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Want to know more about the feminist movement and what it means to be a feminist today? Check out these books on feminism that can unpack it all for you.
Feminism has been a target of those who believe it to be akin to man-hating. What, then, is a way out? How does one educate oneself before propagating stuff like this? The obvious answer to this is “Reading”.
Educating oneself before shunning anything is always a good idea. It doesn’t only enlighten you, but also arms you with intellectual weapons to fight for or against in a fair battle of words. It also helps you determine the ways in which you can perhaps make way for better ideas to take root in order for the movement to make a mark. Of course each one of us can only do this much, but there never should be a stop to the learning curve.
Here is a humble list of books (not in any particular order) for you to get a better perspective about the feminist movement through its history, and the very recent forms of it.
by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf, the foremost modernist and one of the earliest feminists of the early 19th century, explores the women writers before her. This is an essay which talks majorly about ‘Women and Fiction’ and why it is devastating that only men have mostly written about women since centuries. She emphasizes the need of having a room of one’s own and some dollars (money) to one’s name in order for one to write something of logic and imagination. This book is considered as one of the earliest works of feminism and is extremely inspiring on many levels.
by Simone De Beauvoir
Simone De Beauvoir takes her inspiration from Woolf. She read ‘A Room of One’s Own’, got her own room, and wrote this extensive piece of gender expectations and dynamics which has inspired and educated quite a many contemporary feminists. The book is quoted in almost all feminist texts and is a major source of understanding the various nuances of global feminism.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
We, as feminists, often hear arguments about how feminism is destroying the man-woman dynamics. Biology is an often-most excuse to define the societal norms set for or against women. Adichie’s book shatters the notion that only women need feminism. It explains us with quotable anecdotes of daily incidents, and makes us understand why everyone in today’s date should be a feminist and how the movement is not only for women but also for all men out there who are striving to get their support but are denied so because the society refuses to believe that weakness doesn’t look at gender.
by Roxane Gay
While Bad Feminist is a collection of essays, Difficult Women is a collection of short stories. While Bad Feminist critics the cultural norms and the consequences of it, Difficult Women tells some heartrending stories of survivor women. Roxane Gay is a modern feminist and has consistently proven her thirst for activism by continuously educating and enlightening herself. We need feminists who do not stick to one opinion and value everything around to understand the deepest intricacies of the word and its complexities.
by Nivedita Menon
This one is a highly recommended exhaustive text about feminism especially in Indian Context. Most of the books take a global perspective of feminism, while Menon, a professor of political thought at Jawaharlal Nehru University, discusses thoroughly well-researched cases and laws thereby throwing tremendous light on the ever-evolving concept of feminism in India.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adhichie
When you are raising a child, it is ever so important that you inculcate values of self-determination and curiosity. When a friend, who had recently become a mom, asked Adichie, who has worked in the area of Nigerian Feminism for quite a while, about tips to raise a daughter, Adichie wrote this fifteen pointer manifesto as a guide book of feminist parenting. Yes, Adichie does say that these are just a few ways and the end result may still be something we’d never thought, but one has to start from somewhere. This book isn’t just for parents but also for people who want to learn more about the ways in which one can break the years of conditioning for a better prospect of tomorrow.
by Margaret Atwood
A nightmarish dystopia is imagined by Atwood in this one, where the Constitution is overthrown by the Republic of Gilead and women are now the Handmaids or the baby-making machines for the higher ranks of the government. If a woman cannot produce a baby, she is made to either work for the household or brainwash the other women. With abortion laws made stringent and contraceptives for women face increased taxes, with laws about women being passed by a roomful of men, this dystopia is one that is already hovering above our heads. If steps aren’t taken now, voices aren’t raised right now; Republic of Gilead can take over everything that we currently hold dear. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to know the ease at which our lives can be confiscated.
by Lindy West
Lindy West’s memoir took shape when she was fat-shamed after raising a voice against rape jokes on a social media platform. In this joyfully profane memoir she mixes humor and pathos and takes on internet trolls apart from fairytaleish repugnance of anything fat to puberty and other aspects of her life. She believes she has put herself up for a sacrifice in an ever-charging world where every woman and man is vulnerable.
by Jacky Fleming
In this scrumptiously delicious, incredibly funny feminist cartoon book, Fleming explores the situation of men and women “as is” since history. There is no preaching, no advice, no research – just plain day to day mundane situations and the glaring sexism in them. She tackles this in an extremely self-deprecating humorous manner with sarcasm playing its highest and loudest notes.
The lesser known females of the epic Ramayana make their presence felt in this extraordinary book set in the time after Rama abandoned Sita. As HarperCollins describes its back cover, it is a powerful subversion of India’s most popular tale of morality, choice and sacrifice, The Liberation of Sita opens up new spaces within the old discourse, enabling women to review their lives and experiences afresh. Popuri Lalita Kumar, popularly known as Volga, is a progressive feminist and her work has incited several powerful debates in an era when the word was not even accepted yet.
by Gloria Steinem
Steinem is another author who is quoted in majority of feminist texts along with Beauvoir. She is counted as a legendary feminist and activist and My Life on the Road is her powerful memoir about how travelling and listening has helped her to form her views and opinions and helped her in her activism more than anything else could have.
by Germaine Greer
Yet another feminist text inspired by Beauvoir’s the Second Sex, Germaine Greer has analyzed the societal normalization of feminine and masculine dynamics, thereby, carefully investigating, through a set of humorous, coarse anecdotes, thoroughly researched yet lucid, the moral impacts of such normalization. She calls her book The Female Eunuch, because the society imposes so many restrictions that there comes a time when women lose their sexual identification completely. The book created uproar in the 1970s and is considered as the most impactful feminist texts of that period which set the whole feminist movement into motion.
by Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks looks at the movement of feminism through an American lens and the book has garnered critical reviews to be a “radical” feminism text but visionary nonetheless. Hooks brings out her own cynicism in terms of the society in general and how the corruption prevalent is going to make this movement a very tough one. She also explores in this one, the role of men in feminism apart from the need of solidarity among women.
by Angela Carter
Our fairy tales have long been accused to portray women as damsels in distress perpetually on a lookout for a prince to save them. Published in 1979, this anthology is a modern twist to 10 classic fairy tales and folk tales which include Bluebird, Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty. It is high time we teach our sons and daughters that they all can be strong and they all can need protecting sometimes and both are equally fine.
by Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde, in this collection of essays and speeches, broadly discusses intersectional feminism, classism, ageism, racism, homophobia – typically all forms of oppression. The title is an oxymoron that emphasizes Lorde’s life as the sufferer as well as the conqueror, as someone who has been there and someone who hasn’t quite been at some other places, thus, providing an extensive glimpse into the world from both the perspectives.
As a parting note I would just like to add that feminism is an ever-evolving movement and even those who think they know enough must never shy away from educating themselves more because you never know when, where, which book gives you the exact right perspective, that you didn’t even knew you were struggling with. Happy Reading!
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