01 September 2014

One-Star Revue: Roxane Gay, BAD FEMINIST

Roxane Gay's essay collection BAD FEMINIST will probably end up on my best-of-the-year list this year. I follow Gay on Twitter and, not surprisingly, like other women I follow who write about issues touching women, people say the most egregious garbage to her. This is hardly groundbreaking news but the strength of it makes me depressed.

Take Amazon, for instance. The lowly product review was invented as a buyer's service to other buyers: Do or don't do what I did! The product review has steered me away from many consumer products in the past (my favorite is for clothes, because clothing copy is notoriously fluffy in its lack of description). It also lends a platform to express closely held beliefs beyond the pages of the book, especially when the book contains any political matter. It's like the letters section of your newspaper, turbocharged.

It's worth considering whether the form of the anonymous content is not long for this Internet. Just kidding, of course most of us can handle it, and some people evidently can't. Last year Popular Science announced it would shut off comments entirely due to (of course) research showing such online debates negatively influenced how people viewed the science discussed, describing a "decades-long war of expertise" that has led to absurdities like (and this is my example, not theirs) Jenny McCarthy speaking as a physician on autism. In August the editors of the women's blog Jezebel.com wrote an open post to their parent company Gawker Media begging them to change the structure of anonymous comments, due to an overwhelming volume of anon. accounts depositing porn and other upsetting images in comments sections. How much time should be spent regulating online comments and reviews before it can be concluded that there's no saving them?

For now the Amazon review stays, which is great because we can examine the perspectives of people who didn't agree with me and/or are just wrong on Gay's book. But for the first time since starting this survey, I didn't have that much to choose from; there aren't too many reviews of BAD FEMINIST on Amazon, but the ones that are there are overwhelmingly positive. Granted, a well-articulated negative review can be a great provoker of thoughts, but as this series has shown, the one-star reviews on Amazon are normally not examples of that. So I dipped into Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon so it's not honestly cheating) to borrow 2: 
  • ""Bad Feminist" Or The Secret Life of the Remainder Shelf Where Dust Mites Prevail Over All Things Paper" This review is signed "God" because if you write it, it's true.
  • "It was pure nagging"
  • "She spends half the book talking about movies, books, and articles she likes or dislikes." Yup, that's how criticism works. 
  • "Instead of focusing on real events in life, she was obsessed with TV, the book wasn't even about feminism." Sigh

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