Review: ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay

bad feminist_coverThe books you need to read the most present themselves to you when you are ready. This happened to me with the Harry Potter series. I began reading the book shortly before my family moved to the Twin Cities in the middle of my grade school years. That series was what I needed, and some days still do in a security blanket kind of way (read: it’s a part of my DNA at this point).

Many of the books I’ve read so far this year were chosen at random. I either came across the title in one of the library branches or on the Chicago Public Library Overdrive. Some of them I saw in my roommate’s collection of books, so they were added to my to-read pile. Others had been on my radar and when they popped up, I didn’t hesitate to crack them open. All of the books I’ve read have been enjoyable, but not necessarily what the universe ordered.

The moment I cracked open Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist,” I knew this book of essays was exactly what I needed to read. In her introduction, she writes about how she used to disavow feminism. She writes that she is ashamed of her ignorance and that she worried that “feminism wouldn’t allow me to be the mess of a woman I knew myself to be” (xii). That struck a chord. There were times when I, too, disavowed feminism, or said I was a feminist but it was never said with 100 percent certainty. She goes on to write that feminism’s failings don’t mean we should discount feminism entirely: “People do terrible things all the time, but we don’t regularly disown our humanity. We disavow the terrible things. We should disavow the failures of feminism without disavowing its many successes and how far we have come” (xiii). This is something that I’ve slowly come to realize and seeing the words written on the page made it more clear to me.

“Bad Feminist” is an essay collection that I didn’t want to put down. I found myself at work, wishing I could reserve the conference room with the couch for two hours to read it. But I waited patiently until I was on the train to begin reading it again. While reading the essay about competitive Scrabble — titled “To Scratch, Claw or Grope Clumsily or Frantically” — I had to stop myself from laughing out loud on the train (though I should’ve laughed anyway). I searched the Internet to see if it was available somewhere online so I could send it to my mother, whom I will never win a game of Scrabble against.

There are so many nuggets of wisdom throughout the essays. Because I was reading a borrowed copy, I couldn’t underline any of my favorite passages. In “How We All Lose,” Gay writes about Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women” and how Rosin writes that the closer women get to power, the more they cling to thinking they are powerless in the paperback edition’s epilogue. Gay’s response at the end of that section: “Some women being empowered does not prove the patriarchy is dead. It proves that some of us are lucky” (101).

Back before Halloween, I got to see Roxane Gay along with Gloria Steinem at an event put on by the Women and Children First bookstore. Both women spoke for about an hour before signing their books. It’s probably the best book event that I’ve been to so far (sorry, Erik Larson). The day of the event, I bought my own copy of “Bad Feminist” for Gay to sign and I foresee a lot of underlined and highlighted passages when I reread sections once this book challenge is over.

“Bad Feminist” is the book everyone must read. It’ll make you laugh and open your mind to so many things you might not have thought about before. 

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3 thoughts on “Review: ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay

  1. I really enjoyed this book, overall. Some of the essays are amazing; some essays, less so; all of them give you food for thought.

    Glad to see you enjoyed it, as well. Thanks for reviewing?

    Like

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