While a lot has changed in a very few years, as a 2018 reader will notice, this is an excellent, smart look at pop culture viewed through an intersectional feminist lens.
You should go into this book knowing that this is not a collection of essays about feminism. In fact, Gay clearly breaks the subjects up with subheadings, just to make it easy for you. So, if you're all in, only if this is a book about feminism, you're likely to be disappointed.
What I found fun about this book was that it covers a variety of topics, from the important to the trivial, a la David Foster Wallace. This is a non-academic work, by an academic, so she speaks about academia, and being a minority in academia, but she doesn't write from an academic perspective, but from the intensely personal. I don't share her interest in Sweet Valley High, or reality TV, but that didn't stop me from appreciating how well she wrote about the intensity of her feelings for particular pop staples that don't fit with the traditional idea of "feminism" and why she is not alone in feeling the pull of popular culture. Her essays can lure you in, and suddenly you find yourself at an overwhelming emotional and scary moment... after reading about Scrabble tournaments. Besides her humor, there are seriously dark moments that lead back to the idea that she'd rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.
So, in a way, even with the section headers, Gay is leading the reader in a specific direction which we may not see until it's on top of us. Her subheadings point out that the idea of "feminism" can only be a part of the conversation. That women are also a part of a culture, a race, a religion, a sexual orientation, that feeds into their views of themselves as women. By addressing these intersectional identities, Gay shows us her own view of feminism, and it isn't bad at all. If I had to pick one essay for the times we live in, I would recommend "The Careless Language of Sexual Violence."
I liked this collection of essays, I liked how the author wrote, how she came across, her all too human thoughts and ideas. She's an interesting person with an interesting view of life. At least, I find it interesting as I come from a privileged middle class white background. I grew up and live is a largely middle class white religious area. I am not one of those people who can say "Don't worry my best friend is gay/black...." even if I wanted to use that pathetic excuse for saying something deeply homophobic or racist.
I can't say as I really thought this collection was much about feminism, I think it addressed issues on racism much more deeply then any feminist ideals. These were not new thoughts, not awe inspiring or revolutionary but they were heart felt and personal.
It is depressing to see how far we have to go to gain equality as a human race. Whether based on gender, race, religion; there is still so much we can't seem to solve, no matter how much money or resources we throw at it.
Nor does there seem to be any solutions to solve these massive differences in opinion or find a way to live with those opposing views.
I like to be positive and believe that humanity will learn to live together. There always seems to be hope somewhere. I choose to think it will prevail.
In the meantime.....I will educate myself, I will try to be a good example and maybe pay a little more attention to my daily choices.
Roxane Gay is not writing these essays to dictate what a feminist is or who a feminist should be, but rather the complex nature of being a woman and her own contradictions between the person she thinks she should be and the person she is. Her essays focus have a specific focus but build onto one another to reveal a complex woman. Gay does not write to tell us how we should be, but to make sense of the woman she is. Because of this her writing is personal and allows the reader to connect through agreement or disagreement, but also through exposure. While I may not be well versed in 90s teenage television/books or black films, I now know more because Gay used her personal interests to illustrate a point. This book is a conversation, and while you have a transcript of Gay's side of the conversation, if you're engaged you'll be responding with your own internal dialogue.
The essays cover a wide array of topics, and I finished the book feeling like I really know who Roxane Gay is. The ultimate message is that there’s no wrong way to be a feminist. Someone can be an academic and still write wistfully about the allure of Sweet Valley High books. It’s okay to like pink, and it’s okay to take Scrabble tournaments very, very seriously. The essays about pop culture may seem like they aren’t serious, but then Gay shows the very serious side effects of how gender and race are portrayed. All of these essays were very relatable.
I love Roxane Gay's writing. I read "Difficult Women" earlier this year and immediately felt compelled to read more of her writing. Sadly, "Bad Feminist" just misses the mark for me. There are a few notable essays (Blurred Lines & How to be Friends With Another Woman, as examples) but most of the other pieces in this book come across as regurgitated pop psychology rather than insightful ponderings. Would I recommend this book? Not a chance. Would I read more of Gay's writing? An emphatic YES!!
Gay's writing is AMAZING. I feel like I've known her for years or she's just another member of my family. She brings up some really excellent essays on Scrabble competitions that really spoke to me. I'm obsessed with board game/video game documentaries so that whole chapter was quite the treat. Well done! Highly recommended!
Smart, witty, insightful, and sometimes angry, Roxane Gay's collection of essays moves from the personal to the political to the cultural. Topics range from her own take on feminism and her racial heritage to popular films (Her chapter on Tarantino is particularly trenchant and necessary.) to the idea of privilege. These are essays for right now. She's also written a novel and a book of stories. I'd also recommend "The Argonauts" and "We Were Feminists Once."
Gay is a terrifically fun writer to spend some time with. This was the first book of hers that I read, and I look forward to reading more. She is able to be funny, warm, scathing, and unsettlingly honest all in one essay. Like all collections of essays written for many different publications, this collection has some unevenness. Some of the essays could have benefited from more careful editors who could have encouraged Gay to draw out some of the insights that are left implied, and who could have assisted in trimming more repetitive passages. But I'm interested to read more of Gay's work as she continues to focus her huge talent and intelligence on important contemporary topics.
Funny, honest, and always worth reading. If you're someone interested in the ideas and wordplay of a smart writer, here you go. Race, gender, movies, Scrabble and more. You might not agree with everything she writes, but she'll make you think.
"I would rather be a bad feminist, than no feminist at all."
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