32 Feminist Books Every Person Should Have on Their Reading List

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Speaking of historical feminism, The Yellow Wallpaper, written in 1892, is considered an integral part of early feminist literature. It’s a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband is treating her for “a slight hysterical tendency” (something lots of women were labelled with at the time). She reflects on women’s lack of life outside the home, and how oppressive the patriarchy can be, both things that are still being worked through over 130 years later.

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We’ve all had the experience of being mansplained to a time or two thousand. But did you know the actual term “mansplaining” was inspired by author Rebecca Solnit’s essay Men Explain Things To Me? Well, this book is a compilation of her essays where she can take something as frustrating as having a man literally explaining her own work back to her and turn it into something memorable.

In the era of trying to look good for social media, this book really pushes you to question the patriarchal narratives that may have subconsciously crept into your life, covering everything from taking pleasure in other women’s flaws to conforming to the male gaze.

When you think of feminist writers, Gloria Steinem is usually one of the first people who comes to mind. In this book, the journalist/activist/all-around badass tells the story of, well, her life on the road, from starting out as a journalist covering important women’s issues to co-founding the Women’s Media Center.

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We can’t talk about feminism without talking about intersectionality. What is intersectional feminism? We’re glad you asked. It’s feminism that’s conscious of the fact that a woman’s many identities—race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.—affect how she experiences disadvantages. Mikki Kendall takes the discussion around intersectionality even further by reminding us that we must acknowledge barriers like education, violence, hunger, medical care, and more when discussing feminism at all.

There’s no doubt that equality for women has come a long way, but things aren’t exactly equal, ESPECIALLY when it comes to household work. Darcy Lockman’s book looks at why women are so often still stuck carrying most of the mental, emotional, and parental loads despite the idea of equal partnerships being (theoretically) popular.

As some states keep on with their crusade to take away women’s right to choose, this true story about the formation of the Abortion Counseling Service (aka Jane, an underground, safe abortion organization in Chicago in the ’60s) couldn’t be more topical. Jane operated until the first legal abortion clinics opened in the early ’70s, spending years protecting thousands of women from dangerous back-alley situations.

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Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever had your symptoms totally dismissed by a doctor! A lot of us, right? Well, Elinor Cleghorn’s eye-opening book takes a deep dive into the history of how the medical system has failed women (all the way from Ancient Greece to modern day problems like getting Endometriosis diagnosed) and how women are often seen as unreliable sources for what they’re feeling in their own bodies.

If you’ve ever looked back and realized the messages you got as a young girl or woman might have been kind of f*cked up, this is a must-read. Melissa Febos analyzes what narratives society gives young girls and women about themselves and roles in the world and how we can reclaim power, anger, grief, and pleasure. It’s part memoir/part investigation, and you’re guaranteed to come away feeling ready to make a change.

In this classic 1983 book, Angela Y. Davis explores how racism and classism have infiltrated many feminist movements throughout history, with white women leaders often upholding ideals of white supremacy instead of advocating for women of color. She documents how well-known feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Sanger dismissed the needs of Black and working-class people in the pursuit of advancing their own agendas. Davis also shares how these historical inequalities in popular feminist movements influence how society views domestic labor, reproductive freedom, sexual assault, and other feminist issues to this day. It’s a must-read if you’re trying to learn more about intersectionality.

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In this 1929 book based on two of Virginia Woolf’s lectures, she completely shuts down the sexist claim that women are inherently less talented writers and thinkers than men. To do so, she examines some of the structures that oppressed (and continue to oppress) women’s ambitions, such as expectations around domestic labor and lack of access to education. It may be nearly a century old, but this work’s ideas are just as potent today as they were then.

In this book, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, a professor and Indigenous woman, examines western ideas around feminism. She is a Goenpul woman of the Quandamooka people, an Aboriginal Australian group, and she looks at how white feminists in Australia have frequently either ignored or misrepresented Indigenous women in their publications and teachings.

18

Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death, by Erin Gibson

Credit: Grand Central Publishing

Not to be dramatic, but the patriarchy is trying to ruin our lives at pretty much every turn. Think we’re exaggerating? Allow Feminasty to elaborate. Erin Gibson comes in hot with facts and stories that’ll make your blood boil. In each chapter, you’ll learn about lesser-known women’s issues that aren’t trending but still deserve our undivided attention. Don’t even get us started on how doctors dismiss women’s health concerns.

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bell hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” She explains that everyone and anyone can be feminist and to do so, one most take a global and well-rounded perspective. She applies this theory to several global issues, including reproductive rights, domestic violence, racism and social hierarchies. Her writing style is captivating and delightfully blunt, which further strengthens her call to action.

Speaking of intersectionality, Unapologetic is also required reading on the topic, especially if you want to organize in social justice movements. Charlene Carruthers will change the way you think about race, class, and gender—and how the three affect each other. She’ll also inspire you to actually do something to help empower Black people and fight systemic injustices.

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