isb(ABE)N IRL Discussion #1: Bad feminist

rules of the game

1.) Your discussion hosts will introduce questions we've compiled, but conversation will be largely led by you and your peers. Contribute to discussion—ask your own questions, share your thoughts on certain segments, explore things you did not fully understand.

2.) There will be a lot of answers! And maybe some you don't agree with. Please remember that this is a discussion—it's OK to not be on the same page. This book explicitly touches on the intersections of privilege and social commentary; do your best to remember your own.

3.) Listen. :)


1.) Let's define the term "bad feminist." What does Roxane Gay write it to be? Is Gay a "bad feminist?" What do we think a "good feminist" would really look like? Is it valuable to distinguish between the two? 

2.) Generally, what did Bad Feminist prompt you to question or explore?

3.) Gay likes a lot of stuff that she describes as problematic, and often mentions that she has to "turn her brain off" to enjoy things like The Hunger Games or Sweet Valley High.What sort of imperative do we have to consume and discuss problematic media? Should we be avoiding it altogether, therefore driving down demand and eventually supply? Or should we approach it from a critical point of view? Or should we, like Gay, do a little of both: Own up to what we like and then dissect the bits of it that aren't okay?

4.) Gay's experience as a Black child of immigrants is a definitive part of her worldview; she makes the argument that oftentimes contemporary "feminism" (colloquially referred to as "white feminism") ignores the intersections of these backgrounds with the fight against sexism. What, from her experiences, are you now applying or not applying to your own practice of feminism? How can feminism as a movement better support all women?

5.) Gay dissects popular media and movies to make broader points about American culture and systemic racism/sexism (particularly when she discusses Django Unchained, Tyler Perry's franchises, 12 Years a Slave and The Help). Did you find this literary agent helpful to better understand covert systems of racism/sexism?

6.) In her essay on tragedy, Gay explores the ways we consume and rank collective grief. She uses the death of Amy Winehouse and the 2011 Norway terrorism attacks as examples. How can we better empathize with each other's grief—no matter how distant we may be from the tragedy itself? Did you agree with Gay's understanding of our societal reactions to tragedy?

7.) In the beginnings of Bad Feminist, Gay unpacks her own privileges. Did her acknowledgment of privilege prompt you to assess your own? And, if so, how do you plan to accept and acknowledge our own levels of privilege and utilize it in ways that support marginalized groups? 

8.) Gay dissects an article in the New York Times about a gang rape in Texas, and she takes particular issues with the writer's sympathy for the men involved in the assault, as opposed to the experience of the young girl. She also points out her distaste for popular icons, i.e. comedians like Daniel Tosh, singers like Chris Brown and Tyler the Creator, famous athletes, etc. for their violent/sexist/ignorant content/behavior. What did you take away from these criticisms about sex, violence and the treatment of women in the media?

9.) On multiple occasions, Gay discusses Judith Butler's theory on the performative aspects of gender. Let's discuss performativity—how much of our identities are performed (or not performed)?