American Writer and feminist activist Marie Shear’s statement, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” best sums up the struggle of half of the world’s population. It is the fight for the equality of women. Human societies have always treated women at a disadvantage. In the globally acclaimed book Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, a character describes feminists as “just women who don’t want to be treated like shit.”
Men have traditionally controlled the power to do things and govern both private and public spheres. However, the world has come a long way in the last century. The change is on its way through countless local, national, and international movements to end discrimination based on gender and to ensure the rights and opportunities that women deserve as human beings.
Best Books About Feminists/Feminism!
Literature has played a significant role in shaping the ideals and ideologies of these movements, be it Fiction, Poetry, Journals, Manifestos, Essays, or Gender Theories. There is a variety of literature available today to understand the past, present, and future of feminist movements across the world.
As there are different kinds of women and various issues confronting them, there is not one feminism but a multiplicity of feminisms worldwide. The rich tapestry of available literature reveals the diversity of women’s issues and perspectives. Here are the best Feminist books you should read. You can learn about feminism and everything about the equality rights. You can use these books for your feminist book club too.
1. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Written in 1949 by the French philosopher Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex (French: Le Deuxième Sexe) is undeniably one of the leading lights of the women’s movement in the world. It began as an autobiographical account where Simone contemplated why she always thinks about herself as a woman before anything else. In addition to the personal account, the author applies critical theory for an inquiry into the inequality of sexes. Raging against the unequal treatment of women since times immemorial, she demonstrates how men have always considered themselves subjects, whereas women were merely objects. The book engages with history, literature, biology, and many other fields to develop its crucial message about the existence of inequality in society. It is one of the founding texts of feminism and is celebrated all across the world. You can get the book here! 📖
2. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
In this tour de force of black feminism, legendary writer and feminist civil rights activist Audre Lorde explains the significance of intersectionality in feminist movements. Through this collection of speeches and essays between 1976-1984, Lorde advocates for inclusion and specific representation of minority women in the movements for gender justice. Writing in an era where the word intersectionality did not even exist, Lorde is critical of white feminism and its erasure of black women. As a black lesbian feminist, she interrogates homophobia, race, class, and sex issues. Furthermore, she discusses the use of anger and the contribution of poetry to feminist politics. This book is a highly recommended reading for those who want to understand the representation of minorities within the women’s movement. You can get the book here! 📖
3. Women, Culture and Politics by Angela Davis
Eminent activist-academic Angela Davis is one of the leading voices of present-day feminism. In this 1989 publication of essays and speeches that represent one of her finest works, Davis discusses race and sex in America. She reflects on the social-political transformations in the second half of the twentieth century and their impact on the combined issues of race, sex, and economy. She also analyses the prison industrial complex of the United States from a feminist standpoint. This book also contains an in-depth meditation on workers’ rights, education, health, and economic crises and their impact on women. You can get the book here! 📖
4. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is a New York Times essayist who published this humorous yet politically succinct collection of essays in 2014. She contemplates what it means to be a feminist in the twenty-first century with all our quirks, accuracies, and shortcomings. She rescues the label of being a feminist from the canons of cold academic and political divisions and offers a narration of its human side. Gay plays with the idea of a bad feminist. She jovially maintains that feminists can also have their follies as they are essentially humans. It is okay to have a soft corner for the mainstream song lyrics or television dating serials. It is okay to harbor a desire to bear children or haute couture. Her ability to interrogate her conduct, as well as that of today’s culture, is inspiring. She explores the mundane world and breaks it down in ways that are equal parts funny and incisive. The book is also a self-investigation of her identity and journey as a feminist and deals with the effect of culture on our worldviews. She makes a call for reflection and responsibility in our feminisms. You can get the book here! 📖
5. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit is accredited for introducing the world to the term Mansplaining. You must read this widely accepted feminist classic to understand its meaning and consequences. According to Solnit, in this society where men control the social institutions and hold power over women, they assume that women don’t know what they are doing. Emboldened by “overconfidence”, they take it upon themselves to illuminate women about their own work. It is often incorrect and patronizing and is borne out of men’s “cluelessness”.
Solnit believes that every girl knows a mansplainer that condescends to a woman only to assert power. The male-female conversations are gendered, and there are a lot of assumptions men make about women’s ignorance where it does not exist, just to stay at the top. She provides personal accounts of Mansplaining and alerts us of the dark consequences that quieting women from conversations can present over a period of time.
Furthermore, it deals with the concerns of equality in marriage and the removal of women from the accounts of history. Overall, this book is presented in an incisive narratorial voice and inspires righteous rage. You can get the book here! 📖
One of the quintessential and breakthrough works of feminist literary critique, Woolf’s essay dismantles the misconception that women are not as good writers as men. Writing in the 1920s, she lays bare the breakdown of economy and education and its direct impact on the creative artistic pursuits of women writers. Launched as part of a lecture series for the women’s colleges under the university of Cambridge, the essay quickly rose to the heights of an undeniable classic. Woolf takes on the impediments to women’s creativity – including marriage and family, financial independence, opportunities, and constraints of time. Besides economic well-being, Woolf believes that women need “a room of their own” for creative freedom. The issues raised in this essay have stood the test of a hundred years and continue to inspire activism. And in its enduring relevance lies its truth for all the struggling and highly creative women writers of the world. You can get the book here! 📖
This book’s movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg bagged an Oscar nomination for Oprah Winfrey. But do not let that satisfy you, as the book offers broader strokes of nuance and sunshine. This 1982 novel follows the story of an underprivileged young black girl in a racially segregated neighborhood in pastoral Georgia. Celie suffers the horrors of poverty and bears the burden of her kinship roles as a woman. Walker walks us through the harsh life of a multiply marginalized black woman who must maneuver racism and sexism, the outsider and the insider.
Her circumstances force Celia to relocate, and in the process, she gets separated from Nettie, her darling sister. Luckily, she finds herself in a community of female friends who support and encourage one another in big and small ways. Even though this sorority is itself grappling with abuse and subjugation from their patriarchs and racists in different ways, they find solace, comfort, and meaning in each other’s company. Celie continues written correspondence with her sister as they are now hundreds of miles apart. In her determination and resilience in the face of extreme violence and repression, Celie only gets better in the company of iron-willed women. She eventually returns. The story is narrated with compassion, grit, and determination, and the readers can appreciate the struggles of its many characters in poignant ways. You can get the book here! 📖
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, was published in 1985, and it has stood the test of time to become one of the hallowed classics of feminist fiction. Popular OTT Platform’s TV adaptation of the novel has earned laurels from critics in the entertainment industry. The novel follows the story of a low-ranking servant class woman named Offred who serves under the commander of Gilead – a mythical near future North America.
The population of the world in this sci-fi landscape is dwindling, and the fundamentalist regime has strictly enforced dark rules in the republic. Women are reduced to mere vessels for reproduction and considered nothing more than breeding stock. The regime unleashes malevolent acts of cruelty upon its female subjects with frightening regularity. Even reading is forbidden to them. In her nostalgia, Offred reminisces the independence of the time gone by and wishes to return to it. The book is equal parts satirical and foreboding of a dark era for freedom, reproductive and sexual rights and self-determination, bodily autonomy, and decision-making of women. When regimes worldwide are going back on the hard-fought reproductive rights of women, and the spectre of religious and patriarchal bigotry is unprecedented, this novel’s message is germane and daunting. You can get the book here! 📖
A household name for the young feminists, this Sylvia Plath magnum opus is a heart-breaking account of the trials and tribulations of Esther Greenwood. A young and ambitious writer in a pestilential gender-unjust society, Esther descends into the pits of mental illness. The novel’s narrative conjures her suffering and gradual mental crises with chilling minutiae. Readers get a front-row seat into the beautiful yet tragic life of a dazzling Esther is torn between too much love and too many disillusionments of being a young woman. If you have read Sylvia’s poetry and felt a lump in your throat, this book will seize you with its lyrical solitude. You can get the book here! 📖
10. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
Eve Ensler is nothing short of a sensation in the global cultural field of feminism. She started this episodic play in 1996 to unsettle the dust of complacency around women’s issues. It resolves to dethrone patriarchy and sexism from all aspects of women’s lives and has stimulated conversation on things considered taboo. Whether it is Female genital mutilation, menstruation, sex work, consent politics, or body and image issues, the monologues have turned the cultural indifference upside down. The play combines real-life stories of women and their lived experiences with creative and transgressive expressions. It has hilarity, nuance, and rage in adequate measures and has been changing the conversation of women’s issues one performance at a time. You can get the book here! 📖
These are some of the most read, loved, and cherished feminist books that are worth every penny. Get your hands on them right now, and you will not regret it for sure!
A minimalist traveler who derives peace from art, books, journals, handwritten letters, and the simple joys of life.