The Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay Explains Why It's Time to Break The Rules

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Roxane Gay's book, Bad Feminist, is out now. Roxane Gay's book, Bad Feminist, is out now. (Roxane Gay/Jay Grabiec)

What do you think of the word feminist? Having it all, man-hating women, or maybe Beyoncé? Does a feminist take her husband's last name? Can you be a feminist and be pro-life? Would a feminist dance to "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke?

Instead of feeling overrun by hard boundaries and following rules, writer Roxane Gay is all about living in the contradictions. The self-proclaimed "bad feminist" doesn't feel guilty for dancing to rap that degrades women or enjoying The Bachelor—she says she embraces her imperfections.

It sounds nice, but what does that really mean? In her latest book, Gay goes into the trenches of "feminism," discussing everything from reproductive rights to the "Twilight" series to how teaching students from inner-city Detroit has helped Gay recognize her own privilege as a Haitian-American woman from the Midwest.

Her new collection of essays "Bad Feminist," is out this week, and before starting her book tour, Roxane Gay spoke with The Takeaway about growing up in the midwest, how the NFL enables misogyny, and what it means to be a bad feminist.


Roxane Gay

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja


T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]

tom LI

Fred from Bellevue - uh...a wife is not guaranteed an income if her husband commits a crime. Did Madoff's wife get her "lifestyle" protected when her felonious husband got caught and went to jail? There is no reason to consider the wife's lifestyle unless there are children involved. You marry a man who hits you BEFORE that - the ring ain't gonna fix him. Its not a behavior collar...which now that I mention it...might not be a bad idea for some of these guys. Forget the ankle bracelets...shock collars.

As to the interview, etc - "messy feminism"? Was it ever neat? But its merely another new label for nothing new inside the box. What no one talks about is that the ONLY thing Feminism truly achieved, for women in general - is give them permission to behave as badly as the men. The Movement and the Women who staunchly flew the flag never - never! - presented society the NEW and IMPROVED Feminine way of doing things. All they did was belly up the bar with the men and drink like them, smoke cigars like men, burp like men, and dress like them, and in many cases harass coworkers like men. Then along came the Glitter Feminists (my term) who over-sexualized their presence and demanded that men respect them and not look at them for showing their undergarments as business-formal wear under their $500 (Designer) suit jackets.

What does the business world do today that is a Feminist Innovation? That turned the Old Boy paradigm on its head? I'll wait....

Aug. 06 2014 04:24 PM
Frederic from Bellevue, WA

On Ray Rice.

Should Ray Rice have been given a greater than two game suspension? Presumably Ray is the sole "bread winner" of his family, so suspending him would also take money away from his wife. Remember her? The person whom Ray knocked unconscious. Maybe Ms. Gay's argument applies to Janay as well. It won't hurt Janay to have less millions. Possibly not, but it sets a bad precedent. The working poor don't get suspensions they just get fired.

Ms. Gay rightly says that Ray Rice needs help. That is true, so shouldn't the focus be on getting Ray help? Is retribution and vengeance aim of justice? Would a proper response to Ray Rice be for him to go to therapy and then if that fails, more punitive measures?

Aug. 06 2014 03:42 PM
Edward Brown from Manhattan

There are two terms I don't like:

ISMs, because they generally lead to excess commitment to the official ISM.

ISM, because it's a label to apply to a movement or to ideas in order to trivialize them.

Aug. 06 2014 10:08 AM

Maybe some listeners are not familiar with "I'm not a feminist, but..."
Check it out:

Aug. 06 2014 09:52 AM

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