Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, is another book that I had mixed feelings about. I find this much easier to accept with a book of essays, though, because I can look at each essay as it's own work. Some of them, I absolutely loved, some I didn't enjoy at all. I can say, that there weren't any essays I hated, and I enjoyed this book as a whole. I also think some of my disappointment in certain essays was amplified by how well I thought this book started off. The comparison to the parts I loved really made the aspects I didn't like so much stand out more.
Gay starts off with a wonderful introduction explaining her whole concept of a bad feminist. When women are held to such high standards by society in general, even trying to be a feminist seems like a burden. Some people view you as a crazy man-hater and others expect you to be the paragon of the feminist movement, or what Gay calls 'Capital-F Feminism'. Roxane Gay also admits that she was one of those women who looked down on feminists and didn't want to be labeled as such. Until she realized that being a bad feminist is a completely valid option and, as she puts it, better than being no feminist at all. As a bad feminist, Gay admits that she is imperfect and lives a life full of contradictions, but she is still a feminist. This is something I can really relate to, and I think anyone who is interested in gender equality can as well.
The first few essays after the introduction were very solid in my opinion. Gay writes in a very colloquial way that makes this book seem much more personal than a more academic look at feminism. She does a great job of dealing with tough topics like abortion, rape, or her experiences as a woman of color and then turns right around and makes you laugh with a story about competitive Scrabble tournaments. For me, Gay's weakness is in her essays that come off as an analysis of pop culture, either books, movies, TV shows, or anything else. In almost all of the essays of this type, the pacing seemed extremely awkward. I felt like the essay would trudge along with an overly detailed recap of the book / movie / other in question, then rush to some actual analysis at the very end before ending abruptly. I'll admit that my distaste for these essays might also be somewhat personal, as they remind me of some of my own poorly written essays. You know, the kind where you forget you had a paper to write until the night before and don't have time to do much research or reread the work you're critiquing to actually analyze it. Then you hastily write what little analysis you can think of, which is rushed and lacking in detail, and try to make up for it by filling in the rest of the page limit with an extremely repetitive retelling of the basic plot. Or maybe that's just me...
Overall though, Roxane Gay has put together a very enjoyable collection of essays. Bad Feminist is a book of essays, but is also an equal mix of memoir, humor, social commentary, and critical analysis. While I, personally, could do without the critical analysis, I loved everything else about this book. Bad Feminist is a great read for anyone who has any interest in feminism, especially if they don't want to be called a feminist.
This is also my eighth book for the summer reading challenge from summerreadingonline.blogspot.com and I will be using it for the challenge to read a book by an author of color.