Roxane Gay: Bad Feminist

To celebrate International Women’s Day we’re giving away an excerpt of Roxane Gay’s incredible New York Times Bestseller Bad Feminist. Download the collection’s introduction and the essay Girls, Girls, Girls using the button below, and read on to learn more.

“I’m full of contradictions. There are many ways in which I’m doing feminism wrong,” said Roxane Gay in her 2015 TEDWomen talk. “When I drive to work, I listen to thuggish rap at a very loud volume. Pink is my favorite color. I enjoy fashion magazines and pretty things. I watch The Bachelor and romantic comedies, and I have absurd fantasies about fairy tales coming true.”

Yet, Roxane is a feminist, even though she acknowledges her feminism might be flawed. What started out as a joke, turned into Bad Feminist, a very clever and funny collection of essays about modern-day feminism.

“When I was younger, mostly in my teens and 20s, I had strange ideas about feminists as hairy, angry, man-hating, sex-hating women — as if those are bad things,” she says in her talk.

“I worried about the tone people used when suggesting I might be a feminist. The feminist label was an accusation, it was an ‘F’ word, and not a nice one.”

The essay we’re giving away is about Girls, the highly praised HBO series written, directed and starring Lena Dunham. In this piece, Roxane argues that the problem with pop-culture showing a new female perspective is that we put too much pressure on them to be flawless. “We have this tendency to put visible feminists on a pedestal. We expect them to pose perfectly. When they disappoint us, we gleefully knock them off the very pedestal we put them on,” Roxane says.

Even though Girls gives us a refreshing way of looking at real women, with all their quirky, strange and sometimes even disgusting habits, large groups of women are left out. The show focuses on privileged young women in a (literally) whitewashed New York.

In her essay Roxane writes, “While critics, in their lavish attention, have said Dunham’s show is speaking to an entire generation of girls, there are many of us who recognize that the show is only speaking to a narrow demographic within a generation.”

“When we talk about the needs of women, we have to consider the other identities we inhabit. We are not just women. We are people with different bodies, gender expressions, faiths, sexualities, class backgrounds, abilities, and so much more. We need to take into account these differences and how they affect us, as much as we account for what we have in common. Without this kind of inclusion, our feminism is nothing,” she says.

Throughout her book, Roxane acknowledges that inclusive feminism is not as simple as we would like it to be. It is hard to be good all the time and make the right decisions when it comes to equality and female empowerment. But we can all make better choices and try to live up to them. And to make it a bit easier you can now put a disclaimer up front; it is great to be a feminist, even a bad one.

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