Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture – Edited by Roxane Gay

Published by Harper Perennial


Edited and with an introduction by Roxane Gay, the New York Times bestselling and deeply beloved author of Bad Feminist and Hunger, this anthology of first-person essays tackles rape, assault, and harassment head-on.

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, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. 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.

This book really kicked me where it hurts. It’s a collection of essays by incredibly eloquent women and men, each one a few pages of painfully well chosen words about the way rape culture has affected their lives – this collection covers a lot of ground; from child abuse, catcalling, flashers, sexual assault, rape and everything  in between you can imagine short of being murdered by their attackers.
This being the entire point of the book – all the authors have the same thing in common, they all think that someone out there’s had it worse and so their experience is ‘Not That Bad’. It’s that sentiment of not complaining about rape culture because you survived it that allows the wheel to turn, that is what this collection addresses.

I have a word of advice for people who plan to read this book – for the sake of your sanity, don’t try to read it all in one go. I, sweet summer child that I am, dove in headfirst and thought I’d finish it in an afternoon.
About halfway through I had to put the book down for a couple of weeks while I scrubbed out the inside of my brain with over a dozen fun paranormal fantasy novels (sorry to the authors that I haven’t reviewed these, I needed a quick fix of something non-traumatic and wasn’t up to any deep thoughts when it came to reviewing but I love you all dearly!). The essays in this collection got under my skin, as I imagine it will most people (women in particular), there will be something that resonates with everyone and it left me feeling sick to my stomach.

Gross visceral responses aside, this book is oh-so-necessary – the authors have been unimaginably brave and released their stories to the public, to pore over their own personal hells.
Trigger warnings all over the place for this one – it ain’t pretty but it’s an important step towards saying ‘fuck you’ to the people who think they can get away with abusing other people and never being found out, which is something worth aspiring to.

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