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Monday, September 1, 2014

Michelle Reviews: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Much like Roxane Gay, I too am a Bad Feminist. I alternate between simpering and cowering away from the supposedly militant term to donning my angry feminist coat and seeking to squash the patriarchy. (This coat is merely metaphorical, though sometimes I wish it were real. A Power Coat. Maybe it would be made of puppies a la Cruella DeVille. Here’s a question; was Cruella a feminist? Did she Lean In? Have we been misreading 101 Dalmatians this whole time?!) I’m a Bad Feminist, but I think you can enjoy this collection regardless of how you self-categorize.

The first line that really struck me in this book was in the very first essay: “The notion that I should be fine with the status quo even if I am not wholly affected by the status quo is repulsive.” That is the summation of my indignation with society, with our culture at large, despite my overwhelming privilege. From there I knew I could follow Gay throughout her collection (to be fair I kinda knew this already because I have been following her online for quite some time); we are simpatico.

So here’s the thing…this collection of essays will not always make you comfortable. In plain fact some of these essays will make you uncomfortable. And that is just beautiful. Gay’s interests here span the dissection of race, gender, culture, and competitive Scrabble. She writes about her love of The Hunger Games and Law and Order: SVU alongside stories of rape, oppression, and the damage done by our modern fairy tales. Gay balances her frustration and anger with moments levity and pure openness. At times she seems fearlessly honest. You will probably agree with her, fervently. You will probably disagree with her, fervently. She leaves plenty of room for both. Gay states her opinions, she owns them, grounds them in fact and rationality, but she also admits to being human, being messy and making mistakes. There is a grace to that that few other cultural critics ever achieve.

If being a Bad Feminist means acknowledging the ways in which I am flawed, the ways in which feminism is flawed and yet still recognizing both the importance of the ideology and my own autonomy then I am quite frankly proud to be a Bad Feminist. I urge my fellow Bad Feminists as well as Good Feminists, Misogynists, Misandrists, and just regular folk to read this collection. Engage with it, challenge it, let it challenge you. I assure you, you will learn something. Roxane Gay is someone who is thinking critically about our world and it is a better place for it. She admits that she doesn't always get things right, that she lets herself down - that's the glory in being a Bad Feminist, you don't have to be perfect which is lucky because no one is.

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