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33 Powerful Roxane Gay Quotes to Rekindle Your Feminist Spirit

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Aldalyn Eleanor Ross

Staff Writer

Aldalyn grew up with a bunch of weird siblings who expressed themselves by literally joining the circus. Since Aldalyn feared heights and most forms of physical exertion, they became a writer instead. They read, scribble, and enable young word lovers in Newark, NJ, where they are affectionately known as Mx. Aly, Library Unicorn. Find them on social media @mx_alycorn

Whether she’s offering up criticism or tenderness, snarkiness or heart-wrenching sincerity, I can always count on Roxane Gay for one thing: she’ll tell me the truth. Most of the time—especially when she writes about violence, trauma, and systemic racism and sexism—that means her words aren’t easy to read; but it also means I set down her books with a renewed dedication to taking up space, speaking my mind, and fighting for the rights of women of every shape and color. Here are 33 powerful Roxane Gay quotes for when you need a little extra something to help you persist—and to remind you that you’re not doing it alone.


Roxane Gay Quotes

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An Untamed State quotes

  1. “There are three Haitis—the country Americans know and the country Haitians know and the country I thought I knew.”
  2. “I shouted ‘This is not right,’ knowing my words were useless. There’s no room for such distinctions in a country where too many people have to claw for what they need and still have nothing to hold.”
  3. “Once upon a time, my parents were strangers in a strange land but they found each other.”

Bad Feminist quotes

  1. “I am a bad feminist because I never want to be placed on a Feminist Pedestal. People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. I regularly fuck up. Consider me already knocked off.” —from “Introduction”
  2. “Privilege is relative and contextual. Few people in the developed world, and particularly in the United States, have no privilege at all. Among those of us who participate in intellectual communities, privilege runs rampant. We have disposable time and the ability to access the Internet regularly. We have the freedom to express our opinions without the threat of retaliation. We have smartphones and iProducts and desktops and laptops. If you are reading this essay, you have some kind of privilege.” —from “Peculiar Benefits”
  3. “My heart gets broken more than it should.” —from “To Scratch, Claw, or Grope Clumsily or Frantically”
  4. “I was American at school and Haitian at home. This required negotiating a fine balance, and I am a clumsy person.” —from “I Once Was Miss America”
  5. “This is the truth of my trouble with trigger warnings: there is nothing words on the screen can do that has not already been done. A visceral reaction to a trigger is nothing compared to the actual experience that created the trigger.” —from “The Illusion of Safety/The Safety of Illusion”
  6. “If you go to the theater without your brain (leave it in the glove compartment), The Help is a good movie.” —from “The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help
  7. “There is no collective slavery revenge fantasy among black people, but I am certain, if there were one, it would not be about white people, not at all. My slavery revenge fantasy would probably involve being able to read and write without fear of punishment or persecution coupled with a long vacation in Paris. It would involve the reclamation of dignity on my own terms and not with the ‘generous’ assistance of benevolent white people who were equally complicit in the ills of slavery.” —from “Surviving Django
  8. “There is no one way to tell the story of slavery or to chronicle the black experience. It is not that slavery and struggle narratives shouldn’t be shared but that these narratives are not enough anymore.” —from “Beyond the Struggle Narrative”
  9. Orange Is the New Black is very, very diverse. Did you know?” —from “When Less Is More”
  10. “There is little room for error. For some young black men, there is no room for error at all.” —from “The Last Day of a Young Black Man”
  11. “Respectability politics suggest that there’s a way for us all to be model (read: like white) citizens. We can always be better, but will we ever be ideal? Do we even want to be ideal, or is there a way for us to become more comfortably human?” —from “The Politics of Respectability”
  12. “Social networks…provide us with something of a flawed but necessary conscience, a constant reminder that commitment, compassion, and advocacy neither can nor ever should be finite.” —from “When Twitter Does What Journalism Cannot”
  13. “It is a small miracle women do not have short memories about our rights that have always, shamefully, been alienable.” —from “The Alienable Rights of Women”

Difficult Women quotes

  1. “I have spent the best and worst moments of my life looking my sister in the eye.” —from “I Will Follow You”
  2. “The jury awarded us a lot of money, so much money we would never have to work or want. For a long time, we refused to spend it. Every night, I went online and checked my account balance and thought, This is what my life was worth.” —from “I Will Follow You”
  3. “She once told a boyfriend about these considerations and he said, ‘You are completely out of your mind.’ She told a new friend at work and she said, ‘Honey, you’re not crazy. You’re a woman.’” —from “Difficult Women”
  4. “When she was finally alone, her husband in the cafeteria looking for something to eat, she held her firstborn child and stared at him, eager to see some mark of herself, eager to feel like the nine months of carrying him, the bed rest, the way he tore her all the way open, was worth it. She never found what she was looking for.” —from “Difficult Women”
  5. “The baby was already asleep in a small basket I bought for her at a baby store for people with too much money and no sense. The saleslady, who knew me from a different time, looked down at the baby and said, ‘He’s gotten so big,’ because all babies look the same and all women with babies look the same. I bit through my tongue and nodded.” —from “Break All the Way Down”
  6. “Their God is angry and unkind because they made him in their image.” —from “I Am A Knife”
  7. “Instead of speaking, I remained silent. Words cannot fill the faithless with faith.” —from “The Sacrifice of Darkness”

Hunger: A Memoir of My Body quotes

Hunger by Roxane Gay in Books About Finding Yourself |

  1. “I began eating to change my body. Some boys had destroyed me, and I barely survived it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to endure another such violation, and so I ate because I thought that if my body became repulsive, I could keep men away. Even at that young age, I understood that to be fat was to be undesirable to men, to be beneath their contempt, and I already knew too much about their contempt. This is what most girls are taught—that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are supposed to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said, loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us.”
  2. “No one wants to be infected by obesity, largely because people know how they see and treat and think about fat people and don’t want such a fate to befall them.”
  3. The Biggest Loser is an unholy union of capitalism and the weight loss industrial complex.”
  4. “In yet another commercial, Oprah somberly says, ‘Inside every fat woman is a woman she knows she can be.’ This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, ‘I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying.’ And then I think about how fucked up it is to promote this idea that our truest selves are thin women hiding out in our fat bodies like imposters, usurpers, illegitimates.”
  5. “My body is wildly undisciplined, and yet I deny myself nearly everything I desire. I deny myself the right to space when I am in public, trying to fold in on myself, to make my body invisible even though it is, in fact, grandly visible. I deny myself the right to a shared armrest because how dare I impose? I deny myself into certain spaces I have deemed inappropriate for a body like mine—most spaces inhabited by other people, public transportation, anywhere I could be seen or where I might be in the way, really. I deny myself bright colors in my daily clothing choices, sticking to a uniform of denim and dark shirts even though I have a far more diverse wardrobe. I deny myself certain trappings of femininity as if I do not have the right to such expression when my body does not follow society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like. I deny myself gentler kinds of affection—to touch or be kindly touched—as if that is a pleasure a body like mine does not deserve. Punishment is, in fact, one of the few things I allow myself. I deny myself my attractions. I have them, oh I do, but dare not express them, because how dare I want. How dare I confess what I want? How dare I try to act on that want? I deny myself so much, and still there is so much desire throbbing beneath my surfaces. Denial merely puts what we want just beyond reach, but we still know it’s there.”
  6. “There is always a moment when I am losing weight when I feel better in my body. I breathe easier. I move better. I feel myself getting smaller and stronger. My clothes fall over my body the way they should and then they start to get baggy. I get terrified. I start to worry about my body becoming more vulnerable as it grows smaller. I start to imagine all the ways I could be hurt. I start to remember all the ways I have been hurt.”
  7. “My father believes hunger is in the mind. I know differently. I know hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.”
  8. “I am weary of all our sad stories—not hearing them, but that we have these stories to tell, that there are so many.”
  9. “I am not promiscuous with my warmth, but when I share it, my warmth can be as hot as the sun.”
  10. “Part of healing is taking care of your body and learning how to have a humane relationship with your body. I was broken and then I broke some more, and I am not yet healed but I am starting to believe I will be.”

Looking for more Roxane Gay quotes and wisdom? Check out these posts:

Upcoming Books to Watch Out for According to Roxane Gay

How to Read a Roxane Gay Book

The Books Roxane Gay Has Recommended on Twitter