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Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” ― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist


I am torn rating and reviewing Bad Feminist. On the one hand, there are some truly excellent chapters with eloquently executed points and compelling arguments. On the other, (and Gay is aware of this) the author's bias comes through very strongly, which at times, for me at least, weakened her reasoning and felt powerfully one-sided. That being said, I enjoy this author, and that is saying something because I read so little non-fiction. She has a strong voice and even if I disagree with her in certain respects, I am happy to hear her logic and to see her point of view simply because she is so very eloquent and adept with language. Whether or not Gay and I are completely of a mind, her ideas and especially certain point on which I felt we disagreed, will probably remain in my mind for some time longer. We come from different worlds and yet the same one, too, and so it is interesting to marry her ideas and experiences with my own and see how we both stand on the same side of many issues, while perhaps unable to fully see the reason supporting other ones. I mostly liked that she wrote on a great range of subjects, though I did not feel they were necessarily successfully tied to feminism as the overarching concept. The book is heavy on pop culture references and thus not the most challenging or original assessment of the subject. It was at once personal and opinionated, and yet not remotely as intimate or involving as her newer book Hunger.

I liked that she, as a self-declared "bad feminist", acknowledges and allows for the "complexities of human individuality" when it comes to feminism. She allows for a the fact that there is no one kind of feminism, or one right feminism. She also discussed the fact that the label "feminist" can be complicated and, in fact, counter-productive. I thought this was very intriguing, because it seems to be that only in recent years has it become popular again for women (and men) to adopt this label proudly, without having to add qualifiers like, "but I don't burn bras", "I don't hate men". I know if I had called myself such, say in high school, I would have been labeled as a man/boy-hater and probably a lesbian at that. I wonder in how far this has changed? Even in college, the term was used as an area of study, not a noun many adopted to associate with themselves, and I should mention I attended a very large, liberal university.

There is so much to talk about with this book, but I will stop myself here. I belong to a feminist book club, but I didn't join in time to discuss this book, unfortunately. Our Shared Shelf is currently reading Gay's other book Hunger, so I look forward to reading reactions to that one which I actually found more compelling than Bad Feminist.

Overall, this was not a bad book at all, and offered a lot of interesting commentary, but neither was it as revolutionary as it is touted to be. Nonetheless, the positives mostly outweighed the negatives and I look forward to seeing what she writes about next!