Conflating criticism with hate is dangerous. Criticism is how we encourage growth and positive change, while shame and hatred serve to stifle both. Late last week, I had the misfortune of learning who Sarah Dessen is. One of her tweets was
Even though we share some common lines, I don’t know what it is to live in Roxane Gay’s body.Roxane Gay had weight loss surgery (WLS) and I have many opinions and feelings about that but it is also none of my goddamn business what Roxane Gay does to Roxane Gay’s body. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. Gay has been one of the most visibly fat women of color working today. She has written a number of articles, books, and even comics. She has spoken passionately for fat activism, her book, “Hunger”, was about her struggles with food, trauma, and her own body. Her work has struck a chord with many fat feminists who found solace and strength in her words, myself included, but none of that gives me any room or right to tell her what she can and can’t do with her body. She outlines why she made this choice in her piece, “What Fullness Is” for Unruly Bodies. It was not one that she came to easily and she was pondering it off and on for a number of years before finally going through with the process. And it comes to this: She lived under multiple marginalizations for her entire life when, given a choice to be able to opt out of one, to give herself a break from the constant abuse of the world, she did. I’m a visible, fat, Black woman. I’m smaller than Gay which affords me more privilege than her in navigating this world, but I still get the abuse, the constant messages that should hate myself for my fatness, my Blackness. It is exhausting to always be in a position where you feel you have to prove you are worthy of just existing.
The labor of black women is still being usurped without proper credit, and certainly without any reward.The “Black Panther” movie is slated to be the biggest thing in Black America since Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Never before have there been so much blackness in a blockbuster film, a major comic universe film no less. The preview this week is getting rave reviews. Ryan Coogler and Marvel have a hit on their hands. Which makes it baffling as to why a black woman who was pivotal to introducing the world to the story world beyond the main character was not invited to the preview of the movie. Actually, it’s not baffling. The act is disappointing. It is just more proof of how the labor of black women is valued much more than the woman herself. https://twitter.com/rgay/status/958183880950923265 https://twitter.com/BonjourEve/status/958216064009166848 Roxane Gay wrote the "Black Panther" spin-off, “World of Wakanda”, a series about the army which backs Black Panther and secures the nation he governs. Gay turned the series into the first black female LGBT comic, complete with a romance amongst the characters. She did so without compromising the group’s bad-ass quotient, making the action-packed comic a huge breakthrough for intersectionality in the MCU. Marvel cut the comic mid-2017, citing low sales. This is despite the growing interest in the Black Panther film that will release in less than a year and a lackadaisical advertising budget for the comic from its onset. The comic debuted with more than 57,000 copies sold but was down to around 14,000 six months later in April of 2017. Instead of letting the franchise ride on the growing interest in the upcoming film, Marvel pulled the book. Gay’s skilled writing had made its mark, however. Her books took readers into the world of the all-women army, Dora Milaje, and their skilled security of the nation that the Black Panther originated from. Her comics opened the franchise to BIPOC in ways that the Black Panther comics never could — centering black women in the protector roles we often end up shouldering in the real world. It was also a story that showcased a same-sex romance in a militaristic setting without being too “preachy” about the social implications — something Marvel comics is still notorious for. Their superheroes are well-known for tackling social problems but in the manner of the after school specials that the networks peddled in the 80s.
Despite a society hellbent on silencing their stories, there will always be nasty women, fragile women, slutty women…difficult women.Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women” went to print at a time when the United States was putting its first female Presidential nominee against its most vehemently and openly misogynistic candidate in this century. To beat that female nominee, the misogynist would use labels: “liar,” “criminal,” “traitor,” and more. The label that would later unite women across the US against him, however, would be “nasty woman.” He would follow up with “lying woman,” “frigid woman,” “man-eating woman,” and “crazy woman” before the end of the election. These labels are the very root of Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women”, a book about feminine labels, create at a time when the leader of the free world tried so hard to reduce women to labels, and the women found the strength to push them back. In fact, 2017 could be called the “Year of the Difficult Woman”. From the indictment of white women for electing Trump the black women who saved Alabama from itself, the pink pussy-hatted woman, silenced and disrespected women of Congress, as well as the most prominent difficult women, those of the #MeToo movement. The year was all about women marching, speaking up and speaking out against the sexual harassment that men once thought was their birthright. It was as if the Universe had read Gay’s work and decided to have it acted out in a single year. In 21 stories and 256 pages, Gay explores the labels given to women in today’s society when that woman becomes something other than compliant. She takes the label, distorts it with the image of the woman carrying it. That distortion reduces the woman to a character that is still human, but now she is her label but is more palatable to a reader who has been conditioned to NOT see past the label. By the end of the story, the reader has no choice but to see the strength and power that underlies every woman as she struggles under the auspices of the label. The reader must empathize with her or simply gather an understanding and move on. This is how each woman fared in the 21 stories.