Between #metoo and #timesup, this year is already shaping up to be the year that gender equality and feminism surge from optional to downright mainstream and mandatory. It's the perfect time for women and men and everyone in between to catch up on some feminist reading. To help, here are 11 feminist books that will get you fired up now and beyond, because it's an extremely important and consequential topic for us all to understand better.
From classic texts like The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, to more modern takes on girl power, like We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this list will have you up to speed on feminism so that you can be well-informed on one of the most important topics of our generation.
In fact, We Were Feminists Once, by Andi Zeisler actually chronicles feminism's rise to fame in the last decade, exploring its popularity among celebrities and even how brands like Dove and Always, have capitalized on it to sell their products to the general female public. While she posits that feminism's trendy popularity may not necessarily last, it will likely raise the consciousness of more people than understood or fought for the concept before. In an interview with Huffington Post, Zeisler explained "There are lasting benefits to the fact that we had our consciousness raised on some level by celebrities and by popular culture around environmentalism and I certainly think that will happen for feminism."
Let's hope so. To start, get cracking on this list so you can be better prepared to strengthen the conversation ASAP.
1. 'Bad Feminist' By Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist by cultural critic, author, and professor Roxane Gay, is a collection of essays that explore how one can be a feminist while enjoying things (like the color pink or the Sweet Valley High books) that are at odds with feminism. Touching on pop culture as well as her own personal experiences, the book covers political topics, gender and sexuality, and the state of feminism today, all in an entertaining and readable way.
2. 'We Were Feminists Once' By Andi Zeisler
We Were Feminists Once takes a look at how celebrities helped to make feminism so popular in recent years, while also pointing out the ways brands use the topics to sell us products, from soap to tampons. Zeisler explores how a subject that was once an unpopular word became the buzz term for big-time celebrities and the anchor for marketing campaigns.
3. 'The Feminine Mystique' By Betty Friedan
With over a million copies sold in 1964 alone, The Feminine Mystique is a classic feminist primer, credited with spurring the second wave of feminism in the 1960's. The idea for the book all started when Betty Friedan conducted a survey of her Smith College classmates ahead of their 15 year reunion. The results, in which Friedan's former classmates reported dissatisfaction with their lives as housewives, spurred more research and subsequently the publication of this book, which has been in publication ever since.
4. 'We Should All Be Feminists' By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One of the great writers of our time, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie hit the bestseller lists with Americanah, and kept the streak alive after We Should All Be Feminists with her latest Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto In 15 Suggestions. We Should All Be Feminists is an expansion on a TedX talk she gave by the same name, and in both she explores feminism for the 21st century as well as our need to keep the topic at the forefront of conversations. Adichie also focuses on the experience of women of color, drawing on her experiences as a Nigerian female that are profoundly universal.
5. 'A Room of One's Own' By Virginia Woolf
Another feminist classic, A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf, was originally published in 1929 and was based on a series of lectures she gave at the women's colleges of Cambridge University the previous year. In the essay, Woolf argues for a larger role for women as authors as well as characters in writing. The title introduces the topic, by focusing on one of the things women in 1929 were least likely to have: a room of their own. One of Woolf's arguments was that women need their own space and financial freedom in order to write and become authors. While the text focuses on authors, the same can be said for women today, making the book topical almost a century later.
6. 'How To Be A Woman' By Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran, a longtime writer for The Times of London, has written a hilariously shrewd and sassy account of what it's like to be a woman today, full of her own observations of the absurdity of womanhood. Vanity Fair called How To Be A Woman “the U.K. version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants", which means you'll be laughing-out-loud and probably talking back to the pages as she points out how silly it is that bras hurt, that we're expected to get Brazilian bikini waxes and that we're expected to wear all manner of heels.
7. 'Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman' By Lindy West
Another feminist hit with a healthy dose of humor, Lindy West writes Shrill from the point of view of a woman who has always been larger and louder than the world expects her to be, so it seems. The memoir manages to wring joy and cheerfulness while delivering the message that some people aren't treated equally and that the world can be lonely and mean, especially to women who don't fit the typical mold.
8. 'The Beauty Myth' By Naomi Wolf
Published in 2002, The Beauty Myth, explores the ways in which women are trapped in an endless cycle of self-hatred and self-consciousness because of way publications portray women, suggesting how we are "supposed" to look. Naomi Wolf argues that while women have more control and power than they ever have before (technically, at least), they are still restricted by the imaginary concept of beauty that's thrown at us in the media every day.
9. 'The Second Sex' By Simone de Beauvoir
Originally published in French in 1959 and written by existentialist Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex is a classic look at how women have been treated through history. No small feat to cover such a lot of ground. The Second Sex was another text considered to have kicked off the second wave of feminism. De Beauvoir argues that because male is the default in society, the female is the "other" and therefore only defined as relative to a male.
10. 'The Woman Warrior' By Maxine Hong Kingston
Published in 1976, The Woman Warrior, is an intersectional tale of a Chinese, American, female immigrant in California. Maxine Hong Kingston has woven a tale of the reality of growing up as a Chinese American immigrant in California, as well as what it was like for her mother to grow up in their home country. These stories center around women warriors who manage to display strength and guile despite being largely oppressed.
11. 'Bossypants' By Tina Fey
Who doesn't love a little Tina Fey to round out a feminist book list? With Bossypants, she managed to portray the nuance of what it's like to be a woman in an man's career path, and she does it, of course, hilariously. Her anecdotes aren't all humorous, but her descriptions of the people and situations she has encountered and endured throughout the years of working her way up the comedic ladder are vivid and on point.
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