The other morning, I wrote what felt like a scathing review of Roxane Gay’s essay “Reaching for Catharsis: Getting Fat Right (or Wrong) and Diana Spechler’s Skinny“. Scathing because I have an incredible amount of disdain for heavy and negative criticisms. I feel ambivalent towards this book. At times, I laughed joyously at Gay’s account of her Scrabble experiences, at others I was infuriated by her harsh judgments, her criticisms, and her incessant verbal attacks on individuals she perceived as not having the “right experience” to understand her plights.
Although, when I completed the final two chapters last evening, I had the very typical warm and fuzzy reading you get once a book arrives at its culmination. I had the opportunity to listen to Roxane Gay speak about this book prior to its release, in the fall of 2013. It was at our Alma Mater, Michigan Technological University. I had forgotten until last night, that she had read an excerpt from this book. I had forgotten how her words made me feel that night. When I began reading the final chapter, I was slammed into ground – at the location, of the very night I heard her speak and all the memories came crashing down at me. I remember exactly what the weather was like, I remember how I was mad at my significant other before I arrived to her speaking, I remember my text messages, and I can remember the very vivid details of what occurred afterward.
I re-read these chapters with alacrity.
I admire Roxane Gay for many reasons. Her writing is absolutely beautiful, as noted in my previous entry, the words she writes form the image of a ribbon baton in my mind. I aspire to write with as much passion and determination as she does. Mostly, I believe Roxane and this book made such a warm and touching impression on me because by the last two chapters she finally opened up to us, the readers, and provided us with a modicum of insight as to who she is. You can readily understand her opinions and official stances on major issues throughout her essays, but these final two were just different. Her guard was down, her words were soft, and her defenses lifted.
As much as I adore, yes adore, the final two chapters… many of her essays were not for me. I anticipate and know what her criticisms of the line “not for me” would entail. Probably some repudiation because I am a white woman. In spite of this, I enjoyed reading this book, and would definitely recommend it to others. It did spark within me, a return to the personal questions I have with feminism. How I can accurately describe myself as a feminist without reluctance? Do I want to be a feminist? Am I a feminist? Am I passionate enough to be a feminist? Am I a feminist if I want my boyfriend to take care of me? If I want to be a stay at home mother (even for just a little bit)? Am I a true feminist if my boyfriend is conservative and comes from a country with a conservative culture? I guess, now that I’m a older, I like to think of feminism as supporting women. If I think of it with such excessive banality, the whole concept becomes clear to me. Support people. Support and care for each individual. Ultimately, be kind and have empathy, treat people fairly. I suppose this is my current take on feminism. I am sure this will change in the years to come, perhaps even months, but like she says, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”