What is Trap Feminism?
“For all the real bitches,” reads the dedication page in Sesali Bowen’s “Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes From a Trap Feminist.” From there, Bowen, a writer, entertainment journalist and former sex worker, goes on to challenge everything we think we know about feminism, and endeavors to create a feminism that includes “a more inclusive space for all women, femmes, and non-binary babes.” Bowen walks us through how her experiences as a queer, fat, black woman who loves hip-hop and didn’t see herself in traditional feminist frames came to develop “trap feminism” as a way of incorporating her “progressive feminism” with her “street principles.”
Bowen discusses her experiences being the “bad” kind of fat, and explains why calling a woman “confident” is a back-handed insult that really says “I can’t believe you can love yourself in THAT body.” She pushes back against the notion that women asking for what they want or need, setting standards and having boundaries makes them “gold-diggers.” She champions autonomous expressions of black female sexuality while raising awareness of harmful stereotypes about black women and girls and misogynoir more broadly. Bowen particularly outlines the ridiculously long list of things that can lead to a black girl being labeled “fast.” Bowen laments the barriers that discourage black women and girls from calling out the harmful behaviors of black men, while also outlining the necessity of female friendships.
My particular favorite thing about Bowen’s book is that she takes the time throughout to provide definitions (or, as they call it on NPR’s Codeswitch Podcast, “explanatory commas”) for terms the reader might not know, such as “trap,” “HBIC,” “thot,” and “bougie.”
Bowen’s book joins the growing collection of perspectives on feminism written by women of color who are upending our long-held, primarily white, heteronormative, able-bodied and financially well-off perspectives of what it means to be a feminist. If you’re a feminist nerd like me and you’re looking to expand or maybe even completely upset your perspectives on feminism, I highly recommend you check any “Bad Fat Black Girl” and any of these books, available through the Erie County Public Library:
· “The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism,” by Kyla Schuller
· “Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption,” by Rafia Zakaria
Harper Collins // 261 pages // Memoir