No one wants to be called a bad anything, let alone a bad feminist.
It’s easy to straddle the moral high horse when reading or writing about feminism. Denouncing others’ actions for the sake of women’s rights comes quickly to most females, considering the injustices we go through — from the pain of high heels to the real risk of being murdered after rejecting a man. Despite those inherent flaws, few feminists would call themselves out on this bias.
Roxane Gay is not most feminists.
Let’s be real: no one wants to be called a bad anything, except maybe “badgalriri” Rihanna and Gay, the author of the best-selling book Bad Feminist.
I admit that I bristled at the title of Gay’s book, which is a collection of essays, when I first came across it. This was back in 2014, when “feminism” first became a buzzword and Gone Girl was everyone’s favorite new subversive movie. Cool Girl speech, anyone?
In Bad Feminist, every reader will find an unlikely new protagonist. Gay pushes the truth to its breaking point, and then pushes some more. It might be more appropriate to call her the antihero.
“These essays are political and they are personal,” Gay writes in the introduction to Bad Feminist. “They are, like feminism, flawed, but they come from a genuine place.”
I love Bad Feminist because Gay is, at the end of the day, a human being, and she is not afraid to show it. She’s problematic at times, witty and self-deprecating at others and a reality TV junkie always. She does not shy away from the ugly truth that there is no such thing as the perfect feminist. Despite cries for intersectionality and acceptance, unlearning ingrained stereotypes is a constant uphill battle. Bad Feminist tells the reader that it’s okay to want to give up sometimes.
In Bad Feminist, Gay takes on white feminism, which is inherently exclusionary for all it claims not to be. Gay also takes on blackness in pop culture. “There is not enough height in the atmosphere for us to suspend our disbelief […] My real problem is that The Help is written by a white woman,” she so scathingly writes. As for Django Unchained, this is what Gay had to say: “My slavery revenge fantasy would probably involve being able to read and write without fear of punishment or persecution coupled with a long vacation in Paris.”
Gay lays herself bare and is mostly unapologetic for it. Calling herself a bad feminist allows Gay a freedom most modern feminists aren’t allowed: the ability to be wrong and admit it.
For those who enjoy Bad Feminist, some other feminist reads you can check out are You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent and The Feminist Utopia Project by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff and Alexandra Brodsky.
Noorhan Maamoon is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column “The Hijabi Monologues” runs on Thursdays.