If you were to ask any Emma girl on campus if they could think of a day where they were catcalled or anything else of that manner I’m sure that the majority of girls asked could give you countless examples. It is a shame that women go through life being reminded, even unconsciously, that we are not equal to men in society and in life itself even on a physical level. To fight for social equality of the sexes is the main goal of feminism. This word has different meanings for different people and Roxanne Gay within her collection of essays explains what her take on the word truly means and calls herself ironically a ‘bad feminist’. Roxanne asks many questions within her novel about society and women’s representation, but none more prevalent in today’s society than, “There are all kinds of television shows and movies about women but how many of them make women recognizable?”
Roxanne takes you through her life in her collection of essays, as she originally is conflicted in calling herself a feminist as she did not think that she ‘fits the bill’ of what a feminist should look like. When she did finally don the name for herself she did not want to be considered a ‘good feminist’ because that would lead to her, in Roxanne’s mind, to be put on a pedestal that she does not think she should be put on. She also struggles with her own life. For example she struggles with how one of her beloved music artists, “Kanye’s disdain for women overwhelms nearly every track- but then there’s a song like ‘Blood on the Leaves’ that is so outstanding you can’t possibly dismiss the album entirely. We are constantly faced by this uncomfortable balance between brilliance and bad behavior.” There are always contradictory situations in life. There are always things you want to like and partake in but know that they are ultimately wrong no matter how ‘hip’ they might be in our current society. To be a public figure that people would want to emulate, that person would then have to be perfect Roxanne thought. She acknowledges that she has not led a perfect life as that the rest of us could understand, since no one person is perfect. In her Essays Roxanne points out how she understands that she is not the perfect role model, but hopes that others can learn from her mistakes rather than make the same mistakes she did and her own life experiences.
When Roxanne moved to a new town when she was younger she found herself in a new area with no friends, family, or support system. She lived with her boyfriend at the time, but she did not want to be that girl whose world revolved around her man. Her answer to this dilemma was Scrabble. She found her new niche of people as she immersed herself in Scrabble culture. She began by just playing Scrabble online with new friends, but then found herself immersed in Scrabble tournaments held at events that Scrabble enthusiasts of any level could take part in. Roxanne soon found herself having to brush off many sexist remark from men who perceived her to be young and naïve about the subject even though by this point Roxanne was anything but a newbie to the world of Scrabble. Apparently Scrabble is a man’s game. Who knew? She was conflicted on how to react to these crude remarks, as she did not want these men to think that she was the person they believed her to be. In the end, Roxanne did not make her give her retort back at the men because she knew that she could not change their minds on how they perceived her. It was not worth it, Roxanne thought, to start a public argument about these little remarks. She learned to brush off sexist’s remarks and comments because she knew that these remarks or comments did not actually define her as a person.
With the topics of sex, work life, rape, the media, and being African American Roxanne is not afraid to speak her mind for what she believes in. She gives her own personal experiences in her essays. From struggling with her weight during her childhood at fat camp, wishing she could change the color of her skin while wanting to emulate the typical ‘American girl’, dealing with sexism in her daily life and specifically in the life of a scrabble player, Roxanne gives so many more stories that show the struggle of a woman in today’s world. Roxanne throughout her life struggles with her own definition of feminism as her life experiences each help to carve away her own understanding of its purpose in the world and eventually she refines her understanding of the word. “Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate… Feminism has helped me believe in my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard.”
Reviewed by Elizabeth L. ’18