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Bad Feminist: Essays

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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, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.

12 pages, Audiobook

First published August 5, 2014

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About the author

Roxane Gay

122 books155k followers
Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects.

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Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,413 followers
March 11, 2015
2.5 stars

Essays are one of my favourite literary genres and recently I've read some amazing essay collections that have introduced me to new ideas and new writing styles so perhaps I put overly high expectations on Roxane Gay's essay collection. Overall I'd have to say I was disappointed but this might have a lot to do with my high expectations and perhaps that I am not this book's intended audience.

The book started off quite well. I liked the introduction in which Gay discusses what it means to be a "bad feminist", an imperfect woman in a world in which women are expected to strive for (unattainable) perfection at all times. I was able to relate to the sentiment a lot of women have of wanting to steer clear of the feminist title because of its often negative connotations, and also because of not understanding what the theory was truly about.

There are a few reasons why this book didn’t do it for me:

1- This book is too heavy on pop culture, which isn't really for me. I'm probably the wrong audience for this book because, after all I don't watch reality TV or any of the television shows Gay critiques, I’m not interested in critiques of 50 Shades of Grey, Gone Girl or Twilight at all so it's not a surprise that I didn't enjoy those particular essays.

2- I think I was confused by the main thesis of this book. I expected all the essays to be on feminism, an alternative and more uniting (for our diverse, pluralistic society) type of feminism. This book was essentially a mixture of feminist essays, loosely-feminist essays, essays on observations of race, class and pop culture critique, and some memoir-style essays. I’m not even sure whether I can call the majority of them essays as they read like blog posts. Although I've learned a lot from reading people’s blogs, a paperback perhaps isn’t the right medium for this type of writing.

3- I wasn't challenged enough. I felt like Gay was trying to say, look I’m an academic but I’m still cool. I appreciate and admire postmodernist feminist writers when they write in their own styles and don’t feel the need to stick to conventional, dry academic writing styles, but this particular style just didn't engage me. I read a lot of feminist literature and I guess what I always look for when I finish books like this are new realizations, new ideas and things I didn't know before, but this was simply a rehash of the last two years of pop culture discussion on Twitter.

4- I was quite frankly uninterested in most of her essays. Some of the essays ended too soon; I had no idea where she was going with some of them and when I had finally figured it out, the essay had ended.

I can definitely see Gay's appeal, and the idea of her appeals to me as well. This is a world in which women are constantly being silenced or being called histrionic, strident, etc for having an opinion or talking about controversial issues that make people uncomfortable so I always support women who have found their voice and are able to express themselves. Gay does bring up lots of important topics, such as rape, racism,racial stereotypes, and abortion and these topics still need to be discussed and dealt with.

With all that being said, I did like quite a few of the essays. The ones on race were decent. Personally as a black woman in academia I enjoyed her discourse on the lack of black professors in academia and I have to say that it was not until graduate school that I ever had a black professor (or even black classmates for that matter) and that was a big deal for me.

Gay is definitely a passionate and fearless writer, It's too bad I didn't enjoy her essays as much as I'd expected to.

Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 122 books155k followers
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November 15, 2013
This writer certainly has a LOT OF OPINIONS. I mean...
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,668 followers
October 30, 2014
I became aware of the “I don’t need feminism because . . .” meme several months ago. You know—those photos of young women holding up signs that read things like, “I don’t need feminism because I am capable of critical thinking,” or “I don’t need feminism because I am not a delusional, disgusting, hypocritical man-hater.” I shook my head, rolled my eyes, but still, these weird declarations chilled me. How did a socio-political movement founded on the principles of empowerment and equal rights become reduced to “disgusting man-haters”? Who are these ignorant young women who believe that feminism is a dirty word, something to be ashamed of, and how do they not understand what they owe to the generations before them and how much work there is yet to do?

For the purpose of this review, these questions are purely rhetorical. The answers are there, they are complex, and the subject of many a dissertation, I am certain. Which is probably why Tumblrs of anti-feminist rants exist—we stopped talking about what feminism means on an every day cultural level. Feminism removed itself to the alabaster towers of academe, where concepts such as intersectionality, essentialism, Third Wave feminism, and patriarchal bargaining are no match for the mainstream, which is still shuddering over 80s shoulder pads as wide as an airplane hangar.

Well, thank God for Roxane Gay and her collection of intimate, generous, witty, and wholly accessible essays, Bad Feminist. Her voice is the first I’ve heard say, “It’s okay to be messy, to hold conflicting opinions, to do things that don’t follow the party line, to question and be confused and STILL be a feminist.” As she says in the collection’s closing line, “I’d rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”

First, a few things you should know about Roxane Gay: she’s a writer of novels, short stories, essays; a professor of English; a literary and cultural critic; a native of Nebraska, the daughter of Haitian immigrants. You will learn much more about Roxane by reading her essays. Some of what she shares will make you laugh. Some of it will break your heart. At some point, she will hit a nerve and piss you off (though not when she writes about participating in Scrabble competitions-she's adorable and so, so funny here). She ruminates, chats, gossips, but rarely does Gay conclude. Her essays hinge on the ellipses of what makes us human: our vulnerabilities, our inconsistencies, our flaws. Like each of us, she is “a mess of contradictions;” hence, her admission, her claim, to being a “bad feminist.”

Don’t look here for an historical treatise or a modern exposition of feminism. This is not a textbook. It is not a quick and dirty “Feminism for Dummies.” It is one woman’s thoughts (many of these essays have been published previously, giving to a loose and rangy feeling to this collection) on a wide range of contemporary American issues, political and cultural, with the basic theme of how feminism can confound and inspire.

Gay is a pop culture enthusiast and many of her essays examine contemporary race and gender relations through the filter of current cultural touchstones. She is an unabashed consumer of what are pointlessly referred to as ‘guilty pleasures.’ I floundered a bit at times, feeling like I was smushed into a corner booth with a bunch of girlfriends at brunch, squirming and looking around the diner, unable to contribute to the conversation. I haven’t had television since 1993 and I don't read fan-fic.

Still, I soaked up what Gay had to say about the pop culture phenoms, even if I couldn’t relate to the details. She has this raw way of setting forth her opinion, often pointed, contrary, angry, or biting, but without a hint of snobbery. You get that she gets it’s opinion, not gospel.

She makes many points that resonated deeply with this reader. In the essay Beyond the Measure of Men, Gay writes:
The label “women’s fiction” is often used with such disdain. I hate how “women” has become a slur. I hate how some women writers twist themselves into knots to distance themselves from “women’s fiction,” as if we have anything to be ashamed of as women who write what we want to write. I don’t care of my fiction is labeled as women’s fiction. I know what my writing is and what it isn’t. Someone else’s arbitrary designation can’t change that. If readers discount certain topics as unworthy of their attention, then the failure is with the reader, not the writer. To read narrowly and shallowly is to read from a place of ignorance, and women writers can’t fix that ignorance, no matter what kind of books we write or how those books are marketed.”


But in later essays, The Trouble with Prince Charming, The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help and Surviving Django, she takes to task both the writers and readers of Fifty Shades of Gray, Twilight, and The Help and the film Django Unchained. Gay draws the inclusive reading line at irresponsible writing of poor quality that celebrates the subjugation and abuse of women and at writing and film that craps all over the black American experience.

Gay also, naturally, discusses feminism from the perspective of a woman of color. This opens worlds of opinion and perspective that this reader craves. In light of this summer’s controversy over domestic abuse, the NFL, and the punishment Janay Rice suffered at the hands of her husband and the media, as well as the killing of Michael Brown and the unrest in Ferguson, MO, I want to ask these young women of Tumblr, “How’s that ‘I don’t need feminism’ working out for you?” For I do not believe that feminism is the purview of women. It belongs to all who advocate for social justice and human rights.

Gay makes the point again and again, in so many clever and self-effacing ways, that we have isolated ourselves in our narrow categories. Feminism is not spared her scorn: it has largely excluded women of color, queer women, transgendered women, it hasn’t dealt adequately with fat-shaming, it doesn’t recognize privilege, it offers up highly-educated, wealthy, successful white women (Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandburg) as proof that things have changed. But what is most striking about Bad Feminist is to hear a strong, wise, accomplished, vocal woman say, “I’m still trying to figure out what feminism means to me.”
Profile Image for Molly.
46 reviews155 followers
March 30, 2015
Trite, trivial, narcissistic and vacuous beyond belief. There's nothing thoughtful or interesting here; the collection is one pretext after another for Gay to publicly exhibit her triviality and bad taste, forgive herself for it and demand applause. Readers are inveigled into service as Gay's indulgent confessors. The repeated routine is a) Gay admits to loving some god awful schlock b) Gay ponders her own courage in making this disclosure c) Gay discovers consuming this schlock is really both personally virtuous and politically salient (which are indistinguishable). You suspect I exaggerate? I understate:

On Reality Television:
Reality television often gives the impression that like gender, the whole of life is a performance. The Los Angeles mansion or the tropical jungle or the fading rock star’s tour bus is the stage, and what a stage it is -- brightly lit, lurid, encouraging us to see the garish spectacle of life at it’s most artificially real. I watch it all -- the faux highbrow fare of Bravo, the booze-soaked MTV programming, the glossy competition shows on CBS, the sleazy exploitative fare of VH1 and even the off brand shows on lesser cable networks like Bad Girls Club and Sister Wives.

No one shines more luridly on this faux real stage than a woman. Whether it’s a modeling competition, a chance to compete for love, a weight loss show or a look into the lives of an aging magazine publisher’s harem, women are often the brightly polished trophies in the display case of reality television. The genre has developed a very successful formula for reducing women to an awkward series of stereotypes about low self-esteem, marriage desperation, the inability to develop meaningful relationships with other women, and an obsession with an almost pornographic standard of beauty. When it comes to reality television, women, more often than not work very hard at performing the part of woman though their scripts are shamefully, shamefully warped.

Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer Pozner, is a very smart book that skewers reality television for its sexist, racist, and dehumanizing tactics in nearly every genre of reality television. While I think of myself as media literate and a feminist, I don’t know that any book I’ve read this year has made me as uncomfortable as Reality Bites Back for its incisive examination of what I have often thought of as harmless entertainment programming. I had to question what it says about me that I take so much pleasure in the drama of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or the drunken, weave-snatching antics of Rock of Love or Flavor of Love, that, I, like many others, take pleasure in what Pozner brands, “the cathartic display of other people’s humiliations.” These shows exist because audiences need reminders of the wrong turns our lives might take.


On The Hunger Games:

I have found myself inexplicably drawn to these books, the complex world Collins has created, and the people she has placed in that world.

I am not the kind of person who becomes so invested in a book or movie or television show that my interest becomes a hobby or intense obsession, one where I start to declare allegiances, or otherwise demonstrate a serious level of commitment to something fictional I had no hand in creating.

Or, I wasn’t that kind of person.

Let me be clear: Team Peeta. I cannot even fathom how one could be on any other team. Gale? I can barely acknowledge him. Peeta, on the other hand, is everything. He frosts things and bakes bread and is unconditional and unwavering in his love and also he is very, very strong. He can throw a sack of flour, is what I am saying. Peeta is a place of solace and hope and he is a good kisser.

In December 2011, I didn’t really know much about The Hunger Games. Given my abiding interest in pop culture, I’m not sure how I missed the books.

I do most of my leisure reading at the gym. I hate exercise. Yes, it’s good for you and weight loss and whatever, but normally, I work out and want to die. I really do. I knew I was in love with The Hunger Games when I did not want to get off the treadmill. The book captivated me from the first page. I wanted to keep walking so I could stay in the world Collins created. More than that, The Hunger Games moved me. There was so much at stake, so much drama and it was all so intriguing, so hypnotizing, so intense and dark. I particularly appreciated what the books got right about strength and endurance, suffering and survival. I found myself gasping and hissing and even bursting into tears, more than once. I looked insane but I did not care. I was completely without shame.


Does any investigation follow these displays of pleasure? Any inquiry into these effects of consumer ecstasy, and the political, aesthetic or formal aspects of the works that provoke them? Nothing. Like a tween's book report, the shallow "analysis" is limited to descriptive characterization; the one relation Gay has to these fictions is identification and fantasy. Two centuries of political and aesthetic theorizing and literary criticism and nearly a century of the critique of mass culture have completely passed Gay by, and she remains in a critical infancy, celebrating her own every impulsive and naive reaction to the prods and stimulations of these processed snack entertainments. These products Gay exhibits herself consuming serve her as occasions and instruments for the most solipsistic autocommuning and self-exploration, tossing up an endless stream of clichés:

My love for these books, at its purest, is not really about Peeta or anything silly (though, still). I love that a young woman character is fierce and strong but human in ways I find believable, relatable. Katniss was clearly a heroine, but a heroine with issues. She intrigued me because she never seemed to know her own strength. She wasn’t blandly insecure the way girls are often forced to be in fiction. She was brave but flawed. She was a heroine, but she was also a girl who loved two boys and couldn’t choose which boy she loved best. She was not sure she was up to the task of leading a revolution but she did her best, even when she doubted herself.

Throughout the books, Katniss endures the unendurable. She is damaged and it shows. At times, it might seem like her suffering is gratuitous but life often presents unendurable circumstances people manage to survive. Only the details differ. The Hunger Games trilogy is dark and brutal but in the end, the books also offer hope—for a better world and a better people and for one woman, a better life for herself—a life she can share with a man who understands her strength and doesn’t expect her to compromise that strength, a man who can hold her weak places and love her through the darkest of her memories, the worst of her damage. Of course I love these books. The trilogy offers the kind of tempered hope everyone who survives something unendurable hungers for.


This is all a kind of advertising doubling as promotion of personal brand; "Roxane Gay" is developed as a vendible, celebrity attention magnet because of her consumption of these brands with a ostentatiously childish, naive appetite and trembling excitement that is repeatedly declared delightfully naughty in an innocent way. In turn the brands are re-energized and valorized by the spectacle of Gay's "quirky celebrity", self regarding, narcissistic enjoyment.
Profile Image for emma.
1,786 reviews43.1k followers
June 15, 2021
my becoming-a-genius project, part 12!

for those not yet in the know - sorry for the negative impact this will have on your life, and:
i have decided to become a genius.

to accomplish this, i'm going to work my way through the collected stories of various authors, reading + reviewing 1 story every day until i get bored / lose every single follower / am struck down by a vengeful deity.

last month, i read only books by asian authors, but i didn't think ahead enough and connect my genius project to that. this month, as i read only books with LGBTQ+ authors/rep, i will make NO SUCH MISTAKE.

these are essays, not stories, but still. i make the rules and i say it counts.

PROJECT 1: THE COMPLETE STORIES BY FLANNERY O'CONNOR
PROJECT 2: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
PROJECT 3: 18 BEST STORIES BY EDGAR ALLAN POE
PROJECT 4: THE LOTTERY AND OTHER STORIES BY SHIRLEY JACKSON
PROJECT 5: HOW LONG 'TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH? BY N.K. JEMISIN
PROJECT 6: THE SHORT STORIES OF OSCAR WILDE BY OSCAR WILDE
PROJECT 7: THE BLUE FAIRY BOOK BY ANDREW LANG
PROJECT 8: GRAND UNION: STORIES BY ZADIE SMITH
PROJECT 9: THE BEST OF ROALD DAHL BY ROALD DAHL
PROJECT 10: LOVE AND FREINDSHIP BY JANE AUSTEN
PROJECT 11: HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD BY OTTESSA MOSHFEGH
PROJECT 12: BAD FEMINIST BY ROXANE GAY


DAY 1: INTRODUCTION: FEMINISM (N) PLURAL
i very very much liked this but also now "feminism" doesn't look like a word.
rating: 4.5

DAY 2: FEEL ME. SEE ME. HEAR ME. REACH ME.
this was kind of a weird mishmash of different things and felt all over the place. which is cool but maybe not ideal for the second entry in a collection of essays?
i'm still trying to find my footing here, man. can't just throw me in the damn pool. (that happened to me once in my final year of swim lessons, which was the pre-swim team level. some lady literally pushed me into the pool. guess what? i didn't join the swim team.)
(in fairness there is not a snowball's chance in hell i would've joined it voluntarily regardless, but amping up the scope of this trauma convinced my mom it would have been cruel and unusual to make me. so.)
rating: 3

DAY 3, PART 1: PECULIAR BENEFITS
i just realized there are like 42 essays in this story so...going to amp this up and read 2 a day. i don't have it in me to be reading the same book for a month and a half right now.
this is, like...a good if not groundbreaking piece about privilege.
rating: 3.25

DAY 3, PART 2: TYPICAL FIRST YEAR PROFESSOR
i do not like the condescension toward what students wear in this - it's college? we're supposed to have grown out of high school dress code you're being distracting mentality.
also it seems a little, uh, non-self-aware to use space in your essay collection about feminism to call out ways women don't dress appropriately in your eyes (sweatpants with words across the ass, bra straps exposed) that are actually kind of like. fine?
anyway. if i'm not being persnickety and getting hung up on the contents of one paragraph i can admit i thought this one was very honest and sweet and good.
rating: 4

DAY 4, PART 1: TO SCRATCH, CLAW, OR GROPE CLUMSILY OR FRANTICALLY
"I approach most things in life with a dangerous level of confidence to balance my generally low self-esteem." goals tbh.
turns out i enjoy reading about competitive scrabble.
rating: 3.75

DAY 4, PART 2: HOW TO BE FRIENDS WITH ANOTHER WOMAN
immediately i am nervous about this because never once have i needed instructions on this subject.
this also fairly quickly includes the sentence "If you feel like it's hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren't the problem. Maybe it's just you," which i agree with but also feels like an admission that this whole essay is pretty unnecessary.
i don't know why i'm being grumpy. this is actually very sweet.
rating: 4

DAY 5, PART 1: GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS
the beginning of this i loved very much. i wish this was a little more autobiographical.
then again i am addicted to memoirs, so it could be that.
rating: 3.75

DAY 5, PART 2: I ONCE WAS MISS AMERICA
this made me want to read the sweet valley high books, which is a statement i never expected to write.
rating: 4

DAY 6, PART 1: GARISH, GLORIOUS SPECTACLES
the first part of this is mostly talking about two books, but then i wanted to read the two books so i didn't want them spoiled for me, so i kind of skimmed it to avoid getting too much of the stories, but then the rest of it was using the lens just created using those two books to analyze reality TV, so i feel like i didn't quite get so much out of this as i could have.
no rating

DAY 6, PART 2: NOT HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS
this is an essay in large part about how silly it is to say a character is unlikable as a criticism of a story - which is also something i've been thinking about a lot lately.
as i get older, i appreciate unlikable characters more, and also less and less often think of an unlikable character as a negative aspect of a story.
this makes me want to go through every review i've ever written and redo it.
also it excerpts the gone girl cool girl monologue, which is always a plus in my book.
rating: 4.5

DAY 7, PART 1: HOW WE ALL LOSE
this essay really made me regret reading anything by caitlin moran. f*ck you, caitlin moran.
this essay also made me feel very validated in how much i was unable to enjoy The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao because of the unconscionable and unrelenting sexism, which everyone in my freshman-year lit class hated me for pointing out. (this is probably the 100th time i've mentioned.)
and thirdly, this essay made me really hope the lit-crit essays stop coming one after another. is that the whole book? go back please.
rating: 3.75

DAY 7, PART 2: REACHING FOR CATHARSIS: GETTING FAT RIGHT (OR WRONG) AND DIANA SPECHLER'S SKINNY
this was so excellent. we need more addresses of fatphobia like this.
rating: 4.5

DAY 8, PART 1: THE SMOOTH SURFACES OF IDYLL
"Sometimes, and especially as a writer, I feel like I have no idea what happiness is, what it looks like, what it feels like, how to show it on the page."
to quote john mulaney: THAT'S THE THING I'M SENSITIVE ABOUT!
rating: 4.25

DAY 8, PART 2: THE CARELESS LANGUAGE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
bold move of me to spend my morning reading essays with titles like this one! what a way to start the day, and so on.
this has some very good insights and a compelling thesis and it was so insanely short.
rating: 4

DAY 9, PART 1: WHAT WE HUNGER FOR
whoa.
rating: 4.5

DAY 9, PART 2: THE ILLUSION OF SAFETY / THE SAFETY OF ILLUSION
i find this a very outdated and deliberately inconsiderate view of trigger warnings - especially because people rarely, if ever, expect trigger warnings from the author themselves and will instead seek them out from readers. going out of your way to get irritated about something no one is asking for is very terminally online behavior (derogatory).
rating: 1

DAY 10, PART 1: THE SPECTACLE OF BROKEN MEN
this was kind of a presentation of facts, as far as these things go, but i'm not sure how one would even present an opinion on this. obviously famous athletes include violent criminals in their number; obviously this is a bad thing; obviously it's an inextricable part of professional sports and it's hard to imagine how to address something so pervasive.
rating: 3.5

DAY 10, PART 2: A TALE OF THREE COMING OUT STORIES
this one is weird because it literally says that supporting musicians like tyler the creator is wrong to do, because he uses homophobic slurs in his music. but tyler the creator is queer, so i'm not sure what i'm supposed to be getting out of this.
no rating

DAY 11, PART 1: BEYOND THE MEASURE OF MEN
another good if very done-before discussion of "women's fiction" that made me glad i deleted my chick lit shelf recently.
i just think the name chick lit is cute.
rating: 3.5

DAY 11, PART 2: SOME JOKES ARE FUNNIER THAN OTHERS
again, i mean, yeah. this is correct.
rating: 3.5

DAY 12, PART 1: TO THE YOUNG LADIES WHO LOVE CHRIS BROWN SO MUCH THEY WOULD LET HIM BEAT THEM
this one was very, very good.
rating: 4.5

DAY 12, PART 2: BLURRED LINES, INDEED
another excellent one.
rating: 4.5

DAY 13, PART 1: THE TROUBLE WITH PRINCE CHARMING, OR HE WHO TRESPASSED AGAINST US
my library loan of this expires tomorrow and even though there is a beautiful renew button it is merely a torture device i cannot use, so i'm going to try to finish this today. day 13 will have a lot of parts.
honestly i wish this was more about fairytales and romance novels in general than just fifty shades, but this is still necessary criticism, i guess. though i think most people are already aware their dream relationship shouldn't be based off fifty shades?
rating: 3.25

DAY 13, PART 2: THE SOLACE OF PREPARING FRIED FOODS AND OTHER QUAINT REMEMBRANCES FROM 1960S MISSISSIPPI: THOUGHTS ON THE HELP
i read the help when i was in 5th grade and i loved it, something i now find (before reading this essay and to be honest even more so after) very embarrassing and will rectify with a reread and re-review soon.
rating: 4.5

DAY 13, PART 3: SURVIVING DJANGO
this was very f*cking good.
i apologize for being cranky at how much of this is criticism - the author is truly great at it.
rating: 5

DAY 13, PART 4: BEYOND THE STRUGGLE NARRATIVE
i don't know if 12 Years a Slave, being as it is based on the actual story of a slave as he told it, is the best candidate for a lot of this critique, but the unwillingness of critics / awards ceremonies to praise Black movies that aren't about Black pain is a really goddamn needed one.
rating: 3.75

DAY 13, PART 5: THE MORALITY OF TYLER PERRY
when the critique is one of a kind and complex >>>>
that's probably the dorkiest thing i've ever said.
rating: 4.25

DAY 13, PART 6: THE LAST DAY OF A YOUNG BLACK MAN
all right. i will come back to this and finish it either later today or tomorrow because bingeing all these stories like this is antithetical to the whole of the genius project!!!
this was seemingly more summary than criticism? more time was spent detailing the events that occurred in fruitvale station than really analyzing them.
rating: 3.5

DAY 13.5, PART 1: WHEN LESS IS MORE
let's do this.
(it's technically the night of day 13 but we will forgive that transgression.) (okay originally i labeled this day 14 but now i'm going back and changing it to 13.5.)
i have never seen orange is the new black (my cultural ignorance is REALLY showing in this genius project) but this was a good critique of it. i think.
rating: 4

DAY 13.5, PART 2: THE POLITICS OF RESPECTABILITY
still night of day 13. there are 8 more stories. imagine how long this would have taken me if i'd done it normally.
i don't really think it's my place to rate this one but i thought it was excellent.
no rating

DAY 13.5, PART 3: WHEN TWITTER DOES WHAT JOURNALISM CANNOT
i am both twitter's biggest fan and biggest hater so i'm eagerly anticipating this one. also follow me on twitter. i'm on there even more than here.
as expected i loved this.
rating: 4.5

DAY 13.5, PART 4: THE ALIENABLE RIGHTS OF WOMEN
i truly think that to be anti-choice is one of the least empathetic things you can be. i have known many people who quietly believe they know better than others, in broad strokes and in sweeping declarations. i have had very real feelings very recently (even maybe now) for people who feel that they know better than women at large, even as they are typically very caring and kind people.
it is the most discombobulating thing.
anyway. i'm on Nexplanon and i adore it even though it makes me bleed unpredictably from the vagina. such is the world we live in.
rating: 4.5

DAY 13.5, PART 5: HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO
i kind of lost the thread of this one, unfortunately.
rating: 3.5

DAY 14, PART 1: A TALE OF TWO PROFILES
okay. it's officially day 14; i am coming to you live from a moving vehicle but i took a horrific motion sickness pill so i will hopefully survive reading; i was wine drunk and reeling from a surprise loss to my basketball team of choice last night so i apologize if i were more R-rated than my typical PG-13. however it is important to me that i maintain my reputation as the cool book nerd who gets laid.
the profile / profiling through line here is so satisfying and extraordinarily well done.
rating: 4.5

DAY 14, PART 2: THE RACISM WE ALL CARRY
the running theme of my experience with these stories is that they all feel like they were written very quickly and effortlessly by a very smart person - but with editing and further reflection they could be better.
this story about the "rules of racism" describes the paula deen deposition and relates an anecdote, but there's very little in between and it's FRUSTRATING.
rating: 3.75

DAY 14, PART 3: TRAGEDY. CALL. COMPASSION. RESPONSE.
this one still fell under the irritating category i outlined above, but i liked it anyway.
rating: 4.25

DAY 14, PART 4: BAD FEMINIST: TAKE ONE
honestly i think the ways roxane gay claims to be a bad feminist are the ways that make her version of feminism so appealing.
rating: 4

DAY 14, PART 5: BAD FEMINIST: TAKE TWO
what i just said, but even more so.
rating: 5

OVERALL
this collection felt, at many points, half-baked to me, but it's to the credit of roxane gay that even when it seems as though she's not trying very hard to carry across a point, the point itself (and really the way her brain operates) is interesting enough in and of itself.
aka i will read more stuff by her.
rating: 4

---------------

reading all books with LGBTQ+ rep for pride this month!

book 1: the gravity of us
book 2: the great american whatever
book 3: wild beauty
book 4: the affair of the mysterious letter
book 5: how we fight for our lives
book 6: blue lily, lily blue
book 7: the times i knew i was gay
book 8: conventionally yours
book 9: the hollow inside
book 10: nimona
book 11: dark and deepest red
book 12: the house in the cerulean sea
book 13: the raven king
book 14: violet ghosts
book 15: as far as you'll take me
book 16: bad feminist
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.8k followers
Read
March 23, 2018
“Feminists are just women who don’t want to be treated like shit”

Well, Roxane Gay and I both have a favorite quote in common now and I'll also be calling myself a bad feminist because "I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all."

I went into this book not knowing much about the author. I feel in love with her just with the intro. I didn’t really connect with some of the stories (especially the first third) but things picked up towards the middle of this book and laughed out loud during the bits about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

Overall I think it was hard to connect with some of the essays simply because I hadn’t read the books or watch the movies that were mentioned.
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,225 followers
August 19, 2019
Well this was a huge disappointment. I had such high hopes for Roxane Gay! A Haitian American cultural critic with a master's and a nonperfect body type? Yes! I was sure she would eviscerate popular culture and social injustice with an incisive eye and a unique perspective. But nope. These aren't really essays; they're like unstructured wallowings, ramblings that just flit from thing to thing and never get anywhere or lead to any new thinking.

Yes, Gay takes stream-of-consciousness meanders through race and class and reality television and sexual violence and Twitter and respectability politics and Scrabble and The Hunger Games. But there's no structure! In one essay she'll talk about Twilight and then she'll talk about rape and then she'll talk about fairy tales, without ever returning or making any broad claims that tie it all together. In another, she goes on and on about how bad Law & Order: SVU is for our society and perpetuating rape culture, and then she says, "I've watched every episode of this show multiple times. I don't know what that says about me." You don't? Why not? This is a book of personal essays! Why don't you ponder that a little bit and try to draw some goddamn conclusions?

I never felt challenged by her ideas, and I don't think she challenged herself to actually dig into them, either. In an essay about why the book is called "Bad Feminist," she rails against the idea of an "essential feminism," whereby all feminists can be grouped into one category that's defined by a fixed set of ideals and traits. And then immediately after that she explains that she's a "bad" feminist because she likes the color pink and refuses to learn how cars work and wants to have a baby. Did she not even re-read her own work before sending it off to be put in a book?!

I think part of the problem (plagiarizing myself from my own comments) is that, because of teh internetz, publishers are conflating "popular on Twitter" with "is able to write well." They're tossing off book deals to anyone with an impressive following, and not pushing writers to do harder work than they've already done online. As if having a talent for snappy one-liners is not the exact goddamn opposite of being good at thinking deeply about an idea and drawing surprising and interesting conclusions from it.

On a more personal note, another issue has to be that I read this so shortly after the fall-down-stunning Empathy Exams. Jamison's dazzling pieces—or really any essays done well—read like tightly constructed meditations, beginning-middle-end investigations, pursuing an attempt to solve a quandary or at least interrogating an idea and shaking loose some brilliance from it. But Gay's "essays" are all basically unsophisticated blog posts. They never got anywhere and just left me frustrated.

In conclusion: there are some really fantastic essay collections being published today. This is definitely not one of 'em.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan .
955 reviews1,907 followers
December 14, 2022
This book tells us about the evolution of Roxane Gay as a woman and as a feminist.

She shares with us the wisdom she acquired through the reading of hundreds of books in a unique way. The eclectic collection of books she reads is praiseworthy. She touches almost all the subjects under the sun in this book. We might be surprised to see the amount of knowledge she possesses on each topic and the unique way she talks about everything. I particularly liked the way the author discusses race, culture, and feminism. Seeing the world through her eyes will give the readers an effervescent experience.

What I learned from this book
1) Why is it said that pseudo-feminists are the biggest threat to feminism?
We have reached an age where some people pretend to be feminists to get public attention. The negative things done by these pseudo-feminists are actually repelling many people away from feminism. The author tells us why it is important for us to understand that it is a problem with the people, not the movement.
"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."


2) First Amendment and freedom of speech
The author explains why the first amendment's misinterpretation is causing many problems.
"Somewhere along the line we started misinterpreting the First Amendment and this idea of the freedom of speech the amendment grants us. We are free to speak as we choose without fear of prosecution or persecution, but we are not free to speak as we choose without consequence."


3) Qui tacet consentire videtur

When we see injustice, we should protest. If we remain silent, the opposing person will take it as consent. The author is describing something compelling that can change many lives here.
"All too often, when we see injustices, both great and small, we think, That's terrible, but we do nothing. We say nothing. We let other people fight their own battles. We remain silent because silence is easier. Qui tacet consentire videtur is Latin for 'Silence gives consent.' When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are consenting to these trespasses against us."



My favourite three lines from this book
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”


“If people cannot be flawed in fiction there's no place left for us to be human.”


"Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights. I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn't make certain choices for ourselves."


What could have been better?
I think the author devoted a lot of time to some popular topics in society when she wrote this book. Reading this book around a decade after it was first published will definitely make you think about the unwanted attention given by the author to popular topics at that time, like the lengthy criticism of 50 shades of Grey, Hunger Games, and reality TV. The author should have concentrated on more serious topics instead of chasing pop culture.

The title of this book can be considered a misnomer as we expect a lot of ideas about feminism in this book. Feminism is discussed for just around 100 pages in this book which has 320 pages.

Rating
4/5 Despite the few negatives I discussed above, I think this is a great book to read if you want to know more about feminism.
Profile Image for Kristina.
1,202 reviews465 followers
December 5, 2015
I fucking hate Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist. It’s disappointing on every level and has nothing thought-provoking to say about anything. It’s full of obvious statements, juvenile essays about YA books she loves! and easy, breezy criticisms of other books. If you want to read about feminism, don’t start with this book. It was reviewed (and marketed) as a book about gender issues and feminism. Aside from the introduction, the topic of gender and feminism isn’t broached in any serious way until page 71 in a terrible chapter called “Garish, Glorious Spectacles.” I wish the title had reflected the reality that this is a book of general essays in which feminism is just one of many topics. I’ve also learned that many (if not all) of the essays were previously published on the internet. Had I known this, I never would have bought it. Anyone writing any kind of shit can be “published” on the internet. Bad Feminist is a deliberately provocative title designed to grab media attention, thus readers’ attention. Don’t fall for the hype. The writing is technically competent, but not at a level I expected. Gay often tries to be funny…she’s not. In fact, in other essays she demonstrates a very amusing lack of humor and inability to see the joke—particularly when it’s on her. She has an unusual background—daughter of Haitian immigrants, often the only black girl amongst white girls and later, the only professional black woman in her department if not the whole university—but her experiences do not translate into dynamic details. Her writing is as bland and as unremarkable as the popular white girls she worshipped in school and the creepy perfect blond girls in the Sweet Valley High books that she desperately wanted to become. While I suppose that Gay is intelligent and accomplished and an adult (I suppose this because she tells me so), that does not come through in her essays. In the first chapter, “Feel Me. See Me. Hear Me. Reach Me,” Gay discusses how hard she’s worked to achieve her successes and how much she wants to be liked. She comes across as desperate to be liked—both in her younger schooling days and now. This impression doesn’t hold true for all of the essays, but she still seems to be that young girl and grad student craving acceptance and affection from popular white girls. Her essays have no teeth; they do not shock me, surprise me or offend me. I was promised a bad feminist and Gay does not deliver.

The essays are grouped into subjects: “Me,” “Gender & Sexuality,” “Race & Entertainment,” etc. The essays in her first section, “Me,” are a colorless summary of her childhood and schooling, leading into her career as a professor. My opinion of those essays: she watches too much crappy tv and needs to get a life. She also needs to get some self-esteem and quit wishing for people to like her. Like yourself first. The essay, “Peculiar Benefits” takes on the subject of “privilege.” She repeats the word “privilege” so many times it begins to sound weird in my head. Privilege, privilege, privilege. She talks about how she is privileged, how others are privileged and the different types of privilege, e.g. economic, gender, religious, racial. We’re all guilty of being privileged in some way or another and we shouldn’t judge others. She talks about Playing the Game of Privilege and that it’s mental masturbation. I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about and who plays this game. I understand that, yes, if you’re white, you have a leg up over all the other minorities. If you’re also white, male, and wealthy then you’ve hit the jackpot of privilege. But she goes on and on about this notion of privilege and I can’t help but think she’s dancing around the subject of affirmative action. She never says that but she alludes to it (not in this essay). If she wants to discuss affirmative action as a way to correct white privilege, then why doesn’t she? Or if that’s not what she means, then she should say that too. It’s as if she’s saying, look, we all have some kind of privilege so stop judging the idea of affirmative action. She’s defending it without being explicit. That’s gutless. Say what you mean for crying out loud. That’s a good discussion to have and as a white person I’d be very interested to hear her thoughts on it. But she hides behind the word “privilege” and avoids having a discussion that is worthy of having.

In “To Scratch, Claw, or Grope Clumsily or Frantically,” Gay tells the reader all about her experiences competing in Scrabble tournaments. I don’t give a shit about Scrabble tournaments. After reading this trivial and not-funny-at-all essay, I give even less of a shit about competitive Scrabble. I didn’t think that was possible, but Gay, with her 30 annoying footnotes and excessive details about the rules of tournament Scrabble, proved to me it was. I don’t know where this essay belongs, but it does not belong in a book entitled Bad Feminist.

In the “Gender & Sexuality” section, the essays do not improve. Her first essay, “How to Be Friends with Another Woman” is a long list of (mostly) common sense items. Seriously, if you need to be told to be genuinely happy for your woman friends when they are successful and happy (#5), then you’re probably an asshole who shouldn’t have friends. Other items are so incredibly juvenile and immature (#6B: Begin serious conversations with an emphatic “GIRL” and #9: “Don’t let your friends buy ugly outfits or accessories you don’t want to look at when you hang out. This is just common sense” 49—what the fuck, Roxanne. Are you 16?) that I did a head smack when reading them. This list completely undermines my efforts to take anything Gay says seriously.

That’s my biggest problem with Gay—I can’t take her seriously. Her essays seem to have been written with barely any thought and very little research. She wants approval for saying that yeah, sexism is bad and racism is bad. Really? That’s not much of a stretch. She reminds me of an idiot former co-worker who often described herself as a “different kind of Christian” because she didn’t say anything mean about black people and thought gay people should be allowed to marry. I mean…wow. Please, congratulate yourself on meeting the lowest expectation of human kindness. That’s how I think of Gay. She seems to want to be loved, respected, and applauded for saying the most obvious fucking things. Gay has nothing of interest to say to me. Nothing. She often doesn’t seem to understand the books she reads and criticizes. She quotes two sentences from Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman and completely misses the point of the text (and the joke)! Caitlin Moran: “All women love babies—just like all women love Manolo Blahnik shoes and George Clooney. Even the ones who wear nothing but sneakers, or are lesbians, and really hate shoes, and George Clooney.” This is how Gay interprets that: “Again, this is funny, but it is also untrue, and to try to generalize about women for the sake of humor dismisses the diversity of women and what we love. Moran undermines herself by privileging [there’s that damn word again] feminism as something that can exist in isolation of other considerations. Her feminism exists in a very narrow vacuum, to everyone’s detriment” (104). The joke, of course, is that Moran is being sarcastic—women are supposed to like those things, even if it’s obvious they don’t. I would guess (since Gay very carefully picks out sentences to criticize) that Moran’s greater theme is that women are viewed in a very narrow spectrum by (someone). The second joke is on Gay for being oblivious of Moran’s joke. This seems to be the norm of Gay’s critiques of other books. She is quick to form criticisms of the books and doesn’t put enough effort into digesting what she’s read.

Gay is clear about one thing: her enthusiastic consumption of popular media. Anyone over the age of 25 who has such fangirl reactions to reality tv, The Hunger Games (“Let me be clear: Team Peeta. I cannot fathom how one could be on any other team” 138) and the Sweet Valley High series has lost my respect. Not that an intelligent woman can’t enjoy these things. But her essays about these topics smack of school-girl fervor. Plus she included them in a book titled Bad Feminist--a book I expected would be full of thought-provoking essays on feminism, not squees over Peeta. Her essay about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is way longer than the subject deserves. Gay makes the mistake of taking the books seriously. She knows they are based on Twilight fan fiction (correction: they are fan fiction—James basically just changed the characters’ names), however she feels the need to point out the obvious: the books are sloppily edited, poorly written, and unrealistic (!). Despite how incredibly silly and ridiculous the books are, she criticizes them for: “…flagrantly pathologiz(ing) the BDSM lifestyle as strictly a way for fucked-up people to work out their emotional issues…it is not an accurate portrayal of the community. It sends a wrong and unfair message about kink” (200). Gay, let’s keep some perspective: It’s fucking Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyone who takes anything in the books seriously is already a lost cause. Plus, it’s a fictional book. Based on Gay’s logic, any author who describes her serial killer character as a blue-eyed blonde is also “inaccurately portraying” blue-eyed blondes. After all, not all of them are murderers. She continues: “The books are, essentially, a detailed primer for how to successfully engage in a controlling, abusive relationship” (201). As if men (and women, although really, men) need a “primer” for how to control women. Yes, I’m sure that men who decide to be controlling think to themselves: “Hmm…I’d like to be able to completely control and dominate my woman but don’t know how to go about it. I guess I’ll read Fifty Shades of Grey because it’s recommended as the perfectly detailed primer for how to successfully engage in controlling, abusive relationships.” What’s even dumber is that Christian Grey never does control Ana the idiot. If anything, she controls him with her whining, her tears, and her (often unintentional) slow response to answering his texts and emails. Ana makes her own choices. She chooses to stay with him. He doesn’t force her. Gay even unwittingly undermines her own “Mr. Grey is an evil controlling asshole” assertion by writing he “tries” to control her; she “inexplicably” signs an agreement (if she had no choice in the matter, there’d be nothing “inexplicable” about it); he “offers” to travel with her; and: “Time and again, she chooses to sacrifice what she really wants for the opportunity to be loved by her half-assed Prince Charming” (203). Ana wasn’t in a controlling, abusive relationship. He warned her about the kind of “relationship” he wanted. She thought she could turn him into the perfect boyfriend. That’s it. What’s so amusing (disgusting, irritating) about this essay is that, one, she put way more fucking thought into it than she did her supposed feminist essays and two, she says we cannot dismiss the flaws of the trilogy just because the books are fun and the sex is hot (giggle). Oh, no. “The damaging tone has too broad a reach. That tone reinforces pervasive cultural messages women are already swallowing about what they should tolerate in romantic relationships, about what they should tolerate to be loved by their Prince Charming” (204). Those aren’t the flaws of the books. The “damage” of the books is that they are poorly written, shoddily (if at all) edited and yet they were published and made a lot of money. These books demonstrate that the reading public easily embraces shitty books—that’s, as far as I’m concerned, the real damage of these books.

At the end of this horrible book of essays, Gay finally explicitly revisits her (supposed) main thesis in “Bad Feminist: Take One” and “Bad Feminist: Take Two.” The first essay is a whole lot of privilege bitching about Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. The second essay explains that she is a bad feminist because she apparently doesn’t fit the very narrow definition of a feminist that Gay herself decided upon. She likes the color pink. She likes reading Vogue. She likes dresses. She shaves her legs (sweet Jesus say it isn’t so). She doesn’t know anything about cars. She listens to music that has sexist lyrics. She commits the unpardonable sin of liking men, having sex with them (no!) and wanting babies (that’s it, kill her). Who is her audience? Who the fuck is she speaking to? It’s as if she’s trying to differentiate herself from Andrea Dworkin (who probably would have throttled her for liking pink and wearing dresses) but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Gay has not one fucking clue who Andrea Dworkin was. So what is her definition of a feminist? This is what she says: “My favorite definition of ‘feminist’ is… ‘women who don’t want to be treated like shit.’ This definition is pointed and succinct, but I run into trouble when I try to expand that definition. I fall short as a feminist. I feel like I am not as committed as I need to be, that I am not living up to feminist ideals because of who and how I choose to be” (303). So what ideals is she not living up to? Why does liking pink, listening to misogynistic rap music, and liking babies make you a bad anything? Why does the definition she cites have to be expanded to include arbitrary conditions and limitations? Basically Gay calls herself a “bad” feminist because she is (gasp!) a human woman full of contradictions. Just like, I guess, every other human woman on the planet. She likes shitty reality television shows, obsesses over YA novels and enjoys music with non-PC attitudes towards women. Gay admits this in her essays, proclaims that these interests are bad for her feminist soul, then pats herself on the back for being so, so brave to admit all this to the world. Now we, the reading female public, should wipe the tears from our eyes and thank her for showing us the way—we too can be brave and admit our love for shitty tv and garbage novels! Thank you, Roxanne Gay! If you like all that stuff and still have the courage to call yourself a feminist (albeit a ���bad” one), then we must be strong enough to hang out our feminist flags too!

Give me a fucking break. Gay has absolutely nothing to add to the conversation about feminism. As a black woman she has nothing to add to the conversation about racism either. All her indignation is of the most obvious kind. I’m angry because I believed a very polished and misleading marketing campaign and bought this book. I’m angered by the sophomoric writing and juvenile essays and her complete lack of understanding regarding feminism. To narrowly define feminism by the shallow guidelines of your favorite color, your preference in entertainment and whether you shave your various body parts is fucking ridiculous and an insult to intelligent women and men who actually do call themselves feminists and actually do fucking think about what the word means. A feminist is a person who demands to be treated as a human being. A person who wants control of her body, who refuses to be ashamed for being a sexual being, who wants to be respected and receive equal pay for her knowledge, abilities and accomplishments. A feminist does not limit the idea of feminism to only professional women, to only heterosexual women, to only white women. Gay is a bad feminist not because she likes pink or reads Vogue. She’s a bad feminist because she thinks those fucking things even matter.

Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,008 reviews1,878 followers
January 17, 2015
It's not very often that a book causes me to weep uncontrollably in public, but this book did. Roxane Gay moved me in a way that I haven't been moved in quite a while with this collection of essays, ostensibly umbrella'd under the topic of feminism. In reality, only about a third of the essays directly address feminism; Gay also addresses race, culture, and Scrabble competitions. It's equal parts commentary, memoir, and critical analysis. It's pretty phenomenal.

I don't even know where to begin when it comes to expressing how much I love the way this woman writes. I could read her all day, every day. Even the essays whose theses I disagreed with, I loved the way they were written. Even the essays whose topics were beyond my realm of personal experience, I loved the way they were written.

Then there's the fact that I absolutely fucking love her take on feminism in the 21st century. I don't know if there's ever really been a time that feminism didn't have some form of "dirty word" connotations associate with it, but we're currently living in a time where the Women Against Feminism Tumblr portrays feminism as a philosophy meant to raise women up at the expense of men. The girls on that blog really need to spend some time actually reading feminist theory instead of just regurgitating what Rush Limbaugh tells them feminism is about because most of their claims so wildly miss the point, but that's a rant for another day.

The problem with feminism today is that there's no coherent central focus--other than the obvious equality for women. There's different schools of thought under the umbrella of feminism that espouse different points of view, and many of those schools are rooted in the cross-sectional experience of being a feminist and Something Else, whether it's a black woman, a lesbian woman, or a Jewish woman. Unfortunately, the voices that rise above the others and are seen as representative of all feminists are often white middle-class women, and those feminists don't represent Roxane Gay's feminism. The ways that she expresses her feminism clash with what she calls Capital-F Feminism in a way that's always made her feel like a bad feminist, and that is where much of this collection springs from.

She writes about the myriad aspects of her personal identity, combining race, gender, sexuality, life as an academic. I don't necessarily identify or agree with all of her points, but when she hits a nerve, she hits it HARD. The series of essays on sexual violence -- particularly What We Hunger For in which she talks about strength in women and her own experience as a victim of rape -- were phenomenally moving. The conversations that our country has had about the topic of rape in the last couple of years have been sickening and heartbreaking. I wish the piece The Careless Language of Sexual Violence had been included as an afterword to her novel An Untamed State because it forced me to completely re-think the way I thought about that novel and its representations of violence and sexual assault. Those pieces reduced me to a blubbering mess, sobbing on the terrace at my office building during my lunch break.

Roxane Gay is also the first person to make me want to read The Hunger Games series and the first person to make me feel okay for not liking Caitlin Moran all that much -- she's alright, but doesn't seem to understand that her experience is not necessarily representative of all women.

Some of the essays are a little overly academic in tone and that my turn off some readers, but this is a phenomenal piece of work. It's great to be reminded that feminism shouldn't be about women doing certain things (careers over domesticity, blowing off patriarchal standards of beauty by not shaving or wearing makeup), but about enabling women to make their own damn decisions about those things. I just wish those things weren't widely seen as contradictory to feminism, or "bad feminism."
Profile Image for Jen Padgett Bohle.
80 reviews95 followers
September 4, 2016
An inconsistent collection of ultimately shallow essays. Gay is funny, personable, thoughtful, and obviously intellectual but her essays don't delve deep enough into her subjects. Furthermore, I realize that essays can explore topics without coming to any definitive answers or conclusions, but I want more than an introduction to a problem. I want long and winding explorations with a surfeit of allusions, copious amounts of pattern-hunting from history, deeper thoughts on why something is the way Gay says it is. A 3 or 4 page essay on the "women's fiction" debacle? Impossible! Irresponsible! Gay's "Scrabble" essay seemed to pay homage to David Foster Wallace with the use of footnotes, but was without Wallace's raucous humor or almost archaeological excavation of a topic. The author explores contradictions within herself, feminism, and society without even *trying* to satisfactorily explain or unravel them. I hold James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, DFW, and Susan Sontag up as the ultimate essayists, so perhaps the problem is one of expectation? Gay basically just shines a flashlight at an issue and says "see that?" as opposed to dissecting things under the steady light of an operating room.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
903 reviews13.7k followers
August 10, 2018
This was a very sophisticated book that blended memoir with an educational resource perfectly. I think the chapter that will stick with me most is the one about female characters having the quality of likability held over their heads moreso than male characters, and readers don't ever realize that. It wasn't something I'd never thought about before, and it made me think critically about my expectations of female characters. I'm just gonna let the quote speak for itself:

"In a Publishers Weekly interview with Claire Messud about her novel The Woman Upstairs, which features a rather 'unlikable' protagonist, Nora, who is bitter, bereft, and downright angry about what her life has become, the interviewer said, 'I wouldn't want to be friends with Nora, would you?' And there we have it. A reader was here to make friends with the characters in a book and she didn't like what she found.
Messud, for her part, had a sharp response for her interviewer.

'For heaven's sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? OEdipus? Oscar Mao? Antigone? . . . If you're reading to find friends, you're in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn't "Is this a potential friend for me?" but "Is this character alive?"'"
Profile Image for Nat.
542 reviews3,170 followers
August 2, 2018
description
I've been on the look-out to read more feminist books, but most of the ones I tried reading before focus heavily on either privileged males and/ or sexual assaults, which then leads to me feeling terrified to leave my home...

However, Bad Feminist focuses more on Gay's opinions about “misogyny, institutional sexism that consistently places women at a disadvantage, the inequity in pay, the cult of beauty and thinness, the repeated attacks on reproductive freedom, violence against women, and on and on.” And I felt strongly included.
Roxane Gay's wit is so sharp and on point, I couldn't help but be instantly swept away into her writing voice. Her essays reached me, made me feel like I was a part of something.

“I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”

In Bad Feminist, Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. 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.

There were so many great essays that it was simply too tempting not to share my favorites quotes from each and every one of them:

Feel Me. See Me. Hear Me. Reach Me.

“So many of us are reaching out, hoping someone out there will grab our hands and remind us we are not as alone as we fear.”

Exactly how reading this collection felt like!!

“ I learned about how ignorant I am. I am still working to correct this.”

Peculiar Benefits

“Privilege is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. There is racial privilege, gender (and identity) privilege, heterosexual privilege, economic privilege, able-bodied privilege, educational privilege, religious privilege, and the list goes on and on. At some point, you have to surrender to the kinds of privilege you hold. Nearly everyone, particularly in the developed world, has something someone else doesn’t, something someone else yearns for.”

Going into these essays, it was very important for me to get educated about certain kinds of privileges, and Roxane Gay did so in the most informative way.

“You could, however, use that privilege for the greater good—to try to level the playing field for everyone, to work for social justice, to bring attention to how those without certain privileges are disenfranchised. We’ve seen what the hoarding of privilege has done, and the results are shameful.”

How to Be Friends with Another Woman

When I read the table of contents, I was so damn excited to get to this essay. And it was just as great as I had hoped it be.

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses—pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”

“If you feel like it’s hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s just you.”

“Want nothing but the best for your friends because when your friends are happy and successful, it’s probably going to be easier for you to be happy.”

My mother’s favorite saying is “Qui se ressemble s’assemble.” Whenever she didn’t approve of who I was spending time with, she’d say this ominously. It means, essentially, you are whom you surround yourself with.”

This saying, thanks to my mom also educating me about this when I way younger, turned out to be one of my favorite sayings too.

I Once Was Miss America

“Nostalgia is powerful. It is natural, human, to long for the past, particularly when we can remember our histories as better than they were. Life happens faster than I can comprehend. I am nearly forty, but my love of Sweet Valley remains strong and immediate. When I read the books now, I know I’m reading garbage, but I remember what it was like to spend my afternoons in Sweet Valley, hanging out with the Wakefield twins and Enid Rollins and Lila Fowler and Bruce Patman and Todd Wilkins and Winston Egbert. The nostalgia I feel for these books and these people makes my chest ache.”

I'm so glad that Gay captured this feeling because quite a few books make me feel the same.

“Books are often far more than just books.”

And since we're on the topic, Roxane gave so many great recommendations throughout this collection. I have now, thanks to her, promptly added: Dare Me, by Megan Abbott & Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins. She made them sound so compelling and intricate.

Not Here to Make Friends

“My memory of men is never lit up and illuminated like my memory of women.”

—MARGUERITE DURAS, The Lover

This essay talked about "unlikable" women in literature and what likability exactly means. And it completely shifted my worldview.

Gay features a phenomenal quote from a Publishers Weekly interview with Claire Messud about her novel The Woman Upstairs:

“If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “Is this a potential friend for me?” but “Is this character alive?”

And in her own brilliants words, Roxane adds:

“...but the ongoing question of character likability leaves the impression that what we’re looking for in fiction is an ideal world where people behave in ideal ways. The question suggests that characters should be reflections not of us, but of our better selves.”

She has incredible last sentences!

Also, I quickly want to mention that throughout this collection I could actually feel Roxane's passion for literature and storytelling. I could feel how reading really is her first love, as she mentioned, through her great book recommendations.

Reaching for Catharsis:
Getting Fat Right (or Wrong) and Diana Spechler’s Skinny


I still cannot stop thinking about this essay.

“I don’t think I know any woman who doesn’t hate herself and her body at least a little bit. Bodily obsession is, perhaps, a human condition because of its inescapability.”

It was so deeply personal and detailed that I was moved more than once. And it was, ultimately, honest and breathtakingly alive.

“Sometimes, a bold, sort of callous person will ask me how I got so fat. They want to know the why. “You’re so smart,” they say, as if stupidity is the only explanation for obesity. And of course, there’s that bit about having such a pretty face, what a shame it is to waste it. I never know what to tell these people. There is the truth, certainly. This thing happened and then this other thing happened and it was terrible and I knew I didn’t want either of those things to happen again and eating felt safe. French fries are delicious and I’m naturally lazy too so that didn’t help. I never know what I’m supposed to say, so I mostly say nothing. I don’t share my catharsis with these inquisitors.”

A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories

This piece talked about people with high public profiles and the boundaries they do/ don't receive.

“This is, in part, a matter of privacy. What information do we have the right to keep to ourselves? What boundaries are we allowed to maintain in our personal lives? What do we have a right to know about the lives of others? When do we have a right to breach the boundaries others have set for themselves?
People with high public profiles are allowed very few boundaries. In exchange for the erosion of privacy, they receive fame and/or fortune and/or power. Is this a fair price? Are famous people aware of how they are sacrificing privacy when they ascend to a position of cultural prominence?”

“We tend to forget that culturally prominent figures are as sacred to those they love as the people closest to us. We tend to forget that they are flesh and blood. We assume that as they rise to prominence, they shed their inalienable rights. We do this without question.”

“Heterosexuals take the privacy of their sexuality for granted. They can date, marry, and love whom they choose without needing to disclose much of anything. If they do choose to disclose, there are rarely negative consequences.”

“The world we live in is not as progressive as we need it to be.”

“For every step forward, there is some asshole shoving progress back.”

“There are injustices great and small, and even if we can only fight the small ones, at least we are fighting.”


The Trouble with Prince Charming, or He Who Trespassed Against Us

As the title might suggest, this essay confronts the trouble with prince charming in fairy tales and literature.

“I enjoy fairy tales because I need to believe, despite my cynicism, that there is a happy ending for everyone, especially me. The older I get, though, the more I realize how fairy tales demand a great deal from the woman. The man in most fairy tales, Prince Charming in all his iterations, really isn’t that interesting. In most fairy tales, he is blandly attractive and rarely seems to demonstrate much personality, taste, or intelligence. We’re supposed to believe this is totally fine because he is Prince Charming. His charm is supposedly enough.”

Then she offers a detailed view on the Disney princes, and I was living for this!!

“In The Little Mermaid, Prince Eric has a great woman right in front of him but is so obsessed with this pretty voice he once heard he can’t appreciate what he has. In Snow White, the prince doesn’t even find Snow White until she is comatose, and he is so lacking in imagination he simply falls in love with her seemingly lifeless body. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is given away by her father to the Beast himself, and then must endure the attentions of a man who essentially views her as chattel. Only through sacrificing herself, and loving a beast of a man, can she finally learn that he is, in fact, a handsome prince.”

“The woman in the fairy tale is generally the one who pays the price. This seems to be the nature of sacrifice.”

Holding Out for a Hero

“There’s a great deal about our culture that is aspirational—from how we educate ourselves, to the cars we drive, to where we work and live and socialize. We want to be the best. We want the best of everything. All too often, we are aware of the gaping distance between who we are and whom we aspire to be and we desperately try to close that distance.”

So much YES to the last sentence!!

“In theory, justice should be simple. Justice should be blind. You are innocent until proven guilty. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to be judged by a jury of your peers. The principles on which our justice system was founded clearly outline how our judicial system should function.
Few things work in practice as well as they do in theory. Justice is anything but blind. All too often, the people who most need justice benefit the least. The statistics about who is incarcerated and how incarceration affects their future prospects are bleak.”


“Trayvon Martin is neither the first nor the last young black man who will be murdered because of the color of his skin. If there is such a thing as justice for a young man whose life was taken too soon, I hope justice comes from all of us learning from what happened. I hope we can rise to the occasion of greatness, where greatness is nothing more than trying to overcome our lesser selves by seeing a young man like Trayvon Martin for what he is: a young man, a boy without a cape, one who couldn’t even walk home from the store unharmed, let alone fly.”

One of the most important essays.

Bad Feminist: Take Two

“I am supposed to be a good feminist who is having it all, doing it all. Really, though, I’m a woman in her thirties struggling to accept herself and her credit score. For so long I told myself I was not this woman—utterly human and flawed. I worked overtime to be anything but this woman, and it was exhausting and unsustainable and even harder than simply embracing who I am.”
description Simply put, Bad Feminist completely captivated me.

I enjoyed the fact that as I read this collection, I didn’t feel like I was really reading. I felt like Roxane Gay was talking and discussing with me. Her voice is distinct throughout this collection.
And while some essays left a profound mark on me, others were simply entertaining to read in the moment. There is, indeed, something to admire in each piece.

And it all comes down to this: Roxane Gay brings intelligence, gravitas, and heart to her words, so that even reading about her winning tournaments in competitive Scrabble read like the most fascinating piece of writing. She's talented and powerful beyond measure in my eyes.

4.5/5 stars

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Profile Image for Thomas.
1,403 reviews8,130 followers
February 13, 2015
I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be. I have certain... interests and personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist. I cannot tell you how freeing it has been to accept this about myself.

In her collection of essays Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay blends anecdote, critical analysis, and humor to create a set of pieces that feel human. She admits to not knowing all the answers, and to hear an empowered, intelligent, and independent woman say that feels so refreshing. She writes about a gamut of topics: feminism, race, pop culture, and more. She tears apart the abusive and unhealthy relationship portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey, she discusses how and why she loves The Hunger Games, she comments on the unhelpful way white directors portray black characters, and more. As a professor of English and an avid follower of pop culture, her ability to discern trends and patterns within the media shone through. This passage about the unnecessary prominence of likeable characters acts as just of her many thoughtful arguments:

In many ways, likability is a very elaborate lie, a performance, a code of conduct dictating the proper way to be. Characters who don't follow this code become unlikeable. Critics who criticize a character's unlikability cannot necessarily be faulted. They are merely expressing a wider cultural malaise with all things unpleasant, all things that dare to breach the norm of social acceptability.

Gay still stands out the most in her acceptance of imperfection. In her introduction, she writes that "feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed" and that "we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always bake the best choices." In this collection of essays, Gay accomplishes so much: she writes about the intersectionality of race and gender, she establishes a consistent, wry, and sharp voice, and she includes an entire chapter about Scrabble that made me laugh and want to read more, more, and more. But, even though she accomplishes so much, she recognizes her own contradictions and the contradictions inherent within the human condition. She strikes a rough and fitting balance by ending her book by admitting this:

I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.
December 31, 2021

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Hey, you know what pairs really well with red wine? Books on feminism. BAD FEMINIST has mixed reviews among my friends, with some of them loving it and others hating it. As with any controversial book, that mixed reception only made me want to read BAD FEMINIST for myself. Because your favorite neighborhood snowflake here loves to read up on feminism in its many incarnations, to get the dirt on the latest schools of thought.



First off, BAD FEMINIST has some of the flaws that MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME did, in the sense that the title suggests that the bulk of the essays will be about one thing (feminism) but much of the space contained inside are devoted to other topics (not feminism related). BAD FEMINIST has the advantage, however, because the digressions are about subjects that are still highly relevant to feminists who believe in intersectionality with regards to class, race, and gender.



In BAD FEMINIST, Roxane Gay writes on many subjects, with a focus on pop culture but also on herself, in a personal and professional context. I learned about her teaching career and the struggles of reaching out to minority students. I learned about her absolutely terrible experience with rape. I learned about her opinions, as a person of color, on books and movies such as Django Unchained, Girls, The Help, and Orange Is the New Black. I learned about why she considers herself a "bad" feminist, per the title, and honestly, I don't see why liking girly things or exploitative content is necessarily bad as long as you are conscious of the flaws of such content and discuss the potential problems they represent. Part of being a feminist is empowering yourself to speak out against problematic representations and constructs of women, and with this book, I'd say Roxane Gay is off to a fairly good start.



BAD FEMINIST is a fairly good book and I agreed with her on many of her opinions, although I still don't see why she is a "bad" feminist. Bad is such a highly charged and subjective term...and the way she uses it here, it seems to indicate that "good" feminist = eschewing feminist things.



Some of the things in here that I think will turn off potential readers are the exhaustive discussions behind some of the catalysts behind the strengthened Black Lives Matter movement, privilege (specifically white privilege) and abortion, but what she said honestly needs to be said - as many times as possible. I read this essay a while ago about women who identify as anti-feminist and it was interesting because it suggested that women do so because they are lauded by men as being "good" women: the ideal standard with regards to the feminine ideation. Women who don't want to be feminists because they want to be "good" wives and mothers (as if you can't have both, and still be a feminist). Women who don't want to be man-haters. Privilege is something that many people aren't aware of consciously - or if they are aware of it, they accept it as the status quo, in the hopes that they too can be a part of that tapestry if they "play by the rules." Many of the most vocal critics are the people who perceive that they have something to lose if the construct changes, and they try to warp that argument into a narrative that employs scare tactics (the disruption of "traditional values" typically) in order to lure more people into that myth, and preserve the status quo.



The same goes for BLM - (some) people have very specific ideas about the roles that people of color (specifically black people) have in the narrative of our society, and are reluctant to change their way of thinking - even when it results in violence. I honestly don't get why people get so freaking worked up about the Black Lives Matter movement, because the message is so important and keeps flying over so many people's heads. It isn't saying that black lives are the most important; it's calling out a specific group of people who are repeatedly getting screwed because of stereotypes. It's the same reason that feminism is a better term than equalism - if you null out the disenfranchised group with a bland name, it becomes far too easy to shut down dialogues more than we already are and be all, "Stop focusing on black lives, don't you know that all lives matter?" Or, "Women already won the vote. Why do you keep talking about women if you want things to be equal?" The name itself is a call to action, and a shortcut that tells you exactly who is in need of support and change.



Anyway, this book was pretty good despite the many digressions, although I'm going to warn you now: Roxane Gay casually spoils the twist of Gone Girl in one of her essays, so if you haven't read GONE GIRL, I suggest avoiding this book until you do. It's kind of hilarious because in another one of her essays she discussions SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL but says she doesn't want to spoil the book for anyone. Oh, I see, so Sweet Valley is sacred but you're going to go ahead and tell everyone the m a j o r . t w i s t in GONE GIRL? Why don't you just go ahead and spoil FIGHT CLUB, too, while you're at it, Ms. Gay? IT'S NOT LIKE PEOPLE ARE BOTHERED BY SPOILERS.



Apart from that HUGE SPOILER in one of the essays, BAD FEMINIST ages well despite being published several years ago, and bar a few notable exclusions, could have been published yesterday and still touch on many of the same subjects that are on people's minds. I recommend it to people who are interested in frank discussions of pop culture and feminism and want to learn more.



3.5 stars
September 17, 2020
In my attempt to escape that comfortable bubble I live in, I am looking to read better by reading more books that help me understand the world better. To keep my thoughts organized, I decided to start a new feature on our blog called Feeding My Head by Reading Better, where I keep my thoughts and notes together as I read a book. So I have added some of those thoughts here for the first few essays for my review but will be adding more thoughts on my blog as I break down my thoughts for the essays.

While what I am writing about here are my opinions and thoughts, what I am saying is related to Bad Feminist feeding my brain, so not all opinions and thoughts are my own but can be what I have picked up from Roxane Gay.

Review and thoughts so far

Roxane Gay starts by addressing “flawed if not damaging representations of women we’re consuming in music, movies and literature.” Gay gives us some examples of how women have been represented and asks “how do we bring attention to these issues in ways that will actually be heard?” I now find myself paying more attention and questioning how women are represented in books along with so many other things we need to do better.

In the Introduction Gay addresses the state of feminism and the flaws in the feminism movement and her reasons for disowning feminism in the past.

What I love about Roxane Gay’s essays in Bad Feminist is that it feels like she is exploring imperfections and flaws with each subject matter. As she explores the subject matter, she questions the flaws while giving her argument and opinions. She embraces she is a Bad Feminist because she is human and messy. She allows herself to be imperfect while questioning the world around her and embracing that’s it’s OK to be messy. That has allowed me to take the pressure off myself and embrace that I am messy because it is human to have faults, and our world is imperfect. I am a required taste not too many people require and I am honest to a fault with the truths to the world around us, and here I am vulnerable and a mess while I write my thoughts right down to my wording and mistakes.

As a writer, Gay is constantly thinking about “connection and loneliness and community and belonging.” She writes, “so many of us are reaching out, hoping someone out there will grab our hands and remind us we are not as alone as we fear” As a reader, I am always thinking the same. I find myself searching for those stories that connect us as humans. While seeing and admitting my truths and the truths in this world helps me understand the world better and I feel less alone. Looking for that understanding I seek by reading leads me to want more out of what I am reading and Gay's essays have challenged some of my thoughts with the subject matter she explores in her essays. While Roxane Gay has inspired me to attempt to read better, I am still going to read what I want to read and continue to read for many different reasons. I might contradict myself, and sometimes I am going to care, and sometimes I am not. I might get it wrong and have no idea what I am talking about, but I will question things and allow myself to be messy and flawed.

As she explores the subject matter, she looks at other books and TV shows and offers her opinions. She questions the expectations of performing gender roles, which lead me to think about how women are portrayed in fiction. She questions likable characters in fiction and why likeability is even a question. Often in our reading groups, we talk about likable characters and for some of us, that can make or break a story. So likable characters are always something I am thinking about. I will be doing a post about that.

With each essay, Gay doesn't try to solve anything but gives us something to think about by posing questions. At times, the essays feel messy, uneven and a little all over the place, making me right at home here with my messy and all over the place reviews.

I have read a few stories that explore privilege, and I didn’t understand what privilege really meant until I starting reading about racism. Privilege is a theme in stories I feel is often misrepresented.

Gay says “The problem is, cultural critics, talk about privilege with such alarming frequency in such empty ways, we have diluted the word’s meaning. When people wield the word “privilege,” it tends to fall on deaf ears because we hear that word so damn much it has become white noise.”

Gay addresses a bit about privilege in her essay, Peculiar Benefits and talks about what privilege is and her own privileges are.

“Privilege is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. There is racial privilege, gender (and identity) privilege, heterosexual privilege, religious privilege, able bodied privilege, educational privilege, and the list goes on and on. At some point, you have to surrender to the kinds of privilege you hold. Nearly everyone, particularly in the developed world, has something someone else doesn’t, something someone else yearns for.”

The problem with wielding privilege around is that it implies that people with it have it easier than others when really, if you look at yourself, you will find you have an advantage in one way or another over someone else. If you can put food on the table, you have a privilege that someone else might not have. "to have privilege in one or more areas does not mean you are wholly privileged.” Life is hard for most people, and wealth privilege is not what privilege is all about. So I question when authors represented privilege to money.

Gay also addresses accepting your privileges(advantages). This was something I didn’t understand before I starting feeding my brain by reading better. I would get defences about my advantages because life has kicked us when we weren’t expecting it. However, my advantages helped us get through that. So it’s ok to acknowledge your privileges because it helps us to understand the world around us. She also mentioned ” self-appointed privilege police,” and I started to question some stories I have read and wonder about authors doing that, or maybe I am being one when I do?

“You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through the world and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about.”

The great thing about privilege is we can learn from one and another!!

Well, that enough of my rambling for one review and if you have made it this far, thank you so much for reading. To see more of my thoughts as I post to my blog you can find our blog here

https://travelingsistersbookreviews.com
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,609 followers
July 18, 2017
This book solidified my girl crush on Roxane Gay. Earlier this year I had the good fortune to hear Roxane speak at a conference, and she was so smart and funny that I kicked myself for not reading her stuff sooner.

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays on a variety of issues, including gender, race, pop culture and politics. Basically it's a book for our times. The writing is sharp and insightful, but it also has wit and grace. There were a few essays in this book that were so powerful I could have highlighted every sentence. There is also an essay that moved me to tears, but I'll let you find that one yourself.

It's difficult to critique a book I liked this much, but I think its only flaw is the same of any collection, which is that some essays don't age as well as others, especially pop culture pieces. Roxane writes critically about some movies and TV shows that I haven't seen, so those sections weren't as meaningful to me. But overall this is a really strong book that I highly recommend to anyone who appreciates social justice issues or cultural writing.

Favorite Quotes
"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 this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself: a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible for women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it's just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground."

"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. 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."

"When I was young, my parents took our family to Haiti during the summers. For them, it was a homecoming. For my brothers and me it was an adventure, sometimes a chore, and always a necessary education on privilege and the grace of an American passport. Until visiting Haiti, I had no idea what poverty really was or the difference between relative and absolute poverty. To see poverty so plainly and pervasively left a profound mark on me."

"Like many writers, I lived inside of books as a child. Inside books I could get away from the impossible things I had to deal with. When I read I was never lonely or tormented or scared."

"It makes perfect sense that many of us obsess over our bodies. There is nothing more inescapable. Our bodies move us through our lives. They bring pleasure and pain. Sometimes our bodies serve us well, and other times our bodies become terribly inconvenient. There are times when our bodies betray us or our bodies are betrayed by others. I think about my body all the time — how it looks, how it feels, how I can make it smaller, what I should put into it, what I am putting into it, what has been done to it, what I do to it, what I let others do to it. This bodily preoccupation is exhausting."

"We live in a strange and terrible time for women. There are days when I think it has always been a strange and terrible time to be a woman. Womanhood feels more strange and terrible now because progress has not served women as well as it has served men."

"There are more similarities between the writing of men and women than there are differences. Aren't we all just trying to tell stories? How do we keep losing sight of this fact?"

"If readers discount certain topics as unworthy of their attention, if readers are going to judge a book by its cover or feel excluded from a certain kind of book because the cover is, say, pink, the failure is with the reader, not the writer. To read narrowly and shallowly is to read from a place of ignorance, and women writers can't fix that ignorance no matter what kind of books we write or how those books are marketed."

"Just because you survive something does not mean you are strong."

"I learned a long time ago that life introduces young people to situations they are in no way prepared for, even good girls, lucky girls who want for nothing. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods. You lose your name because another one is forced on you. You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you. Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds."
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,057 reviews30k followers
May 4, 2017
5 stars for helping me expand my thinking and self-reflection. I'll be returning to this audio collection of essays on much more than "just" feminism.
Profile Image for Emily B.
419 reviews414 followers
September 16, 2021
An interesting book of essays that are worth reading. I liked how the author explored a range of different subjects with different levels of seriousness and humour, using both popular culture and current serious events.

I definitely learnt a lot from reading this book and I would say it opened my eyes to things I had not considered before.

However some of these essays were not as impactful to me due to living in England and not America. I often had to look up people or events that were mentioned which disrupted my reading. Additionally, at times it was slightly repetitive. Overall I would recommend this book to others.
Profile Image for Peter Derk.
Author 24 books330 followers
February 25, 2015
Well...I gave up. I bought the audio for 30-some dollars and figured it might be a great listen. But I find myself dreading listening.

Part of it is the bleakness of the current landscape. That's certainly not Roxane Gay's fault. Every day is something new. Author Colleen McCullough dies, and in her obit someone basically feels the need to point out how unattractive the woman was, physically. Patricia Arquette makes a speech about how women should be paid the same to do the same work, and Fox News has to have an opinion about that. What the opinion is I don't know. I'm still not entirely sure what the fuck Gamergate is, and frankly, I've been avoiding it because I like playing Castlevania. The main character in Castlevania wears a short skirt and has no face, so really that seems like the O.G. of gender ambiguity right there. I just want to play Castlevania. Two buttons, no faces.

I had a GIGANTIC review here, but I've decided to replace it with the other reasons that I didn't want to continue and finish this book, and I decided to just put them out here.

If some of this was addressed later on, then please excuse my ignorance. I passed on about the last 1/3rd of the book.

1. The intersection of serious thought and pop culture didn't really work for me here.

I'll be the first to admit, a lot of the pop culture items discussed in this book aren't ones I pay much attention to. That's not in a holier-than-thou way. I just listened to a Now That's What I Call Music album and will readily admit that the best song, easily, was a Katy Perry song. I'm not putting myself above pop culture. It's just that the pop culture highway traveled by Roxane Gay and the one I travel are different.

Additionally, I think the idea of giving serious academic or emotional thought to an unserious topic, or a topic we don't typically consider serious, is not something that lights a fire for me. The discussion about what is and isn't high and low art, and the decision to give something more or less consideration because of that distinction, is really not an interesting conversation for me. Whether or not you think 50 Shades is a good book, it warrants some discussion because of its cultural impact. Which brings me to...

2. The criticisms of media didn't get to the meat, or the meat I was interested in.

I'm not going to disagree that there's something pretty racist about The Help. What I'm more interested in is why THAT book caught on. Why is a whitewashed (in the most literal and figurative sense of the word) version of black history one of the bestselling books of the last few years? I think I'm more interested in knowing why people like The Help rather than having it proven to me that it's racist, and this is a critique I'd make of a few of the cultural essays. Rather than convincing me there's something racist about Tarantino, I'm more interested in hearing why he's such a darling. Rather than explaining to me that 50 Shades isn't a great representation of a sub/dom relationship, I'd rather assume that stance with you and then hear about why that version is so attractive to people.

Now, I'm re-writing the book a little, and maybe what I wanted was never the intent. Which is cool, but it's one of the reasons I didn't continue on. I felt like the way this book dealt with pop culture didn't go where I was hoping.

3. The language police discussions don't do much for me.

In one essay, Gay says how a rape joke can never be funny. Then, in the next, there's some discussion about how maybe a rape joke CAN be funny. There's discussion about Tyler the Creator using the word "faggot", and also some talk about how an audience received the word "nigger" in Django Unchained.

This is such a hard thing to change someone's mind on. Which isn't to say a person shouldn't try. But frankly, I don't have much cause to make rape jokes, I don't use the word "faggot" and I don't use the word "nigger." Except when I'm putting the words in quotes in a review, an act for which I genuinely apologize if I've caused offense here. On the other hand, I'm not really into telling the general population what they can and can't say, or what they can and can't joke about. I'm not upset that Gay does it, I think it's just a message which I've heard, made a decision on, and feel pretty good about. Which brings us to...

4. I think the sales pitch for this book was...well, a lie.

I feel pretty strongly that the audience for this, we picked up this book with the intent of loving it. Or loving it as best we could, considering the hard truth of the material.

I think the issue I had, this book was sold to me as being a bit more poppy than it was. The Amazon blurb says it's funny. There were some jokes, there were some turns of phrase, but I'd be hard-pressed to call the book funny. Matter of taste, for sure, but I don't know that the book's purpose was to be funny.

While the book covers some very accessible topics, I didn't find the book to be, overall, accessible.

Maybe that's too far. I think what I'm saying here, it's a book you have to reach out to. It's not going to reach out to you. As a whole, anyway. The first essay, I thought that was excellent. Some of the more personal moments throughout were very well-written and fantastic. But as a whole...I guess, she made a lot of points, some of which I agreed with and some of which I disagreed with. And she made a lot of points that I just didn't feel very curious about.

Now, of course, I'm a straight, white male. So maybe this book isn't written for me. Maybe I missed the point entirely, and maybe the point is for people who are more like Gay, or who feel more like her, to read and feel less lonely, less alone. Maybe the point isn't for me to see things from her perspective, and maybe the idea is that people who share her perspective see that they aren't the only ones.

This might be another issue where I just wasn't reading the right book for me. But I will warn you, if you're looking for a good READ in addition to a book that makes a lot of great points, you might be let down a little. I think this is an important book, I think it has a lot of good things to say. But I felt more like I was reading an academic text than a book I would pick up on my own.

Again, it's fine if that was the intent. Reading something like this in a college course would be pretty fitting. But I don't feel like it was sold to me that way.

When you pick it up, read the first essay. That will give you an idea of what the best parts are like. Before you buy it, read one of the book reviews contained within. That will give you an idea of the parts that were, for me, a little tougher to enjoy.


5. "Men Want What Men Want."

A quote, a chorus from one essay.

In this case, what men want is sexual conquest.

For a book that is very sensitive to race, orientation, body type, and a number of other things, this book tends to think of men as men. If you're a man, you watch sports, you drink beer, you want sex, you think of women only in the context of sex, and probably the one I have the biggest problem with, you are very happy that things are the way they are.

Reading this book, I felt like being a man was treated as a tacit endorsement of the way society currently functions. Or doesn't.

Like I said, I'm a straight white male. I recognize that provides things in life for me that other people do not get. I have access to things that other people do not have access to. There's no argument, my life would be different if you changed any of those categorizations. I'll own that.

What I won't own is the idea that I'm happy about it, and that I like things the way they are. I will own the idea that I'm at the top of the demographic heap, but what I won't own is that I'm fighting to keep it that way.

What I also refuse is to say nothing when men, the entire gender, are categorized as being, essentially, every dad from a sitcom. An uncaring, unfeeling idiot. A dolt. An oaf. Someone who can't empathize and is emotionally underdeveloped and uncomplicated. A person who thinks only of sex, who puts the same value on consensual, loving sexual experiences as brutal, forced, criminal behavior.

Okay, that last one veered out of King of Queens territory. I don't remember that episode.

"Men want what men want."

Can we phrase this as a question? "What do men want?"

I want everyone to have the same opportunities. I want everyone's basic needs to be taken care of, even if that means I pay a little more or have to work a little harder than my neighbor. I want kids to have the chance to succeed. I want people to feel safe. I want everyone to know and be confident that their basic needs will be met. I want the best person for the job to get that job, and I don't want it to be a decision based on someone's dumb, pre-conceived notion about what this or that type of person is good at. I want people to have sex with the people who want to have sex with them, and I don't want to punish people for loving men or women or couples or transgender people or whoever. I want to be kind to people. I want to drink beer because I think it tastes good, but I don't want to watch sports. I don't even really want to talk about sports. I want my mother to feel loved. I want my sister and my brothers to feel that too. I want people to be nice to me because my feelings are pretty easy to hurt.I want to compete with men and women of all different types in all different fields, and I want to win when I do the best and I want to lose when someone else does better.

But hey. If it serves your thesis, go ahead and assume that my main purpose is the thoughtless moving of a blood-filled piece of flesh in and out any orifice with complete disregard of what that means to anyone or anything else. I'm not here to convince you otherwise. I'm not here to scream "not all men." I'm just here to explain why I didn't finish a book.

Let's not assume that I'm finishing this review to go exercise and listen to podcasts because they make me laugh and because I like to laugh. Let's not assume that afterwards, I'll go home and cook chicken and vegetable stir fry for me and my partner. Let's not assume that we'll sit together in our pajamas and maybe I'll make fun of her because she likes making spreadsheets and she'll make fun of me because Katy Perry was my favorite part of Now That's What I Call Music. Let's not assume I'll wake up tomorrow and go to my job, a job I've chosen in a female-dominated field. Let's not assume I've found that experience fascinating and rewarding. Let's not assume that one of the best parts of becoming an adult, for me, has been getting to know women as professionals and as friends who I really respect and care for and who respect and care for me as well.

It fits the narrative better, so let's just assume I had to end this review now to swing out to a bar and pick up on some sweet poontang.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
Read
January 12, 2022
I thought I would love this book but I didn't. Let's start by saying that if I wanted to hear about what Roxane thinks about certain films and books, I would have consulted her Goodreads reviews; I wouldn't have spent money on a book. Nevertheless I did enjoy her essays on The Hunger Games and Shades of Grey. But initially her essay about Junot Diaz and Girls and I forgot what else made me put the book on hold and read something different because I couldn't make myself pay attention. Once I had finished that other book I returned to Bad Feminist with maybe not new motivation but at least somewhat recharged. There were a number of amazing essays about representation, rape culture and flawed feminism, but in between there were themes that, two days after finishing the book, I cannot recall because neither the writing nor the content were exceptional. I think this is partly my own fault because I should have read this book earlier in life. It's a great introduction to feminism but when you've already read a number of introductions to feminism, it's not all that new anymore. Then again, you never stop learning and there are always gaps that need filling or ideas that need refreshing, so I definitely benefitted from reading the book. Just not as much as I hoped I would. Furthermore, some essays felt outdated, often because the people at the centre of such discussions were Lena Dunham and Bill Cosby in a time before they'd been found to be despicable human beings.

All in all I expected this book to be a gut-punch of genius and stellar writing but it turned out to be okay. The number of exceptional essays couldn't outweigh the mediocre ones. I still want to read Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body because I've heard from a number of people that even though they didn't love Bad Feminist, they found Hunger amazing. I also really hope that Roxane will publish a YA novel in the future because I'd love to see the result of her writing for a younger audience.

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Profile Image for Lucy.
412 reviews595 followers
July 24, 2018
4****

Isn't it obvious I am a feminist, albeit not a very good one?

This book contains funny and insightful essays from the brilliant writer Roxane Gay. Through this book she is critical of culture from the view point of a woman of colour. She comments on the state of feminism, gender and sexuality, depictions of race in the media and the political climate which plays a role in all of these things. These are her opinions on this topic and I was ready to delve into them. Some of these essays really resonated with me and were similar to my own experiences (for example, ones based on gaining weight, being 'fat' and getting criticised by parents).

While these essays are dealing with heavy topics that EVERYONE should read/ have some knowledge about, Roxane Gay does this in such a way that sometimes they're funny (I am sorry to the people in the library who could hear me laughing), shocking, and provide you with extra knowledge (especially as I am from the UK, I did not know much about police shootings in America).

Her essays were incredibly insightful. Some of my favourites dealt with recognising your own privilege (despite not always not wanting to face the facts), how their is a 'face' of crime, a cultural expectation (usually a man of colour) and if someone who has committed a horrific crime does not fit this cultural 'profile' then there has to be a reason WHY that person committed the crime (eg a bad upbringing, societal influences from others. This analysis is not provided for men of colour who fit the 'profile'), and the over-public involvement with female autonomy (such as bills restricting abortion, contraception).

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.

Of course this book covers a lot about feminism and different aspects of it. It shows how there are such high expectations on the movement and high expectations placed on ourselves and other feminists, that when one thing fails the feminist movement is blamed as a whole, rather than just that one idea/plan. In her final essays titled 'Bad feminist', Roxane Gay highlights how she makes 'mistakes' and does not always fit in with the movement- however, she also states how she'd rather be a bad feminist than not be a feminist at all. I think this is empowering as it allows people to make mistakes and go through learning curves, and they can still be a 'feminist'.

Even from a young age I understood that when a girl is unlikable, a girl is a problem.

There are books written by women. There are books written by men. Somehow, though, it is only books by women, or books about certain topics, that require this special "women's fiction" designation.
Profile Image for Nnedi.
Author 155 books14.8k followers
July 29, 2015
Fabulous. Great read. So much I could relate to, but also so much that I'd never thought about. I didn't agree with all of it, but I don't need to agree to grow and learn from an opinion. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer. I wanted more more more. Thumbs up.
Also, now I feel a little less conflicted about cranking up J Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive album (it's not the worst in terms of vulgarity, but it's got plenty that I have a problem with...yet it's so good). I see myself as more of a tricksy feminist, but yes, a feminist, nonetheless.
Profile Image for Christy.
113 reviews270 followers
Want to read
January 29, 2017
HAVE to read something by this remarkable woman who just pulled out of her next new book contract as protest over the horrific contract given to the racist (Black Lives Matter as "legal hate group"), sexist ("feminism is cancer") Milo Yiannopoulos out of the Breitbart toxic waste dump that produced Trump's main thinker, Steven Bannon. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/m... This mentioned that Milo was given a promotion of $250K for his hateful vile, that was more than all five previous advanced Gay got for her books.

Maybe we should all read her as thanks!? Also LOVE her bit in NYTs this week, promoting Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City if you need (not want) to get mad about poverty, and also hysterically noting that she is beyond the "redemption offered by self-help books". (Swoon!)
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,238 reviews2,207 followers
June 11, 2020
When I became active on social media, and began expressing my opinions openly, I was tagged as a feminist. Even though I didn't care for labels, I didn't mind this one: I did believe in equal rights for women. I was naive enough to assume that was all there to it.

Apparently not.

I came to understand that as a feminist, I am supposed to behave only in certain ways, express only certain opinions, and hold only certain ideas. If I went against any of these, I was immediately attacked as a "bad feminist". After a couple of bad experiences online, I generally started staying away from these debates, and happily shed the tag of feminist. Now I could rest easy, and speak my mind without being held to some universal standards.
Because I have so many deeply held opinions about gender equality, I feel a lot of pressure to live up to certain ideals. I am supposed to be a good feminist who is having it all, doing it all. Really, though, I’m a woman in her thirties struggling to accept herself and her credit score. For so long I told myself I was not this woman—utterly human and flawed. I worked overtime to be anything but this woman, and it was exhausting and unsustainable and even harder than simply embracing who I am.

Maybe I’m a bad feminist, but I am deeply committed to the issues important to the feminist movement. I have strong opinions about misogyny, institutional sexism that consistently places women at a disadvantage, the inequity in pay, the cult of beauty and thinness, the repeated attacks on reproductive freedom, violence against women, and on and on. I am as committed to fighting fiercely for equality as I am committed to disrupting the notion that there is an essential feminism.
When I read this passage from this book of essays by Roxane Gay, I shouted: "My sister!" and hugged her virtually. It was nice to hear someone - that too, a talented woman - echoing my sentiments.

Mind you - Roxane is a feminist. She fiercely believes in equality for women, and is up in arms against anything that hinders or trivialises the struggle for the same. She just refuses to buy into the mythical image of the militant feminist that society has created - because any type of standardisation is unrealistic. We human beings are an infinitely varied lot.

If you go into the book looking for heavy essays on feminism, you would be disappointed. This is haphazard collection, where Roxane talks about herself and her struggles, race identities, racism, sexism, racism/ sexism in popular culture, and even her triumphs and failures at scrabble. The essays are a mixed bag; but each one, eminently readable. (And insanely quotable. Just look at my status updates.)

I guess this "Bad Feminist" has converted me into her fan!
Profile Image for KatieMc.
806 reviews85 followers
September 24, 2014
Spoiler alert: Roxane Gay is not a bad feminist. Nope, not bad. She is a thoughtful feminist. She more interested in making things better for women than being a so called good feminist. Most of all, she is a human feminist.

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays, some of which you may have read on Salon. She takes on many topics including reality TV, movies, books, gender, sex, news media, social media, politics and Scrabble. They are for the most part interesting, informative and entertaining.

So why a bad feminist? Just as it's too much to expect a woman to be the perfect daughter, sister, mother, wife, neighbor, friend, employee or employer, it's too much to be the perfect textbook feminist (if such a thing even exists). We may not be perfect, but we will try and make things better for women, to fight for women, and to call BS on those who degrade and disrespect women.

Now for quiz time. Are these women good or bad feminists and why?
<- Good feminist or bad?

<- Good feminist or bad?

<- Good feminist or bad?

<- Good feminist or bad?

ETA: I just noticed that Roxane Gay is doing Outlander episode recaps. Awesome! I am a card carrying a bad feminist for loving this series. http://nymag.com/author/roxane%20gay/
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
350 reviews394 followers
December 4, 2014
It is awe-inspiring to go for a ride inside Roxane Gay's head and heart. She opens up the conversation on the word feminism, talks about her own shortcomings, and labels this word is affiliated with. She writes of her own thoughts about current events as well as past. Feminism is a demand for equal rights for women in all areas of life, yet it has become a word with endless connotations.

It is truly staggering to read how sexual violence against women is embedded in our culture. How conservative politicians want control of women's bodies, and are succeeding through current legislation. Seven states require women to receive a transvaginal ultrasound before they receive abortions - a rape in and of itself. Thirty five states require counseling to varying degrees of specificity. Twenty six states require written material to be given. The restrictions just seem to keep on coming. Gay, states, " In 2011, fifty five percent of all women in the U.S. lived in states hostile to abortion rights, and reproductive freedom." Further, "If politicians can't prevent women from having abortions, they are certainly going to punish them." If the U.S. is founded on the principle of inalienable rights, these rights no longer include women. What freedom do women have if their very bodies are legislated? This is coupled with the fact that women live in a "rape culture." Where women no longer talk of "if" they will be raped, but "when."

Gay, through her many commentaries tackles multiple issues, including, reality T.V., the term "women's fiction," the Publishers Weekly interview with Claire Messud and her novel "The Woman Upstairs," rape stories on T.V., and Rosie O'Donnell's objection to the show Law and Order: SVU are but a few.

The issues Gay has written of are many. As a woman myself, a few quotes struck me as crucial:
"Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses - pretty but designed to SLOW women down."

"A lot of ink is given over to mythologizing female friendships as curious, fragile relationships that are always intensely fraught. Stop reading writing that encourages this mythology."

"Don't tear another woman down, because even if they are not your friends, they are women and this is just as important."

"Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights."

Thanks Roxane Gay for such a profound and timely book. This line is my favorite..."One of my favorite moments is when a guy, at a certain point in a relationship, says something desperately hopeful like, "are you on the pill?" I simply say, "no, are you?"





Profile Image for Shruti.
105 reviews92 followers
June 18, 2021
In the past, I've felt essays were tedious to read. Not that I didn't enjoy reading some. But it never struck me that perhaps it wasn't the genre but rather the author that wasn't working for me. Because Roxane Gay really works for me.

Bad Feminist is a collection of Roxane Gay's essays divided into categories like Gender & Sexuality, Race & Entertainment and how Politics affects both of the above. Of course, I enjoyed some essays more than others so here's a list of my favorites—

Peculiar Benefits: Gay speaks about privilege and how it's time we recognize our own. She also talks about how people online have become "self-appointed privilege police" which was a very interesting perspective, something that had never occured to me.

How We All Lose: Gay discusses books like Hanna Rosin's The End of Men: And the Rise of Women and Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman. While acknowledging that there are some well-made points in Rosin's book, she criticizes her problematic selectivity while presenting facts, and points out that what Rosin considers to be better conditions for women, is not good enough.

Gay also calls Moran out for her opinion that women should not wear burkas and is baffled by her casual racism in the book. The essay also talks of the appalling and infuriating anti-abortion statements made by various US politicians about 'legitimate rape' (I'd never even heard of the term before).


The Careless Language of Sexual Violence: The essay starts with the criticism of the New York Times victim-blaming article about the gang rape of an eleven-year-old girl in Texas. Gay further discusses the terrible consequences that we face due to rape culture. The fact that the word 'rape' is used casually and thrown around in jokes has diminished the gravity and effects of it which is utterly disturbing.

The Spectacle of Broken Men: "We live in a culture where athletes are revered, and overlooking terrible, criminal behavior is the price we are seemingly willing to pay for our reverence." In this essay, Gay talks about the Jerry Sandusky (an American football coach who sexually abused children for years) case which I had no clue about. I had to Google and read up on it in detail because it was just horrifying.

Some Jokes Are Funnier Than Others: "Rape humor is designed to remind women that they are still not quite equal." This essay hit home. I want everyone I know to read this.

Gay believes that inappropriate humor is great, still there is a line that no comedian should cross. For example, rape jokes. She speaks of Daniel Tosh who is known to make rape jokes and misogynistic jokes with no remorse. Frankly, I'd never heard of the man before but I absolutely detest him now.

"Rape humor is not "just jokes" or "stand-up". Humor about sexual violence suggests permissiveness—not for people who would never commit such acts but for the people who have whatever weakness allows them to do terrible things unto others."

The Alienable Rights of Women: I absolutely loved this essay. Gay writes about how the government, (especially men), believe they have the right to govern women's bodies while the same has never been done for men. How they have little or no regard for women's lives and choices.

"It is a small miracle women do not have short memories about our rights that have always, shamefully, been alienable."

A Tale of Two Profiles: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a young, white man who was identified as one of the two terrorists responsible for the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Trayvon Martin was a young, black boy who was murdered and his murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. While there was public empathy for Tsarnaev even though he was responsible for killing people, the trial for Zimmerman desperately tried to paint Trayvon Martin as a criminal.

"Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder."

The Racism We All Carry: Everyone's a little bit racist.

Roxane Gay has an amazing and unique way with words; I would have never imagined I'd enjoy reading essays. There are serveral beautiful and powerful quotes in this book that gave me goosebumps. The only reason I've withheld one star is because in some essays, several books and movies I had no clue about were reviewed, so it felt like a task to read through it. Also, I'm glad I read Gone Girl before I read this because spoilers were aplenty.

Overall, a wonderful read. Highly recommended.
1,443 reviews24 followers
November 14, 2021
I had high expectations for this book. The title is intriguing, the cover is attractive, and the back cover blurbs were promising.
But the best I can summon up for this book is a shrug of the shoulders and a “..eh”. This surprised me, because I usually love essays with a feminist slant.

So why didn’t I enjoy this book more? I had to think it over for some time and I came to the conclusion that there were two reasons. The first was that the discussions of various aspects of pop culture simply didn’t mean anything to me. I do not watch Girls . I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey . I haven’t seen any Tyler Perry movies. I never read Sweet Valley High books as a teenager. I also don’t really care about Roxane Gay’s experience as a Typical First Year Professor. So about half of the essays in this book failed to reach me in any meaningful way.

The second reason is that the essays rarely made me think. Much of what was said was utterly reasonable and had been stated dozens of times before. Perhaps I have read too much feminist literature, but the statement that women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, has been trotted out so many times that it evokes nothing more than a yawn. Yes, one can become desensitized to even great and sad truths if one hears them too often. It was the same for statements about abortion and rape, or about the sadly limiting view of women in fiction and in the movies. All of it was truth, nothing was original. Some of the issues she chose to cover struck me as having been done to death. For instance, the complaint that pregnant women are subjected to receiving all sorts of unwanted attention, from strangers wanting to rub their bellies to unsolicited parenting advice. But rather than seeing this as an invasion of privacy, is it not possible – it is not conceivable- that strangers engage with pregnant women because they know they are (typically) in the presence of great happiness? People who would ordinarily not dream of speaking to strangers find themselves asking pregnant women about due dates and baby names because the response is often delivered with so much pride and joy –a happiness that just for a few moments can become contagious.
As I was plodding my way through this book I thought with some nostalgia of the days when I discovered Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Camille Paglia, Katha Pollitt, even Katie Roiphe. Sometimes I agreed with their positions, sometimes I disagreed. Sometimes I had the sense that they expressed in words what I had felt but couldn’t verbalize. Sometimes I experienced that wonderful sensation of reading something that seemed so unexpected, so out-of-left field, that I needed to stop and ponder it for a while before I could read on. I had none of that while reading Bad Feminist.

As I said : perhaps I am experiencing feminist-essay-fatigue?

That being said, I do feel that the author was honest and did not posture. For instance, she acknowledged her own ambivalence when criticizing The Help . On one hand, she felt that a white woman had no business writing about the black experience, but on the other hand she realizes that she, as a writer herself, would not like to be told her writing needs to be limited to her own direct sphere of experience. Roxane Gay’s writing style is engaging, clear and fresh, with only the occasional stylistic faux pas (like her overuse of repetition).

In view of the abundant praise this book has received, I can only conclude that either or both of the following hypotheses must be true :

1. There is such a shortage of feminist essays that this book is really filling a gap.
2. I just don’t get it.
Profile Image for Faye*.
316 reviews94 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 23, 2018
DNF ~30%

You know how people sometimes say they feel as if they read a completely different book than everybody else? So, I guess what this book has done for me is that I finally know what that feels like.

The best way I can describe my experience with Bad Feminist is this: Imagine yourself outside, maybe in a park, on a crisp autumn day. Leaves are falling, the sky is a greyish blue but it's dry, the sun is just about to come out. It's cold but not too cold, sunny but not too sunny. The perfect autumn day. There are leaves all around and they look so deliciously crunchy, you just want to step on them and hear that satisfying sound as they crunch beneath your boots. You see the perfect crunchy leaf, you zoom in on it and as you step on it, there is – nothing. It looked so perfectly crunchy, but it was actually damp and sodden and not crunchy at all. That's how I feel about this book. Non-crunchy. Non-satisfying.

While there are several very good quotes/ideas in this book, I also felt that there were a LOT of very weird ones. I'm going to try and not bore you very much longer with this (the question of why I'm writing a huge review about a book I haven't even finished when I can't be bothered to review some of those that I actually read, is one for another day) but I want to make clear why I did not like this:

1) I felt that the majority of the essays were pretty boring and useless. Maybe you have to be a fan of Roxane Gay's and be very (very) interested in her life and herself as a person but, personally, I did not get the point of them. Just one word: Scrabble.

2) Even though there were some great thoughts there (and I did highlight several), I always felt like Gay wasn't sure what exactly she wanted to say or accomplish. She kept contradicting herself as well as telling us things that weren't necessary. I also felt she was condemning people who judge others while being quite judgemental herself.

3) I can't stand spoilers and I especially do not understand why she had to put one in her essay book. Don't even try to convince me otherwise: no matter how old that book is (and six years is nothing!), there is just no need and it is rude. Just put a freaking Spoiler warning for God's sake.

And finally, to further illustrate my point of how much I did not get this, here are a few notes I saved on my tablet while reading (these are direct quotes from my iPad, not joking):
• HOW is this relevant?!?
• Why though?
• ...
• What is this supposed to even mean??? USELESS
• THIS IS SO USELESS!!!!!
• YYYYEEESSSSS (Sadly, not a quote by R G)
• Again?!?!?!?
• ?!?!?
• Um how about no?
• ?!?!?!?!
• ?!?!?!?
• ?!?!?!?!?!?!
• ROLLING MY EYES *AGAIN*
• Hhooooowwwww is this relevant???
• ???????!!!!!????????
• ???????!!!!!????????
• ROLLING MY EYES SO HARD

Huge shout-out to my most patient reading buddy Eli, who endured my constant whining and about a million screenshots and photos of passages that bored/enraged/confused me in those rare moments that I actually did manage to pick this up.


***********************************************

~~~Before reading~~~

I'm so here for all those feminist reads this month! Yay for buddy reading again with Eli

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