To some, “feminist” has become a dirty word. It has become a bad word—forbidden, and something you don’t want to be caught saying.
When someone says, “I am a feminist,” sometimes a distorted picture is developed. Some people see an angry, loud, man-hating woman complaining. Also, she doesn’t shave. Or, they see an overly conservative, saint. Feminism is not about appearances or how one behaves. Bell Hooks, writer, feminist theorist, and cultural critic defines feminism as, “a movement against sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”1
However, in our society where patriarchy is centered in our magazines, movies, literature, and popular culture, sexism is hard to escape. It is difficult to understand how feminism fits in all of this without believing we need to change the music, books, and TV shows we love.
Roxane Gay, in her book Bad Feminist: Essays, shares her experiences, her views on popular culture, and what it means to be a Black woman in America. She writes:
“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m 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…”2
Like other women, who struggle to call themselves feminist for fear of hate by association, Gay tells her readers that it is acceptable to enjoy music like Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and read books like the Fifty Shades Trilogy, and still embrace feminism. Gay’s main concerns seem to be wanting both men and women to understand the meaning behind these activities we take joy in, and advocate gender equality for all.
This book is not just centered on the concerns of feminism, but also sexuality, class, and racism. Gay understands that, “all too often, the people who need justice benefit the least.”3 Gay lets her readers jump into her mind by focusing on herself, what feminism means to her, and sharing the voices of other men and woman fighting for fairness. Her writing is strong, witty, and feisty.
This book is about one woman’s experience, but it is also a story about the world we now live in. It is a fascinating, and most needed book for everyone to read. We need voices like Gay, especially now, with violence, fear, and anger becoming the norm. Let us all adopt the term: bad feminist.
1 Hooks, B. (2000) Feminism is for Everybody. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. (Page. viii).
2 Roxane G. (2014) Bad Feminist. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. (Page. xi).
3 Roxane G. (2014) Bad Feminist. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. (Page. 283).
Shiane D. Jacocks
Feature photo: Jay Grabiec