Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

When I decided to give my thoughts a voice on 7th February 2018 I was scared because too often I had been a victim of virtual toxicity that attacked me and abused me for having opinions different from them. I was taking up a responsibility of talking on feminism, something I now identify myself with. What worried me were certain items that I enjoyed but went against what are understood to be the ideals of feminism.

I listened to songs where women were treated as mere objects; I watched movies where the only role of a woman was to play a damsel waiting for her knight in shining armour and hey even the books I read primarily featured virginal heroines (Fifty Shades of Grey). I felt to be a misfit in the world of feminism. I mean I loved twilight, fifty shades of grey and mills & boon, I still do! Books like The Greek Tycoon’s Runaway Bride, The Spanish Billionaire’s Mistress, and The Italian’s Price etc. were my guilty pleasure. These books comprised of beautiful, perfect, white, virginal and well behaved girls. The girls were a prototype of society’s rulebook on Good Girls 101. They made me believe that I have to be them to shag or land with a good guy and most parents in the world too, including mine, try to fit me in this type.

This is where Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist comes in. Her experience in this sexist, misogynistic and cruel world gives young girls like me the chance to be misfits, to make mistakes and to learn from them and then form reformed ideas and thoughts. She has allowed me to a Bad Feminist. I could have chosen any literature to educate myself on the ideas of feminism. I chose Gay’s text because I had to learn how to accept my version of feminism first, recognize my version of feminism and then let others views and ideas influence and change me.

And this is what Bad Feminist is about.

And there is another thing; the book instils in you the belief about feminism in this turbulent time.

“Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate. Feminism has certainly helped me find my voice. Feminism has helped me believe my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard.”

She embraces the label of a bad feminist because like most girls out there she too listens to trashy songs but still cares for equality amongst all. I as a person love pink, I love sappy romance novels and I love all those cute dresses hanging in showrooms. I was scared earlier to embrace this feminine side of mine, wasn’t I against the feminists by doing so? But no, that’s not what feminism is about, it is about embracing your choices despite what the world says. It’s about believing in equality.

Gay’s text takes up a multitude of essays ranging from topics discussing her childhood as a black kid with immigrant parents. And there is a certain amount of nostalgia mixed with humour. She talks of her days in school where she was the nerd and was often picked on due to her looks and heritage.  But what humbles me is that she acknowledges her privilege. She is an immigrant from Haiti and never once did she not acknowledge how privileged she was in comparison to her less fortunate Haitians. And I love that. She urges the reader to not let your privilege become a disadvantage. I too relate to this particular aspect because a very large part of my extended family lives in the village where there is no electricity, no water and utter poverty.

“You don’t necessarily have to do anything once you acknowledge your privilege. You don’t have to apologize for it. You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about. They might endure situations you can never know anything about. You could, however, use that privilege for the greater good—to try to level the playing field for everyone, to work for social justice, to bring attention to how those without certain privileges are disenfranchised.”

There are certain light hearted moments in the book which I personally found a bit mundane but that’s good since that was what she wanted to tell. Her mundane life as a professor, these little snippets in her life combined with humour gives you a break before another relatable and power packed essay is thrown at you.

We live in a world where the power dynamics can never be equal amongst men. Two equally powerful individuals cannot stay together. If in today’s times when the fortunes of women are improving it is thought that the men’s fortune is suffering or declining and that’s thought provoking because is it really happening? Does our progress lead to a man’s doom? I have some views on this. While there is no denying that there is an upward spiral in SOME sectors, where a thing have gotten better for us, but like Gay says:

“Better is not good enough”

As a woman I wouldn’t want to settle down for small things in life and let go of my fight nor would I be swayed by empty gestures of men like Shah Rukh Khan who think that putting a female’s name before his in movie’s credits will promote equality, it rather makes me feel like a charity case. That I have to rely on a man’s decision to make me his equal otherwise I can simply forget about it.

Her essay where she dissects men like Chris Brown is applauding worthy. And it makes you think of the term fan-girling. I have often come across hard core fans of Ranbir Kapoor, One direction band etc. where they are so possessive about the said person that uttering anything against them would be equivalent to asking for a death wish. Fan girling is bad because you are ready to let go off a man’s misdemeanours even if it means that he is playing with your dignity. People were ready to forgive a douche bag like Chris Brown despite what he did to Rihanna.

My favourite essay was ‘Blurred lines, indeed’ and it is because we are responsible for a lot of thing happening in this culture, the rape culture. We are alright with a man crooning about a girl wanting buck-wild sex even if she can’t come and admit it. We are alright with blatant objectification of women, we allow it to happen and if we speak up then we are told to ‘lighten-up’ and then suddenly one day we elect a representative who constructs draconian abortion laws.

“But men want what they want. We should all lighten up. It’s hard not to feel humourless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly. These are just songs. They are just jokes. It’s just a hug. They’re just breasts. Smile, you’re beautiful. Can’t a man pay you a compliment? In truth, this is all a symptom of a much more virulent cultural sickness—one where women exist to satisfy the whims of men, one where a woman’s worth is consistently diminished or entirely ignored.”

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The text makes you realize about your faults as a feminist. It makes you aware like it makes Gay aware. We idolise men like Christian Grey despite the hundred and one flaws he possesses. It is okay to let him beat us into submission because after all at the end of the day don’t women want that? There is a demand for books like such, strong controlling man taking control of your subservient self and it sad. And I feel bad for liking and enjoying such books. In the end even though I enjoy it in the book the thought of someone controlling my life is nauseating. My freedom is not for your personal diktat.

A successful, rich, handsome and brooding man is all that the girls need for them to throw their dignity in the air and prance to him. I would like something different, I am done with Mary Sue characters and I am done with these controlling men. I am done with society propagating good girls and bad boys; I am done with this modern fairy tale. Maybe I should write a book, my take on good girls and bad boys.

At the end of the book I was in another state of mind, a very conflicting state of mind. I had just dealt with these guilty pleasures of mine. I had to break up with my fictional and fantasy boyfriend who owned a jet, a mansion and a fleet of impressive vehicles and also happened to be extremely controlling. I am still someone who would probably read such books, but I don’t want to anymore. The characters have started to feel empty and boring, there is nothing more in their lives except each other and I don’t want to be that. I want to be substantial.

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I am still a bad feminist because maybe I will still pick a copy of such a book but now I am aware and I understand that this fiction is wrong and it is not me. I am still so conflicted.

XOXO

Bad Feminist: Essays (Buy the book)

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