When I cracked open Bad Feminist, I was ready to embrace it as the feminist bible for a new generation. When I finished it, I was left with mixed emotions. I wanted to love it, every single word of it. I’m so tired of this anti-feminist bullshit that I was already fully on board with a book that goes after it aggressively, intelligently, and in a way that’s accessible and engaging for young readers. I just wish she went harder and I really hope her next one (please write a next one) is more aggressive. That said...everyone should read this book. No matter where you stand on feminist issues, Roxane Gay will challenge you to broaden your perspective.
Many of these essays were originally written for the web and have that feel about them. That’s not a bad thing - it’s the tone her readers are familiar with and if it makes it more inviting, then I’m all for it. However, at points it also sacrificed a level of complexity that I was hoping for. There were several essays, for example, that could have been reworked and combined to create one longer, harder-hitting, more in-depth essay. Overall it was a very mixed bag. At times it was scattered, redundant, confusing, contradictory, and surface level. Yet at other times it was hilarious, biting, urgent, powerful, nuanced, and moving.
That said, I’m probably not her primary audience and I was bringing expectations to this book that Gay never promised. This wasn’t billed as a collection of peer-reviewed, scholarly research articles. It’s a collection of personal essays. She’s not having this conversation in the academic realm, but with a broader, pop culture based audience. Which is absolutely a good thing. The feminist movement has stalled out and needs new voices and perspectives to bring it up to speed. It needs to shift in order to stay relevant, and Gay is helping that shift take place.
I’m already 100% on board with Gay’s definition of feminism and have been for as long as I can remember. I don’t need convincing and I don’t need it to be friendly. BUT, to a young girl or a young woman who has never heard these opinions articulated before, I can only imagine how mind blowing it would be. To readers who had a misconception of feminism or could never discuss their feminist beliefs openly, I’m sure this book was a godsend. To girls and women who are vastly and embarrassingly underrepresented or ignored in broader conversations on feminism, it must be incredibly validating to read these essays and see your own frustrations and struggles given a voice. For that alone, Bad Feminist is an important book and worthy of your attention.
Plus I thought the Scrabble tournament essay was hilarious.