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Not that bad: Dispatches from rape culture

Not That Bad: Dispatches from rape culture

Edited by Roxane Gay

July 2018

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529475

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

Contributors 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. Contributors offer a call to arms insisting that 'not that bad' must no longer be good enough.

Reviewer Seija Rankin writes:

Roxane Gay is synonymous with the personal essay. Her best-selling books, like Hunger and Bad Feminist, have become some of the most beloved commentaries on what it is to be a woman today. ...

Gay’s newest book, 'Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture', is a departure from what we’ve come to associate her with. ... Gay collected pieces from writers all over the country to create a haunting reflection of one of society’s biggest problems. It’s a problem that pervaded long before the ousting of Harvey Weinstein and his Hollywood brethren, and work on the book began long before the first revelations surfaced.

"This idea came to me years before the Harvey Weinstein news, simply because the way that women minimize their experiences has always been interesting to me," Gay explained to

She noted that when she thought about what had caused her to minimize her own experiences with sexual violence, she realized that she ‒ and many of the women she knows ‒ had often been told: "It’s not that bad."

"I thought, what an interesting thing to tell someone and what a terrible thing to tell someone," said Gay. "And I wondered what other people would have to say on that subject. And then I realized that would be a great idea for an anthology."

The process of creating Not That Bad began with a call to action: Gay set up an account where writers from all over, regardless of their pedigree or professional qualifications, could send in their own essays about sexual harassment or violence. The result was several hundred essays, which took Gay ‒ and her assistant Melissa Moorer ‒ months to comb through. ...

"I was really stunned by the level of testimony and by how many women ‒ and men ‒ had such challenging and traumatic experiences with sexual violence," Gay said. "I knew that it was widespread, but when you see submission after submission of people writing about these topics, it really starts to bring home just how problematic this culture is ‒ and how far reaching the effects could be.

"I hope that people read this book and gain a greater understanding of how pervasive rape culture is and how damaging the effects of rape culture are," she said. "I hope it encourages people not to minimize their experiences, and that it continues to advance the cultural conversation that we’re having about this."

Published in Chain Reaction #135, April 2019. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.

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