Summary of Roxane Gay’s Masterclass on Writing for Social Change

Masterclass Notes
3 min readJun 30, 2021

12 key takeaways from the author of Bad Feminist and Hunger
  1. Writing can be a method of self-expression that also contributes meaningfully to the political conversation. Roxane has been inspirational to many on the topics of race and gender equality through her essays, short stories, memoir, and novel. She is most well-known for her writing focused on violence against women, and how the way it’s typically represented in fiction normalizes and excuses such crimes. Through her writing she aims to break down negative stereotypes of “feminists” and “difficult women”, and to open up more opportunities for women of all diverse backgrounds.
  2. Write with a sense of purpose. Writing for social change doesn’t mean you will change the world right away, but it adds to the collective efforts towards social justice by helping marginalized groups feel seen, heard, and understood.
  3. Labels are often filled with paradoxes. Don’t be afraid to tear them apart, play with them, and rearrange them in a way that truly showcases the beautiful complexity behind it all. Nothing exists in absolutes.
  4. Writing for social change is about starting a conversation. You’re generating the ideas for meaningful discussion around social issues, and setting the framework for productive cultural critique. You’re providing the confidence for those experiencing discrimination rooted in inaccurate social views to have their experiences validated, and providing a tool for those who want to better understand those experiences to be able to do so starting with reading your work.
  5. Intertwine comedy with tragedy to make uncomfortable topics easier to read. Laughter builds common ground. If you’re writing about trauma but can still get the reader to laugh once in a while, that tragicomic texture both elevates the story and underscores the tragedy with more intensity.
  6. Use specificity, exaggeration, and self-deprecation to add humor. Against the backdrop of a painful scene, perhaps there is something specific that is oddly out of place in a funny way. Describe something in an exaggerated way to make it funny. Joke about yourself as a way to talk about something heavy in a lighthearted way.
  7. Revitalize a cliche. Take a…