February 7, 2017


Future Black History Month: Roxane Gay Is Mending Feminist Fractures

Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we are honoring Roxane Gay, who is embracing all aspects of her feminism—both good and bad. The novelist, Purdue University English professor and editor is sharing her perspective on what it means to be a human in this new generation.

The writer and Ohama, Neb. native captured major attention with her 2014 collection of essays, Bad Feminist, which explores Gay's journey through womanhood and shines a vulnerable light on all the mistakes she's made along the way. Her bravery is commendable, as she has never been afraid to call herself and others out on their actions when it comes to being a feminist.

Gay, who is bisexual, navigates her way through the constraints of gender, sexuality and race expectations in a way that is both genuine and relatable. She continued her fight for feminism with Difficult Women, released last month, a book of fictional short stories of women leading complex lives. There's a reason why it made our most anticipated books of 2017 list! The author is also prepping the release of her next nonfiction work, titled Hunger, out sometime this year, a memoir about her struggles with body image.

With her work, Gay wants to shift society's mindset on what it means to be a woman in 2017. "Oftentimes the phrase 'difficult women' or 'difficult woman' is a slander. So I wanted to turn it into a positive rather than a negative," she said in a PBS interview. "I wanted to celebrate women that might be labeled differently—whether or not they really are—who have no agency when they are labeled in that way." But as women, we do have our faults. Gay continued to discuss being a real and performative feminist in the midst of the recent U.S. presidential election:

"We’ve even seen major celebrities embracing feminism and talking about it, which I also think is incredible. I think they are a great gateway to feminism. But some people stop at the gateway, and just say 'Oh, I’m a feminist,' and just decide feminism is anything related to women. Like: 'Oh, a woman has a job, oh, well she’s a feminist.' And it’s deeper than that, it’s richer than that, and we don’t talk about that a lot. So I think a lot of what happened on Nov. 8 was this confluence of all of these people who didn’t realize what feminism actually was. They were thinking they could vote for Donald Trump and that somehow women’s rights would be okay, and that somehow they were making an independent choice by going against the grain of 'what you were supposed to do.' So I think a fracture was revealed. And a lot of people, myself included, were very surprised that 53 percent of white women would vote for Donald Trump. It’s not even about conservative vs. liberal. It’s: Have you met him? Have you seen this man and what he stands for, which is nothing? And so how do we reconcile that with this idea that we were making strides for women?…We don’t necessarily. So that’s very difficult."

Along with being a novelist, Gay is venturing into the comic book world. It was announced in November that she and Yona Harvey (University of Pittsburgh professor and author of the poetry collection Hemming the Water) will be the writers of Marvel's new comic World of Wakanda. The two ladies became the first black female authors for the publishing company, which means there will be even more historic moments in the future.

We're celebrating Future Black History all month long! Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos and more. Find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.