In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay bears her feminism and tells readers that the concept is not black and white—there are various shades of gray within feminism that allow people to be whatever kind of feminist they want to be.
Gay discusses that there is no one way to “do feminism.” Feminism is plural, yet society has built a misconception of what it is to be feminist. People think that by being feminist, one must follow this checklist: hate men, never shave, be a woman, be unattractive, and think women are better than men. Only by following this list can one be a good feminist.
Due to the misconceptions and made up standards of feminism, so many people refuse to call themselves feminists. The negative connotation of the word is not appealing to many people. The label is generally intended as an insult and people still use it as such today. Gay admits that her younger self disavowed feminism:
“I had no rational understanding of the movement. I was called a feminist, and what I heard was, “You are an angry, sex-hating, man-hating victim lady person.” This caricature is how feminists have been warped by the people who fear feminism most, the same people who have the most to lose when feminism succeeds.”
In her book, she states that she understands why women continue to feel this way. Women feel that they must live up to this ideal feminist icon and if they do not, then they are not real feminists. There is no need for that. Feminism is what one makes of it—it is made up of people, therefore it is messy. It will never be perfect. It does not require a list.
Gay wants people to understand that feminism is a choice. If people do not want to be feminists, that is their right, but it is still the feminist responsibility to fight for their rights. Feminism will not and cannot fix everything but it is doing what it can to bring equal opportunities for women and men. In her essays, Gay discusses feminism through various relevant topics in pop culture. She gives us her take on everything from Chris Brown to Fifty Shades of Grey. Each essay brings forth the importance of feminism and further explains why Gay calls herself a bad feminist:
“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying — trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself: a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible for women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.”
Gay discusses topics such as violence, fairy tales, Scrabble, race, longing, HBO’s Girls and The Hunger Games. Gay gives her raw opinion and her love and passion for the subjects radiate through the pages. She is both smart and funny and her essays are phenomenal.
“I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
Roxane Gay is the author of the novel An Untamed State and the story collection Ayiti. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Best American Short Stories, and the New York Times Book Review. She is a writer, editor, blogger, commentator, as well as a BuzzFeed contributor. She is also the founder of Tiny Hardcore Press. Gay currently resides in Indiana as a professor of English at Purdue University.