Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay




Ohhhhh, you guys, I’ve found it. A book about feminism that actually resonates with me.

Bad Feminist is a wonderful collection of essays by Roxane Gay, who I’ve never read anything by before but now I kind of want to read everything she’s ever written. Not all of the essays directly relate to feminism or women’s issues, but most do and it’s just so fantastic.

Roxane talks a couple times about her feelings towards the word “feminism”, and they’re similar to my own – that it’s a word that I support in theory, that I want to get behind, that I want to be able to use in reference to myself (and probably will) – but it is a word so covered in stereotypes and criteria that it makes me uncomfortable. This is why Roxane calls herself a “bad feminist” – a woman who doesn’t want to be treated like shit, but who also loves the color pink and can’t help dancing around to degrading songs like “Salt Shaker” and other things that feminists sometimes go on about.

Basically, Roxane talks about issues that I feel are relevant and infuriating and important – rape, pay inequality, sexual harassment, women in the media, weight issues, abortion and reproductive rights. These are things that are still on my mind on a daily basis – Am I getting paid as much as the guy that used to do my job? Why do I still have to go through the bullshit of getting a prescription for birth control when it could be made to sell over the counter? Why do people talk down to me about not wanting kids, but not men? Is today the day that some guy will attempt to sexually assault me and I’ll have to make use of the knife I carry for this exact reason? These are things that still desperately need to be discussed, and I feel like a lot of current-day books about feminism tend to kind of skip over talking about these things at length. She praises the importance of feminism because there are still major issues that need to be addressed, changes that need to happen.

She also talks about race, at length, which I GREATLY appreciated – the feminist books I’ve read previously were horribly white-washed. She talks about Trayvon Martin, and racism in movies, and the treatment of women in Tyler Perry movies. I have noticed the lack of diversity discussed in feminism books – it’s usually only mentioned when talking about class issues, as if only poor black women might be affected by a mix of sexism and racism.  And really, racism and sexism are prejudices that need to be dealt with at the same time, because both are too persistent in today’s culture. She discusses a few pop media things, like the horrible-ness that is Blurred Lines,  and the disturbing relationship presented in Fifty Shades of Grey.

She did NOT go on rants about how unfair porn is, or the need women feel to shave their legs, or how wrong it is to change your name when you get married. Thank goodness, because I’ve heard these things a million times and I have to say – I don’t really care. I’m so far past caring about the possible feminist implications of getting a bikini wax. Roxane’s lack of discussing stuff like that was a literal breath of fresh air.

Seriously, I could kiss this book. Every essay was articulate and engaging. And even better, as I was reading and exclaiming to the honeyman “Ooooo, she does a chapter about Django Unchained/Caitlin Moran/Orange is the New Black/Wendy Davis”, he said that he might read the book after me. It’s waiting on the coffee table now – partly in the hopes that he picks it up and reads it so we can talk about it, but more because it was so great I’m not quite ready to put it on my shelf yet.

Read Bad Feminist. Read it, read it, read it.


Sarah Says: 5 stars



  1. Not being able to get birth control over the counter increasingly makes me want to punch walls. My damn primary care physician won’t even prescribe it to me. I have to go see a gynecologist, and do a pelvic exam which the American College of Physicians has proclaimed not medically necessary anyway, just to get a damn supply of birth control pills. It is not fancy birth control. It is a really standard prescription. I don’t know why I have to constantly do this bullshit.

    ANYWAY, birth control rant aside, I’m really looking forward to reading this. I love Roxane Gay’s work.


  2. Oh, this sounds perfect. I feel the same way you do about the word ‘feminism’ – I understand that it doesn’t mean women who hate men and refuse to shave their legs, but public perception is that that’s EXACTLY what it means, so I feel uncomfortable using it.

    I’ve actually had discussions before about feminism relating to Caitlin Moran and Orange is the New Black, so I’m really interested to read this.


  3. I wonder which feminist books you’ve read until now, because I think most of the ones I’ve read have directly addressed race. To be fair, it’s not as though I’ve read all that many feminist books (disturbingly few, actually), but… hmm. It’s good to know that Bad Feminist doesn’t whitewash, and I’m really curious about Gay’s approach. I’d like to read it, though it does sound as though some of the essays and references may have a very short shelf-life…


    1. Her essays are mostly her repsonses to current events, so it makes sense for her book, and I kind of like that it focuses so heavily on current events – these are still things that people are talking about and relevant to their every day lives. This book probably won’t be timeless, but hopefully that will be because our culture changes for the better.


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