Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay should be required modern feminist reading right alongside Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. This collection of essays is so important because it allows you to be, and embraces you for, being imperfect. In discussing topics ranging from race and gender to pop culture and politics, Gay provides the perfect access point to some of the harder topics she brings up. She reels you in with topics you can relate to, and then shines a light on the problematic issues related to these topics that we may have (unknowingly) become blind to.
Feminism has always been a loaded term - one that brings different connotations to mind depending on who you’re talking to. At a different time in my life, I proudly disavowed and separated myself from feminism. I'M NOT PROUD OF IT, but I had fell for the popular belief that feminism is an insult; that being a feminist meant that I was angry and hated men. In my journey towards embracing my feminism, I, like many others, struggled with notions of the Feminist Ideal. Now, reading this book felt like a homecoming.
“It was easy to embrace feminism when I realized it was advocating for gender equality in all realms, while also making the effort to be intersectional, to consider all the other factors that influence who we are and how we move through the world.”
I love this book because it was written by a human. Someone intelligent and hilarious, but also flawed - as we all are. Roxane Gay is honest, she is vulnerable, and she does not hold back. In her honesty, Gay pushed me to consider my own biases and areas of complacency.
The most important takeaway from this book, to me, is that no matter what kind of feminist you are, you are not less. You can be full of contradictions, you can mess up, you can love rap music - and you can still stand up against misogyny and institutional sexism. You can always learn and do better.
“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying - trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in the world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself…
I am a bad feminist because I never want to be placed on a Feminist Pedestal. People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. I regularly fuck it up. Consider me already knocked off.”
During this past week, I had the opportunity to both attend the Women’s March on Washington and to hear Roxane Gay speak at the Indianapolis Public Library. At the march, being surrounded by women -- feminists -- willing to stand up and refuse to accept our current reality as the new norm was empowering. Being in that historic moment was life-giving: seeing a tangible representation of the millions of women (and men) who are here to resist was a necessary reminder at the beginning of this fight - something to hold on to in the months and years to follow.
Coming home can be a different story. Going back to your day-to-day routine, it’s easy to lose steam. Having the opportunity to hear Roxane speak, just days after returning home, was a gift. I wish I had quotes to share, but since I don’t, I will say this: how she presents herself in her writing is not a facade. She is brilliant and witty, and a ~bad feminist~ to her core. She spoke of Scrabble strategy and the pleasure she derives from watching The Bachelor; her writing process and what it’s like living in rural Indiana; the beauty of the women’s march, and the heartbreak over how quickly it’s been “discredited” by certain people. If you have the opportunity to hear her speak, go go go!
“It's hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you're not imagining things. It's hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you're going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it's that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.”
Stay strong and guard your heart, lovelies. We're together in this fight.