In July of 2013, Roxane Gay wrote “ What men want, America delivers,” on Salon.com. I had my first introduction to the essay while trudging on my treadmill as part of my dogged determination to be fit enough to join my brother for nearly a month on the Appalachian Trail this coming March.
To say I am becoming a Gay “fangirl” is putting it lightly.
In her 2014 book Bad Feminist, I find myself humming the lyrics “strummin’ my pain with her fingers, singing my life with her words…” as over and over again, Gay articulates the very ideas that I have never been able to put into words.
I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m slow in coming to read feminist writing. The careful line of “one of the boys” and “Stayin’ Alive,” tiptoed by all women in the military made my interest in these things nothing short of a null set. It’s really too bad I waited so long.
One moment where Gay expresses an idea I’ve had, on a different topic, is when in the course of critiquing the “sometimes no means yes” content of Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines,” she admits, “In truth, I like these songs. They make me want to dance. I want to sing along. They are delightful pop confections. But. I enjoy the songs the way I have to enjoy most music—I have to forget I am a sentient being. I have to lighten up.” She admitted to liking the song she is critiquing. What a revelation! I feel the same way.
She goes on to dispel the need to lighten up, but the problems with the lyrics don’t change her pleasure in the dance-inducing music. In another essay (The Trouble With Prince Charming or He Who Trespassed Against Us), she admits enjoying the terrible prose found in E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Gray. It makes her laugh, even when the content sometimes angers her.
Perhaps these observations are what I’ve loved most about reading Gay, and I can’t wait to dive into her memoir Hunger. F. Scott Fitzgerald has been quoted as saying, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” My life feels like one big narrative full of this cognitive dissonance.
I love the Outlander series, most young adult dystopian novels, and some really cheesy country music. How can I feel this way and try to pursue meaningful writing and a serious life of the mind? Roxane Gay is showing me the way.
I’m giving my own life a hard look as I’m trying to sort out how best to write my life story. It took me 49 years of being a girl and a woman before I picked up a book like Bad Feminist, which I honestly chose for the title that seemed to describe me.
I love Gay’s bold and passionate voice whose relevance hasn’t changed even years after the shorter pieces that make up the book were published. Seeing the world through her eyes is giving me a new lens for my own experience.
I am unabashedly Gay’s “fangirl.”