Roxane Gay Discusses Social Issues And Competitive Scrabble

Tyra Wu '19 Assistant News Editor

Roxane Gay, best-selling author and pundit, spoke on social issues at Mount Holyoke College on Feb. 16 in a public discussion called “Flashpoint!” Gay is the author of several books including “Bad Feminist: Essays”, “An Untamed State” and most recently, “Difficult Women.” Gay opened the discussion by reading excerpts from her books, including pieces inspired by Activia yogurt and gated communities in Florida. For the remainder of her discussion, Gay welcomed questions from the audience, ranging from questions about her work and the Oscar nominations to her opinions on The Bachelorette and competitive Scrabble.

The discussion was held in a relatively small auditorium, allowing for a more informal feel. Gay was more relaxed and straightforward than many speakers are at college discussions. Within the first minute, Gay dropped the f-bomb, setting the tone for the rest of the night. She was honest, snappy and humorous with her responses. One of the topics that came up frequently was the recent presidential election and Trump’s actions. While Gay admitted that she often felt unsure of what to do next in the aftermath of the election, she did advise the audience to remain vigilant about the truth.

“Every time he offers up misinformation, we have to correct him,” Gay said. “When people who follow him parrot his nonsense back, we have to confront them again with truth. Truth is our greatest ally and our greatest weapon right now.”

Furthermore, Gay advised the audience to focus on maintaining productive conversations about social issues rather than focusing on Trump’s ridiculous antics. Gay also noted that throughout the election she was struck by the careless way language was used. One of her takeaways from the election is that we need to be careful and deliberate in the language we use.

“We have to have these difficult conversations about race, gender, sexuality, ability, so many things that are going to get lost in the conversation if we keep focusing on whatever dumb*** thing he did lately,” Gay said.

When asked about fiction’s role in society, Gay said, “All art is one of the main ways in which we hold the government accountable and the way in which we hold each other accountable. It’s a way to bear witness and a way to digest and synthesize things that are going on.”

Ali Meneghetti ’19 felt that the Q&A format allowed Gay to voice her opinions without a filter. She also felt the format made the discussion feel more personal and made her really think about what Gay was talking about.

“I liked that it was very much her own opinion,” Meneghetti said. “It wasn’t her preaching to the choir. Instead it was more like, this is what she thinks. You can make of it what you will.”

Similarly, Zoe Dong ’18 felt that Gay had smart political commentary about current events. During her talk Gay touched on various social issues including race, gender and identity. She also offered advice to the audience about ways to approach these issues in our current political climate.

I thought Dr. Gay had really important opinions to deliver, but also did it in such a smart and funny way. I thought she had great, relevant political opinions, and a form of feminism and political awareness that is about hard work, fighting for your rights and is inclusive of women of color that I think many white liberal feminists need to hear at this time.”