Every March is Women’s History Month; a time for us to remember, celebrate, and commemorate the contributions and achievements women have made in history and in modern society.
I chose this month’s Book Recs theme to center around feminist reads not only because it’s Women’s History Month, but also because I understand that, for those who want to learn about feminism, it can feel like a daunting and overwhelming task. Where do I start? What’s a good start for an individual interested in feminism? Who do I listen to? Though I cannot answer those questions – as feminism can look different to different groups of people and cultures – my advice is to, a) begin with history, b) read widely, c) listen to a diversity of authors/activists/academics, and d) ensure your feminism is intersectional.
1. BAD FEMINIST BY ROXANE GAY
I read Bad Feminist last year and enjoyed it immensely. Though it isn’t meant to be a how-to to feminism, what makes Bad Feminist so wonderful is that it is honest, provocative, and unapologetic about the flaws of hummaness and, thus, feminism.
- A collection of short essays, all written by Gay, that are part memoir and part exploration of her feminism.
- Gay’s focus is that being human comes with contradictions, imperfections, and complexities, thus dispelling the idea that there is a perfect feminism or a perfect feminist.
- Explores a variety of topics and ideas – from culture to movies to politics – with the utmost honesty and transparency, with a consciousness of her personal shortcomings and limitations.
- Approach Bad Feminist as thought-provoking and insightful; enjoy the humour, engage with the ideas, reflect and contrast on your own perspective with Gay’s perspective.
2. WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS BY CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE*
A friend of mine who wanted to learn more about feminism asked me what to start with – I told her about this book. We Should All Be Feminists is outstanding.
- This is a very short read – 49 pages! – but absolutely worth the read.
- Adichie details the importance of intersectional feminism and why everyone – regardless of gender – should be feminists.
- Explores feminism, rooting it to its historical context, Adichie’s personal experiences in Nigeria, the U.S., and abroad, and extends the discussion to gender politics.
- Addresses the misconceptions of feminism, the necessity of emotion and its function in social change, the importance of specific dialogue, and the harm of gender expectations.
- However, though this book is a good start, it is also exclusionary of non-binary and trans* people. (Thanks Sinead for bringing this to my attention!) Use this as a stepping stone as an introduction to feminism, and then branch out your learning to include non-binary and trans* people.
[*On March 11th, Adichie commented in an interview on the experiences of trans women – watch the video clip of her interview here (link goes to video on Facebook). People have criticized her comments and her politics surrounding trans women; Buzzfeed covers what happened and the responses to her comment, Raquel Willis (a trans woman) wrote her thoughts regarding the issue, and Laverne Cox wrote a Twitter thread regarding this as well. Though I do not condone Adichie’s comments about trans women because trans women are women, I believe We Should All Be Feminists is still a fantastic and accessible resource for people who want to begin learning about feminism. However, I encourage all of you to read more about trans* issues and experiences, and it’s important to remember that feminism must be inclusive of trans women.]
Find this book on Goodreads.
3. FIFTY SHADES OF FEMINISM EDITED BY LISA APPIGNANESI
I’ve decided to recommend this book because this was the first book I read about feminism. I remember going to my local library on a mission, looking at my library’s abysmal gender studies section, and finding this little treasure. This book helped shape me to become the feminist I am – I hope it may move you too.
- A collection of fifty essays written by ‘young and old’ women from different cultures and different professions that explore feminism, how it has permeated their lives, and what being a woman means today.
- The essays offer a diversity of perspectives and opinions, each exploring areas of feminism or gender politics pertaining to the writer’s expertise.
- In between each story are quotes and comics about feminism. One quote in particular by Rosa Luxemburg revolutionized my mind and perspective.
- Outstanding, enjoyable, and thought-provoking, each essay is its own – you may agree with some and disagree with some, but that’s the beauty of this book.
Find this book on Goodreads.
4. FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYBODY BY BELL HOOKS
I read bits and pieces of this when I was in undergrad learning about feminism, so I haven’t read the whole book but I absolutely have to recommend it. If you haven’t heard of her, bell hooks is a phenomenal and iconic feminist author and social activist – all of you should read her work.
- Something I love about bell hooks is that she always talks about class and class struggle – a necessary element of feminism that we, I feel, don’t talk about enough.
- hooks explores feminism by exploring race, gender, work, and sexuality – offering a variety of perspectives guaranteed to make you think.
- The writing in this can be pretty heavy, especially for people new to feminism, so if you struggle with reading this, familiarize yourself with feminism first and then give this a go.
Find this book on Goodreads.
Given the list above, I know that there are some gaps in my feminist literature reading, and I’ll be working to address these gaps. Namely, I need to read feminism books by Indigenous authors, Asian authors, and trans authors. So, this won’t be the first and only Book Recs post about feminism – once I read more literature, Feminist Reads (part two?) will return with more recommendations!
If you are interested in some feminist activists and/or theorists, I suggest reading (whether it be their discourse or works):
- bell hooks (one of her books made an appearance but read more!)
- Angela Davis
- Judith Butler
- Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
- Constance Wu (she doesn’t have any published work but I love her)
- Everyday Feminism
I personally still have a lot of work and reading to do, so I’ll be endeavouring to read more a variety of perspectives by a diversity of writers. As always:
- What is your first and/or favourite book about feminism?
- Do you recommend any feminist writers? What should I, and everyone here, be reading?
- What will you be reading/what have you read for Women’s History Month?