I have read many reviews of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist over the past few years, and I still don’t know if I really understood what I was getting myself into. But that isn’t a bad thing.
At its core, this is a book about Gay coming into herself, and owning exactly who she is, without reservation. She walks the reader through her outlook, her struggles as a woman in the world to live up to being a feminist, or not wanting to be associated with people who create a negative perception for the rest of us. As she puts it, consider her already knocked off the pedestal. But that is only the first (and last) sections of her book. It is many things at once; it is simultaneously chaotic, complex, empathetic, and rational.
The rest of this book, is a series of essays (some previously published), which unpack the racist, misogynistic, and otherwise flawed world we live in which requires people of all genders to find their inner feminist, whether it be a “bad” one or a “good” one. Gay is walking herself and her reader through the various complexities of life in the early 2010s (the book is already a smidge dated, having only been published in August of 2014) and asking us, won’t we all allow humanity and complexity to coexist?
Gay uses our common cultural language, pop culture, to illustrate her points. This is not new ground in the world of a thousand think pieces a day on media, but that doesn’t mean it is without value. I was knocked down by the essay, which begins with her thoughts on the Hunger Games books and movies, and turns it into a testament to personal suffering and its place in our broken society. I found myself nodding along with her takedowns of Tyler Perry’s oeuvre and The Help – yes, I see those things too.
The main thrust of the book the book is that people are different, messy, and human with essays focused around gender, race, and privilege make it as clear as could be. Some might find it reductive, but I found it embracing to see the world from someone’s perspective that is like mine, but not mine. It was like reading a memoir that was also a course of finding yourself and your rhythm in your 30s.
As with any book you read, it isn’t perfect. Like anyone else Roxane Gay has things which I do not agree with her about, or do not completely understand her point of view on (no one is turning me around on Gone Girl) but if you haven’t already dived into the world of Roxane Gay, I say come on in, the water is fine.
4.5 rounded up.