I’m just going to plop this here to get something else up onto my poor godforsaken page.
Okay. I feel like everyone knows about Bad Feminist. But, like, did y’all read it? Did you enjoy it? I’m not sure what exactly I was anticipating… insightful feminist essays, maybe? Instead I found a collection of pop culture essays with an eye to feminism and race. I was not really into it. Even feminist/race-aware pop culture essays would have been enjoyable for me if there had been some depth to them. Instead, with each essay I got the feeling that we were just getting comfortable with the subject, were just passing the introductory points, just settling in, when suddenly the essay would be over. Like, there was no exposition. Every subject got the lightest skimming, a few platitudes maybe, and then our attention passed. (Meaning the author’s attention; I was hanging back like, “Wait, whaat? There’s so much to talk about here!”)
This strategy was not saved by stunning prose.
“It makes perfect sense that many of us obsess over our bodies. There is nothing more inescapable. Our bodies moves us [sic] through our lives. They bring pleasure and pain. Sometimes our bodies serve us well, and other times our bodies become terribly inconvenient.”
If you find that to be incisive writing then I would like you to explain why, please. To me it seems insipid.
And she commits the most grievous of sins:
“We are lead to believe”? … “WE ARE LEAD TO BELIEVE”? Is this the new thing, is this English now?? Because I feel like I see it everywhere and nobody cares anymore that THE PAST TENSE OF LEAD (V) IS LED AND NOT LEAD AND I’M ALL FOR THE FLUIDITY OF LANGUAGE AND ALLOWING FOR NEW VOCABULARY AND CONSTRUCTIONS ETCETERA BUT THIS IS NOT OKAY this is a stupid mistake that is not innovative it’s just a MISTAKE, like spelling LOSE like LOOSE, or using DISCRETE for DISCREET, these are SEPARATE TERMS, and everybody’s illiterate and the world’s going to shit and goddamnit if I don’t feel like I need to go angrily suck on a peppermint right now.
However. I will say. I found Roxane Gay’s personal essays (those focusing on her life as a teacher or her history) to be well done and not frustrating at all. She tried this unfortunate David Foster Wallace style (meaning: unnecessary footnotes) with her essay about competitive Scrabble, which wasn’t great, but otherwise her pop culture-less, angry platitude-less essays were likable and probably more instructive or revealing than her agendaed essays.
That said, I will reiterate that woman is not a natural essay writer, so I would discourage myself from reading her stuff in the future if it’s about anything but her personal life. Like, she has an entire essay on “green girls” that, as far as I can recall, doesn’t even go ahead and describe what a “green girl” is. For most of it I thought she meant that a girl in fiction is literally green, and I thought it was a metaphor for something. To be clear, a “green girl” is, per Megan Milks of LARB, “young, fresh, not fully formed.” Apparently it was used to describe Ophelia in Hamlet. So there ya go. She’s not green.