Read: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Image from Literally Darling

If you're still looking for a Christmas gift for the woman in your life, this could be it. No, this should be it. For ladies who play Scrabble, girls who have watched 'Girls', young women who love the Hunger Games, females who have danced to 'Blurred Lines' or sexist rap tunes, watched Django, had an abortion, been raped, experienced racism. But especially those women who don't think of themselves as Feminists, because this book of essays by writer and professor Roxane Gay breaks down just why we shouldn't give up on the feminist movement and why its okay to be a 'Bad Feminist'; it's better than being no feminist at all.

The book is written in short, easily digestible essays that examine such up to the minute and relatable moments in contemporary culture, from reality TV shows like Love and Hip Hop to the R'n'B singer and ex of Rihanna, Chris Brown, all through the prism of feminism and the impact that they have on women and society as a whole today.

The feminist movement is often criticised for being un-inclusive and repeatedly being told from the perspective of heterosexual, middle class white females and this can be alienating for some women, leading to (sometimes necessary) divides and separate spaces for black feminists or gay feminists for example. Bad Feminist at least attempts some interscectionality, as Gay is a black woman of Haitian descent, and this informs her own experiences and ways of relating. The book is divided into sections: [ME]. [Gender & Sexuality], [Race & Entertainment], [Politics, Gender & Race] and [Back To Me], and for me personally it was refreshing and validating to see essays regarding black issues such as representation and even the creative output of media by and for the black community such as Tyler Perry films and 'Fruitvale Station' being analysed and discussed with the same gravitas and importance as the rest of the book.

Gay's writing is deeply personal and funny which makes it easier to consume as there are a lot facts, figures and theory which can often be difficult in non-fiction writing, but her voice is so strong it feels as though you are just reading the thoughts of a much more articulate older friend. Gay is very vocal on Twitter (@rgay) and I don't know if that influences her ability to write in such an easy style - being succinct in 140 characters is a skill after all. There is even an essay called 'When Twitter does what journalism cannot'. I didn't personally agree with everything she wrote but I could never undermine her passion and commitment.

" It's hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you're not imagining things. It's hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you're going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it's that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly"

And that's why we need more young women to identify as feminists, to not be worried about being called a man hating lesbian who doesn't shave her legs or get caught up on worrying about being the right kind of feminist. Gay's book lets you breathe a sigh of relief to know you can want to wear pink stripper heels and have a man at home to have kinky sex with and still identify as a feminist. If that's what you want.

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