FemLIT for December: Bad Feminist Review

This month for FemLIT, we visit one of the icons of contemporary feminist commentary: Roxane Gay. Here are my thoughts on her most well-known read, Bad Feminist.

Title: Bad Feminist
Author: Roxane Gay
Genre: Essays

Blurb: 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.

Me: A remarkable contemporary essay collection and a very enjoyable read. Many thoughts and questions. 

The Ups: First, I realized how hard good essay-writing is. To be able to deftly explore extremely complex ideas in compartmentalized, succinct essays is literally impossible. I think it really is necessary to take that into consideration when reading. 

With that, I loved how readable this was. There was only one essay I didn't read, and mostly because I had read the other entertainment essays about movies and shows I wasn't familiar with. The other essays were mixed perfectly with humility, social commentary, anecdotes, and humor that left me thinking but also enjoying the read.

There were many portions of the book where I felt incredibly angry at the state of our society right now, but there were also many portions where Gay convinced me I could do something about it, step 1 being to identify with the feminist movement, despite its flaws. Something I found utterly fascinating was the idea that even feminism as a movement is evaluated differently in the context of unrealistic expectations for women. Feminism cannot be perfect; it shouldn't be evaluated with a standard of perfect, but improvement. It was great to see that, even as a person who tries to be very conscious of feminism, I still had so much to learn. 

I also loved the wide variety of topics explored. Even Gay herself recognizes that snide remarks from pop culture icons might not be a big deal compared to the lack of reproductive rights, but small individual choices create a culture that inherently stands against one half of the world's population. From ideas about beauty to female friendships, there is sure to be a gem of an essay in here for everyone.

The Downs: I did feel as though some essays felt unconnected to the collection as a whole, and as I mentioned, for readers who aren't extremely familiar with some of the culture referenced, it was hard to get through detailed analysis of the works. 

As well, after a while I felt like Gay would never be satisfied with mainstream portrayals of diverse women and men, and gender/race/sexuality relationships. Every pop culture piece mentioned had some related to careless representation. I understood the context of her larger point- in a perfect world, anyone would be able to make what they wanted with little concern. But now, it is not right that the prominent culture profits from misrepresentation. But I feel like that could have been stated with one example, because even though it wasn't her intent, after a while I thought it just seemed like she'd find anything to criticize. 

Overall: A very interesting essay collection that has many good things to say about feminism, but also some excessive criticisms.

Rating: 4 kisses!

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