Writing, Community & Government

Challenging Ideas and Changing Minds

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 11:23 min

Roxane’s work has challenged a wide variety of audiences to see things differently. In this lesson, she reveals her approach by walking you through some of her most famous pieces that speak truth to power.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: The Careless Language of Sexual Violence · Opinion Writing · No One Is Coming to Save Us From Trump’s Racism · Remember, No One Is Coming to Save Us


[MUSIC PLAYING] - There are all kinds of things that you can do to create social change. You can vote, of course. You can run for office if you're really ambitious. You can volunteer for local nonprofits and organizations. You can see a need in your community, and you can come up with a way of actually providing that need. And you can also write. And for those of us who are introverted and who spend a lot of our lives sort of interior-- in the interior rather than out in the world, writing is a way of contributing to the political climate and saying something meaningful while also, you know, being yourself. Because not all of us are going to run for office. I'm never going to run for office, even though I get asked almost every week to run for office. It is never going to happen. My past is filthy. But writing allows me to make clear my political affiliations and what I believe and what I stand for and to try and get other people on board with, like, you know, progressive ideas like women are people, and Black lives matter, and everyone should have health care. I know that these are very radical ideas. But when I get to write about them, I get to make them seem more feasible. And even as a reader, this kind of approach has worked for me. And so as you think about writing for social change, it's not that you have to know what kind of change you want to create. It's that you have to have a sense of purpose. You have to have something to say. And then you have to wait and see what happens with it next. You know, the most important thing to remember is that artistry cannot be subsumed by writing for change and political purpose. It has to still be great writing. And so many of us lose sight of that when we write politically. And honestly, I am moved more through writing than anything else. And so while I don't believe that I'm going to change the world with my writing, I do think that I can, and have, changed lives, and I have changed certain institutions, and that's very meaningful to me. [MUSIC PLAYING] In 2009, I think, a young girl in Cleveland, Texas, was gang raped by, like, 20 or 30 men. It was a truly horrific crime. And "The New York Times" reported on this crime, and they wrote a story about how the town was reeling from this girl's assault. And I was incensed, because I would think that our concern would be with the child who had been brutalized in this way. Like, who cares about the town? The town's going to be fine. And they were like, so many of these were on the basketball team, and the basketball team might not be able to have a season. And so I wrote an essay called "The careless language of sexual violence." That was my first piece I had ever written that was read by a great many people and started to get passed around. And with that piece, I just-- I said everything I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, in the order I wanted to say. It just came out. And I knew, I was like, this i...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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