Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay ★★★

IMG_74691Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by a relatively new, and strong, voice in cultural criticism. Gay comments on the culture of the past few years and feminism today, as well as discussing her own personal experience as a woman, a woman of colour and a feminist. She puts large emphasis throughout her essays on the idea that she is a flawed feminist; a woman who goes against a lot of typical feminist ideology, but nevertheless cares passionately about typical feminist issues. This collection is a perfect mix of humour, anger and optimism, and I found Gay to be insightful and often relatable.

This collection explored a wide range of topics, which really showcased Gay’s intelligence and made for an interesting read. Among some of the most engaging were discussions of women’s reproductive freedom, black representation in film, social media, ‘women’s fiction’ and publishing, and rape culture. Gay also highlights some important problems with feminism, in that it drastically under-represents black, queer and trans women, which I found to be highly salient. Her experiences as a Haitian-American also came through strongly, and I particularly enjoyed the insight into feminism as a woman of colour that this offered.There were, however, some essays that I did not enjoy as much. I found that some did not offer much insight, and some contained claims that I not only disagreed with – which I did not take great issue with; disagreeing with an opinion does not make it any less insightful – but were not sufficiently backed up. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the majority of the essays and found I learned quite a bit.

Gay also discusses openly her journey to understanding herself individually, as well as understanding wider society, which offered a great second dimension to the book. Gay comes across as entirely relatable, her passion for certain issues but also her fallibility apparent. She readily admits that she is self-contradictory: she loves rap music, although she finds a lot of it extremely offensive and degrading towards women, and she declares that she frequently shaves her body, though she abhors the unrealistic beauty standards that are placed upon women. While discussing these flaws, she puts emphasis on striving for improvement, and also claims that anyone who cares about the feminist cause can identify as feminist.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection of essays. I appreciated Gay’s passion and deep commitment to important contemporary issues that should be discussed, and I learned things about black-culture from her perspective in particular. Gay’s writing was also enjoyable in itself; she is sharp and funny, and not afraid to be blunt. I primarily enjoyed that she disrupted the notion of one essential feminism, which is something I think to be extremely valid and significant.




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