a defense of the body.
When I am walking down the street, men lean out of their car windows and shout vulgar things at me about my body, how they see it, and how it upsets them that I'm not catering to their gaze and their preferences. I try not to take these men seriously because what they are really saying is 'I am not attracted to you. I do not want to fuck you, and this confuses my understanding of my masculinity, entitlement, and place in this world.' It is not my job to please them with my body.
At the grocery store, other shoppers remove “junk food” from Roxane’s cart. During a book signing, women give her unsolicited exercise advice. On airplanes, flight attendants loudly proclaim that Roxane “should’ve bought two seats” (though when she does purchase two seats for the same name on one flight, flight attendants balk). This is daily life for Roxane Gay. In her memoir Hunger, she bravely describes all of these situations and more.
Roxane Gay was raped when she was 12. Scared that she may be punished or “go to hell,” she did not tell her parents. Just a few years later, Roxane left home to study at Phillips Exeter. In the first few months at Exeter, she gained 30 pounds. Unable to tell anyone about the trauma she had experienced, Roxane “ate and ate and ate to build [her] body into a fortress.” Hoping that the extra layers of fat would protect her from the unwanted male gaze, Roxane felt safer when she was bigger.
I’m grateful that Roxane Gay is willing to share these stories. Unlike other books focused on body image/ food, this memoir does not have a sappy, treacly ending in which the main character loses lots of weight, stands in one leg of her “fat pants,” and then finds true love. Rather, this book is a defense of the body and a proclamation that “bodies are not a problem to be solved.” I liked this book a lot. I admire her so much.