What We can Learn From Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist
In her novel Bad Feminist, author Roxane Gay breaks down the many complicated, nuanced and honest sides of feminism, as well as her own experiences and life lessons on what being a feminist has meant to her. She takes on many voices— vulnerable, assertive, powerful, etc and through them, she delivers fresh, insightful ideas on gender, sexuality, race and more. One of my favorite chapters Gay writes on is titled "How we All Lose," which comments on sexual violence, an especially relevant and crucial topic we must talk about.
The chapter, "How We All Lose," interested me for its thorough analysis of several other texts and novels that attempt to highlight the meaning and future of feminism but neglect to address the issue at heart. In one part, Gay speaks on the subject of sexual violence in response to Hanna Rosin’s novel The End of Men. Rosin writes that “women today are far less likely to get murdered, raped, assaulted, or robbed than at any time in recent history” and a “2010 White House report on women and girls laid out the latest statistics straightforwardly, to the great irritation of many feminists.” To this, Gay comments that it is “hard to accept at face value that feminists would be irritated that there’s a decline in violence against women,” and notes the number of abuse and sexual violence cases that go unreported. Gay also writes that “Rosin is not wrong that life has improved in measurable ways for women, but she is wrong in suggesting that better is good enough. Better is not good enough… I cannot think of clearer evidence of how alive and well the patriarchy remains."
Especially today, it is important to consider Gay’s responses. With recent events concerning sexual abuse allegations against influential, powerful figures like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and movements like #metoo, sparked by online protests, Gay’s argument against that of Rosin’s is significant in actually addressing sexual violence. With some news outlets finally detailing the abuse females in the entertainment and STEM industries face, it is important we leverage this information to show the change that needs to be done— to restore justice against higher ups like Weinstein and Spacey and shift the narrative about what women can or can’t do.
It is important for men and women to understand the issue of sexual violence; to understand how its salience negatively affects our culture and society; to understand how by just ignoring this issue we feed into its toxicity and continuity.