Roxane Gay: Bad Feminist


I’m always toying around with the idea of “feminism” and whether or not I see myself as a feminist. It can be tough and confusing to place the label of “feminist” onto oneself. I saw a sweatshirt that read “This is what a feminist looks like” and I complimented the girl who was wearing it. But it made me think: why did I like the sweatshirt? Am I a feminist? I later heard someone assume this girl in the sweatshirt was a lesbian, because of the word “feminist.” Why do all feminist have to be lesbians, and why is lesbian being thrown around like an insult? (I wish I would have brought this up during the question part!)

Going into Gay’s reading I was hoping to have some of these questions answered. What I did not expect was how funny she would be. Prior to the reading, I had bought her bestselling collection of essays Bad Feminist and read about half of them. The way she read them allowed was much more extravagant than the way I had heard them in my head. The whole audience would erupt with laughter every few sentences. We listened as she explained what it was like being a first year professor, how to be friends with other women, and her opinion/ review on the movie The Help.

The audience asked questions on topics such as Ferguson, Bill Cosby, and “what other stuff should we be watching if not The Help??” Answers: Ferguson–an injustice, Bill Cosby–a rapist, and “I can’t tell you what to watch, but just be aware.”

Throughout the entire reading I struggled to come up with a good question. I wasn’t just going to ask any question, it would have to be perfect. I waited until the very end, when they were wrapping up, then raised my hand.

“I brought a copy of your book, and I was wondering if you could sign it?”

“Hell no!” she joked. The audience laughed once again. “I’m just messing with you, yeah I’ll sign your book.”

I stood in line, eagerly waiting to meet a famous author whose work I had recently fallen in love with. She signed my book, and I thought of something to say, “I just want to thank you for writing this book. It made me think about things I never would have thought about, but I feel like I should be thinking about…It was a nice perspective.”

She thanked me.

Roxane Gay is a very sweet, insightful woman, and it comes across in her essays. She gives us her hardcore opinion, and sometimes I disagree (For example, she tears apart my favorite show Girls in one of her essays, and yet all I could do was nod and think “I see your point”), but never does that make me want to put down the book, never does that anger me. She offers a refreshing change of perspective. When I finish with a chapter in her book, I put it down, exhale, and think “wow.” It sort of feels like drinking a fresh glass of homemade lemonade, reading her work. Everybody could gain something from taking a look at Roxane Gay’s work. Everyone should check out her work. Once we get stuck in the habit of only seeing our side of things, or our small circle’s side of things, that blinds us to the very important big picture. We are all equal, and until there are not people defending this fact, or people tearing down this fact, we need to keep reaching our heads out around these blinders.