Bad Feminist: A Review


{Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Carli Trujillo.}

The New York Times Best Seller, Bad Feminist, has received a lot of acclaim lately from MSNBC and booksellers worldwide, but is it worthy of my next book club? I’m not so sure.

The Good:

1) Roxane Gay does an impeccable job analyzing aspects of pop culture–from Orange is the New Black to Robin Thicke and Chris Brown, she effortlessly uncovers the sexist, objectifying, rancid messages behind pieces of pop culture. She concisely tears down media messages surrounding us every day, which is important because it can start to make the not-so-aware more conscious of the poison surrounding them.

2) Gay is a WoC and a survivor of sexual assault. She brings much needed diversity into the world of mainstream feminism.

3) Gay’s honesty is striking. In the last chapter of the book she asks herself questions that so many of us struggle with:

I am failing as a woman. I am failing as a feminist. To freely accept the feminist label would not be fair to good feminists. If I am, indeed, a feminist, I am a rather bad one. I am a mess of contradictions. There are many ways in which I am doing feminism wrong, at least according to the way my perceptions of feminism have been warped by being a woman.

The Bad

1) Bad Feminist leaves our trans* allies out of the conversation. Not once in her entire book did she mention the trans* community, which really bothered me. It isn’t just important, but absolutely necessary that authors, especially ones with this much praise, be inclusive of trans* women in their theories and discussion of feminism. In this respect, Roxane Gay fails.

2) Although Gay seems to understand the effects of the male gaze and the unrealistic standards of beauty placed on women, she places undue attention on women’s appearance at several points in her work:

How To Be Friends With Another Woman: Don’t let your friends buy ugly outfits or accessories you don’t want to look at when you hang out. This is just common sense.


Gay wraps up her thoughts nicely when she states:

Maybe I am a bad feminist, but I am deeply committed to the issues important to the feminist movement. I have strong opinions about misogyny, institutional sexism that consistently places women at a disadvantage, the inequity in pay, the cult of beauty and thinness, the repeated attacks on reproductive freedom, violence against women, and on and on…I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.

Although I have many critiques for Bad Feminist, I love how she ends her book with a heap of self-compassion. The hard truth is that the “perfect feminist” does not exist. Effort and passion should outweigh performance and perfection 100% of the time, and I found it refreshing that she recognizes her imperfection without giving up on the movement.

What do you think about Gay’s ideas about being a “bad feminist?” Is there such a thing?


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