Book Review: Bad Feminist – Essays by Roxane Gay

Confession time: I’m a feminist.

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Roxane Gay Bad Feminist

Book Cover via Amazon

Confession time: I’m a feminist. For some people, admitting to this among their circle of friends is a shocking affront. People have misinterpreted this term as something more akin to “man-hater” or “misandrist,” and in this way it’s come to have a seriously negative connotation. Some women have trouble admitting that they are in fact feminists when so many men (and women) have associated the word with angry, mean stereotypes.

To me, a feminist is someone who believes in equal rights for people of all genders. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always the case in our society. Particularly as a college student, I’ve found that I get a lot of negative reactions if I bring up the fact that I’m a feminist. Recently, it seems like believing that we have a lot to work on in gaining equality for men and women alike is a big social faux-pas. 

All of this controversy surrounding the term “feminism,” its definitions, and its supporters can make it really confusing to sort out what your beliefs are, how to stand up for what you feel is right, and how to maintain your own identity so people don’t pigeonhole you into the “angry feminist” label. That’s why I was so excited to read Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay.

You’ll love this book because…

  • I love how Roxane acknowledges feminism as being flawed, but still exceedingly important for women in today’s society. Her introduction poses the question, “How do we reconcile the imperfections of feminism with all the good it can do?” which is something all feminists, or women who hesitate to bust out the “f-word” as a label for themselves, have probably struggled with at some point.
  • Gay openly accepts the label of “bad feminist,” owning up her flaws as a human and as a woman in support of the feminist movement. Her honesty with herself and her acceptance of her own brand of feminism is pretty inspirational. She opens up the term to be inclusive of women who may not staunchly follow “feminism” and all its ideals to a T, but still want to identify as a feminist.
  • Her essays are split up into five categories: “Me,” “Gender & Sexuality,” “Race & Entertainment,” “Politics, Gender, and Race,” and “Back to Me.” Don’t be intimidated if this sounds like a Women’s and Gender Studies class syllabus; essays range in topic from “When Twitter Does What Journalism Cannot,” to “Blurred Lines, Indeed,” to “The Trouble with Prince Charming, or He Who Trespassed Against Us.” 
  • The essays are largely centered around current popular culture or political events to not only keep relevant and interesting, but also to acknowledge how big of an issue feminism and the question of women’s rights is in all aspects of the media and society as a whole.
  • Most importantly, the writing throughout the essays is smart, humorous, and casual. This isn’t a book of lectures on how to be a feminist; it’s a discussion on feminism and its various cultural portrayals, what it means to be a “bad” feminist and how to deal with it. It’s a fun read because it makes you think, but not in the way your advanced calculus textbook makes you think. It’s a good kind of thinking, trust me.

Maybe you don’t label yourself as a feminist, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re afraid to label yourself as such because, like Roxane Gay, you think you are a “bad feminist.” Regardless of your stance on the subject, I think every college-aged woman should pick up Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay and give it a read. 

Whether you’re a woman or not, I think it’s important to stay informed on the issues women deal with in politics, in pop culture, and in everyday life. Bad Feminist is a fresh, smartly written way to maybe expand your point of view on feminism. Whether it’s something you firmly support or something you haven’t even given a second thought, I recommend picking up a copy of this book today. 


Have you read Bad Feminist, or do you have any interest in reading it? What are your thoughts on the subject or the book itself? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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