Inequality based on gender remains the biggest global injustice and the struggle against this injustice spans continents and millennia. As these books on feminism show, feminism is not impulse or result of modernism but it has been around for centuries.
Here are the 7 books on feminism every woman should read.
A Room of One’s Own
Author: Virginia Woolf
Publication Year: 1929
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” writes Woolfe in this key work of feminist literary criticism.
Woolf argues through the character of Mary that both literature and history is a male construct and built to marginalize women. She explores the ideas of the erasure and silence of women throughout time; and how poverty and sexual constraint affects female creativity. Woolf rejects the notion that women are inferior writers. She proves the existence of a space for women in both literature and history in the novel. This is one of the best books on feminism.
The Feminine Mystique
Author: Betty Friedan
Publication Year: 1963
This book is often credited with sparking the beginning of second wave feminism in the U.S. Friedan begins with describing the widespread unhappiness of women in the 1950s and 1960s, despite of being married with children, a factor deemed the primary goal of women. Ultimately, she criticises all aspects of culture that have kept women in the domestic sphere. Friedan challenged the widely shared belief that “fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for American women after 1949: the housewife-mother”.
Author: Audre Lorde
Publication Year: 1984
A collection of essays and speeches by Lorde, Sister Outsider explores the complexities of intersectional feminism, tackling issues such as war, imperialism, police brutality, coalition building, violence against women, black feminism and movements towards equality. The title stems from Lorde’s identity as both sister (being a woman) and being an outsider (being a lesbian black woman). This collection emphasises the importance of intersectionality in feminism, as the equality of all women means including the LGBTQ+ community, as well as women of colour.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Year: 1985
This novel (also now a hit TV show) is set in a dystopian New England. Here, handmaids are bought and sold to their masters and then must take or echo their name. For example, the main character Offred literally just means “of Fred”. It explores the themes of women as objects in a patriarchal society and the efforts they take to gain freedom and independence, all while being a thrilling read full of twists and turns. Margaret Atwood is one of the best female authors I’ve read so far.
Women and Gender in Islam
Author: Leila Ahmed
Publication Year: 1993
This book checks the reader’s assumptions about women and Islam in the Middle East. Ahmed explores the history of the Western gaze and its inherent misunderstanding about Islam and gender. Her book is a fascinating exploration of Islamic debates and ideologies about women and the historical circumstances of their position in society.
How To Be A Woman
Author: Caitlin Moran
Publication Year: 2011
This non-fiction memoir documents Moran’s early struggles, from teen to mid-30s. She wrote with the goal of making feminism more approachable to everyone, trying to break the stigma that feminists are radical man-haters. She advocates for the notion that all women should be feminists as feminism is inherently just the idea of personal freedom. Like Roxane Gay, Moran makes feminism approachable, relatable and simple.
Author: Roxane Gay
Publication Year: 2014
Gay’s book rejects the notion that feminists must be inherently perfect in order to obtain the feminist title. She argues that you don’t have to fit one mould and that it is possible to have dual identities and desires. For example, she wants to be independent and also be taken care of; she enjoys rap while also finding the lyrics offensive. The author reminds us that feminists are human beings: nuanced, complex and not a rigid structure.