It’s been a while since I read anything of a feminist non-fictional nature (did Hot Feminist put me off slightly, I wonder?), but I’m trying to take advantage of the little local branch library while we still have it-it’s going to be shutting down soon- and so I am ordering tons of books to read while I can. This book had been on my radar for a while.
Gay is an American feminist and academic who has contributed to many publications. Her work is at turns funny, thought-provoking and always interesting. I am someone who identifies as a feminist, but also knows that I have a lot to learn about feminism and its effects around the world and Gay writes that this is OK. It’s OK to be a feminist and find yourself cringing as you realise you’re humming ‘Blurred Lines’. I especially found the essays about privilege useful and interesting, especially the essay where she looks at recent feminist books, including Lean In and How To Be A Woman. Gay questions her feminism and that’s not a bad thing- and it’s not a bad thing for any of us.
(As a side note, Gay is a competitor in Scrabble competitions. I started playing Words With Friends after reading her essay about it, until some random bloke decided to send me very dodgy messages. This was an, er, eye-opening experience.)
The book often feels like a memoir, as well as a collection of essays and Gay writes movingly and with humour about her identity as a Haitian-American child growing up: her obsession with Sweet Valley High, a declaration to school bullies that she would one day be Miss World and a stint at fat camp are all detailed here. However, she also details a horrific sexual assault and its aftermath. As well as the personal, Gay looks with a sharp eye at society-she quickly tears apart the racial politics of the film The Help (an interesting read after #OscarsSoWhite this year) and America in the aftermath of Ferguson. Although these are written originally for an American audience, the essays provoked thoughts for me; there have been a few interesting conversations in my house as a result, which is never a bad thing.
This book also made me realise how much I enjoy collections of essays, so I’m on the lookout for more. Any suggestions are welcome!