At some point, I got it into my head that a feminist was a certain kind of woman. I bought into grossly inaccurate myths about who feminists are – militant, perfect in their politics and person, man–hating, humorless. I bought into these myths even though, intellectually, I know better. I’m not proud of this. I don’t want to buy into these myths anymore. I don’t want to cavalierly disavow feminism like far too many other women have done.
Bad feminism seems like the only way I can both embrace myself as a feminist and be myself, and so I write. I chatter away on Twitter about everything that makes me angry and all the small things that bring me joy. I write blog posts about the meals I cook as I try to take better care of myself, and with each new entry, I realise that I’m undeserving myself after years of allowing myself to stay damaged. The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman — I am being open about who I am and who I was and where I faltered and who I would like to become.
No matter what issues I have with feminism, I am a feminist. I cannot and will not deny the importance and absolute necessity of feminism. Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman.
I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.– Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist Essays, p. 317-8
Wow, reading this on the last pages of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist Essay was a reminder I didn’t realise I needed – so I thought I’d share it incase anyone else might find it beneficial too. Ever since I started becoming aware that feminism was something you could – and really ought to (at least as a woman) – have a feeling about, I’ve gone through quite a transformation. If you’d asked me 5 years ago whether I was a feminist the answer most likely would have been “not really”. A) I was privileged and was yet to become fully aware just how many life experiences are informed by archaic gendered norms, and B) More importantly I was struggling with coming to grips with many of the norms frequently seen as prerequisite for being a “good” (read: proper) feminist. These feelings haven’t left me completely today, which is why I over the last year have spend a great deal of time and effort exploring feminist literature and history. Reading the above in Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist Essays was a nice reminder of where my explorations into this topic started, and an important acknowledgement that feminism isn’t something that should make you judge your performance of it on a scale from good to bad. Rather it is a thing that can take whatever form – but that needs to never loose sight of the essential element: equality for all.
Feature photo by Maryia Plashchynskaya on Pexels.com
The restrictions that education and custom impose on women limit her grasp of the universe; when the struggle to claim a place in this world gets too rough, there can be no question of tearing oneself away from it; one must first emerge within it in sovereign solitude if one wants to try to grasp it anew: what women primarily lack is learning from the practice of abandonment and transcendence, in anguish and pride.– Simone de Beauvoir (translation Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier), ‘Chapter 14: The independent woman’, Extracts from The Second Sex (Vintage Feminism, 2015), p.67
Featured image by Sasha Andersen. The picture shows a closeup of a sculpture by Danish artist Eva Steen Christensen.
I set out on a personal challenge to read 12 books in 2019, and gosh does it feel good to know that I did it. With 2019 being the centenary of the vote for women in England I got really interested in reading feminist literature, I started out softly with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short, but really good book We Should All Be Feminists and have progressed from there. You might also notice a lot of Harry Potter on the list. I am one of those rare people that didn’t read the series when it came out, unlike my brother who swallowed them up whole as soon as they were out. Don’t get me wrong I think I’ve read the first one four times over and the second two and a half times… I just never got any further. However, with the challenge in mind, and newfound interest in understanding all the references to Harry Potter – thanks in part to a good friend having been on the Quidditch team at uni – I set about to rectify the situation. I enjoyed reading them, read the first two while travelling in Japan, though I must admit I got less and less interested in them as they progressed. The storylines just weren’t really my cup of tea… But to each her own.
Books read in 2019:
- Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Danny Danziger
- Becoming, Michelle Obama
- We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Women & Power, Mary Beard
- Educated, Tara Westover
- Zen: The Art of Simple Living, Shunmyo Masuno
- The History of Bees, Maja Lunde
- Harry Potter The Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter, The Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter, The Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter, The Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter, The Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
A few weeks ago I went to the local Waterstone’s to pick up a new book to read for my 12 book challenge. Inspired by this post by actress and director Olivia Wilde and the comments on it, I had set off to buy Tara Westover’s Educated. Being there anyway I decided I to look for another book I have been meaning to read, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, as well. After some searching, I found it in a section dedicated to feminist scholarship. A collection of all sorts women writing about the female experience. Looking at the books there I was struck by how little I had actually read or even heard of before. I have grown up with a mother who lives and breathes feminism, but we never really talked about the scholarship that is at its core. Picking up Gay’s book I decided then and there to to focus my next couple of readings on feminism.
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