January 15, 2015

Book Review: 'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay

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I found my new BFF! I heard so many wonderful things about Roxane Gay's New York Times bestseller Bad Feminist. The book is a collection of essays covering all issues surrounding modern day feminism from portrayals on the big and small screens, to politics, music and all things in between. She even takes on a former professor of mine, but more on that later. Get ready to get schooled. There is a lot of material to digest in this 300+ page book but it's so worth it.

There are 40 something chapters ranging from 3 short pages to several longer form essays. Gay's writing is punched up with pop culture references and curse words (which I love!). Some of the essays are hard to read. She is very open about her past experiences. Some make you look at another subject from another perspective. As a white woman, I know I have certain privileges so it was enlightening to read a black woman's perspective on certain issues that I am limited on. She talks about how the word feminism scared her because she felt like she had to be this perfect entity like I'm sure most of us women feel when carrying that label. However, she consistently points out that human beings are flawed and we're constantly learning and shaping our viewpoints based on our experiences. Feminism should be represented by the housewife, the Harvard professor, the pop singer, etc. The word shouldn't exclude anyone pro women's rights.

Gay brilliantly shoots down several works and people perceived to be feminists. One such person was an actual professor of mine, author Diana Spechler. Ms. Spechler wrote a book about fat camp, something Ms. Gay is all too familiar with. She talks about how the writing seemed inauthentic to her because of her own experience at a fat camp and that Ms. Spechler, who didn't attend fat camp personally, merely tried to capture the voices of those she spoke with. Another book with similar faults is The Help. It's written by a white woman trying to sum up the black experience. Ms. Gay was none to pleased. The point being that women with unique experiences need to talk/share/write more so that we can get the authentic perspective rather than let's say white bitches telling them (lol my words, not hers).

She discusses two books, which have been on my bookshelf collecting dust, The End of Men and Reality Bites Back. One she does not like (can you guess?) but I still want to read both. It's important to not just take one person's opinions and run with them. I heard Ms. Gay's opinions on these books so now I must read them and form my own. As Maggie Gyllenhaal pointed out in her Golden Globes acceptance speech "... a lot of people talking about the wealth of roles for powerful women in television lately and when I look around the room... I think about the performances that I've watched this year, what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not; sometimes sexy, sometimes not; sometimes honorable, sometimes not. What I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film." Women are flawed, human beings are flawed; and that's okay.

If you feel like you're a bad feminist, or that the word feminism doesn't include you then I strongly recommend reading. I suggest everyone reads it as it's almost like taking a course in modern feminism. You'll laugh, you'll be uncomfortable, and may even cry but damn it's good.

What books have you read recently?

1 comment:

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