For a million dollars today, I couldn’t tell you what day it was. At least for the first hour or so.
I woke up thinking it’s Sunday. I should spend time in bed, reading. Slowly, tracing the happenings of the world, I realized it’s Monday. I should get up and check my work email. Get coffee ASAP.
I would’ve preferred reading. I love work, it keeps me centered, but there is this book I’ve started on. A far cry from my usual (mysteries and thrillers). This is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay titled, Bad Feminist.
Before I say more, I need to mention Roxane Gay’s memoir, Huger, where she details some deep ways one can hunger – be it for food, love, acceptance, more love. How hungering is so dangerous, so painful – literally. How hungering, in all its forms, destroys, rebuilds, and destroys some more before the fixing (if ever this can be fixed) begins.
I hurt reading it. I also smiled, felt the love, felt the hunger, some of it so profound it defines human existence. The book made me want to read more by Roxane Gay, not always the case with a book, no matter how much I like it. But this one did. The writer’s wit, self-deprecating humor, cultural criticism. I wanted more.
That’s how I found Bad Feminist.
The collection of essays got me looking at my own feminism. It got me declaring myself a bad feminist as well. Not a bad thing, the writer assures me. I’m a work in progress.
Aren’t we all?
There is Feminism (capital F) and feminism, as Roxane Gay says. The first has become a profession for some, a public-relations platform. That can be good and bad. Famous people bring attention to important issue, but when those people falter, after having been labeled Feminists, the whole idea is weaponized to exhaustion by critics.
“Just another freaking feminist, a hypocrite,” the critics cry out. “Look at her now. She has the nerve to preach.”
That is (F)eminism.
Then there is feminism, which is just what the definition says – the advocacy of women’s rights – where the work is done behind the scenes, by people hardly known or not at all.
By the way, many of those critics mentioned above are women. They criticize while benefiting from all the advantages the movement has bestowed upon them thanks to those who worked their hearts off. The critics are the unwilling recipients of their own rights, which they very much enjoy. Somehow, they either don’t equate the movement with their privileged lives, or don’t care.
But anyway, the more I think about it, the more I get that I am a bad feminist.
I support the movement, I try to do my part to help it along. I understand there’s still much to achieve despite critics telling us we are equal (we’re not, come on!), but at the same time I do things that contradict feminist ideas.
One example Roxane Gay gives is fashion designed by men to make women look like sex toys. Not just the pretty dress, the pink blouse, but the ridiculous stilettoes, clothes tight enough to cut circulation. Such attire was once predominant in my closet. Still is in the back corner somewhere.
There is the music from straight-up male chauvinists (some married to women who declare themselves Feminists). Songs with demeaning lyrics where every other word is bitch this, bitch that. If I were to dissect those lyrics and understand them all (many of those artists mumble when singing), but if I did, I’d be ashamed for having given them a second of my time. Yet, I groove along to the catchy tune. Because catchy it is. The industry knows how to get us past the mumbled lyrics. The artists know. Their Feminist wives must know … Sigh.
There are other examples, but you get the idea.
We’re human, the writer reminds everyone. We’re far from perfect.
I’d like to say, our intentions are good, but that’s a tired excuse. I’m tired of excuses. Including my own.
One thing reading this book does: it helps me identify, or re-identify, those things within myself. Things I obviously knew about in abstract ways, but didn’t quite know how to highlight in ways you highlight an idea that needs analysis. Having something defined to the point of clarity helps understand the way I move about the world.
We’re all works in progress, yes. But without the self-work, a work in progress is an abandoned idea.
So, I leave you with Bad Feminist, for now. A few quotes.
“When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.”
“Some women being empowered does not prove the patriarchy is dead. It proves that some of us are lucky.”
“Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights.“
“If people cannot be flawed in fiction there’s no place left for us to be human.”
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
Photos Credit: pixabay, goodreads