It’s a hard read, but you know that from the start – just look at the title. What is rape culture? It’s where victims aren’t believed, or are belittled, or are told (or tell themselves) ‘It’s not that bad.’ It’s the comments and gestures and grabbing and touching that are inflicted on girls, and dismissed as ‘Boys will be boys’. It’s the shame that stops victims from sharing, or even believing that their stories are worthwhile.
This collection includes quite graphic stories, it includes poems, it includes stories that tell the stuff around the assaults, before the assaults, after the assaults. It is painful and beautiful and, unfortunately, extremely necessary. I urge everyone to read it. It would be wonderful if every person in society read this, to hear these stories, to share this pain, and hopefully, to make rape culture something we no longer need to endure.
Having read Bad Feminist and Hunger recently, I feel like I know Roxane Gay. I’m also extremely aware that I know only what she wants to put out into the world. I know her story and was interested to read her fiction having read her essays.
Gay’s writing is beautiful, even when telling horrible stories. She creates these beautiful worlds, these women who are challenging or challenged. The story that stuck with me the most is of the sisters who need to hold each other tight, to save themselves. My heart broke many times as I read this.
When Roxanne Gay was a teenager, she went through a horrible event which she kept to herself, and it led her to start trying to hide from the world. She ate and became large, and this book is her exploring her life and her body. It’s a hard book to read because it is so raw and pulls few punches. As a fat woman who’s going through my own journey through therapy and body acceptance, some parts were particularly hard to read. However, I kept reminding myself that this is her story. Just because we are both in larger bodies doesn’t mean we have a lot of experiences the same – even if many of them are familiar.
Roxane Gay has been appearing in my media consumption regularly over the years, and I so often find myself making noises of agreement, or anger, or frustration. She writes hard stuff, and funny stuff, and truthful stuff. Finally, I decided it was time to read Bad Feminist (and it was partly inspired by a recent tweet by Gay suggesting that a lot of women really needed to revisit it).
There’s so much to it. Personal essays about her life, some of which were hilarious, some of which were heartbreaking. Reviews of films and books, reviews which really get stuck into the often-problematic nature of our entertainment. I was disappointed when I first started to listen to it to discover that it wasn’t being read by Gay, and every so often it felt a little not quite right, but I can’t put my finger on what it was. The other thing is, because it was published in 2014, there are so many things that are so much worse. At times, driving in my car, I’d be talking back say “oh, you think that’s bad… just wait a few years. We’re not at rock bottom yet!”