Updated: Jul 3
If you have been living under a rock, I will briefly illustrate what feminism is. Feminism can be briefly described as the promotion of equality between men and women. However, this barely scratches the surface.
'I am not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from my own.' - Audre Lorde
The best way to educate yourself on any topic is through books. Reading is empowering. It allows you to learn about a vast variety of different subjects. I thought it would be very valuable to share a list of my favourite reads on the topic of feminism. This is not a complete list and I encourage you to always try to read as extensively as possible on this topic.
These books are not ranked in a specific order.
It's Not About The Burqa edited Mariam Khan
This book is a collection of essays from seventeen different Muslim women. What's refreshing about this book is that it gives a platform to women who are usually ignored in mainstream media. It's quite common to see so many sources speak for Muslim women rather than providing them with the platform to voice their thoughts and experiences.
This book talks about divorce, wearing the hijab, love, queer identity and sex. I found this to be an incredibly valuable and engaging read. Feminist discussion can only progress if we learn and listen to each other.
Do you want to grab yourself a copy?
Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women White Feminists Forgot by Mikki Kendall
I think this was one of the most important books I read in 2020. Kendall draws on a wide range of topics from healthcare, and poverty to gun violence as a way of highlighting all the different issues white feminism has been neglecting. As a white person, I thought this was an incredibly valuable and necessary read.
Kendall's writing style had me hooked from the first chapter. I even used this book as a form of reference for some of my essays whilst I was doing my undergraduate degree. I cannot recommend it enough. If you see this book the next time you are at your local bookshop, you should get yourself a copy!
What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri
This book does not only touch on feminist topics but also issues such as racism, capitalism, and environmentalism. Even though this essay is very short, I personally felt like I learned so much.
Dabiri writes from a very proactive approach and emphasises the importance of unity and coalition between individuals. She also explored how different concepts such as capitalism affected racism and feminism and that was a whole other approach I hadn't thought of before. I am going to add more of Dabiri's work to my TBR very soon!
Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
I came across the works of Audre Lorde whilst doing my MA and I honestly believe she has made one of the most important contributions to feminist literature to date. This edition is a collection of her essays and poems so if you are new to her work, this is the perfect place to start.
The essay that I found the most intriguing was Lorde's open letter to Mary Daly. What's valuable about Lorde's essays is that she stresses the importance of recognising difference. It is unhelpful for feminism when all women are put in the same box and assumed to have endured similar hardships. Her writing is simply beautiful and very easy to follow - sometimes texts can be full of so much jargon it can get a bit overwhelming. However, Lorde's writing is concise and thought-provoking. I would also recommend her book, Sister Outsider.
A Decolonial Feminism by Françoise Vergès
In this small collection of essays, Vergès explores the different ways the feminist movement can go forwards without being plagued by capitalism, colonialism and imperialism.
This book is broken down into two distinct sections:
I - Taking Sides: Decolonial Feminism
II - The Evolution towards Twenty-First Century Civilisational Feminism
This is a fresh, thought-provoking analysis of feminism today with insight into how the movement is being held back by concepts such as capitalism. I finished this book in a single afternoon so it's a perfect start if you want to read more about feminism.
She Speaks: Women's Speeches That Changed The World, From Pankhurst to Thunberg by Yvette Cooper
I was very fortunate to be gifted this book for Christmas and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The women in this book are from a vast variety of different backgrounds. This book was inspiring, and educational and made me excited to read about some of the wonderful achievements of women. I am going to add the long list of women featured in this book as it doesn't feel right to only mention a few names. Furthermore, if you don't have time to read the book, you can research these figures to learn more about them and their famous speeches! I have attached links to videos and other resources on each woman here.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This essay was adapted from Adichie's famous TEDx talk. In such a short book (around 50 pages depending on your edition) it was packed with so many valuable and thoughtful arguments.
Through humour and utilising personal experiences, Adichie reflects how feminism today should be understood. This book is wonderful in reflecting that feminism is just as beneficial for men as it is for women. It is a bit depressing that we need to emphasise to some men that they can benefit from feminism - one would assume that gender equality would not need much persuasion. This brief yet very informative book is perfect for all of you who want to read more about the topic! I will also attach the full TEDx talk below.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
This book is likely the most important autobiography on feminist issues to date. I remember being a teenager when I heard on the news about a girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. I'm a few years younger than Malala and the fact that someone would try to kill a young girl for trying to go to school was shocking and incomprehensible. This book was beautiful and I loved reading about Malala's life in the Swat whilst she was growing up. Reading Malala's autobiography is just as vital today as it was when it was first published. Many countries such as Afghanistan have recently fallen under Taliban rule resulting in thousands of girls being deprived of an education. Having an education is a fundamental human right and stopping girls from receiving one is a grave injustice. I encourage you to read and familiarise yourselves with this issue - we need to work together towards a world where every girl can go to school.
The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing edited by Hannah Dawson
This is a collection of different essays, book chapters and poems from around the world on a variety of different feminist issues. Even though this is a very big book, it is a great title to add to your bookshelf. It's a concise and valuable reference point for a variety of different feminist issues.
I loved that this book included writers from all around the world - I was able to come across scholars I had never encountered before. The overall message I took away from this book was that feminism is indeed for everyone. There are difficult subjects covered in this book so I would recommend being mindful of this before you start reading. I got so excited reading about bell hooks, Audre Lorde and Judith Butler. This book is overall an excellent concise source for those who want to read more about feminism!
The Periodic Table of Feminism by Marisa Bate
This book is an excellent starting point and introduction if you are completely new to the topic of feminism. Bate has broken down the common pillars of feminism, such as the different waves, whilst simultaneously introducing you to many incredible women.
One figure that stood out to me was Aletta Jacobs. Aletta was the first woman to receive a medical degree in The Netherlands and worked towards providing free advice and contraception to many women. I'll attach a brief bio below if you want to read more about Jacobs' work.
The only thing that I would be mindful of when reading this book is that it's a very western-centric take on feminism. A vast majority of the women featured were from Europe and North America. However, if you are very new to the topic of feminism, this is a helpful introduction. Of course, I would encourage you to continue to branch out and read more about these women featured!
Rebel Writers: The Accidental Feminists by Celia Brayfield
This biography explores the lives of seven women who had no intention of sparking a feminist change. Through literature and film, they challenged the rigid societal norms they lived in, paving the way for the formation of second-wave feminism.
These women were just honestly reflecting their own experiences through their work and yet it sparked a variety of reactions from shock to outrage - some reviewers labelling them as "angry women". This is a very insightful read if you want to learn about all the different barriers female writers had - (and to an extent, still have to put up with!) This is a valuable piece of non-fiction that I recommend adding to your TBR.
I'll leave a list of the women featured below if you want to research them individually
Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World edited by Zahra Hankir
This book will likely be one of the most interesting reads you pick up this year. It's a collection of essays from different journalists in the Middle East, recounting their experiences and challenges when it came to reporting. There were moments of this book that were really hard to read - it's not a lighthearted book, and topics such as sexual assault are discussed. But I thought it was very fascinating to see how these women overcame the hurdles around them and carried out their job. It was very inspiring to read the extent many of these journalists were willing to go to expose the truth. There are so many barriers that women are confronted with in the field of journalism anyway, but combining this with being in a conflict zone is just a whole other level.
I found this book to be very eye-opening and well-written. You should keep an eye out for this one the next time you are in your local bookshop!
Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay
TW: This book does explicitly talk about sexual assault and rape so please do not pressure yourself to read this one as can be very distressing.
I've been meaning to read Gay's work for some time as I believe she's published quite a lot of literature on feminist issues. This book is a collection of essays by different individuals sharing their own experiences of rape culture. It's a raw, honest and unapologetically frank commentary on the attitudes and perceptions of rape culture in the twenty-first century. It took me a while to read this one because it is a very blunt recollection of different cases of sexual assault and rape. It can very be a very distressing read so please don't feel obligated to read this one. However, I found it to be an incredibly valuable book, and I want to thank all the people who contributed to this anthology for sharing their stories.
I will try to read more of Gay's work in the future and add them to this list.
Unwell Women: A Journey Through Medicine and Myth in a Man-Made World by Elinor Cleghorn
The feminist area of medicine is something I've not really thought about much before. Sadly, sexist presumptions about women's health have been ongoing from Ancient Greece to the present day. Cleghorn unpacks and explores all the challenges and prejudices women have had to endure in the world of medicine. Given that it's a field that is about helping people, women rarely listen when trying to seek advice. From reproductive to mental health, women have been shunned, shamed and ignored. As this has been going on for centuries, the pain women are confronted with has become normalised, and thus, not taken seriously.
I found this to be such an eye-opening and engaging read - simply a brilliant and necessary read.
Fix the System, Not the Women by Laura Bates
I think this is an excellent book to give to boys and men who are ignorant and even sceptic about feminist issues. In just under two hundred pages, Bates unpacks the underlining misogyny in institutions from the police, media, and judiciary. Although this can be quite a tough read for many, I think it's really important for so many women to know that they aren't alone in the abuse that they've experienced. Bates eloquently highlights how women are often silenced because they feel like the abuse they experience is 'normal' or 'not that bad'. In reality, it's the mass normalisation of sexist attitudes that has left people feeling this way.
Of course, since this is quite a short book, there are a lot of feminist issues that Bates doesn't have time to cover in detail. However, I think this is a brilliant starting point for anyone who wants to read more about feminism. It's backed with thorough data and evidence - you can't finish this book and remain ignorant.
I want to stress that this book does cover issues such as rape and sexual assault, so do read with care.
Laura Bates was the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. It's an online platform where people can catalogue and share their experiences of sexism. I will attach a link to it below.
This is a growing list of book recommendations. I highly recommend you research and read as much as you can on feminist issues. Do not underestimate how powerful books can be when it comes to creating change.