This weekend I got to reading Not That Bad, a collection of essays edited by cultural critic and New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay and it turned out to be one of the most reflecting and profound reads of my life.
It was exactly what you would expect from a collection put together by Roxane Gay — the essays written are fierce, powerful and revolutionary and explore what it means to exist as a woman in this world and cost women pay for their existence.
The book deduces rape culture and talks about how it’s not just about the final act of rape, but the culture and how deeply it is entrenched in our society and how every single person out there contributes to it.
From child abuse, sexual assault, to victim-blaming and survivor’s guilt; from politics and suppression to strength and survival — this book will shock you, make you angry, take you on a whirlwind of emotion, but most of all, it will make you realise how important it was for you to read it.
The book explores and deconstructs consent in such minute details that everyone who reads it leaves with a wider, more accurate understanding of the concept.
These are the voices of women who were suppressed, oppressed, ridiculed, blamed — by the world and their own selves and the book comes like an all-powerful undoing of their trauma and power; empathy and understanding and finally gives them the authority and agency to tell us their own stories — a privilege the world often takes away from women.
The book empathises and encompasses the entire womankind because the women change, but the stories of injustice are ever the same. This book will always stay with me, probably looming somewhere in my reality and this is me making sure that it does with you too.
1. “Rape was not an act between an individual and an individual, hidden in a dark room — that was what my rapist wanted me to think. Rape was and is a cultural and political act: it attempts to remove a person with agency, autonomy and belonging from their community, to secrete them and separate them, to depoliticise their body by rendering it detachable, violable, nothing.”
2. “Sometimes people tell me that something bad happened to me, but I am brave and strong. I don’t want to be told that I am brave and strong. I am not right just because he was wrong. I don’t want to be made noble.
“I want someone willing to watch me thrash and crumple because that, too, is the truth, and it needs a witness. ‘He broke me,’ I say to a friend. ‘You’re not broken,’ she whispers back. I turn my palms up, wishing I could show her the pieces.”
3. “We need to end the system where it is only white men who decide when a woman — in any position, ‘privileged’ or not — is deserving of power and agency.”
4. “Don’t ever use an insult for a woman that you wouldn’t use for a man. Say ‘jerk’ or ‘shithead’ or ‘asshole’. Don’t say ‘bitch’ or ‘whore’ or ‘slut’. If you say ‘asshole’, you’re criticising her parking skills. If you say ‘bitch’, you’re criticising her gender.”
5. “Rape and colonialism are not commensurate, but they are kin. When we talk about sexual violence as feminists, we are — we have to be — talking about its use to subjugate entire peoples and cultures, the annihilation that is its empty heart.
“Rape is that bad because it is an ideological weapon. Rape is that bad because it is a structure: not an excess, not monstrous, but the logical conclusion of hetero-patriarchal capitalism. It is what that ugly polysyllabic euphemism for state power does.”
6. “Not everyone gets sex when they want it. Not everyone gets love when they want it. This is true for men and women. A relationship is not your reward for being a nice guy, no matter what the movies tell you.”
7. “We speak of men and their rage as if it is laudable. ‘Men just get mad and push each other and it’s over’, we say. ‘Women are just bitches; they never let it go’. That’s because we never can let it go. Because where would we put it? What system? What faith? What institution has room? Has patience? Has understanding for an angry woman?”
8. “The only solution for female anger is for her to stop being angry. And yet, when Jesus flipped tables in the temple, his rage was lauded. King David railing to the heavens to rain fire on his enemies is lauded as a man after God’s own heart.
“An angry man in the cinema is Batman. An angry male musician is a member of Metallica. An angry male writer is Chekhov. An angry male politician is passionate, a revolutionary. He is a Donald Trump or a Bernie Sanders.
“The anger of men is a powerful enough tide to swing an election. But the anger of women? That has no place in government, so it has to flood the streets.”
9. “Anger is the privilege of the truly broken, and yet, I’ve never met a woman who was broken enough that she allowed herself to be angry.”
10. “Perhaps the most horrifying thing about non-consensual sex is that, in an instant, it erases you. Your own desires, your safety, and well-being, your ownership of the body that may very well have been the only thing you ever felt sure you owned — all of it becomes irrelevant, even non-existent. You don’t need to be a helpless, innocent child to be changed by that.”
11. “This is rape’s legacy; the countless deaths women die just trying to keep existing in the world as it is.”
12. “Rape is integral to the cultures of war, colonisation and forced displacement that has turned gender oppression and sexual violence into a global currency of desperation.”
13. “In our no-pain-no-gain dogma, the cost of something is often mistaken for its value.”
14. “I survived.
“Raped children are supposed to die. What would the culture of the individual white cisgender male straight genius do without us? We are the predicate of their sentences, material for their dispassionate dissections.
“We are supposed to die prettily and vacantly so our rage doesn’t tear down all their certificates and awards and case files, trash their analysis and ram their face in the privilege that allows them to side with our abusers in silencing and killing us.
‘He has sometimes likened his style of writing to that of a medic performing a post-mortem on a raped child-whose job is to analyse the injuries, not to give vent to the rage that is felt.’ – Susie Mackenzie on J G Ballard.
“If Ballard’s is the model for the experimental, political novel, how is the undead raped child supposed to write, even if she survives?”
15. “If you survive, you have to prove it was that bad; or else, they think you are.
“Surviving is some kind of sin, like floating up off the dunking stool like a witch. You have to be permanently écorché, heart-on-sleeve, offering up organs and body parts like a medieval female saint.”
So, if you read anything this week, please let it be this.