I was supposed to see a live Q&A with Roxane Gay at the International Festival of Authors next week, but Roxane had to cancel because of an injury.
Some of the essays in Bad Feminist were originally published in different magazines, such as Salon, Jezebel and The Rumpus. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays that contain a few personal stories (some of them fun like Roxane’s worship of the Sweet Valley High series, some of them raw and intimate), but mostly delves into issues concerning diversity, privilege, politics, racial and gender discrimination and violence. As a lover of pop culture, she references frequently books, movies, TV shows, music, celebrities, sports and politics, as examples of what is still lacking in our society, and why we need to have a conversation about these subjects. I listened to the audio book of Bad Feminist which was not read by Roxane Gay.
Roxane Gay’s essays are thought-provoking and make many valid points about what is missing in society and/or popular culture. She tries to balance out her criticism with humour and by sharing what she does love in pop culture or thinks are steps in the right direction. Probably my favourite discussion in the collection is when she talks about “likeable” characters in books and “likeable” women, à la the Cool Girl from Gone Girl.
Roxane Gay does a very good job laying out the issues and sharing stories that were sometimes so sad I sank into a depression dwelling on all the cruelties and injustices in the world. But she doesn’t offer the reader any solutions or suggestions of where to go from here. She has a lot to say about what she thinks is bad and offensive, but no balm of encouragement or inspiration.
From the start of the book, Roxane Gay emphasizes that she is a “bad feminist”, flawed and frequently conflicted. She admits to being, at times, a hypocrite and not walking her talk. I suspect she is still working it all out like the rest of us. Overall, I liked the calm, honest manner in which she presents her thoughts in Bad Feminist and tries to get the reader thinking about these issues. She may not have all the answers, but she wants to get us talking and I think that’s a good starting point.