Feminism (noun), as described in the dictionary, is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Chris Beasley in her book – “What is Feminism?: An Introduction to Feminist Theory” published in 1990 – writes about Feminism being a troublesome term. “It may conjure up images of lively discussions, gesticulating hands and perhaps the occasional thumping of fists on tables; certainly, hot milk and bed socks do not spring to mind”, her words.
Over many decades, the meaning of Feminism itself has come to be associated, understood, and heralded across different times in various social and political settings. This gave rise to debates about its meaning and understating not just among the academic echelons but also the masses.
While there are reams and reams of papers filled with these ideas, discussions, and debates on Feminism, I share with you six books that talk about Feminism. These books will help you broaden your horizon and understand the concept of feminism at a deeper level and the forms it has taken over the years or rather the way it has come to be perceived or understood by academicians, feminist theorists, and the society in general.
The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan
Published in 1963, Betty Friedan refers to the ‘problem that has no name’. Though the book talks about the dilemma of America women who would look after the house, the children, shop, and at night lie besides their husband and be afraid to ask the silent question –“Is this all?”
Although the book was written decades ago, it is still very relevant to women as it talks about the power of choice. It got generations of women to think of a life beyond what they were taught and supposed to do. It showed that women can affect society and not just be affected by it. Though the book is based on American society, it has a global appeal.
The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvior
Simon says, “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.” Drawing upon sociology, anthropology, and biology, she looks at women from a biological, historical materialistic point of view. The book talks about the treatment of women throughout history. It also talks about the myths of femininity and freedom and the power it has to shatter the boundary or the sphere that women have been assigned to.
This is a classic you will not want to miss.
Feminism is for everybody – Bell Hooks
Bell Hook writes in the introduction of this book, “Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility. Feminist revolution alone will not create such a world; we need to end racism, class elitism, imperialism. But it will make it possible for us to be fully self-actualised females and males able to create beloved community, to live together, realising our dreams of freedom and justice, living the truth that we are all ‘created equal’. Come closer. See how feminism can touch and change your life and all our lives. Come closer and know firsthand what feminist movement is all about. Come closer and you will see: feminism is for everybody.”
This is a handbook for Feminism. A book that Bell wanted to hand over to people, especially when she met women at gatherings so she could tell them what Feminism is about. It is an interesting read that tells you about Feminism.
Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny
Gender and power in the 21st century – that is the focus of this book. Published in 2014, Laurie Penny raises difficult questions on money, sexual violence, masculinity, mental health, and the Internet.
She writes, “This is a feminist book. It is not a cheery instruction manual for how to negotiate modern patriarchy, with a sassy wink and a thumbs-up. It is not a charming, comforting book about sex and shopping and shoes.”
So there is your answer. Don’t expect this book to be gentle but clear, harsh, and brutally honest.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Published in 2014, Roxane’s approach is sharp and funny and it offers insights into the culture and how we consume it. She writes, “I am just one woman trying to make sense of this world we live in. I am raising my voice to show all the ways we have rooms to want more, to do better.”
She calls herself a Bad Feminist and calls out to other women to embrace feminism, and not look for feminists to follow but be one themselves.
So ladies, don’t wait up for other women to lead the way. Take your stand, make your choices and lead the way.
How to be a woman –Caitlain Moran
Caitlain Moran writes, “There’s never been a better time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…Why are we supposed to get Brazilians! Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? What should you call your vagina? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you are going to have a baby?” Part memoir and part rant the book explores these questions.
Selected by Emma Watson for her feminist book club ‘Our Shared Shelf’ makes it another good reason to have it on your reading list too.
So from women fighting for voting rights to equal pay and not being just a womb but a human being with choices – don’t wait up for other women to lead the way. Take your stand, make your choices, and be yourself.
Do share your favourite books on feminism with us. We look forward to hearing from you.