Musings on Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist

It was our class’ industrial visit. We were travelling by train. At night a few of us had gathered in a coach to share ghost stories. There were 8-10 girls and just one other boy besides me in the group. Somehow the discussion shifted from ghost stories to stories of sexual harassment. It was dark, the train was moving at a steady pace and the girls were surprisingly candid that night; probably because the group had developed a feeling of warmth and cosiness towards each other and there was an unspoken assurance of secrecy. We were talking all through the night and there wasn’t a single girl who didn’t have a story to tell. Actually, almost all of them had multiple stories.

I was shocked, truly shocked. These were girls raised in normal circumstances and protective environments, and in the space that I cohabited. And I still had no idea sexual harassment/abuse was so pervasive, so all around me. That night was a momentous event in my life. It changed the way I started looking at the world. I guess it was the night I became a feminist.

Yesterday I finished Roxane Gay’s most recent book, Bad Feminist. In the book, Gay successfully interweaves personal experiences with critical viewpoints to present an eloquent rhetoric. The book is not strictly about feminism. Gay touches upon diverse topics such as racism, her college life as a student and professor, Scrabble and well, feminism. But the underlying theme of all the essays is women’s issues.

The book did not offer me much as far as original ideas were concerned. But it gave the words to everything that I have been thinking about for the past couple of years as far as women’s issues are concerned. It also gave me the assurance that people who criticize feminism (not certain aspects of feminism but feminism as a whole) are so wrong.


I do not have first hand experience of all the problems that women face, because after all, I am not a woman. I do not know how it feels like to be constantly under gaze, to face sexual harassment and domestic abuse, constantly being told to perform the gender role, to be portrayed as sexual objects in media, so on and so forth. But I have seen, heard and read so many first hand stories I cannot help but feel deep concern for these issues.

Yesterday two young women in Rohtak committed suicide because they were being stalked and harassed. Their suicide notes are troubling. In the notes “the girls speak of fear and shame, of disrepute, of tongues wagging simply because young men had been following and harassing them” (Indian Express, August 27, 2014).

Everyday a new man would come and chase us. They would pass lewd remarks and offer us phone numbers. The people around us would stare as if we had done something wrong. You know how bad our colony is… how people will say we encouraged these men to follow us… even though we are innocent.

I guess it is only in the sexual crimes that a victim is scrutinized more than the accused. Men, on the other hand, enjoy the privilege of their gender, not just when they are perpetrators of crime but otherwise too. I understand my privilege as a man. Acknowledging one’s privilege doesn’t mean feeling guilty about it. I didn’t choose to be a man. I was simply born as one. It isn’t either my fault or achievement. But acknowledging the privilege that comes with it helps me develop empathy towards the ones who do not share the same privilege. It helps me understand their problems. I know if I came late at night, my parents would not be as concerned as, say, if my sister was late. If I were walking down a dark alley, alone, I would be far less scared than a woman would be. If I had a one night stand and people found out, I would not be stigmatized. I would not be called a slut. That’s privilege. I don’t have to act on my privilege but simply acknowledge it. Acknowledging one’s privilege, in whatever respect, goes a long way in understanding the injustice in the world.

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Now imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer…to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations. Boys and girls are undeniably different biologically, but socialization exaggerates the differences and then it becomes a self-fulfilling process. — Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The feminist movement has gained momentum since the Delhi gang rape of December 2012. And a few tangible results can already be seen. Sexist and misogynist jokes are no longer cool. Politicians and other public figures can no more get away with their sexist comments. There is now a lot more scrutiny of media for its unflattering portrayal of women (see this and this, for example). It is heartening to see feminism get the attention it deserves, especially among the youngsters.

I would like to leave you with this brilliant talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in which she urges us all to be feminists.


5 thoughts on “Musings on Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist

  1. I have watched most of her talks. I am currently reading her book Americanah and I am just so captivated by it, I cannot even begin to articulate. I’m glad there are boys like you who empathize with us. I have met boys who say it’s our fault. That’s depressing.

    Trust me, I am not so much a big fan of writing articles propagating feminism. If I were, I would write them too. I just can’t bring myself to parade for my kind. I have those reasons which I shall not delve into.

    However, I like your post for:
    1) Your empathy
    2) Your mentioning of Chimamanda Adichie. She is my newest favourite writer. Suffice to say I love her.

  2. I guess it is only in the sexual crimes that a victim is scrutinized more than the accused.

    This is not true. The trend is towards less scrutiny. Thanks to feminism some college campuses now deal with rape accusations internally (at least when the accusation is made by a female against a male). In other words, they no longer treat it as a normal crime allegation where guilt must be proved. There have been many cases of false rape accusations where the females were simply believed without evidence and only luck got the poor guy off the hook. (eg in one case the ‘victim’ confessed to a friend she had made it all up and the conversation was recorded).

    In cases where false rape accusations have been made and then proven to be false the female accusers have often been given no more than a slap on the wrist.

    What are the implications of a false rape accusation if the accusation is believed? Well, the guy will lose his job/ place in college. He may lose his friends, family and access to his children. He will lose his career. He risks being assaulted in public and even murdered by men seeking revenge (falsely accused men have been murdered in this way). He may be sent to jail where he will probably be beaten up and repeatedly raped. His life will be completely ruined.

    So a false rape accusation is arguably a far worse crime than rape itself. This is why innocent until proven guilty is so important. For the majority of cases what differentiates ‘rape’ from ‘consensual sex’ is the thoughts inside our heads. And there are so many reasons why a girl might make a false rape accusation. For example, to avoid being labelled a slut. If she is cheating on her boyfriend and is busted etc etc.

    Feminism is so dangerous and destructive because it tells girls dressing and acting in a sexually provocative manner is ’empowering’ (see ‘slut walk’ protests etc), it’s OK to exploit men’s sexual desire (their very physiology) for free drinks, free dinners etc and it’s OK to get hideously drunk at parties, make out with men in a drunken stupor and generally act without taking any responsibility for your own safety. According to feminism these things are OK because it is MEN’S responsibility to protect women and treat them like little princesses.

    So feminist girls get drunk, get horny, get attention, enjoy being attractive, enjoy manipulating men, enjoy making out with men and eventually have drunken sex with some guy before passing out. The next day she wakes up and regrets everything – as does the guy no doubt! But rather than blame herself and make a promise to not get so dunk next weekend she saves face by claiming rape. The moment she does this the wheels are set in motion and she really has no choice but the stick to the accusation. Fellow feminists will encourage her to ‘get him’ and they will ask her if she actually consented verbally to the sex. She will tell the truth and say “no I did not verbally consent to sex” (99% of consensual sex is initiated non verbally). They will ask her if she was in two minds before and during the sexual act and she will reply “yes, at times during intercourse I felt like I did not want to be having sex” (again this is perfectly natural).

    The poor guy will have his life ruined and perhaps even suffer repeated rapes by prison inmates and all because feminism has taught girls to take no personal responsibility for their behaviour.

    Just about any act of sex (especially when you are young, single and mostly drunk) can be defined as rape IF we cherry pick certain facts and emphasise certain feelings we had. This trivialises genuine acts of rape and causes so much confusion and mistrust it puts both women and men at risk. Rape is a serious crime and feminism’s ‘rape culture’ (TM) causes more harm than good.

    By contrast many people (and many feminists) still claim men – and even boys – are incapable of being raped. The truth is men are raped almost as frequently as women. Domestic abuse victims are also split about 50/50 between men and women. Where are the male shelters for domestic abuse and rape victims?

    Men are also far more likely to be assaulted violently in public too, statistically speaking. Yet virtually all of society’s concerns and resources are directed towards protecting women.

    Men are killed at work at a rate 20 times higher than women. Once again, nobody cares.

    Men, on the other hand, enjoy the privilege of their gender, not just when they are perpetrators of crime but otherwise too.

    Not true when you actually study the facts. Male privilege is at best a gross over simplification of reality. For example….. according to feminism men were privileged for being able to go to work while women stayed in the home. And yet until very recently most jobs outside the home were gruelling, dangerous and life threatening manual labour jobs. Had men surrendered their ‘privilege’ and ‘allowed’ women to go down the mines, plough the fields, work in the shipyards or fish the open seas while they stayed at home looking after the kids how many women do you think would have leapt for joy, grabbed their boots and hard hats and rushed out of the front door to merrily do those jobs?

    Women only chose to enter the workforce AFTER the workplace became a largely safe, comfortable, indoor, centrally heated environment. Before that time women CHOSE to stay at home and have men do all the hard graft.

    Feminism’s ‘patriarchy theory’ makes no sense whatsoever when looked at rationally. Feminists has just beaten your mind into submission with their endless sales pitch and now that you have been trained to view men as privileged and women as victims you are willing to put the needs and wants of women (or at least feminist women) above everybody else’s. That is the main goal of feminism.

    For men feminism is a male power fantasy because it defines men as all powerful and women as weak, vulnerable, inept victims who have no more agency than children or even objects. Once feminism has defined men as all powerful and dominant it then offers men a chance to redeem themselves and re-gain a sense of belonging in society by sacrificing their imaginary ‘privilege and power’ on the alter of feminism ie devoting themselves to serving women’s needs and wants.

  3. The reply above can be a post by itself. I congratulate the person above for posting such a lengthy comment devoid of any logic. It is indeed remarkable.

    On another note, the blog post is good. I particularly liked the quote by Chimamanda Adichie.

  4. Okay. Three reasons I like the post: 1.Your clarity on feminism. 2. you are/were reading Roxane Gay 3. The IV 🙂
    Coming back to the post, your point about acknowleding the ‘privileged gender’ is self contradictory. The notion of privilege itself is skewed in terms of gender, be it any.

  5. “Who wouldn’t want that?”
    Well, mostly feminists who never cared to either acknowledge or fight conscription, feminists who demanded quotas in glamorous careers but not on dangerous or denigrating ones, and feminists who think they have the right to have their sex lives funded by everyone but themselves, but find it offensive when private organizations fund pro-life initiatives with their own money.

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