Feminism is a term and a movement that’s often misunderstood and mislabeled.
What does it actually mean? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, feminism is “Advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social and economic rights of the female sex.” Of course, it also includes “The movement associated with this.”
Books on and related to feminism have been published with increasing frequency over the past few years, particularly in the wake of the women’s marches in 2017 and 2018 and the advent of movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp.
Learn more about what it means by borrowing one or two of these feminist books and really dig into the issues.
1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This short book (clocking in at just over 50 pages) expands on a TEDx talk given by Nigerian writer Chimamamanda Ngozi Adichie and explores what “feminism” means today. Arguing for a feminism that is inclusive, this essay makes a compelling argument for why feminism is for everyone.
For extra credit, pick up Dear Ijeawele: Or, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by the same author, in which she outlines 15 tips she wrote for a friend who wanted advice on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist.
2. A Brief History of Feminism by Antje Schrupp
This graphic non-fiction history book covers everything from antiquity through to third-wave feminism. With appearances from Greek poet Sappho, English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft and French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir—along with many others—this short book gives you the highlights of feminism throughout history using the comic format.
A Brief History of Feminism is available from the Edmonton Public Library as a book.
3. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay’s collection of essays explores politics, popular culture and feminism in pieces that range from funny to thought-provoking to emotionally devastating.
Whether she’s discussing her love for the colour pink, her opinions on The Help as a woman of colour or her personal history, Gay’s essays are compulsively readable—whether you’re a (bad) feminist or not.
4. The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
From the author of Men Explain Things to Me, a book often credited with coining the term “mansplaining,” Rebecca Solnit’s newest collection of essays explores yet more topics related to gender and feminism.
Including commentary on women who refused to be silenced, misogynistic violence and the recent history of rape jokes, Solnit tackles many of the issues being discussed in feminism today.
5. Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive by Julie Serano
By definition, feminism advocates for equality for all. Julie Serano—a trans, bisexual activist—explores how the feminist and queer movements have historically had issues around exclusion of groups (such as bisexual or transgender people) and advocates for a new approach.
Excluded is available from the Edmonton Public Library as a book.
6. Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (for a Sexist Workplace) by Jessica Bennett
Part manual and part manifesto, Jessica Bennett’s book offers guidance on navigating casual sexism at work and provides career advice for the latest generation of professional women.
Based on Bennett’s experiences after she started her own Feminist Fight Club, in which she met with a group of other career-minded women to discuss their experiences battling sexism in the workplace, she offers insight and advice on dealing with this pervasive issue.
7. F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism by Lauren McKeon
Canadian journalist Lauren McKeon was fascinated by the number of women involved in the anti-feminist movement leading campaigns to silence campus rape victims, advocating for the abolition of abortion rights and participating in Gamergate.
Looking at debates on inclusiveness, generational attitudes towards feminism and other perspectives she explores where feminism may have gone wrong and where it should go next.
F-Bomb is available from the Edmonton Public Library as a book.
8. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Lindy West’s memoir was named a best book of the year in 2016 by NPR, Esquire and Newsweek. In it, she covers everything from her childhood to her present in which she fights with comedians over rape jokes, her work to convince others that all body types have value and her ongoing fight with internet trolls. This book gives excellent insight into a life lived in line with feminist values.
9. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
Classicist Mary Beard (author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome) traces the history of misogyny from ancient times through to the present. Reflecting on the prohibition of women from holding positions of power, Beard draws parallels between ancient female figures like Medusa and Philomela with contemporary women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.
Ultimately Beard questions that if women aren’t perceived to be in the structure of power, when will we redefine power to be more inclusive?
10. Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand for Menstrual Equity by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf
Named a “badass menstrual activist” by Bustle, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf discusses her fight for what she calls “period equity.” In her book, she opens up about working to make menstruation a topic that isn’t taboo but rather something that can be discussed openly and publically.
11. Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
Brittney Cooper discusses how black women’s anger has been caricatured as a destructive force in American culture and argues that it is also the force behind successes like Serena Williams playing tennis, Beyoncé’s powerful girl anthems and Michelle Obama’s influence.
Discussing her own experiences with eloquent rage and its role in her life, Cooper’s book is one of the most anticipated feminist books of 2018.
Eloquent Rage is available from the Edmonton Public Library as an eBook.
12. Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the statistics of women voters for both candidates, this collection of essays from 23 women looks at what led up to the 2016 U.S. election and how to move forward. It includes essays from Rebecca Solnit, Cheryl Strayed and Randa Jarrar.
Nasty Women is available from the Edmonton Public Library as a book.
13. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
Beginning as a blog, Laura Bates’ collection of stories of sexism that women face every day also provides thoughts on how we can fight its pervasiveness. Ranging from experiences of being wolf-whistled at on the street to discrimination in the workplace to sexual assault, Bates fights against the normalization of sexism. This book is a precursor to the #metoo movement.
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