September 09, 2017
Emma Watson picks Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay for Our Shared Shelf
"Dear Our Shared Shelf,
Roxane Gay describes her book ‘Hunger’ as a “memoir about my body”. It traverses many of the issues surrounding our human bodies, the sexual experiences we have, our relationship with food, how we feel about our own bodies and the difference gender has to play on a body… When exploring how society treats people of her size, Gay asks: “What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”
What struck me the most about the book is Roxane’s searing honesty. We know that there are many people of all genders who do not feel they can talk about their experiences - who live their lives carrying the huge burden of abuse and trauma. As the author suggests, many people do not realise the suffering that follows an act like the one Roxane experienced, and how it can completely alter the way the victim identifies with themselves and others.
While parts of the book are difficult to read, it highlights the very real damage done by sexual violence and puts you in the mind and body of someone that has to move through the world in a different way. A small insight or perspective I feel grateful for now having and understanding a little bit better.
I am also re-reading essays from Gay’s ‘Bad Feminist’. We put such high expectations on ourselves as feminists, on other feminists, and the movement as a whole. It feels like such a relief to take ownership of words like “nasty woman” and “bad feminist”. They don’t have so much power this way and maybe they remind us not to hold ourselves and others to unreasonably high standards - we are all human after all and at different moments of our learning journeys. We need to feel free to be on those journeys and make mistakes. I hope if you get time you’ll enjoy what she has to say about this too.