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In Defense of “Bad” Feminists

A few years ago for a class, I was instructed to write down our number one fear. While the students around me jotted down things such as “not passing classes” and “forgetting to wake up the morning of an exam,” mine was not being a “good” feminist. I’m not sure what I considered a “good” feminist but I knew I didn’t want a bad one.

In 2014, author Roxane Gay wrote a book titled Bad Feminist. In this collection of essays, she explores her version of feminism, while loving things in a society and time that are known to contradict the feminist ideology. At first glance I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the book: why would I read a book about being a “bad” feminist when all I wanted was to be a good one? Through the essays I learned each person takes on the feminist title in different ways. We all believe in the simplicity of the definition, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” but how we move through this life as feminists is going to and needs to be different. Without a range of differences we fail to learn and grow.

Recently, I’ve seen the media criticize openly popular feminists for the way they take on the role. Women such as, Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer often get the wrath of displaying ‘white feminism’ on their shows and in their political actions. I agree. For instance, in Dunham’s Lenny Letter, a weekly online feminist newsletter, she complained about not receiving attention from New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.. There is also, of course, the whole book controversy. Schumer has been accused of stealing jokes. Her parody of Beyoncé’s Formation video rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Their white feminism can often be difficult to stand behind when one feels they aren’t inclusive as individuals. Maybe it was their initial vocalization as feminists that made so many fall in love with them, but they did not sign up to be role models and do not know all the answers about how to destroy the patriarchy. They are messy, they are human, they make mistakes–they are bad feminists.

They do have a long way to go though. As someone who is currently pursuing a minor in Women’s Studies, I’ve learned that that the most important thing we can do is listen to other feminists, share how we feel and learn from one another. Feminism in America is different for women of color. It includes not only gender politics, but also crosses the lines of race, class and ethnicity. For some white feminists it is difficult to understand the importance of the intersecting lines. But to just criticize these women for their privilege is not helpful for anyone. We all believe in the importance of feminism and want to grow as a society of women. I won’t stop being a fan just because they say something alarming. Social media allows for us to engage in conversations with Dunham, Schumer and women alike to be able to voice our opinions with the overall goal of learning.

I’m no longer afraid of not being a “good” feminist because I’ve learned that we are all “bad” feminists. There are no “good” feminists. There are women who have paved the way like Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton. But they too are not perfect and that’s OK because being a “bad” feminist is the perfect opportunity for personal growth.


Photo credits: popsugar.com

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