10 Must Read Feminist Books by Gigi Bushell

With International Women’s Day soon approaching, Gigi takes us through her list of must read feminist books to leave you feeling inspired.

“One must always be careful of books and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.”

Cassandra Clare

We’ve all heard the term feminism before whether it was earlier today, last year, or when you were 12.  Some of us might even consider ourselves feminists whether we shout it loud and proud or keep it quiet and private, either way, it is all still important. There are so many different definitions and interpretations of feminism mulling around society but in my opinion and for the purpose of this blog here is what we are going to go with: Feminism is the belief that all genders should have equal rights and opportunities. It is not man-hating, it is not just for the middle-classes, it is not just women. Anyone and everyone can be a feminist. If you believe in equality for genders, for races, for sexualities, for everyone, then you’re a feminist. It’s as simple as that.

I know when I first realised I was a feminist. I was very young but didn’t really start to look into what kind of feminist I was until a couple of years ago when started following several different instagram accounts that matched my views. However, I wanted to do more, to know more. I read some books that taught me new things. They helped me find a community that felt the same as me whilst making a greater impact. I don’t believe any one gender, race, class, etc, should be superior to another. I recognise that there are inherent differences between people, but these differences are what make us special and   should be celebrated. They are not be an excuse for our oppression.

So, whether you are looking for a light read or something to get your teeth into I have collated a list of feminist books that you might consider reading in all your spare time during this third national lockdown. I will mention that these books don’t all have the same idea of feminism. Some are very open and others are less so. I for one don’t agree with absolutely everything said in all of these books but that’s normal. Just like you are not guaranteed to get on with every person you will ever meet, you are not going to love every book you read, but they all teach us something about ourselves. Now that is out the way, I hope you find something that catches your fancy.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women – by Mary Wollstonecraft

First published in 1792, protofeminist Wollstonecraft took inspiration from the revolutionaries of her time who demanded greater rights for mankind, to advocate for an even more socially-maligned group – women. Independent, educated and intellectually esteemed, Wollstonecraft has been called one of the mothers of feminist theory, posing the idea of women as the natural and intellectual equals of men and deserving of equal treatment and opportunities nearly a hundred years before the term “feminist” even existed. When you read Wollstonecroft’s work you can clearly see how far we as a society have come but also how much further we still have to go.

A Room of Ones Own – by Virginia Woolf

Published in 1929, Woolf’s essay took on the established literary criticism of the time, which claimed women were inherently lesser writers and creators by virtue of their gender. Instead, Woolf pointed to the vast, systemic education and economic failures that stifled women writers of the time. As one of the foundational pieces of feminist literary critique, you might expect that Woolf’s words lost their potency over the years, but her clever, incisive perspective remains just as inspiring today as it was when it was published.

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink – by Scarlet Curtis

A collection of writing from extraordinary women, from Hollywood actresses to teenage activists, each telling the story of their personal relationship with feminism, this book explores what it means to be a woman from every point of view. Often funny, sometimes surprising, and always inspiring, this book aims to bridge the gap between the feminist hashtag and the scholarly text by giving women the space to explain how they actually feel about feminism.

The Guilty Feminist – by Deborah Francis-White

In The Guilty Feminist, Deborah Frances-White reassures us that we don’t have to be perfect to be a force for meaningful change. Exploring big issues of identity, equality, intersectionality, and the current feminist agenda, she explodes the myth of the model activist and offers a realistic path toward changing the world. Francis-White has a successful podcast of the same name where she regularly has well-known and influential names share some of their guiltiest feminist experiences.

Invisible Women – by Caroline Criado-Perez

From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Criado-Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all. When reading this piece you will start to question everything or have several ‘lightbulb’ moments, for example, our mobile phones are too big for women’s hands, they were designed for men’s hands!

Roar – by Cecelia Ahern

In this singular and imaginative story collection, Ahern explores the endless ways in which women blaze through adversity with wit, resourcefulness, and compassion. Ahern takes the familiar aspects of women’s lives — the routines, the embarrassments, the desires — and elevates these moments to the outlandish and hilarious with her astute blend of magical realism and social insight. One woman is tortured by sinister bite marks that appear on her skin; another is swallowed up by the floor during a mortifying presentation; yet another resolves to return and exchange her boring husband at the store where she originally acquired him. The women at the centre of this curious universe learn that their reality is shaped not only by how others perceive them, but also how they perceive the power within themselves.

Feminism is for Everybody – by bell hooks

Suffice it to say that feminist theory can be a bit dense for some. That is why beloved feminist author and cultural critic bell hooks set out in 2000 to create an educational text for those whose understanding of feminism comes from passing TV references and outdated ideas about “feminazis”. A passionate treatise for the lay-feminist, hooks explains and examines inclusive feminism and the practical application of it in a way that is both entertaining and informative. It is easy to connect with hooks’ writing as she uses personal stories with plenty of emotion and confessional tones that we can all relate to in some way.

Bad Feminist – by Roxanne Gay

In the age of “problematic faves”, cultural critic Roxane Gay embraces and advocates for the idea of imperfect feminism in her collection of funny and honest essays. Pointing out the irony of holding our icons up to impossible-to-meet standards of thought and behaviour. Gay takes on trigger warnings, the complications of loving catchy songs despite their degrading lyrics, and the ways in which tokenism in media negatively impacts women and people of colour.

The Female Eunuch – by Germaine Greer

Dynamic and divisive, Greer’s landmark book has been making waves since it first hit shelves in 1970. Perhaps best known for its assertion that women should consider tasting their own menstrual blood, Greer’s impassioned, unflinching text became one of the early voices in the moment to call out the traditional nuclear family as a tool of female oppression and pose sexual liberation as essential to women’s liberation. This strongly opinionated piece of writing nowadays I think is more of a referential piece than a radical call-to-action that it was 50 years ago (we are no longer burning our bras in the streets – despite the lockdown meaning our breasts don’t need to go to boob jail everyday).

Sister Outsider – by Audre Lorde

Intersectional feminism has raised its profile in recent years, with a more diverse range of voices participating in the conversation than ever before. Much of that is owed to work by writers like famed poet and author Audre Lorde, who brought a black, queer, feminist perspective to the forefront of the cultural discussion in this iconic collection of essays and speeches on racism, sexism and homophobia.

Of course, there are so many more books out there that you can continue your feminist education with, including: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, and The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Of course there are so many other books, articles, blogs, etc., that may strike a chord with you, and there are more coming out everyday. There are also so many strong people and great Instagram accounts out there who are worth following including @namastehannah, @wowglobal, and @unwomen. Also, why not give some of the wonderful authors mentioned above a follow, @scarcurtis, @theguiltyfeminist, and @ccriadoperez.

These books helped me so much on my journey to who I am today and they will continue to influence me on my journey to who I am yet to become. These books will always be by my side, just like the other people who share the same beliefs as you. These books helped me find my community, helped me find my voice, helped me find me. I grant you that not all of these books may be your cup of tea, but the thing about tea is that there are so many different kinds. Perhaps you like a fruity exotic mango tea, maybe you like green tea, or then again you could be like me and know traditional English breakfast will never fail you. This same principle can be applied to feminism, you may discover that you are not a radical feminist, or that you are an outspoken feminist who wants to get their hands dirty and join in the marches hoisting your banner high above your head, or maybe you are more of a private feminist who would rather stay at home sipping that cup of tea we talked about earlier. Nevertheless, I hope you found this list eye-opening and who knows where picking up a single book can take you – a short escape, or a life-long adventure?

About the Author – Gigi Bushell:

As a Creative Writing MA student at the University of Surrey I spend most of my time writing (big surprise) educational articles on taboo subjects. I love writing for The Stag magazine and I strive to share stories that can help everyone. Whether it be about mental health, sexuality, or simply how to make the most of spending so much time at home – it’s all very zoom and gloom right now. I also find writing a charming and hopefully hilarious bio very difficult. Find me @gigibushellx on both Twitter and Instagram.

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