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A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.
"Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink - all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I'm not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue."
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking listeners on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
>Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
I did not think I particularly liked this book, but I kept listening, and I haven't been able to stop talking about it. I've been prefacing conversations with "Have you heard of Roxane Gay? Well, she says . . ." The book gave me a lot to think about - starting with just how L'Eggs is still a viable brand.
Every year, there's a great debate among a lot of women lawyers about pantyhose. Yes, I'm writing this in 2015. No, I am not kidding. The East Coast contingent declares wearing flesh colored Brillo pads stuck tightly to one's legs an absolute necessity, sorry they're expensive, uncomfortable, and likely to develop ugly and very unprofessional runs. Here on the West Coast, most of us just don't wear them, liberally applying lotion to avoid ugly dryness while simultaneously risking shocking staid Judges. There is common ground: we all shave our legs.
In "Bad Feminist" (2014), Gay argues that the mythical good feminist is humorless, doesn't care about fashion, doesn't like men, won't have children, and certainly doesn't shave her legs. Gay doesn't live up to those standards (and who set them anyway?) and neither do the rest of us. My favorite feminist icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, literally changed women's lives, arguing - and winning - important cases for working women before becoming an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. Ginsburg had a long, successful marriage; took time off to care for her husband when he had cancer; has two children; has gotten several style icon awards; wears lace jabots with her black robes; and as 'Notorious RBG' ("Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" (2015)) has an unparalleled sense of humor.
That raises the question: what is a feminist? Gay doesn't find a "good feminist" anywhere, ignoring herself, the three women of the US Supreme Court, and the quiet feminist, Hilary Rodham Clinton (HRC) - while at the same time, ripping into Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and author of "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" (2013). In Gay's judgment, Sandberg can't be a feminist because she's always been privileged, she doesn't struggle with child care providers, and she has housekeepers. Well, the CDC is probably interested in the new mold species growing in my bathroom, but being unable to afford a housekeeper doesn't make me a feminist. And maybe Gay's using argumentum ad absurdem and I took it too seriously?
It's good to step back and think about the philosophy of feminism, and I enjoyed the think. However, "Bad Feminist" really did not work well as an Audible. Gay tends to wander to new topics in her essays, and sometimes it's impossible to tell if she's digressing or if a new essay has started. The title of the review is a quote of Gay's.
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90 of 102 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Roxane Gay and/or Bahni Turpin?
I heard Roxane on Cbc and liked her a lot, I was really looking forward to this book. I expected it to be funnier, feminism with a twist of irony.<br/><br/>It's not. It's a good educational read if you're new to these issues, but to me it's just repeating and rehashing depressingly persistent issues in the same way. <br/><br/>I listened to it in bursts, but deleted it with an hour left unlistened. It's a good book, it's just not for me. I think I maxed out my capacity for this type of book on Inga Musico.<br/><br/>I recommend the podcast Another Round.
30 of 34 people found this review helpful
I really really really wanted to love this audiobook but it was just okay. I think I should have read it when it first came out. The narrator was good but I think I was put off by not hearing the author. I always love her in interviews and I was constantly thinking how she would have emphasized some statements over others. I think the narrator tried to show annoyance more than the humor or sarcasm of the actual authors tone.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This book makes me want to write! Not in anger nor as a rebuttal but in solidarity and homage to the strength and beauty of Gay's words. She has indeed found her voice. I am reminded I too have a voice--and it matters. It was a thought-provoking delight to read what matters to this author. <br/><br/>Her thirty-something year old self spoke to my thirty-something year old self in that she has, as she commented of another young woman in the book, the "gift that comes from more years of living" while still embodying all that is youthful, spirited and witty. This is the grace and nuance of being 30-something and she nails it! <br/><br/>Her essays skillfully and momentarily untangle the cords that often kink when ethnicity, feminism and pop culture collide. Bad Feminist is simultaneously light and heavy, shallow and deep, vulnerable and piercing. <br/><br/>Half way through, I began to grieve this book's inevitable end. Plus, anything narrated by Bahni Turpin is that much better for it. <br/><br/>Looking forward to more from Roxane Gay.
24 of 28 people found this review helpful
I knew nothing about Roxane Gay when I got this book. As I listened, I kept thinking how amazing it was that she was putting into words many of my own opinions. Then I realized she was raised in conservative Omaha and managed to become a liberal feminist just like myself.
I much prefer her general opinion pieces rather than the critiques of other work (even though I was happy to find I am not the only person on the planet to not adore Girls), but a great book overall.
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
This is a must read for women every where of every age. I've never connected more with a book. I appreciate her open candor about not being perfect but being awake and conscious and trying. There's so much more to this book and my review could never do it justice.
14 of 18 people found this review helpful
"Bad Feminist: Essays" is one of the best books I've read all year (and since it's only January, I'm including all of 2014 in that statement as well). These essays are well thought-out and well argued and I found that even when I didn't agree with Dr. Gay's conclusion, I understood how she got there and respected her opinion. Her writing contains all of the hallmarks of excellent academic writing, though they are more entertaining than any book or article I read in college. I especially enjoyed her essays on the representation of race in entertainment and her explanation of what it means, to her, to be a feminist. I'd give her six stars if it were an option. This is an excellent book.
The narration by Bahni Turpin is also quite good, though her pronunciation of French and Latin words is a bit painful.
I always like to finish a review by listing to whom I would recommend this book, but I can't narrow it down. For the first time ever, I would recommend this book to everyone. I'd recommend it to self-proclaimed feminists, to people who are feminists but refuse to label themselves as such, to people who claim they are anti-feminist because they might see that they aren't, and to people who are genuinely anti-feminist because they might gain a better understanding of what feminism is about.
22 of 29 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Bad Feminist to be better than the print version?
I believe the audiobook is ten times better than the physical book. I have both and much prefer the audio version. Bahni Turpin is such a good narrator. I had to remind myself she wasn't Roxane Gay several times while listening to the book over a course of two weeks to and from my drives to work and home.
What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?
It's okay to be a bad feminist. It's better than not being a feminist at all!
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
Her criticism isn't always evenly applied and her reviews on pop culture items drone on and on and on. Not to mention all the talk about competitive Scrabble... I listened to this on a cross country road trip & I couldn't get through it all. In fact, it almost it me to sleep. I was really looking forward to listening to this, but felt really let down ultimately. Don't waste your credit or your money on this book.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful
Roxane Gay is a bisexual black woman who writes mostly about popular culture. Her perspectives are heavily political, but she is no demagogue, as the title of this collection indicates. Her essays on books, movies, TV series, and current events are a constant dialog between her gut responses as a human being and her analytical intelligence. She writes with gusto, for instance, about her teenage passion for the Sweet Valley High series, all the while acknowledging how badly they were written and their lamentable lack of diversity.
It's this grounding in real life that sets her apart from other writers who tackle similar subjects, as well as her remarkable even-handedness. She never gets too angry to see other sides to an argument. In these rhetorically polarized times, this alone is enough to make her an important voice.
However, her writing is not careful enough for my liking. There are too many trite remarks ("The older I get, the better I understand things." "Two wrongs rarely make a right.") and while her essays are never less than thoughtful, they are never brilliant or incisive.
Bahni Turpin's reading is always clear and easy to follow. She mispronounces some words ("contiguous" is not pronounced like "contagious"), but overall she does a good job.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful