Julie Burchill Julie Burchill

A cacophony of complaint

Her gang-rape as a child, leading to adult obesity, is deeply harrowing. But harking on it seems to make matters worse

What sort of monster gives a bad review to a book by someone who was gang raped as a 12-year-old and subsequently goes on to eat herself to over 40 stone? Probably the sort of monster who’s never read a book about fatness as a feminist issue which she found convincing. Here we go again: ‘This is what most girls are taught — we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. And most women know this — that we are supposed to disappear.’

This ignores the fact that plump women were a benchmark of beauty in the past — when women had no rights whatsoever — and still are in cultures where, again, women have very few rights. Fashion, not fascism, decrees desirability, and a culture which favours thin women is generally the culture where women are free.

Roxane Gay’s breakthrough book was called Bad Feminist. But she is ‘bad’ only in the way that prissy people think of frivolous things as ‘guilty pleasures’. Liking the colour pink and reading Vogue hardly qualify one as a Bad Feminist if one is overweeningly a Good Snowflake, who shares the usual tiresome beliefs of the new generation of alleged feminists: in favour of ‘safe spaces’ (except for women in search of a public toilet, who must take their chances with any old Peeping Tom sporting both a penis and a petticoat) and in the shaming and shunning of older feminists who believe that genitalia — rather than agenda — define gender.

Gay is thoughtful to the point of being ponderous; there’s a ruminative, repetitive tone to her writing which made me think of a cow chewing cud — and I’d say that if she was skinny, too. ‘There are happy babies and there are happy babies.

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