Feminist writer Roxane Gay: Be yourself, accept your flaws

By Seanne Coates
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

Popular feminist and New York Times writer Roxane Gay wowed a Towson University audience with tales of her struggles with weight after a traumatic gang rape, but stressed that meaningful change only comes when we trust the inner goodness of mankind.

“We’re all human,” Gay told students Thursday, “we’re all flawed and that sometimes we’re going to get it wrong but that most people are well intended, and it’s important to believe that and understand that if we’re ever going to make meaningful change.”

Gay, 42, born to Haitian immigrants in Omaha, Nebraska, is the author of the New York Times best-selling essay collection “Bad Feminist,” as well as “Difficult Women.” Her newest book is “Hunger: A Memoir of my Body,” described as essays that reveal her emotional and psychological struggles with food.

Popular feminist, best-selling author. Photo by Seanne Coates

Popular feminist, best-selling author. Photo by Seanne Coates

Gay, who at her heaviest was 577 pounds, told Towson students about her experiences with her body by reading key excerpts.

“Hunger,” written with humor and wit, prompted Gay to confess her dislike for exercise. She acknowledged that exercise is good for her, but she still can’t shake her hatred for the activity.
At one point during her presentation, Gay said her favorite food show is “Barefoot Contessa,” which is hosted by Ina Garten.

“What I love most about Ina is that she teaches me about fostering a strong sense of self confidence,” Gay read from her book, “she teaches me about being at ease in my body, … she teaches me that a woman can be plump and pleasant and absolutely in love with food.”

Gay said the food show is more than just a show, in much the same way her books are more than just books to her readers. She said her readers view her books as an opening into her world and an avenue where they can finally see themselves in literature, in ways they never were able to before.

Gay teaches English at Purdue University, and is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is a graduate of Phillip Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Michigan Technological University.

Revealing her vulnerabilities in her books, Gay told the story of how she had looked up to a man described as her first crush but soon learned he was the ringleader of a group of boys who gang raped her at 12 years old. This experience shaped her outlook on her own body, she said.

The popular author said she is continuing to grow, learn about herself and advocate for herself through her own books. She said that no one is perfect and there is someone out there that is defying society’s norms.

Gay defies society’s norms through her outspoken attitude and her unapologetic outlook on her body. She stressed that she is still successful regardless of these things and that readers look up to those characteristics as they relate to her authenticity.

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