"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Staff Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

By Hannah

    Recently, there has been a very audible exclamation of “feminism” in celebrity-land. Stars like Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Amy Poehler, Emma Watson, and Patrick Stewart have all proclaimed their feminism. However, there are far more celebrities who shy away from the label than there are who proudly own it. Shailene Woodley rejects the word “feminist” because, she says, she “love[s] men.” Sarah Jessica Parker calls herself a “humanist, not a feminist.” So, why all this rejection of the word “feminism?” As Carrie Underwood so succinctly put it, “that can come off as a negative connotation.”

    Roxane Gay, whose favorite color is pink, who reads Vogue without irony, and who “willingly give[s] blow jobs,” explores, in her brilliant essay collection Bad Feminist, how the word “feminist” has been contorted into a synonym for “angry, sex-hating, man-hating victim lady person.” Beyond that, feminism, until very recently, seemed to only concern itself with the white, heterosexual, cisgendered, college educated, middle class experience of womanhood. This is, indeed, a problem. However, unlike Shailene Woodley or Carrie Underwood, Gay is unwilling to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Bad Feminist examines the humanity of the movement-- it is imperfect, it is messy, it has long strides left to make, but, does that mean feminism is unworthy of our association with it? After all, how many of us are perfectly clean, completely rational Adults-with-a-capital-A?

    The vulnerability and honesty with which Gay writes these essays is part, in my opinion, of what makes this collection so important. I, like Gay, am a both a “bad,” and a very vocal, feminist. I get more excited about new dresses than I do about political debates. I almost exclusively wear sparkly ballet flats, which aren't exactly practical footwear. I like for the man to pay when I go on dates and, sometimes, I think that all I really want in life is to have a gaggle of babies. This does not mean that I am not a feminist. On the contrary, my  emphatic feminism comes from my desire to be recognized as a multi-faceted, complex, messy, imperfect individual. In other words, I am a person. Unfortunately, in the current social climate, my femininity does not allow for my personhood.

    Bad Feminist is a valuable work because it delves into that personhood. It is not just about feminism. It's about race, it's about sex, and it's about privilege, but it's also about Scrabble and The Hunger Games. It is a multi-faceted, complex, messy, imperfect, and totally engrossing, book. It is both relatable and critical. It is simple, but intricate. It is a fantastic read that will make you consider who you really are.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Harper Perennial, $15.99


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