What I’m Consuming: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Feminist graphicIt’s time for another What I’m Consuming post. I started with a collection of shortish fiction. This next one is a collection of short nonfiction (i.e. essays) — Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial, 2014).

What it is and why it’s here

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by a fiction writer and cultural critic. Gay chews on and critiques all manner of things in pieces you may recognize from Slate, The Rumpus, and others.

The book starts off with disarming reads. Gay’s first essay on feminism has her questioning the absolutism many associate with the term. “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy,” Gay writes. She is also:

…a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible to women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.

In “To Scratch, Claw, or Grope Clumsily or Frantically,” Gay gives us a peek into the world of competitive Scrabble. With “I Once Was Miss America,” Gay celebrates the cloying Sweet Valley High books. But she already had me, complete with tears of laughter and sympathy, at “Typical First Year Professor.”

Later on, Gay slings criticism of The Help, Tyler Perry movies, and Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s when we see her famous sentiment, “It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.”

Bad Feminist is here, in a series where I vowed to include only things I recommend, because it makes good points with a human, honest, funny voice; iron-clad logic; and an unabashed feminist and anti-racist angle.

At times these essays also surprise me. I felt statistics play an important role in telling stories and convincing an audience, but my view has been complicated (in a good way) after I read “The Last Day of a Young Black Man,” a piece about Oscar Grant and the film Fruitvale Station. This essay also discusses how a scholar refutes the notion that there are more black men in prison than in college.

How I came upon it

I read it for a women’s book group. Shocker, right? I love those ladies (and especially the group wrangler, poet and nonfiction writer Sandra Beasley. Definitely put her books on your To Consume list).

The upshot

I’m sad that a feminist in the 20-teens has to insist that she enjoys sex and likes the color pink. But if that’s the climate around the f-word, then I’m grateful to have a writer like Roxane Gay and a book like Bad Feminist on the scene.

You should read this book, whatever your gendered or political persuasion.


Gay also published a novel this year, which I hope to read. It’s called An Untamed State. Check it out.

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Filed under Community of writers, Teaching, What I'm Consuming, Women

One response to “What I’m Consuming: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

  1. Pingback: What I’m Consuming: Home Fires Burning by Karen Houppert | Rhea Kennedy, writer