Review | Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay


How do we reconcile the imperfections of feminism with all the good it can do? In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed.

Bad Feminist was the second book I read this year, the first being Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and the two in succession kicked off my reading year beautifully. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays in which Gay talks about a range of social issues, centering around gender and race. 

I think this is what How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran was trying to be. It covers feminism in all it's complexity, in a broad and accessible way, drawing on examples from pop culture, such as movies like Django and The Help and of course Robin Thicke's infamous Blurred Lines, to show the ways in which social inequality of both sex and race still exist in a world that many claim treats everybody as equal. The majority of the ideas in essays focusing on inequality between the sexes were familiar to me, though it was very interesting and somewhat horrifying to learn more about the Southern states of America and the political struggles over rights to contraception and terminations. I didn't realise it was so damn terrible.

What I really enjoyed was the insight I got into the black experience, which is something I hadn't been expecting to be included to the degree it was. A major flaw in 'liberal white feminism' is the tendency to ignore racial inequality as interwoven with gender inequality. The two come from the same place, the same set of cultural priorities, and it is a huge failing of anyone who advocates for one, to disregard the other.

I was also really happy to see her discuss 'feminism' as a term for a very broad ideology, which can be applied to a wide range of different ways of thinking. Often feminism is thought of as this hive of borg queens all working to topple men into the dust. *eye roll*. Instead Gay argues that feminism is simply the desire for equality and freedom between the sexes, and that freedom and equality mean different things for different people.

Roxanne Gay is fun and engaging and has a real gift for discussing ideas and building arguments with passion and personal experience, without sacrificing intelligent, critical thought. It's not exactly the magnum opus of the current fight for equality, nor is it going to spark massive debates and create some kind of new wave of feminism, but it's an excellent place to start


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