Today's pop culture rises from a society that has long been contemptuous of women

Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay is a writer, professor and editor. She writes notably for The Rumpus, Salon, and many other online publications. Her first novel An Untamed State was published in May 2014.

Despite the title of the book, I saw very little proof of your “bad feminism”—watching The Bachelor and loving the color pink should never be considered as bad feminism :-) Has someone ever actually dared to call you a bad feminist?

No one has ever called me a bad feminist outright. I began calling myself a bad feminist, sort of tongue in cheek but mostly, the label is my way of owning feminism while also acknowledging that I am not a perfect feminist and I don’t always toe the party line.

In your essays, you mention and criticize works such as Bridesmaids or Girls, which are or could be considered as feminist “on the surface”, but which actually perpetuate quite a number of clichés against women, or which show an impressive lack of diversity. Is today’s pop culture a genuine bad feminist?

Today’s pop culture rises from a society that has long been contemptuous of women. Is pop culture a genuine bad feminist? It’s not for me to say but I think we can certainly identify where so many of the clichés against women, and where so much of the narrowness of representation comes from.

You write a lot of essays online, and you are very present on several social networks such as Tumblr or Twitter. What kind of interaction with your readers does this kind of space allow?

This kind of space allows for conversation. It allows me not only to use my voice but to do my best to hear the perspectives of others, to learn, and I hope, to grow.

What are the books you would recommend for a bad feminist who wants to get better?

I would recommend Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua, A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway, and Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein, to name a few.

Editorial reviews (6 reviews)


The New York Times : Arguably (October 10, 2014)

The eager pride she takes in being different — “I am an acquired taste” — can read more like personal branding than political conviction.

Kirkus Reviews : Bad Feminist (October 01, 2014)

An occasionally brilliant, hit-or-miss grab bag of pop-culture criticism.

Gay writes with authority, conviction and a spirit of rising up against stereotypes and labels.