I have vaguely heard of Roxane Gay through Cannonball and Twitter but I haven’t read Bad Feminist, so Hunger is my first taste of her writing and it was delicious.
“The bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.”
Roxane Gay is a “woman of size” who, like Lindy West, she uses the word Fat to describe her body. I related a lot to Roxane although I am what she would refer to as “Lane Bryant” fat since I am only about 40 pounds overweight. But it isn’t a competition, her struggle still hit a lot of notes for me on a personal level because I am still larger than I am “supposed” to be.
Gay’s body is the size it is for several reasons but the main one is that she views her wide, fat frame as a shield from unwanted male attention. This desire to repulse men for safety’s sake stems from being gang raped by her sort of boyfriend and his friends when she was twelve years old! This heinous act is the root of many of her emotional problems. For example, when she was a college student at Yale she dropped out and moved across country without telling her parents to live with a man she met online. She is incredibly open with her readers about some of the mistakes she has made in her romantic relationships and how she struggles to be emotionally vulnerable with her partners.
“There is always a moment when I am losing weight when I feel better in my body. I breathe easier. I move better. I feel myself getting smaller and stronger. My clothes fall over my body the way they should and then they start to get baggy. I get terrified. I start to worry about my body becoming more vulnerable as it grows smaller. I start to imagine all the ways I could be hurt. I start to remember all the ways I have been hurt.”
Regardless of why Roxane is obese she is and her body has a different relationship with the world than someone who is less overweight. She researches restaurants before dining out to make sure she can be seated comfortably throughout the meal and has been humiliated on numerous flights regarding seat belt extenders and buying an extra seat. She is stared at on a regular basis, she struggles to find feminine of fashionable clothing and she receives a lot of hate on Twitter.
“This is the reality of living in my body: I am trapped in a cage. The frustrating thing about cages is that you’re trapped but you can see exactly what you want. You can reach out from the cage, but only so far. ”
Gay has her shit pretty well together now. She returned to school and earned several degrees which lead her an academic career as well as a successful writing career. But all the success in the world doesn’t erase her traumatic past or shrink the body she inhabits to a more “culturally appealing” size.
This is a memoir that will leave you raw but will also, hopefully, open your eyes.