Not That Bad

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture  -  Roxane Gay

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This collection of essays is a very enlightening one: about people who were raped and/or sexually assaulted, about those who work with them, about the rape culture that permeates so many places and societies.

The latter especially is worth mentioning, because little gestures, little ‘jokes’, everyday sexism and attitudes and ‘if you wear those clothes then You’re Asking For It’ sayings are the foundations of something deeper, something that leads to rape, and make it so that no matter what, the victims are still the ones who have to justify themselves. Justify the amount of times they said ‘no’; or whether they said it clearly enough (apparently, for many people, a woman who says no actually means yes… and they never question it, and therefore make a decision based on what they want to hear). Justify and quantify their pain: if it was ‘so bad’, shouldn’t they be dead? And, since they aren't, shouldn’t they be grateful that ‘at least they’re not dead’ (as if that could erase and negate what was done to them)? As if this was but a trifle, something that you just can, and have to, get over with, because mentioning it will Make Other People Uncomfortable.

I guess I should be grateful that the ‘only’ aggression I had to go through dealt with random guys deciding that fondling my thigh in the train was something they had a God-given right to do. Or grateful that they ‘only’ flashed their dick in front of my face. It wasn’t ‘that bad’, right? Well, screw that. At the root of it, our stupid, crappy society is still stuck on Man Sees, Man Takes (sometimes women do that, too, but it’s nevertheless much more often the other way ‘round, because Boys Will Be Boys, and all that rubbish we dump into boys’ heads when they’re still so little). And as long as we don’t wake up and grow up for a change, this won’t go away.

The styles are varied, by various authors (female, male, trans), including even an essay in comics format, while being close enough to clearly resonate as a whole. They read quickly and easily in terms of grammar/vocabulary, and yet remain powerful and hard to stomach as well, due to the theme they explore and the pain they deal with, whether they are actually depressing or carrying some form of hope.

These essays are definitely worth reading: as an eye opener for some, as a reminder in general of what is at stake, of the day to day attitudes towards sexual harassment, of all the tiny ways well-meaning people can and will say/do the wrong things.