Bad Feminist

  • by Roxane Gay
  • Narrated by Bahni Turpin
  • 11 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.
"Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink - all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I'm not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue."
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking listeners on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
>Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

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"I am a mess of contradictions" - RG

I did not think I particularly liked this book, but I kept listening, and I haven't been able to stop talking about it. I've been prefacing conversations with "Have you heard of Roxane Gay? Well, she says . . ." The book gave me a lot to think about - starting with just how L'Eggs is still a viable brand.

Every year, there's a great debate among a lot of women lawyers about pantyhose. Yes, I'm writing this in 2015. No, I am not kidding. The East Coast contingent declares wearing flesh colored Brillo pads stuck tightly to one's legs an absolute necessity, sorry they're expensive, uncomfortable, and likely to develop ugly and very unprofessional runs. Here on the West Coast, most of us just don't wear them, liberally applying lotion to avoid ugly dryness while simultaneously risking shocking staid Judges. There is common ground: we all shave our legs.

In "Bad Feminist" (2014), Gay argues that the mythical good feminist is humorless, doesn't care about fashion, doesn't like men, won't have children, and certainly doesn't shave her legs. Gay doesn't live up to those standards (and who set them anyway?) and neither do the rest of us. My favorite feminist icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, literally changed women's lives, arguing - and winning - important cases for working women before becoming an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. Ginsburg had a long, successful marriage; took time off to care for her husband when he had cancer; has two children; has gotten several style icon awards; wears lace jabots with her black robes; and as 'Notorious RBG' ("Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" (2015)) has an unparalleled sense of humor.

That raises the question: what is a feminist? Gay doesn't find a "good feminist" anywhere, ignoring herself, the three women of the US Supreme Court, and the quiet feminist, Hilary Rodham Clinton (HRC) - while at the same time, ripping into Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and author of "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" (2013). In Gay's judgment, Sandberg can't be a feminist because she's always been privileged, she doesn't struggle with child care providers, and she has housekeepers. Well, the CDC is probably interested in the new mold species growing in my bathroom, but being unable to afford a housekeeper doesn't make me a feminist. And maybe Gay's using argumentum ad absurdem and I took it too seriously?

It's good to step back and think about the philosophy of feminism, and I enjoyed the think. However, "Bad Feminist" really did not work well as an Audible. Gay tends to wander to new topics in her essays, and sometimes it's impossible to tell if she's digressing or if a new essay has started. The title of the review is a quote of Gay's.

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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

A smart read from a refreshing voice

Any additional comments?

This book makes me want to write! Not in anger nor as a rebuttal but in solidarity and homage to the strength and beauty of Gay's words. She has indeed found her voice. I am reminded I too have a voice--and it matters. It was a thought-provoking delight to read what matters to this author.

Her thirty-something year old self spoke to my thirty-something year old self in that she has, as she commented of another young woman in the book, the "gift that comes from more years of living" while still embodying all that is youthful, spirited and witty. This is the grace and nuance of being 30-something and she nails it!

Her essays skillfully and momentarily untangle the cords that often kink when ethnicity, feminism and pop culture collide. Bad Feminist is simultaneously light and heavy, shallow and deep, vulnerable and piercing.

Half way through, I began to grieve this book's inevitable end. Plus, anything narrated by Bahni Turpin is that much better for it.

Looking forward to more from Roxane Gay.

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- K. Elle

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-05-2014
  • Publisher: HarperAudio