I’ve seen a lot of great posts over the last couple days for International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month. I love seeing bloggers highlight the powerful women out there fighting the good fight, as well as feminist writers we should all be reading. As I’ve been a little behind on reading this week, I wanted to highlight some feminist literature that I feel gets left out of the conversation, as well as some feminist books that are on my TBR.
Top 5 Feminists I’ve Read
Jessica Valenti – Full Frontal Feminism, Sex Object: A Memoir
I first encountered Jessica Valenti at the suggestion of one of my classmates in the Women’s Studies department the spring of my sophomore year of college. I’d just “discovered” feminism in the sense that I started taking cross-listed WS classes and realized that I identified with the beliefs, but I wanted more info. A friend of my recommended Full Frontal Feminism, a basic field guide to modern feminism told in sarcastic, down-to-earth language by one of the third wave’s biggest names, Jessica Valenti.
While Valenti has (and probably will continue to) come under fire as a white feminist in contemporary culture, Full Frontal Feminism stands out as one of the most accessible books I read as a relatively young person. In a world that claims feminism no longer matters, Valenti does a great job of explaining just why feminism is relavent to young girls today, as well as describing what we can do about it. Her recently published memoir, Sex Object is beautifully written and deals with some of the contradictions in her own life and her feminist journey.
bell hooks – Feminism is for Everybody
Another book I read outside of class in college, Feminism Is For Everybody is a book, literally, for everybody. bell hooks succinctly talks about what feminism is, and how it can benefit the world: not just white women, not just black women, but everybody. It’s also extremely accessible, as she breaks down some of the academic feminism that might be off-putting to the average reading. And, let’s be honest, we should all be reading more black feminists (especially us white girls).
Susan J. Douglas – Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work Is Done
I read Enlightened Sexism for a class on Feminist Nonfiction. Published in 2010, this book deals with the modern idea that we don’t need feminism because we have positive, powerful female role models in popular culture. Douglas analyzes the media messages that tell women feminism is already done, as well as the so-called feminist pop culture figures that aren’t so empowering.
There’s a lot to unpack in this book, and even a lot to argue with, but that’s part of what makes it great. I think we, as modern feminists, should be talking about pop culture and the ways it affects our feminist politics. It opens up a discussion, too, for just who our real-life feminist role models are, and whether or not they’re truly representing what the movement is (or should be) about.
Shiri Eisner – Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution
Hallelujah, this book gave me life.
This book is on the list because I personally believe that bisexuality is left out of both LGBTQ+ conversations and feminist conversations. Bisexual individuals typically go unnoticed, either being identified as gay or straight depending on their perceived relationships. But, as Eisner points out, bisexuals encounter specific discrimination in attitudes and deal with specific problems in society.
This book gave me life because it was proof of things I’d speculated about my experiences and that of others. It showed me that I’m not alone in this, even when it feels like I’m completely invisible.
Erica Jong – Fear of Flying
Back in the 70s, post-“sexual revolution,” a bunch of feminist novels came out, ones whose characters were involved in women’s liberation, and ones like Fear of Flying. I loved this book for two reasons: 1) its refreshingly open and honest discussion of sexuality in a way that still isn’t done often over 40 years later and 2) the fact that the main character is a writer. I want more modern books like Fear of Flying, books with protagonists who have open, honest sex with men who aren’t their romantic partners, books where women talk about what sex means for them and what it does. I want books with women who have a complicated relationship to sex—and I want books with women who are on the Ace/Aro spectrum. Fear of Flying, for all its preoccupation with sex, shows me what is possible in feminist fiction.
my feminist TBR
- No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle B. Freedman (currently reading)
- The Second Sex by Simone de Bauvoir
- Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy & The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti (I’ve owned both of these for at least 4 years)
- We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Nigozi Adichie
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- Trainwreck by Sady Doyle
- Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World ed. by Kelly Jensen
- Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts
LET’S TALK! Who are some of your favorite feminist writers? What are some of your go-to feminist texts? Let me know in the comments.