Expanding Views of Feminism & Embracing Contradictions // Sarah Conlin, BA
“Like most people, I am full of contradictions […]. I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
-Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist essays have inspired me over the past year to re-think both my views on feminism and my own self-criticism. I have often felt like a Bad Feminist – not knowing enough, reading enough, doing enough, or doing things in the “right” way. Roxane Gay’s book has helped reaffirm for me that there is no right way. Instead, Gay argues that to reach the kind of inclusive, productive feminism that we strive for we can embrace contradictions. Rather than criticizing ourselves and others for not matching up to our view of an ideal feminist, she argues that we can accomplish more for gender equality by accepting that no one is perfect and thus, getting comfortable with paradox. In doing so, we embrace the existence of multiple feminisms – as Gay states: “Feminism can be pluralistic so long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us, so long as we […] try to minimize the fractures among us”.
Gay’s message is especially important to me when considering ways to promote feminism and increase feminist self-identification. I have often had conversations with friends and acquaintances who believe in the tenets of feminism but who do not self-label as feminist. One of the common reasons I have received for this discrepancy is that they feel like Bad Feminists. They do not know enough. Their behaviors do not always match up. They are not active enough for the cause. All of these factors seem to contribute to a sense of unworthiness in embracing the feminist label.
My goal is to challenge these responses. With Gay’s message in mind, among many others (including bell hooks famous work Feminism is for Everybody), I hope to continue to work toward an expansion of this feminist framework – one that embraces contradictions, respects differing views, and uses acceptance to create positive change.
Written by: Sarah Conlin, B.A.