Book Recs: Feminist Reads for Women’s History Month

womens-history-banner

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.

divider3

badfem

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.

Find this book on Goodreads or read my review

divider3

weshouldall

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.

divider3

50shadesoffem

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.

divider3

femisforeveryone

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.

divider3

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?
Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Book Recs: Feminist Reads for Women’s History Month

  1. This is such a great post! I’ve just added to my massive TBR but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I would recommend How to be a Girl by Caitlin Moran (really funny), Animal by Sara Pascoe (not actually about feminism as such but talks about female anatomy and calls out a lot of bullshit that western media treats as gospel) and for something a bit more intersectional, Nasty Women – a collection of essays by various women from very diverse backgrounds (including trans) that cover a massive variety of issues. Happy reading!

  2. Oooh this is really interesting! I’ve never actually read any books about feminism – only fiction that includes feminism. So it’s definitely something I’d like to start reading about. Although yikes at Adichie’s comments O_O

    • Hi Emily!
      To be honest, if I didn’t study feminism in undergrad, I would’ve been hopelessly lost. So I hope that this will be a good resource for you. 😃

      Ugh yeah, yikes indeed. I was really really disappointed by her comments, especially since I looked up to her. 😔

  3. I’m not quite sure if it was my first book, but I think How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran was one of the first books I read. It was not intersectional at all and just lead to me not identifying with the label feminist even more than before. She makes inappropriate comparisons with events that occurred in wars, is ableist, excludes trans people and makes homophobic jokes.

    I have read We Should All Be Feminists, however I found it to be excluding non-binary and transgender people. Otherwise I agree that it’s a good resource to start with.

    • Hi Sinead!
      Oh gosh yes, I’ve heard of that book and I’m not a fan. I’m sorry you had to read all those hurtful things – it’s frustrating when a harmful piece of ‘feminist’ fiction is put on the pedestal because it caters to a privileged group of feminists. Likewise with Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique.

      I agree, and that’s really important (re: Adichie’s work excluding nb and trans people). I think I should make that more clear in my recommendation post. Thank you for that! I’ll credit you accordingly. <3

      • No need for the credit. I myself only saw the non binary exclusion. Didn’t realise that trans people were also excluded until i read that somewhere.

        What was the matter what The Feminine Mystique. I haven’t read the book.

  4. I can’t wait to read some of these! I don’t tend to read about feminism a lot but I want to start educating myself! And although I also don’t read non-fic because I find myself too easily bored, I want to push myself out of my comfort zone! Thanks for these great recs CW and I can’t wait to check them out! <3

    • Hi Anisha!

      Ah, I’m so pleased to hear that you’re considering reading some of these books! I think if you find that you don’t have time for books, the Everyday Feminism website is a great start! :D

      You’re so welcome! And if you ever want to discuss whatever you learn, I’m always here!

  5. I didn’t know about the Chimamanda controversy. Thank you for talking about that in the post. Ugh, her comments are so disappointing. It’s funny, but this morning I actually listened to a podcast (Call Your Girlfriend – it’s awesome) talking about how you shouldn’t hitch your feminist beliefs to a particular feminist, because they will inevitably disappoint you. Everybody is somehow problematic. The podcast was about reading everyone critically and how you don’t have to agree with someone just because they call themselves a feminist.

    I though Raquel Willis’ response was just perfect. Why aren’t we asking trans women about trans women? really does seem like the question we should actually be asking.

    If I can make a recommendation, it’d be Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road. It is a book concerned with all kinds of women, and listening to their stories, rather than just pushing your own agenda. I loooved it.

  6. I haven’t read any feminism book- I haven’t been reading a lot lately- but most of them are on my tbr! I’m really excited to read We Should All Be Feminist and Bad Feminist, because those books are EVERYWHERE and I’ve watch the Ted talks and really loving it. Thanks for the recs CW!

  7. Love this list! I have read most of these, but I hadn’t heard of Fifty Shades of Feminism until now. I also hadn’t heard about the Adichie’s recent comments, so thank you for addressing those in your post! That’s so disappointing. Soooo happy to see bell hooks here, though. <3

  8. Love this recommendation lists! The first two books, Bad Feminist and We Should All Be Feminists, were already on my TBR list, but the others were new to me.

    I’ve heard We Should All Be Feminists is a good stepping stone book, but I must admit, I am very disappointed with her views on trans women. I’m sure this doesn’t take away from her book, but it is still a disappointment.

  9. Pingback: Weekly Wrap-Up: 3/20 – 3/26/17 | Cover2CoverMom

  10. I just watched Roxanne Gays TED talk on feminism so it’s awesome that her book was first on the list xD I can’t wait to read it, also We should all be feminists is on my tbr I watched a youtube review for it that was just amazing and made me want to pick it up right away and this post has just sealed it for me, I’m buying the book so I can proudly display it on my shelves :) Thank you for this post I loved it!

    • Hi Casey!
      Ooh how was her TED talk? I’ve been meaning to watch them but I just never seem to find the time (or the motivation to look them up)!

      We Should All Be Feminists is a great book, but I also want to highlight that the book can be exclusionary of non-binary/trans people and issues. So take it with a grain of salt.

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it! <3

      • I really liked her talk I thought she was real and unapologetic but I can see how she could be exclusionary which is disappointing. I also liked the speaker on intersection in feminism by Kimberle Crenshaw and the one by Adam Foss about prosecutors working towards a better justice system if your looking for any recs :D Just beware of the comments youtube can be nasty especially when it comes to feminism and racism in the justice system :(

        I binge watched a whole lot of them because I had computer work to do that took time but not much concentration xD

Leave a Reply! I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments. <3

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s