down to earth wisdom and practical advice.
I worry about dying alone, unmarried and childless, because I spent so much time pursuing my career and accumulating degrees. This kind of thinking keeps me up at night, but I pretend it doesn’t because I am supposed to be evolved. My success, such as it is, is supposed to be enough if I’m a good feminist. It is not enough. It is not even close.
All humans (even feminists!) are a bundle of contradictions. Feminists may love things that conflict with traditional feminist ideology. A woman who wears makeup everyday may argue that she shouldn’t be judged on her appearance. A feminist can fight for equal rights in the workplace, but stay home and raise a child. She may also decry the objectification of women in media, but sing along to rap music with degrading lyrics (Gay declares her love for “Salt Shaker,” a Ying Yang Twins song: “Make it work with your wet t-shirt. Bitch you gotta shake til your camel starts to hurt.” Nice). With her down to earth wisdom and practical advice, Roxane Gay gives us courage to wave our feminist flag proudly: “I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all” (318).
In this collection of essays, Gay reflects on topics ranging from Junot Diaz to Fifty Shades of Grey. There is a great section in here analyzing Diaz’s “This Is How You Lose Her.” Gay describes him as a talented writer, but ultimately takes issue with how Diaz incorporates female characters into his stories: “Still, I keep coming back to the relative impunity with which the men in ‘This Is How You Lose Her’ get to behave badly, and to the tone of the critical reception to these stories… I would have loved to see what a writer of Diaz’s caliber might do if he allowed his character to step out of the constraints of the environment he grew up in…We have to be more interested in making things better than just being right, or interesting, or funny” (108). Amen.
In one of my favorite essays, Gay castigates Kathryn Stockett for pretty much every aspect of “The Help” (popular book turned movie about African Americans working for white families in the 1960’s): “Every transgression, injustice, and tragedy was exploited so that by the end of the movie it was like the director had ripped into my chest, torn my heart out, and jumped up and down on it until it became a flattened piece of worn-out muscle– cardiac jerky, if you will” (214). That's one of the things I love most about Roxane Gay: she creates a term like "cardiac jerky" and then uses is in the most perfect way possible.
Ah, and then there are her reflections on birth control. Gay explains that an increasing number of women feel pressure to say that they use the pill for a reason besides contraception (for example: “Oh, I just use the pill to regulate my period” or “I’m on birth control just to control my acne”). It has become uncommon for women to say that they take the pill in order to enjoy a healthy sex life: “We are now dealing with a bizarre new morality where a woman cannot simply say, in one way or another, ‘I’m on the pill because I like sex.’ It’s extremely regressive for women to feel like they need to make it seem like they are using birth control for reasons other than what birth control was originally designed for: to control birth…If I told you my birth control method of choice, you’d look at me like I was slightly insane. Suffice it to say, I will take a pill every day when men have that same option. One of my favorite moments is when a guy, at that certain point in a relationship, says something like, ‘Are you on the pill?’ I simply say, ‘No, are you?'” (277). To say that I love this section of the book is a major understatement.
There are so many smart pieces of these essays. This collection is a must-read for fans of Roxane Gay.