BOOKS: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

by Alba

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One of my (not new years) resolutions was to read more books about feminism. I consider myself a feminist and often have discussions about feminism, but in reality I don’t know much about the subject at all. Most of my knowledge comes from my own experience, experiences of people I know and a lot of tumblr posts. I also know that while Tumblr is very good at bringing attention to ‘social justice issues’ at times it isn’t the most reliable source.

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In her ‘Feminist Gift Guide’ video vlogger Rosianna Halse Rojas recommends – among many other great things – the book Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. So I asked and received the book for Sinterklaas. (Thanks Simone!) The book is filled with quality essays about feminism and a lot of other social issues. Gay describes all sorts of issues vividly, while using a lot of very fitting examples from her own experience, popular culture or recent events. (I remember being on Tumblr all day at school because Wendy Davis’ filibuster was happening. I also completely forgot about it, till I read this book.) She seems to always be on the look-out while consuming media, ready to critize the problematic aspects while not necessarily disregarding the whole thing, and she appears to be right every time. She discusses popular media such as Girls and The Hunger Games, her life as a college professor, language we use to describe sexual violence, the role of social media, traditional journalism, discussions about (the faults in) feminism, Chris Brown and many many more things.

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Not to say that all the other topics aren’t of equal importance, but I’m very happy with her mentioning Chris Brown. As a pretty active member of the YouTube community I have been around during the whole YouTube abuse scandal, from the first accusations of Tom Milsom and Alex Day till the more recent accusations of Karim Abridged and VeeOneEye. (More about that here.) While all these terrible things that have been happening in the community came to light, I’ve been very proud of the way the community handled it. Mostly by talking about it a lot – from tumblr posts to famous youtubers taking a stand – and shutting the abusers out of the community. Compare this to Chris Brown who was allowed to perform at the Grammys even after he assaulted Rihanna and I see there’s still a lot left to do. Thus I’m really glad Gay mentions this in her essay ‘Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them’.

For me one of the most interesting things about this book is the perspective. I’m a 17 year old white girl without money problems who lives in The Netherlands. I basically have a lot of privilege. While of course I’ve always known racism is a thing that still exists, I don’t think I was that aware of it untill Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson. And even now I (of course) still don’t understand it fully. Among others because I’m not educated enough on this topic, but more importantly, because as a white person in The Netherlands I don’t have personal experience with racism. Reading about Gay’s personal experience with racism gives me a lot of insight in this topic. I learned a lot about race issues while reading her essays. Of course I’ll never understand racism fully, saying I do understand racism 100% is probably an insult to the communities who face racism every day, but this book sure helps a lot.

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I had so many other thoughts and things I wanted to write while reading this book, and I should probably have written them down because I can’t remember all of them. This mostly shows that this is a book that I’ll definitely read again and again (once I’ve gotten through the enormous pile of things I need to read for school..). If you’re interested in social issues I’d definitely recommend this book!

(I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post those pictures of the book, so I’m sorry in advance just infringed(?) every copyright law by doing that.)

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