Bad Feminist is a collection of essays on a range of topics that relate in some way to gender, race, sexuality, and politics. The book is written in a conversational style that makes it accessible to a wide audience. It’s an honest portrayal of Roxane, her thoughts, and her flaws. Roxane is flawed, she tells you as much almost right off the bat in the opening chapters.
From what I’ve seen on the internet, people either really love Bad Feminist (and by extension, Roxane Gay herself) or they really truly despise it.
I had been primed to love this book. For some reason I expected the equivalent of a black woman’s Lean In. What I found instead was an incredibly nuanced and at times contradictory collection that was part memoir and part…something else. What’s the word for the occasionally rambling inner thoughts of a highly intelligent and educated woman?
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did. I enjoyed Roxane’s slightly wry humour and the rhythm of her writing. I didn’t love this book because love is not the right word. I found the book entertaining and thought provoking, and occasionally maddening. The blatant contradiction of ideas from one essay to another drove me mad at times. I didn’t agree with everything that was said in the book but I felt better for having read it. It was a bit like a hearty debate with a family friend whose politics you don’t entirely agree with but they make a good point.
I think this book has something for everyone. The book has affected the way I read and review books. Now, instead of asking if I liked a character, I think about whether characters are interesting and have something to say even if I wouldn’t want to be friends with them. That perspective has given me a deeper appreciation for books I previously disliked because I hated the main character (eg Gone Girl). On the other hand, I took in what Roxane had to say on other topics, considered the argument, but comfortably threw it out afterwards. I feel like you can do that with this book because the author does it herself – often.
All in all, I think it’s worth a read even if you don’t agree with what she has to say.
Have you read Bad Feminist? What did you think?