I started following writer Roxane Gay’s blog a few months ago and was hooked. It successfully combines all of my favorite things; pictures and descriptions of Gay cooking a delicious recipe in each post, plus good writing, plus some serious analysis of racial and gender issues, current news, and Lena Dunham. Gay published her first novel, an Untamed State, earlier this year, along with a collection of essays titled Bad Feminist, which is now a New York Times Bestseller.
Bad Feminist is critical and current. I felt like Gay was saying so many of the thing that I’ve wanted to say myself, but couldn’t quite find the words. For instance, she says in the Introduction, “I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human.” Gay addresses one of the many problems with feminism today; how can we identify as feminist while also believing and doing things that are not perceived as feminist things to do? What about just being yourself?
This book is as much about defining feminism as it is about race, class, popular culture, and self-hood. Gay writes about The Hunger Games and Orange is the New Black alongside Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, the dismal political dance around rape (former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s idea of “legitimate rape” comes to mind), and her experiences as an African American in overwhelmingly white academia. Gay looks at the world critically and asks her readers to do the same.
Which brings me to my next reading material about keeping a critical eye on the status-quo.
For all of you out there who (like me) watch bad TV, polygamy is not Sister Wives. I was struck by how similar practicing polygamy
in this country is to being gay. Both are considered sexually deviant by many groups and people who are gay or polygamist are pressured to conform. The idea that there is a choice to be monogamous or polygamist, or that some people are polygamist and cannot conform to the monogamous status-quo, simply never occurred to me.
Over the summer, a friend (more like two or three friends) recommended a book called The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polygamy, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. Both writers have been therapists for decades, meaning their knowledge about human need and relationships is extensive, to say the least. My first reaction was, predictably, I am not interested in polygamy. But, like everyone told me, this book has something to offer (almost) everyone.
Relationships are complicated, but at the end of the day, you are responsible for communicating and fulfilling your own needs. You can’t expect your partner or your friend or that special someone you just texted to guess what’s bothering
you. Amid all the gush about the twenty-something hookup culture, The Ethical Slut stands out as a serious analysis of what it means to live a polygamous lifestyle that is responsible and loving. No, this book won’t psychoanalyze you, but it will prompt some useful self-reflection.