Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bad Feminist | Roxane Gay

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 becool, 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 readers 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.

Like I have mentioned before, I've been trying out new genres and subjects of books, breaking out of the YA bubble so to speak. In fact, earlier this month my school was giving away free copies of this book, and of course I signed up and got a copy, not expecting to actually read it. But I decided to start it and kept reading through the end. In this book Gay covers many topics from feminism to racism and rather than really reviewing the book, I want to give my opinions on several of the points she made throughout her essays. 

1. Feminism

I will admit, I've never really called myself a feminist. The word is so warped in our society, typically associated with the extreme feminists, those who yell at men trying to be chivalrous and essentially claim that men are better than women. I don't blame you for thinking that's what a feminist is, until recently I did too. But feminism is the fight for gender equality, for both men and women. However because the issue affects women to a larger extent, it has been named for them. 

Like I said, I believe in gender equality for everyone, not just women. People frequently complain that women are objectified in society, however I think men are objectified just as much, which isn't a gender issue as much as it is a biological one. We are attracted to attractive people because biologically they would make better mates for us. Is it right to judge women solely on the size of their breasts? Of course not. But it is equally wrong to judge a man by his chiseled jaw, muscular torso, or any number of qualities. 

One of the biggest things I want to discuss is the Fifty Shades of Grey outrage that erupted on the Internet during the release of the movie. I saw post after post discouraging people from watching the movie, saying that if they did they would be supporting rape. I think people are forgetting to make a distinction between ignorance and belief. So many people have gone to the movie in order to laugh about how stupid it is, but what they don't understand is that by investing eight or nine dollars for a movie, they're fueling the franchise. I want to see this movie. I want to laugh at it just like everyone else, but I don't, by any means, support rape. But I also will not be putting money to propagate the franchise. People who so outrightly accuse others of such hideous beliefs need to take a step back and examine who really is at fault. 

2. Racism

My views on racism is a bit different from most people, but I'm going to share them anyways. I don't believe it is right to treat anybody differently because of their ethnicity, regardless of whether it is a positive treatment or a negative treatment. Of course discrimination is wrong but what we fail to realize is that even the so-called "good" things we do in order to compensate are discriminatory. For example, take Black History Month. While the intention behind it is good, all it does is divide the separation between the races. By categorizing an ethnicity into a month, we're subconsciously separating it from everything else. If we really want to include worldwide ethnicity into our education, we need to incorporate it directly into the teaching system without drawing any special attention to it. Same goes for other practices such as affirmative action. By giving an advantage to someone because of their ethnicity is no different from how it used to be, it's just against a different group of people. 

One thing in particular that Gay talks about is the inaccuracy of movies like Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave, extremely successful movies centering on aspects of slavery. She condemns these movies because the white director gave an inaccurate representation of slavery. While this is a legitimate reason, I believe that race is completely independent of this problem. She would run into the same problem if the director were someone who didn't go through slavery, regardless of race. I'm saying the reason these movies may be slightly inaccurate isn't because of the white director simply the lack of experience the director has had. 

Gay also continues and talks about other smaller issues like body image that I'm still trying to sort out of beliefs for. But this was definitely an interesting read and it has definitely inspired me to start reading other nonfictiony books. I definitely recommend it for anyone wanting to try an informal yet informative book about some current issues.