Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay


"As Judith Butler writes in her 1988 essay 'Performative Acts and Gender Constitution,' 'Performing ones gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect, and performing it well provides the reassurance that there is an essentialism of gender identity after all.' This tension—the idea that there is a right way to be a woman, a right way to be the most essential woman—is ongoing and pervasive. 

"We see this tension in socially dictated beauty standards—the right way to be a woman is to be thin, to wear makeup, to wear the right kind of clothes (not too slutty, not too prudish—show a little leg, ladies), and so on. Good women are charming, polite, and unobtrusive. Good women work but are content to earn 77 percent of what men earn or, depending on whom you ask, good women bear children and stay home to raise those children without complaint. Good women are modest, chaste, pious, submissive. Women who don't adhere to these standards are the fallen, the undesirable; they are bad women."

I cannot express how grateful I am to have randomly picked out Roxane Gay's "Bad Feminist" in the ATL airport in October. I have so very much enjoyed reading her collection of essays and perspectives on race, gender, politics, media, sexuality, entertainment, feminism and their intersectionality. I have felt comfort in having my own experiences validated, and I have had my viewpoints challenged as I entertain hers. 

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everyone should read this book. seriously.

Like. Requirements as a human being.

I am unapologetically a feminist.

Yes – I wear pink, dresses and skirts; I shave and like to wear makeup; I am constantly cleaning my apartment and I barely know how to change my oil, let alone what anything else under my hood is. I also love a good steak, playing football, wearing baggy pants and would choose a pair of chucks over heels any day. What's absolutely absurd to me, though, is that any of this is somehow related to my gender, either reinforcing or contradicting my performance in its role. 

"I sometimes cringe when I am referred to as a feminist, as if I should be ashamed of my feminism or as if the word 'feminist' is an insult. The label is rarely offered in kindness. I am generally called a feminist when I have the nerve to suggest that the misogyny so deeply embedded in our culture is a real problem requiring relentless vigilance." 

I feel you, girl. 

Yes – I will speak up when someone is in the wrong, because ignorance is bliss for all those but the oppressed, suffocating under glass ceilings and curtains that block our light from shining through.

You will not walk past me and fail to acknowledge my existence, my presence, my power, my voice. I am woman. Hear me roar. Hear me speak. Hear me scream. 

Hear me. Because I am here. Fighting for the right to take control of my body, my fashion choices, my emotions, my career, my so-often-infringed-upon-supposed-to-be-inalienable rights. 

I am fighting to live. Freely. 
I am fighting to breathe. In clean air, filtered from expectation and standards.
I am fighting to be. 

All in all, this book gave me life. Read it.