Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Am I a Feminist? This is a question I've often asked myself, or that I have been asked by others, since I took a Women's Studies course in the early 2000's. The problem is, the question ignores key factors. By whose terms of feminism: my own? yours? some scholar's I know nothing about? It changes the concept of what feminism would actually be--or actually is--doesn't it?

As you can probably tell, I was rather apprehensive when I sAt down to start reading Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist. However, the book really surprised me and did a fantastic job of giving me new ways to think about how I view this important movement.

(Summary from GoodReads)
Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
In modern society, the term 'Feminist' has taken on very negative tones. There are lots of people who use it to represent ideas that they do not like. They use 'Feminist' as an insult. There are also lots of different ideas of what feminism actually is, and none of these are necessarily right or wrong. In Bad Feminist Roxane Gay looks at the fact that the term feminism makes women feel uncomfortable; as though they are required to live on some pedestal of perfection. Through examining her own struggles with this, and her own unique quirks and flaws, Roxane presents the idea of being a Bad Feminist in order to actually use being a feminist as a way of building women up rather than allowing the label of Feminist to tear us down.

I like the fact that Roxane has a sense of humour. I also like the fact that she owned up to things that many might mistakenly feel are not feminist, or that Feminists can do, such as liking: pink, rap music, being in love, or enjoying sex. She covers many of the basic ideas and principles that people associate with feminism, such as: the patriarchy, privilege, and things like safe spaces and trigger warnings. She also covers many global and intersectional concerns--something often overlooked or misunderstood by people or potentially ignored by first world Feminists.

The thing I think I like the most about how the book was presented is the way Roxane wrote it. I felt like I was sitting down and having coffee with a close friend, rather than being lectured by someone who felt that, for whatever reason, she is superior to me because of her background. I admired her honesty and candour, and the fact that she, as well, has experienced self doubt about whether or not she is a Feminist

The only thing that really didn't work for me was the chapter on Scrabble. I admired some of the humour in it, and I find Roxane interesting enough that I didn't completely hate it or feel it was a waste of time, but I found it it was kind of a strange choice to include in an otherwise well put together collection of essays. I'm not sorry to have heard it--I listened to this as an audiobook--but I did think it was an odd choice.

My favourite pieces were those on reality television, privilege, and rape culture. These things can often be misused to present other opinions that don't actually have anything to do with these topics. I was very glad to not see that happen here.
For anyone who, like me, is struggling with what the place of feminism is or should be in the 21st-century, I would highly recommend picking up and reading (or listening to) Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist. I'm certainly glad that I did. I feel that it was 10 hours well spent and I will definitely be reading / listening to more of her books in the months to come.


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