Bad Feminist Themes

  • Feminism is the central theme of Bad Feminist. As Roxane Gay notes, feminism is a loaded word that is often misunderstood by the general public. For Gay, feminism is simply the belief that women deserve to be treated as equals rather than second-class citizens. A "bad feminist" is someone who doesn't fit the mold of a typical feminist. Gay, for instance, likes pink and listens to thug rap but is still a feminist.
  • Gay devotes the section "Race & Entertainment" to discussions of race, racism, and the way African Americans are depicted in popular culture. She notes with disappointment that black performers are often reduced to playing maids and slaves in mainstream films. She hopes that in the future more black artists will be able to make art that explores the full range of the African American experience.
  • Many of the essays in this collection function as pieces of cultural criticism. Gay's interests are incredibly diverse, and she writes about a wide variety of pop culture artifacts, including The Help, Gone Girl, and the Sweet Valley High books. Gay uses these pieces of pop culture as jumping off points to discuss larger themes of race, gender, and politics.



Feminism is the central theme of Bad Feminist. It is the lens through which Gay critiques everything: television shows like Girls, films like 12 Years a Slave, and books like Play It as It Lays. Feminism, Gay writes, is a complicated word laden with social misconceptions. Many people believe feminists are man-hating, bra-burning, unmarried women who just want to be contrarian. Gay herself thinks a feminist is simply a woman who wants equal rights; but there are many different kinds of feminism, and these various factions often come into conflict. Some feminist groups believe that women must be physically attractive, for instance. Others focus more on achieving economic equality for women. Intersectional feminism, meanwhile, attempts to incorporate issues of race and class into feminism's core ideals. Gay would likely be considered an intersectional feminist if she hadn't created the label "bad feminist." In her opinion, a bad feminist is someone who doesn't always fit the traditional mold of a feminist. Gay is a bad feminist because she likes pink. She listens to thug rap. She's human and, in her own words, "messy." She's not trying to be a role model; and yet, by publishing Bad Feminist

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