“There’s more to the problem. Too many women, particularly groundbreaking women and industry leaders, are afraid to be labeled feminists, afraid to stand up and say, “Yes, I am a feminist,” for fear of what that label means, for fear of how to live up to it, for fear of feminism as something essential, for fear of the punishments—both obvious and indirect—that come with openly owning feminism or doing feminism wrong.”
-Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
(You can read the rest of the essay here)
This essay nails it. Gay makes the argument that just as our culture holds there are right and wrong ways to be a woman (good woman: nice clothes, big smile, seen but not heard, happy to stay home taking care of the kids), there has become a myth that there are right and wrong ways to be a feminist (good feminist: angry, militant, hirsute, mirthless, castrating, hates pink, hates men, hates fun). She refreshingly points out all the ways she has “failed” as a feminist. She likes pink. She likes men. She likes Vogue, unironically.
This reminds me of an incident in my own recent memory. A while ago my boyfriend asked if I was a feminist and I replied, “Well, I’m not a feminist but I am definitely ‘girl-power.’”
What on earth does it mean to be “girl-power” and why was I so reluctant to label myself as a feminist? I was a Vassar girl, for crying out loud. But to me, the label seemed weighed down by heaps of responsibility. I had never taken a women’s studies class. I shaved my legs. And I’d felt shocked and disapproving of the feminists who mocked and berated Gloria Steinem when she came to give a talk in our chapel on campus.
What I love about Gay’s essay is it’s a relief. It takes a load off your back: you don’t have to be any certain way to be a feminist.
If I’d read this before my boyfriend asked me that, I would have just said, “I’m a bad feminist.”
I can’t wait to read Gay’s new book, Bad Feminist, when it comes out on August 5.