the series is problematic.
From the Help to Sweet Valley High, Gay covers a lot of ground. And she does it in a way that at the beginning of an essay I often can’t foresee where it will go. I’m not going to point out any of these instances, because I don’t want to spoil their power. We might start light, but these essays usually punched me in the gut (in a good way!) when I least expected it.
I too have had to come to terms with the label of feminist, even if I’m sure it pushes some people away. I’m relatively protected in that most of my good friends hold the same views. At this point in my life, I haven’t encountered a lot of the horrors many women face every day. But whether talking about abuse, rape, reproductive freedom, racial representations, and any number of other topics, Gay reminds me what its like to have a conversation in which you stick behind your convictions, without the unproductive screaming that often occurs in national discourse over such issues. I’m not perfect. No one is. But I happily adopt the title of “Bad Feminist.” On twitter recently Gay indicated she’s not opposed to releasing another essay collection, although it will be years in the future based on her other projects. I’ll be over hear happily waiting.