Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist

Genre: Non-fiction (Essays)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Date Published: August 5, 2014

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays that are in some way related to feminism. The Goodreads blurb describes the book as “funny and insightful.” I wasn’t expecting funny going in, because I had heard this book described by other reviewers, and I’m here to tell you that the blurb calling this book funny isn’t only misleading, it’s objectively wrong. I’m almost 100% sure this book isn’t intended to be funny at all. But as Gay mentions in one of the essays within the book, writers who go the traditional publishing route don’t get to choose how their books are marketed.

All that being said, I am glad I listened to this book, even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting and even if I wanted more from it. I listened to it on audio and the narrator does a great job of keeping the audience engaged in Roxane Gay’s essays.

Because I listened to this on audio, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the writing itself. It does come off as easy to read, but nothing really stood out to me one way or the other.

Some of the essays in this book are directly related to feminism, others are more loosely related to feminism but are about women and more subtle gender issues. There were some insightful moments in this book but unfortunately there was no information I didn’t already know nor was there any conclusions I haven’t ever made on my own, so there’s wasn’t much I gained intellectually while reading this.

This book is clearly for women who call themselves feminists. This is not a book for men in any way— it paints men in very broad strokes and doesn’t make any mention at all in the ways men are or can be allies to women and feminism— and it is not a book for women who, for whatever reason, choose not to call themselves feminists. Her arguments for the issues she discusses are very one-sided and lacking in nuance. Because I tend to agree with her conclusions this was fine for me, sometimes it just feels nice to hear other people agreeing with us, but unfortunately even I had criticisms about the way some topics were handled, particularly when she starts talking about reproductive rights.

Had I read this during my stint in the skeptic community (a time when I identified as egalitarian rather than feminist, as if somehow those are two conflicting things) I think it would have done more harm than good in my journey back to calling myself a feminist. So it’s not a very good jumping off point for people new to feminism nor for changing the minds of people who are educated about feminist issues who still don’t call themselves feminists. This is essentially written for people who already agree with what Roxane Gay has to say about women’s issues and feminism.

So this is a three-star book for me, but I’d be careful about recommending this because it’s not a book that’s going to change minds or hearts.

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