Roxane Gay at Brown University

On February 14, 2017, Purdue University professor and author of Bad Feminist (2014), Difficult Women (2017), and Hunger (forthcoming 2017), Roxane Gay, spoke at Brown University on post-election action, feminism, and The Bachelor.

  1. .@rgay: Did you guys see that there's going to be the 1st bachelorette?
  2. .@rgay: me and all my friends have been saying "run away rachel! Save yourself!"
  3. .@rgay: Brown is the only univ i didn't get into, so i like to come back and say "fuckers"
  4. .@rgay reads from her new book, Difficult Women - "it's pink because i love the color pink"
  5. .@rgay: the first time i read this story, "Open Marriage", a woman in the audience threw up
  6. .@rgay: lately i've been writing a lot of nonfiction bc what's going on in this country is something not even a fiction writer could make up
  7. .@rgay: I was stunned and then ashamed of being so stunned and unprepared to face this American reality
  8. .@rgay: What do we do next, I was asked, and I wanted to say "I have no fucking idea"
  9. .@rgay: Throughout the campaign I thought about language and how careless we got w the language we use
  10. .@rgay: too many people were and are, invested in this idea of purity, which doesn't work when fighting facism
  11. @rgay: I am not a nasty woman because there is no redemption in how Trump sees women.
  12. .@rgay: The good white people are "ashamed for their country", but I don't want your shame, I want your fight.
  13. .@rgay: My identity is political because so much of who I am is part of the political discourse, subject to legislation.
  14. .@rgay: "diversity" becomes an empty container - I'm invited to teach white people things which are easy to figure out
  15. .@rgay: I am tired of talking about diversity. I am tired of being expected to, as black woman, have all the solutions
  16. @rgay: As if by simply saying diversity, we're doing something and creating change.
  17. @rgay: I am done with allyship in this way, particularly when ally is used as a noun instead of a verb.
  18. .@rgay: I know we have to fight, but I don't know yet what that fight looks like.
  19. .@rgay: I'm thinking about how we need to prepare for the next elections.
  20. .@rgay: I need to believe that there is grace beyond this disgrace.
  21. Q: how can this nuance enter our conversations without coming off as too heavy handed?
  22. .@rgay: You have to be persistent. You can't give up nuance for the sake of being heard.
  23. .@rgay: people who are going to dismiss you are people you can't reach anyway. Stop trying. It's just not worth it.
  24. .@rgay: Racism isn't a side, it's not an opinion. It's hate.
  25. Q: You recently pulled your book from Simon & Schuster due to their publication deal with Milo Yiannopolous
  26. .@rgay: Milo is not a true believer, he is a provocateur. But he has followers that are true believers. I didn't lose one minute's sleep +
  27. .@rgay: pulling my book. I'm in a position where I could pull my book [without financial loss.] They didn't deserve my book.
  28. .@rgay: I think it's a word people project a lot of nonsense onto.
  29. .@rgay: What matters more is actions, and moving through this world in a feminist way.
  30. Q: How to integrate politics and art at this particular time?
  31. .@rgay: we need to examine where we are and how this cultural moment is different from every body.
  32. .@rgay: How did you interact w disposability and desirability politics in your life? How have you been able to affirm yourself?
  33. .@rgay: I'm proud if myself for deciding to pull my book and then doing it.
  34. .@rgay; when you do something for long enough, you start to surrender to it.
  35. Q: what types of spaces can teachers, community members make for teenagers rn?
  36. .@rgay: Make those spaces, give them confidence. I think that confidence is the #1 thing that you can give to young writers.
  37. Q: What are your thoughts on Ivanka Trump and her claim to be a feminist?
  38. .@rgay: Ivanka Trump is the devil in a blue dress. I think she is the actual President of the United States.
  39. .@rgay: If she wants to call herself a feminist she can. i'm not the application readet at feminist central
  40. .@rgay: Just like the prosperity gospel, I think she's a prosperity feminist. She doesn't care about anyone that's not in her milieu
  41. .@rgay: There are tapes of Donald Trump saying the n-word. I think we should be getting those tapes by any means necessary
  42. .@rgay: I think we can get our hands dirty. I'm not saying commit murder, but I would use one of those lock pick things at the NBC HQ
  43. Q: What can the erotic offer us in this moment, or in general?
  44. .@rgay: the erotic is there to remind us that there still is pleasure in the world. I think people are having a lot more sex now
  45. .@rgay: Donald Trump woke up one day and said "I think I can be president", so I think we should all be shooting our shot
  46. Q: how do you deal with men who call themselves feminists but don't do much and still get a lot of applause
  47. .@rgay: Call it out for what it is. I don't have to give you a cookie for being a decent human being.
  48. .@rgay: I expect you, as a man, to be a feminist. I also expect you to bake.
  49. Q: how do you as a black woman find balance btwn educating and organizing, and maintaining self care
  50. .@rgay: When people ask me to educate them, I say, enroll at Purdue. I also do a lot of writing, so you can get yourself a google
  51. .@rgay: At the grammys, adele was like "you're my mommy" to beyonce. Now when I look at Beyoncé, I want her to be something else.
  52. .@rgay: I'm nobody's mothers. The people I feel beholden to in terms of education, are my students and my niece.
  53. .@rgay: You already know the answer to this question, you just want me to make you feel better.
  54. Q: should artists allow themselves to feel all their emotions?
  55. .@rgay: You need to figure out what to do with that emotion. Figure out how to put a thin membrane over it. Sometimes art is the membrane.
  56. Q: As a grad student, how do I push for progress in a conservative dept while maintaining space for myself?
  57. .@rgay: as a grad student, you're safe. We used our role as students and constituents to great effect.
  58. .@rgay: It's important for grad students to unionize, if you can. Work on hiring committees.
  59. Q: who is going to win the bachelor? Why is Corinne still on the show.
  60. .@rgay: All of the women besides Rachel are indistinct. The white girl, that's who's going to win.
  61. .@rgay: I also don't like Nick, so I don't want any of them to win
  62. Q: what made you choose to be a writer, esp as a Black woman
  63. .@rgay: my parents nourished my creative side, even though I had to major in biology to pretend I was going to be a doctor.
  64. .@rgay: I got more writing done during grad school than any other time in my life. I leaned into it bc I realized I want this very badly
  65. .@rgay: I allowed myself to believe, my voice deserves to be heard.
  66. .@rgay: I've lived most of my life in the midwest. It has allowed me to understand that Blackness contains multitudes
  67. .@rgay: I realized I can create spaces where I belong. Blackness exists everywhere, and not just in urban spaces.
  68. .@rgay: I wanted to feel connected to my body, so I started getting tattoos. I thought, the best place to get these tattoos is on my arms +
  69. .@rgay: bc fuck the man. Then i got real jobs and the man fucked me
  70. Q: My entire time at Yale was a mental breakdown, so I feel you +
  71. Q: How can we merge beauty and intelligence and have that be a powerful thing?
  72. .@rgay: Whenever i lose weight, people always congratulate me. But I didn't do anything, I only did things I hate for it.
  73. .@rgay: I don't know how we stop focusing on beauty. But we can push back. You don't have to give in to their narrative.
  74. .@rgay: The choices you make for your body are yours. You're allowed to put up boundaries in terms of how people respond to it.