• Jennifer Baumgardner: Last question, what are you excited about?
  • Roxane Gay: I'm really excited about feminism, I mean look at this room! (Applause) ...and Beyoncé.
Publishers are like, ‘We don’t know who your market is, we don’t know who we’d sell your book to,’ and I’m like, ‘What do you mean? Like… People with reading skills?’
— Roxane Gay, talking about writers of color at the “This Woman’s Work” panel at the 2014 Brooklyn Book Festival (via yeahwriters)


Books discussed (good and bad) in Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist

-Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler
-Green Girl by Kate Zambreno
-Sweet Valley High series and Sweet Valley High Confidential by Francine Pascal

-The Laugh of Medusa by Helen Cixous
-Play it as…

What You Cannot See

There are few things more humiliating than shopping for clothes as an overweight woman. We hear the statistics about how obesity is a major problem in the United States and still, there are a handful of stores where we can buy clothes. At most of those stores, the clothes are hideous and if you are under fifty, the hideousness increases by a factor of ten. 

I hate clothes shopping and have for years because I know I’m not going to find anything I actually want to wear. I don’t like patterns. I don’t like appliqué. I don’t like bright colors. Fat girl clothes designers never got this memo. 

I have many dreams about the clothes I would like to wear—maxi dresses, tailored slacks, sexy camisoles, whatever. I lack the courage to wear such things. Jeans and dark shirts it is. 

Today I went to a clothing store. I wanted to find a few nice things to wear for someone I want to look nice for when I see them soon. I am caring about my appearance. I am caring about myself, maybe. This is new and I think I like it. It’s embarrassing. Nothing makes sense anymore.  I am blushing. 

I was at this store, looking for things when a young woman came out of the dressing room crying. I won’t get into the details of it because it’s her story but she was so upset and her mother was treating her in quite a humiliating manner and I wanted to sob right there in the store because I am not having the best day and it was just too much to see such a familiar and painful scene. 

I’ve been that girl, too big for the clothes in the store, just trying to find something, anything that fits, while also dealing with the commentary of someone else who means well but can’t help but make pointed, insensitive comments. I cannot even get into the details. It’s too much.

I hate shopping.  

People try all manner of tactics to make us lose weight—tips and “help”, diet and exercise advice, nagging, harassment, shaming. There is this idea that if you shame a fat person enough, you will somehow move them to discipline their body. That is not how it works. What you see is the fat. What you cannot see is so far beyond what you can understand. 

I am not a hugger but I wanted to wrap my arms around this girl. I wanted to protect her from this world that is so unbelievably cruel to overweight people. There was nothing I could really do because I know this world. I live in it too. There’s no shelter or safety or escape from the cruel stares and comments, the too-small seats, the too small everything for your too big body.

But I followed her to the dressing room and I told her she was beautiful. And she was indeed beautiful.  She nodded and tears were streaming down her face. We both went on with our shopping. I wanted to tear her mother’s face off. I wanted to call my person and hear a kind voice. I wanted something to pull me out of the spiral of self-loathing I felt myself tumbling into. I wanted to burn the store down. I wanted to scream. 

When the young woman left the store, she was still crying. I cannot stop picturing her face, that look in her eyes that I know too well, how she was trying to fold in on herself in a body that was so visible. She was trying to disappear and she couldn’t. It is unbearable to want something so little and so much. 

Nearly every day, a friend or acquaintance tags me on Facebook, asking me to share a list of 10 books that have influenced me. Nearly every day, I read such lists from the same circle of friends and acquaintances. I understand the tidy pleasures provided by such an exercise, but in truth, I am not merely influenced by books. I could not limit a list of important books to a number or a neatly organized list. The list, whatever it might look like, would always be changing because I too am always changing. I am not influenced by books. Instead, I am shaped by them. I am made of flesh and bone and blood. I am also made of books.
— Read the rest of this essay The Books That Made Me Who I Am

The Rhetorical Questions of Ina Garten: An Incomplete List

How bad could that be?

How fun is that?

How’s that for easy?

How good does that look?

How good does this look?

Who could turn that down?

Isn’t that great?

Who wouldn’t want that for their birthday?

Who wouldn’t want that for his birthday?

We need a nice cocktail for breakfast, don’t we?

Who wouldn’t like that for breakfast?

How’s that for a fast sauce?

Who wouldn’t want that for dessert?

Isn’t that fantastic?

Why make regular raspberry sauce when you can make triple raspberry sauce?”

Now, who wouldn’t want that for their birthday?

Now, who wouldn’t want to marry you if you made them this?

Who wouldn’t want to eat that?

How fast is that?

Does that look good?


"[O]ne of the most mesmerizing heroines in recent fiction…." Texas Monthly

"Merritt Tierce’s debut novel, Love Me Back, is a gorgeous, dirty razor of prose—sharp and dangerous and breathtaking." —Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist

"Tierce’s prose possesses the force, bluntness and surprise of a sucker punch. Love Me Back is an unflinching and galvanic novel full of heart and heartache; one of my favorite books of the last few years." —Carrie Brownstein, co-creator of Portlandia


All Our Sad Stories

My first relationship was my worst relationship. I was desperately young. My first relationship was with the boy who turned me into the girl in the woods. He was a good boy from a good family living in a good neighborhood but he hurt me in the worst ways. People are rarely what they seem. The more I got to know him, the more I realized that he was always showing who he really was and the people in his life either saw through him or closed their eyes. After that boy and his friends raped me, I was broken. I did not stop letting him do things to me and that remains one of my greatest shames.  I wish I knew why. Or I know why. I was dead, so nothing mattered. 

Since then I’ve had many other relationships and none nearly that bad but the damage was done. My course was set. And it’s a shame that the measure is what is not so bad instead of what is thriving and good. I look at some of my worst relationships and think, “at least he or she didn’t hit me.” I work from a place of gratitude for the bare minimum. I’ve never been in a relationship where I’ve had to hide nonconsensual bruises. I’ve never feared for my life. I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t walk away. Does this make me a lucky girl? Given the stories I’ve seen women sharing via the hashtags #whyIstayed and #whyIleft, yes. 

This is not how we should measure luck. 

I have had good relationships but it’s hard to trust that because what I consider good sometimes doesn’t feel very good at all. 

Or I am thinking about testimony and how there has been so much over the past day and some—women sharing their truths, daring to use their voices to say, “This is what happened to me. This is how I have been wronged.” I’ve been thinking about how so much testimony is demanded of women and still, there are those who doubt our stories. There are those who think we are all lucky girls because we are still, they narrowly assume, alive. 

I am weary of all our sad stories—not hearing them, but that we have these stories to tell, that there are so many.

I have been thinking about a specific person who is no longer in my life since yesterday. Our relationship was not good but it was “not that bad.” I have been thinking about how sometimes emotional abuse is even worse than physical abuse. I don’t mind getting knocked around. I don’t say that cavalierly. There are simply some things to which I am numb. This person, though, wanted to break me down, which became interesting because I did not realize I could still be broken down further. Who knew? They did, I guess. They smelled it on me. 

There was nothing dramatic or violent between us. It was simply constant criticism. Nothing I ever did was good enough. I was in my twenties and desperately insecure so I thought this was what all relationships were like. I thought this was what I deserved because I was so worthless.

I couldn’t be taken around this person’s colleagues without a rigorous critique of everything wrong with me that I needed to try and improve. Most of the time, as you might imagine, we were not together in public because I was just not good enough. I never looked nice enough. I talked too loud. I breathed too loud. I slept too loud. I was too warm while I slept. I moved too much while I slept. I basically stopped sleeping. I just hugged as small a sliver of the edge of the bed as I could and I stayed awake so my sleeping wouldn’t be such a nuisance. I was always tired. 

I didn’t wash dishes correctly. There is a right way and a wrong way to wash dishes. I know that now. Don’t get water on the floor. Drain the dish rack. Be careful how you organize the dishes in the dish rack. One of my favorite things to do now is to wash dishes any old way. I spill water on the floor and I smile at it because these are my fucking floors and these are my dishes and NO ONE CARES IF THERE IS WATER ON THE FLOOR.

I didn’t eat food correctly. I ate too fast. I chewed too loudly. I chewed ice too much. I didn’t put things away correctly. I didn’t arrange my shoes by the front door correctly. 

I swung my arms while walking. I would be told these things and then have to try and remember all the things I shouldn’t do so I wouldn’t be so upsetting, by just existing. We would be walking, and I would remember, okay, hold your arms at your side. Do not swing your arms. I would spend all my time just reminding myself, don’t swing your arms. And then I might get distracted and forget and accidentally let my arm move an inch or two and I would hear this exasperated sigh so I would redouble my efforts to make myself less upsetting to this person I loved. DON’T SWING YOUR ARMS, ROXANE. Sometimes, I catch myself trying not to swing my arms even now and I get so angry. I get so fucking angry and I want to swing my arms like a windmill. THESE ARE MY ARMS. THIS IS HOW I WALK. 

One day I went to a department store and got my make up done. I thought I looked pretty. I wanted to look pretty for this person. I bought a bunch of make up so I could be a better girl. I went to their house to surprise them and they looked me up and down and told me what else I could do to be more tolerable to them. I stood there on the front porch, wanting my body to collapse in on itself. I had been so excited, so happy I had made myself pretty and it wasn’t good enough. I certainly didn’t try that again. I went home with all my expensive make up and my pretty face and then I cried that make up off. The make up is in a yellow bag in my closet even now. Sometimes, I take it out and look at it but I don’t dare use it. 

I was never going to be good enough but I tried so hard. I tried to make myself better. I tried to make myself acceptable to someone who would never find me acceptable but kept me around for reasons I cannot begin to make sense of. I stayed because they confirmed every terrible thing I already knew about myself. I stayed because I thought no one else would possibly tolerate someone as worthless as me. I stayed through infidelity and disrespect. I stayed until they no longer wanted me around. I would like to think at some point I would have left but we always want to think the best of ourselves, don’t we?

But I am a lucky girl. I think most of my sad stories are behind me. There are things I will no longer tolerate. Being alone sucks but I would rather be alone than be with someone who makes me feel that terrible. I am realizing  I am not worthless. Knowing that feels good. My sad stories will always be there. I am going to keep telling them even though I hate having the stories to tell. These sad stories will always weigh on me, though that burden lessens the more I realize who I am and what I am worth.

Sometimes, a person with bright shining eyes and warm hands tells me how amazing I am. They tell me  they love me exactly as I am. I can hear the truth of these words in their voice. I believe them. It is the greatest gift and that’s why I fight for it. I allow myself this exquisite pleasure. I am a lucky girl. 

I hate writing about the terrible things that happen to women, or I suppose it is more accurate to say I hate how I feel obligated to write about the terrible things that happen to women. I feel this obligation because terrible things have happened to me and because for too long I stayed silent. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. My silence only amplified these feelings, the self-loathing, the isolation. If speaking about violence against women makes other women feel less alone, I am going to use my voice. And still. I hate writing about the terrible things that happen to women. I hate the inescapable feeling that writing about such issues accomplishes so very little. I hate the exhaustion I feel when I see yet another news story about a woman who has suffered at the hands of a man. I hate the guilt I feel because I am exhausted. Exhaustion is such a luxury.


brokensilence137 asked:

So, I'm a college student on a budget -- not a unique circumstance, I know. Still, as such, my first avenue for reading books is reserving them from the library. About a page into Bad Feminist, I decided that owning your book is something I am willing to splurge for. Thank you for sharing your writing.


That is so flattering to hear. E-mail me your name and address at roxane at roxanegay.com and I will send you a copy of Bad Feminist. Save your money.