Book Corner: “Bad Feminist”

Title: Bad Feminist
Author(s): Roxane Gay
Pages: 336
Year: 2014
Apple iBooks Link

BadFeminist_lqI finally got around to reading Bad Feminist for a book club I recently joined. The book is actually a collection of essays written by professor of English at Purdue University, Roxane Gay. She frames the essays around both the expectations of feminism and also the stereotypes of what being a feminist entails, and how she subsequently fails to conform to both. As she says at the end of the book (spoiler?), “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”

While the book itself is lengthy, essays are short enough to be read in short sittings. She makes a lot of U.S. pop culture references and analyses. If you read an essay focused on pop culture analysis but are not familiar with the pop culture entity in question, then the chapter will likely be somewhat tedious.

Her writing style is terse and witty, which makes the essays pretty easy to read. This is not an academic book; its audience is likely people who are interested in feminism, but aiming to look beyond shallow interpretations of it.

As much as I appreciated much of what Gay had to say, I found myself struggling to finish it. Even if the essays are short, the book is still on the long side, at after all. Further, as Meredith Maran remarks in The Chicago Tribune:

Why, then, is there not more to admire in this collection of Gay’s new and previously published essays? One problem is the aforementioned recapitulation of tried and true analyses, opinions and memes, any or all of which might bear reprising if Gay brought to them a new and original take.

Her ananlyses, while intriguing, are not necessarily innovative. While a mostly interesting read, Bad Feminist brings little new to the table.

If you are on the fence about picking up this book, I’d recommend taking a glimpse of the table of contents. If you like what you find, by all means read the book. If you are not taken by the items you see, perhaps consider reading some other feminist work.

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