Thursday, November 30, 2023

Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture
edited by Roxane Gay
Read by various authors
8 hours, 41 minutes
Published May 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers

Publisher's Summary: 
In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.” 

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

My Thoughts: 
When she was 12 years old, Roxane Gay was gang raped. In order to mentally survive that, she had to convince herself that it was "not that bad" and that other women had it worse. Read that again. Gay did not allow herself to fully comprehend the horrific thing that had been done to her, and at such a young age. 

Women have been brainwashed for so long that we all begin to believe that things are "not that bad." Even when they truly are that bad. And we live in a world where we are constantly comparing what has happened to us against what has happened to other people. We're prone to convincing ourselves that what happens to us really isn't that bad. The reality is that most women have a certain amount of fear at all times. We are less likely to go out after dark. When we do, we are (and have been raised to be) constantly vigilant of our surroundings. We carry our keys webbed through our fingers as weapons. We double and triple checks locks before we go to bed. We have been catcalled, touched in ways we haven't allowed, followed. We are blamed for the terrible things that happen to us. I live in a very safe suburban neighborhood and it makes me uncomfortable to be in my own backyard after dark if my husband is not at home because I have lived so long in fear that someone is lurking in the shadows, ready to harm me. But it is not just women who suffer in our rape culture. 

This collection of twenty-nine essays is one of the most difficult books I've ever read. Listening to it, I believe, made it that much more difficult, emphasizing, as it did through all of the different voices, the size of the problem. As with any collection, some stories were more compelling for me, more relatable. Told from a wide variety of perspectives, this collection speaks to how widespread rape culture is and how many different lives it touches. I meant to write down the names of the essays that most impacted me and the reasons why; but I put off writing about the book because it was just so damn hard to think about and now those titles are gone from my mind, I'm sorry to say. 

As hard as it is to read, I'm hoping that more people will read this book and understand that no matter how rape culture has impacted your life, it is that bad. None of us should have to live in fear, no one should be blamed for the terrible things that others do to them, all of our sons (because the culture is primarily the result of male behavior) should be taught how to behave and how to speak, and all of us deserve to be heard and believed. 

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