Book Reviews

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

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“A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.” ~Goodreads

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“Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.”

That quote from the blurb above and on Goodreads needed to be repeated and in bold because that is how I felt while reading these essays. There is SOOOO much to talk about from Bad Feminist (Aug 5) I don’t even know where to begin or how to structure this post without sounding redundant and fan-girly because as humorous and relatable as these essays are, they are also very important.

Let’s get the fan-girly stuff over with. I want to be friends with Roxane Gay. Not just follow her on Twitter and read her books but actually spend time with her. I felt such a connection to her while reading this book because I agreed with so much of what she had to say. She doesn’t just spout out her opinions and try to convince the reader to agree with her but adds personal elements and stories that make that connection beyond words on a page. She understands. She has been there. She can make fun of herself but at the same time has a huge heart and feelings that get hurt. She is contradictory and flawed, like we all are.

“Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate. Feminism has certainly helped me find my voice. Feminism has helped me believe my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard. How do we reconcile the imperfections of feminism with all the good it can do? In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed.”

I have paragraphs and passages highlighted in this book and would love to touch upon each and every one but that’s just impossible and insane. These essays cover a wide birth of topics such as: what feminism really is, accepting privilege, pop culture and how it shapes us (a lot on this), racism, inequality, profiling race and danger, rape, sexual violence, sexuality, impact of social media, body image and recognizing misogyny.

She even goes into her own thoughts about An Untamed State and how she really, truly, desperately looks for the fairy tale and the happy ending but knows that people are flawed and sometimes darkness can’t be avoided. Dark stories need to be told as much as the fairy tales.

One of my favorites was “I Once Was Miss America” where she talks about her nostalgia for Sweet Valley High Books and using those stories as a way to escape the torments of being different in school. Then she looks back on those books as an adult and knows there are terribly, terribly written but they are/were “far more than just books”. Gay mentions many books, essays and literature within this book that I am now eager to read.

“How To Be Friends With Another Woman” was another essay that I thought was sheer perfection. Many of the problems women face with feminism is the constant slamming of one another’s choices. This piece was was clever, insightful and hilarious!

But they are not all funny and light. There are some very important essays about violence toward women and how dominating, aggressive and controlling behavior depicted in books, television, movies and music is setting a dangerous tone and example of how women and girls should be treated. When fans of such express, “it’s just a book/movie/song/etc.” it still has wormed it’s way into the psyche that this behavior, that is deemed “romantic and loving”, is appropriate. And it’s not. Ever. As a grown woman, I can see it. I can filter. But to young adults, both male and female, do they? It’s not just current pop-culture. Gay mentioned how even in soap operas like the Young & the Restless, Laura ended up marrying her rapist Luke. Because he really loved her. Remember that?  Aww….how romantic.

Okay, I’m starting to soap box and get a bit heated, so I’ll wrap it up. Some readers felt like Gay repeated some of the same topics throughout this book of essays. And they would be correct. I feel, however, that when you are passionate about topics that impact the human race, it’s very difficult, not to repeat yourself, not to express your feelings, not to make your voice heard. Again and Again. Don’t we learn by repetition? I’m happy that Gay didn’t let up. One little tip that might prevent that feeling is to read an essay or two and then put the book down. I’ve made the mistake in the past of reading short stories and essays like I do a novel and it all got mushed together in my mind. Each story needs to have some time to settle in, to breathe a bit. Just my humble opinion. 🙂

(And for those who have read this, that last essay? I highlighted the entire thing. Didn’t you feel like she was writing about how you feel as a woman? Conflicted and all? Well, I did and LOVED IT!!)

*Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Collins for the advance reader’s e-proof. I was not compensated nor required to post a review. I will, however, now run out and buy a copy of my own that I can hold and highlight the heck out of! Quotes might have changed in the final released copy.

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

  1. I just went on my lunch break to buy this and the store by me didn’t have any! Such a let down. I follow Roxane Gay on Twitter and I’m looking forward to reading this even more now after your review! Making it my weekend mission to find it!

  2. I want to make copies of that last essay and pass them out to every person I know – it’s so amazing. I keep seeing that people are having a hard time getting copies, so I hope they get that second printing out quick!

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