The F Word
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Roxane Gay’s essay ‘Bad Feminist’ was described by the Guardian as ‘the most persuasive feminist recruitment drive in recent memory’: she argues for embracing the values of feminism, while admitting her own contradictions and imperfections as a feminist.
Her book of the same name – a vibrant, provocative, thoughtful collection of essays that blend pop culture, memoir, and politics – is similarly complex and nuanced. Gay, a creative writing professor, brilliantly blends high and low culture in her work: her essay on The Hunger Games is also a reflection on female strength and surviving trauma, and she eviscerates mainstream American culture’s lingering racism through critiques of films like The Help and Django Unchained. She draws on the personal throughout, but always with a purpose. ‘I’ll show you my bloody guts, but there’s going to be, hopefully, a larger purpose to the writing,’ she says.
The Haitian-American writer has also been a driving force in agitating to raise the profile of writers of colour, conducting a count of the books reviewed by leading publications. And her debut novel, An Untamed State, about a brutal kidnapping in Haiti and its gruelling aftermath, has been hailed as ‘riveting … smart, searing’ by the Washington Post.
Meet one of America’s most engaging new literary voices.
Roxane Gay is the author of the novel An Untamed State, Bad Feminist: Essays and the story collection Ayiti. Her work has also appeared in Glamour, Best American Short Stories, and the New York Times Book Review. She is the co-editor of PANK.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Maxine's short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, the Age, Meanjin, the Saturday Paper and the Big Issue. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the ABIA for Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2015 and the 2015 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writing at the 2015 ABIAs and the 2015 Stella Prize. She was also named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists for 2015.
The official fight for equal representation for women is over a century old. You might think the battle would be won by now, but in 2015, the ‘f’ word is as personally and politically charged as ever. And despite great leaps forward – equal pay (on paper), paid maternity leave, our first female prime minister – we’ve still got a long way to go, baby.
The F Word asks where feminism is at, in culture and society, with a series of events that question our assumptions (Can romance be empowering? How can you be a religious feminist?), and highlight areas for change and inclusion, like disability and science.
We begin the series with ‘Bad Feminist’ Roxane Gay, who argues that feminist values can co-exist with contradictions: nursing a childhood affection for Sweet Valley High and wearing heels that hurt your feet doesn’t weaken your dedication to ending domestic violence.