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“Bad Feminist”: A Summary

By Madison Stech | Academic Summary

In her 2012 article “Bad Feminist,” published by VQR, Roxane Gay suggests that many of the tensions and negative connotations that accompany the term feminism can be attributed to a damaging, socially-constructed concept deemed essential feminism. Gay, an American essayist and commentator, describes essential feminism as “the notion that there are right and wrong ways to be a feminist,” leaving those who do not live up to societal expectations feeling unfit or inadequate to identify themselves as such (pg. 1).

In her article, Gay confronts the reductive—not to mention counterintuitive—nature of essential feminism and the exclusive stereotypes it produces, while addressing her own reservations towards embracing feminism itself. One of the reasons Gay gives for resisting the notion of essential feminism is its tendency to overlook issues involving race. As a woman of color, Gay criticizes essential feminism for not being more receptive of racial difference (pg. 5). Gay repeatedly insists that feminism needs to become more receptive and welcoming of all types of women for it to flourish and become as powerful as intended. While she nonetheless considers herself a feminist, Roxane Gay confesses to numerous actions and beliefs that directly violate the chaste societal expectations of feminism. Subscriber of Vogue, frequent patron of mechanics, lover of dresses, babies, and all things pink—Roxane Gay addresses her feeling of inadequacy and unwillingness to sacrifice unique individual interests and sense of self by proclaiming herself a “bad feminist” (pg. 7). In this manner, Gay embraces and identifies with an alternative to essential feminism that is inclusive. Committed to an intersectional mission that is both inclusive and intimate, Gay concludes that “bad feminism seems like the only way I can embrace myself as a feminist and be myself” (pg. 11).

Works Cited

Gay, Roxane. “Bad Feminist.” VQR Online, 22 Sept. 2012,