Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Book Review)
This post has been updated as of March 10, 2018.
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"Bad Feminist" was my first rodeo
I can't remember the last time I read a collection of essays outside of a homework assignment. One aspect of Black & Bookish is to get out of my comfort zone so I chose a book outside of my normal genre that I thought I would enjoy. Bad Feminist has been collecting dust on my shelf for a while and why not continue on this feminist train I started with Adichie?
Gay's book contains her critique of current television shows, movies, and book reviews. Everything from the lack of Black people in HBO's Girls (set in the multicultural haven that is NYC) to Tyler Perry's morality in his movies. She uses a feminist perspective to expand our thoughts on what should and shouldn't be acceptable in popular culture and some ways we could improve.
The book also contains some of her personal history as way to show that she isn't the feminits police. Her book is an ode to being human, not in a flawed way, but in a realistic way. The word feminism has a wide range of standards, and she knows that she can't live up to all of them.
I enjoyed her first few and last few chapters more so than the middle. I was moved by the critiques of herself and not by the books she did or didn't liked. I did like that she talked openly about her personal history, and how that compared to the chapter theme. She has no feminist tenants, understanding the messiness of listening to rap music or enjoying reality tv. This doesn't eliminate her standing as a feminist- on the contrary, it uplifts it. She carves out space for nuance. Her self-exploration shows you don't have to be all or nothing. It was this vulnerability that mapped out her so called "bad feminism."
I am not familiar with many of books or authors she talks about (since I don't read a lot of fiction). She also watches a lot more television than I do. Other reviewers have said they could not relate to the amount of entertainment references. They wanted to erase the power and intelligence of her words because of their disinterest in her subject matter. I want to do the opposite, knowing the limitations are on me and not her choices of content. Additionally, she doesn't make me want to go and watch the shows either! She solidifies my thoughts on their misrepresentation of minorities and limited views of feminism.
We tend to forget that feminists are not a homogenous group. Her book gave me space to grow as both a woman and a feminist. Her intersectionality taught me to let go of guilt around feminist perfection. It helped me to internalize that my feminist limitations are still considered Feminism. It also created space in my own philosophy to accept other flawed men and women, because being a card carrying feminist can be hard. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a reminder that they don't have to do it all. You can stand in your truth, come up short, and still be doing it "right". Bad Feminist is a good reminder of how there usually isn't a "right" anyway.
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About the Author
Black & Bookish is the brainchild of Antoinette Scully, educator and lover of all things bookish. She is on a quest to fill your bookshelves with beloved authors of the African Diaspora. When she's not hanging out online, she's living it up as the mother of two rambunctious girls and wife of a local filmmaker.