by Brittany Brolley
In the introduction of Bad Feminist: Essays Roxane Gay writes, “I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human.”
As a bad feminist, she admits to dancing along to music with misogynistic lyrics. As a person who exercises to Ludacris, I too am guilty of ignoring lyrics for the sake of a catchy beat. However, Gay also points out how “the careless language of sexual violence” — an aptly named essay in her book — causes damage. Her poignant piece on Chris Brown and Robin Thicke’s hit song, “Blurred Lines,” caused me to consider what I accept as entertainment.
Privilege or Oppression Olympics
Throughout several essays, Gay reveals bits about her childhood as a first-generation Haitian-American and the pressures and privileges associated with it. Gay addresses the topic of privilege brilliantly. She explains, “Nearly everyone, particularly in the developed world, has something someone else doesn’t, something someone else yearns for” and wishes people would “stop playing Privilege or Oppression Olympics because we’ll never get anywhere until we find more effective ways of talking through difference.” I found it refreshing to read her spin on a word used so frequently and often out of context.
A Fascinating Story
It becomes obvious early on in Gay’s book that she is a critical thinker and avid reader. She wonderfully details her love of reading and writing, “Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life…They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds.”
Gay has a fascinating story. She shares what it was like to begin her career as the only black professor in her department, and even tells how she ended up becoming a competitive Scrabble player. With surprising honesty, Gay doesn’t hold back her opinions, even if they will make the reader uncomfortable at times.
Not Just for Feminists
If you too love books and movies, Bad Feminist contains a good deal of commentary on both. Although Gay provides some backstory on all of the books and movies she writes about, I did find myself ultimately more interested in ones I had personally seen and read. Her take on the novel and the film The Help was vastly different than any other review I had read. Even if you don’t agree with Gay’s opinion, her way with words will help you to at least understand why she feels a certain way.
Despite topics varying from entertainment to politics, the transitions feel truly seamless in this book. Each essay ends on a strong note. I found myself not wanting to put the book down. ‘I’ll just read one more,’ I’d tell myself.
This book isn’t just for feminists – good or bad. You don’t have to prescribe to any set of beliefs to enjoy the content. You’ll finish it appreciating something she strives for – “The more I write the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman.”
The latest addition to Laura’s book nonfiction review team, Brittany is a lifestyle writer, childfree advocate and founder of therinkydinklife.com, a website dedicated to breaking free of the stereotypes surrounding the childless.