Roxane Gay Speaks at Garrison

By Margarita Moesch ‘19
Staff Writer

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

On Thursday evening, Scripps Presents hosted a conversation between Roxane Gay, essayist, professor, and novelist, and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, critic and essayist.

Gay is known for her book Bad Feminist, a collection of essays about culture, politics, and feminism. She has published essays, short stories, poetry, and a novel; her upcoming memoir, Hunger, focuses on her experience of living in an “undisciplined” body.

Thursday’s talk, “Bad Feminist: A Conversation With Roxane Gay” touched on many current issues, including body positivity, trigger warnings and safe spaces, and the validity of feminism in an often-misogynist culture. Gay is a Haitian woman who grew up--and still lives in--the rural Midwest, and she also discussed the difficulty of having a multifaceted identity in a diverse country that still has difficulty recognizing non-binary identities.

Her views on the topics of safe spaces and trigger warnings were particularly interesting to relate to the current discussion on campus--safe spaces are a topic that is often discussed in relation to race and racial identity. Trigger warnings, especially on college campuses, are often portrayed as “coddling” students, but are also said to help students suffering from PTSD and the aftermath of other traumatic experiences. Gay expressed the view that while it is important to be respectful of what others have been through, censoring topics such as eating disorders and rape can discourage invaluable discussions that can be the catalyst for personal growth. She says she believes in safe spaces, however, as it is important to have spaces where people are able to share their experiences without fear of having their identities disrespected or repressed.

A moment of the night that drew significant applause was Gay’s proclamation that it is not our responsibility as feminist to explain or justify feminism to anyone. Being a feminist does not come with a job description; we are not required to explain the concept of feminism, or correct people who accuse us of being man-hating bra burners.
Source for quote: Harper Collins