Bad Feminist
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3.94 / 5

"Bad Feminist" Summary

By Roxane Gay

nonfiction | 320 pages | Published in 2014

Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.Feel me, see me, hear me, reach me --Peculiar benefits --Typical first year professor --To scratch, claw or grope clumsily or frantically --How to be friends with another woman --Girls, girls, girls --I once was Miss America --Garish, glorious spectacles --Not here to make friends --How we all lose --Reaching for catharsis : getting fat right (or wrong) and Diana Spechler's Skinny --The smooth surfaces of idyll --The careless language of sexual violence --What we hunger for --The illusion of safety/the safety of illusion --The spectacle of broken men --A tale of three coming out stories --Beyond the measure of men --Some jokes are funnier than others --Dear young ladies who love Chris Brown --So much they would let him beat them --Blurred lines, indeed --The trouble with Prince Charming, or, He who trespassed against us --The solace of preparing fried foods and other quaint remembrances from 1960s Mississippi : thoughts on The help --Surviving Django --Beyond the struggle narrative --The morality of Tyler Perry --The last day of a young black man --When less is more --The politics of respectability --When Twitter does what journalism cannot --The alienable rights of women --Holding out for a hero --A tale of two profiles --The racism we all carry --Tragedy, call, compassion, response --Bad feminist : take one --Bad feminist : take two


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

"Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay explores the complexities of contemporary feminism and the author's own experiences as a self-proclaimed "bad feminist."


In "Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay, the author presents a collection of essays that discuss various aspects of feminism and the challenges of being a feminist in today's society. Through personal anecdotes, cultural criticism, and insightful commentary, Gay explores the complexities and contradictions of modern feminism, challenging traditional notions of what it means to be a feminist.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

"Bad Feminist" delves into the modern feminist movement and the author's personal experiences as a self-proclaimed "bad feminist." Gay offers a candid and unapologetic examination of the ways in which she, and many women like her, struggle to embody the idealized image of a feminist while also grappling with conflicting desires and societal expectations. The essays cover a wide range of topics, from politics and popular culture to race and gender dynamics, providing a thought-provoking commentary on the state of feminism in contemporary society.

Main Characters

Here are some of the main characters in "Bad Feminist" along with brief descriptions of their roles:

Roxane GayThe author and narrator of the essays, who shares her personal experiences and perspectives.
Various FiguresThroughout the essays, Gay references numerous public figures, authors, and cultural icons.

Story Points and Main Events

Essays Overview

  • Introduction: Gay introduces the concept of being a "bad feminist" and sets the stage for the essays that follow.
  • Gender and Sexuality: The author discusses her experiences as a feminist navigating the complexities of gender, sexuality, and relationships.
  • Politics and Power: Gay provides insightful commentary on the intersection of politics, power dynamics, and feminism in today's society.
  • Race and Representation: The essays examine the portrayal of race and identity in popular culture and the impact on feminist discourse.
  • Media and Pop Culture: Gay delves into the influence of media and popular culture on feminist ideals and societal norms.
  • Personal Reflections: Throughout the collection, the author shares personal reflections on her own journey as a feminist and the challenges she faces.

Main Events

  • Gay's exploration of her own identity as a feminist and the struggles she faces in reconciling her beliefs with societal expectations.
  • Thought-provoking analysis of gender, race, and sexuality in contemporary culture and the impact on feminist movements.
  • Engaging commentary on the role of media and popular culture in shaping feminist narratives and societal norms.

Themes and Insights


  1. Intersectionality: The essays explore the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality, highlighting the importance of recognizing and addressing the complexities of identity within feminist discourse.
  2. Pop Culture and Media: Gay delves into the influence of media and popular culture on feminist ideals, critiquing the portrayal of gender and race in mainstream media.
  3. Personal Agency: The author reflects on personal agency and the challenges of navigating societal expectations while staying true to one's own beliefs and values.


  • The complexities of identity and the need for a more inclusive and intersectional approach to feminism.
  • The pervasive influence of popular culture and media on shaping societal norms and feminist narratives.
  • The importance of personal agency and self-reflection in navigating the challenges of being a feminist in modern society.

Reader's Takeaway

"Bad Feminist" offers readers a thought-provoking and candid exploration of modern feminism, challenging traditional notions of what it means to be a feminist. Through personal anecdotes and insightful commentary, Roxane Gay encourages readers to embrace the complexities of their own beliefs and identities while critically examining the societal expectations placed upon them. The collection serves as a reminder that embracing imperfection and embracing the complexities of feminism is a vital part of the ongoing discourse and evolution of the movement.


In "Bad Feminist," Roxane Gay presents a compelling and unapologetic collection of essays that challenges traditional feminist ideals and explores the complexities of modern feminism. Through personal reflections, cultural criticism, and engaging commentary, Gay offers a candid examination of the challenges faced by women who do not fit the mold of the "perfect" feminist. "Bad Feminist" serves as a call to action, encouraging readers to embrace the imperfections and complexities of feminism while advocating for a more inclusive and intersectional approach to the movement.

Bad Feminist FAQ

  1. What is 'Bad Feminist' about?

    Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay that explores the author's experiences as a feminist and her thoughts on various aspects of popular culture, politics, and society.

  2. What themes are addressed in 'Bad Feminist'?

    The book addresses themes such as gender, race, sexuality, body image, privilege, and the complexities of modern feminism.

  3. Who is the target audience for 'Bad Feminist'?

    The book is suitable for anyone interested in feminist perspectives, social commentary, and personal essays. It appeals to readers interested in exploring the intersection of feminism and popular culture.

  4. What makes 'Bad Feminist' unique?

    Roxane Gay's candid and unapologetic approach to discussing her own contradictions and the contradictions within feminism itself sets 'Bad Feminist' apart. The book offers a refreshing and honest perspective on contemporary feminist discourse.

  5. Is 'Bad Feminist' a memoir or a work of fiction?

    Bad Feminist is a collection of personal essays and cultural commentary, so it can be considered a blend of memoir and non-fiction. It draws from the author's own experiences and observations.