10 MUST read feminist books ✨
Empowering Pages: essential feminist reads for everyone ✨
01. “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir is a feminist landmark. It was first published in 1949 and it explores the social, political, and biological construction of femininity and argues that women have historically been relegated to a secondary, subordinate position in society.
The book’s central thesis is that gender is not a natural or essential category, but rather a social construction that has been imposed on women through cultural norms and expectations.
Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, from biology to psychoanalysis, de Beauvoir examines the ways in which women have been oppressed and devalued throughout history. She argues that women must reject the idea of femininity as a fixed, essential characteristic and instead strive for equality and freedom from patriarchal structures. “The Second Sex” remains a powerful and influential work of feminist theory, and its insights continue to be relevant and thought-provoking today.
02. “The Feminine Mystique” is a groundbreaking feminist book by Betty Friedan, first published in 1963.
The book is widely credited with sparking the second wave of feminism, and is a powerful critique of the societal pressures on women to conform to traditional gender roles. Friedan argues that women have been conditioned to find fulfillment solely through marriage and motherhood, and that this has led to a sense of deep dissatisfaction and ennui among many women. She interviews a wide range of women from different backgrounds and experiences, and explores the ways in which they have been affected by the “feminine mystique.” The book is a call to action for women to reject the limitations that have been imposed on them and to strive for equality and fulfillment. “The Feminine Mystique” remains a landmark feminist text that continues to resonate with readers today.
03. “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde is a collection of essays and speeches, first published in 1984. The book explores the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class, and argues for the importance of acknowledging and celebrating diversity.
Lorde is a powerful and lyrical writer, and she writes candidly about her experiences as a black lesbian feminist in America. She challenges the idea that there is a single “feminist” experience, and argues that we must embrace and celebrate the diversity of women’s experiences and identities. The essays in “Sister Outsider” cover a wide range of topics, from the role of the artist in society to the importance of self-care in activism. The book is a powerful and inspiring read that continues to resonate with readers today.
04. “Bad Feminist” is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay, published in 2014. In this book, Gay challenges the notion of what it means to be a feminist, and explores the complexities and contradictions of contemporary feminism. She examines a wide range of issues, from gender and race to pop culture and politics, and explores the ways in which these intersect with each other. The essays are deeply personal and candid, and Gay is not afraid to acknowledge her own contradictions and imperfections. She argues that we need to embrace a more inclusive, intersectional feminism that acknowledges the diversity of women’s experiences and identities. “Bad Feminist” is a witty, insightful, and thought-provoking read that challenges us to rethink our assumptions about feminism and gender politics.
05. “Men Explain Things To Me” is a feminist essay by Rebecca Solnit that explores the phenomenon of mansplaining, where men explain things to women that they already know. Solnit examines the power dynamics and gender inequality that underlie this behavior, and argues for the importance of amplifying women’s voices and experiences in society.
The essay is a powerful and thought-provoking read that has become a touchstone for contemporary feminist discourse.
06. “We Should All Be Feminists” is a short, powerful and accessible essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that argues for the importance of feminism in contemporary society. Drawing on her own experiences as a woman and a writer, Adichie explores the ways in which gender inequality manifests in our everyday lives, and highlights the need for men and women to work together to achieve gender justice. The essay has been widely praised for its clarity, humor, and inclusivity, and has become a popular introduction to feminist ideas for readers of all backgrounds.
07. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood is a dystopian novel.
Set in the near future in a totalitarian theocracy called the Republic of Gilead, the novel explores the subjugation of women and the erasure of their rights and identities. The story is told from the perspective of Offred, a Handmaid who is forced to bear children for her male owners. Atwood’s writing is powerful and evocative, and the novel is a stark warning about the dangers of authoritarianism and the need for feminist resistance. “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a classic of feminist literature and continues to resonate with readers today.
08. “A Room of One’s Own” is a feminist essay by Virginia Woolf based on a series of lectures delivered at two women’s colleges at the University of Cambridge. The essay examines the historical exclusion of women from the literary and intellectual spheres due to a lack of access to education and resources.
Woolf argues that women must have financial independence and a physical space of their own to pursue their artistic and intellectual ambitions. Her writing is insightful and lyrical, and the essay remains a touchstone of feminist thought, advocating for women’s empowerment and highlighting the importance of gender equality.
09. “This Bridge Called My Back” is an anthology of feminist essays, poetry, and fiction edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa.
The collection features the work of over 50 women of color, including Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, and Mitsuye Yamada, and explores a wide range of issues related to race, gender, sexuality, and class. The title of the anthology refers to the idea that women of color must build their own bridges to connect and support each other, rather than relying on the dominant culture. The writing in the anthology is powerful, moving, and deeply personal, and has had a profound impact on feminist and social justice movements.
10. “The Beauty Myth” is a feminist book by Naomi Wolf that explores the ways in which beauty standards are used to control and oppress women. Wolf argues that the beauty myth is a political and economic tool that keeps women in a state of perpetual self-doubt and anxiety, thereby preventing them from fully participating in society. She also examines the ways in which the beauty myth intersects with other forms of oppression, such as racism, homophobia, and ableism. The book is a seminal work of feminist thought and has been credited with sparking a new wave of feminist activism.
Wolf’s writing is incisive and persuasive, and the book remains a vital text for anyone interested in women’s rights and gender equality.
HERSTORY Makes History 10, March 2023