The F Word: Roxane Gay on Sexual & Gender Politics
Presented by: The Wheeler Centre
Hosted By: Maxine Beneba Clarke
Location: Melbourne City Conference Centre
Date: March 5th, 2015
In 2012 we started our blog as a way to record our original bookish road trip to Sydney. Since then, we have branched out and toured more YA books, participated regularly in a weekly bookish meme and even written a few book reviews each. This year we wanted to expand our horizons a bit further and finally get to attending some bookish events.
To start off 2015, we attended the first session in “The F Word”, a series about contemporary feminism run by The Wheeler Centre. Now, I must admit that neither Rachel nor I have actually read anything by Roxane Gay (except her tweets, which are hilarious) and I personally had no idea what the session was about and wasn’t sure I would understand what was going on. Fortunately, it wasn’t imperative to have read Roxane’s books and I didn’t feel like an imposter not having read them. It really felt like being there to learn and laugh was enough to be accepted. Gosh I love literary people, they are so inclusive!
As an ex-Social Science student I have to say that this was simultaneously the funniest and most informative discussion about feminism that I have ever participated in (and I’ve participated in my fair share). The session started off with Roxane filming the crowd and then proclaiming ‘yea-ah’ and the laughs didn’t stop from that point forward. Some of my personal highlights from the evening were when Roxane described ‘The Help’ as ‘a fucking mess’ and proclaimed that you can’t call yourself a feminist and refuse to be a feminist for all kinds of women (when discussing transgender individuals).
But the thing that resonated with me the most didn’t actually have anything at all to do with feminism, it had to do with social media. I don’t know if this makes me shallow or uneducated or whatever, but my highlight doesn’t even have to do with Roxane’s discussion about how social media can provide people with news and information in a new and accessible way (which is a totally valid point, mind you). No, my highlight was when Roxane admitted that she is a shy person and hates ‘small talk and all that nonsense’ and finds it easier to communicate and socialise with people over the internet. Dre, can I get a hell yeah? That made me feel good about myself, because if someone as bad-ass as Roxane Gay preferences internet friendships over face-to-face interactions then maybe there is hope for me yet.
Oh…and one last thing; Roxane Gay can swear like a motherfucking champion.
I just wanted to add that when Roxane started talking about The Help, I was uncertain as to what she meant by it being ‘a fucking mess’. And as she continued to talk about it, and explain the way it was problematic, I felt upset. Upset that I read The Help and really liked it, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Something unfortunate that I’ve come to realise about myself is that I’m so ignorant to certain issues that affect us on a daily basis, and I don’t want to be. I don’t want to go through life being of the mindset that everything’s fine and we don’t need to be constantly pushing for something more, something better. And I guess that’s what I really enjoyed about this session. That I was able to sit there and listen to Roxane and Maxine talk about feminism and finally feel like I am starting to understand (this is a shameful thing to admit to at the age of 24, but there you go).
Two other things:
1. Shout out to the audience member in high school who came up to ask about how she could make her feminism club more inclusive. That’s fucking awesome.
2. I really need to get better at book signings. I get so damn starstruck and forget to act like a normal human being. Fair enough that I felt that I couldn’t talk to her about her book, cos I haven’t read it, but asking where else in Australia she was visiting? You’re a dickhead Rachel.
Here is the link to the session: