With a bestselling book and a new site, Roxane Gay is a welcome threat to mainstream feminist sensibilities
Roxane Gay is on the verge of being our next feminist icon. Bad Feminist spent a month on the New York Times Best Sellers List. She is the subject of interviews and profiles in all the big media outlets at home and abroad. In addition to the regular bookstore circuit, she’s the new darling of the Women’s Studies academy with invitations to speak at colleges and universities around the country. Her fan base is deep and wide. This week Gay launches The Butter, her own companion site to Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg’s The Toast, where Gay will edit a mix of cultural essays, advice, and, judging by Cliffe and Ortberg’s precedent, whatever she wants to publish. As everyone who is paying attention has noted, she excels at fiction and sharp cultural critiques and is very good at being a bad feminist. She also sort of sucks at being A BLACK ♀.
In life, on television, and in the movies A BLACK ♀ is sassy, fierce, appropriately tragic and/or hilarious (ain’t nobody got time for that). She is angry (always), and strong. A BLACK ♀ means Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Olivia Pope, Angela Davis, and, now, Professor Annalise Keating, J.D. There are exceptions, like Issa Rae’s “Awkward Black Girl” and Jean Gray’s sharp, surreal “Life with Jeannie.” which, like all of the more nuanced representations and representing of black womanhood these days, can be found on the Internet. We might be quirky from time to time (think Denise Huxtable or Monica Wright), but we’re never pathetic, at least not in public or in the public imagination. We don’t get to do neurotic. We are not manic-pixie dream girls.