Our Shared Shelf: Emma Watson's Feminist Book Club

Never has a book club claimed such instant fame as Our Shared Shelf, the Goodreads book club founded by Emma Watson. The group admittedly had a rocky start - at least, judging from a participant's point of view: the huge influx of fans and interested readers quickly resulted in a 100 000-member club that couldn't have organized a sock drawer, let alone intelligent discussions on all things feminist. Currently the group is boasting all of 117,350 members and has finished two novels: Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road and, more recently, Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

Emma Watson mentions in the description of the group that she was inspired by her work as the ambassador for UN Women to start the book club, in an effort to educate herself about gender equality, feminism, and women's issues:

"As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on. There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering!" (Our Shared Shelf)

So far, the discussions on the group page have been all of the above. Topics ranging from intersectionality (the idea that various oppressive institutions are inseparably intertwined) and domestic violence to favorite quotes and catcalling. Numerous countries have their own discussion threads on feminism in their cultures. One could spend hours just browsing all the comments that have flooded the group.

After some of the initial blusters, the book club has organized all of its discussions under titled folders, and members can fairly easily navigate on the site. The most active chains are discussions on the books chosen to be read by the group. Steinem's controversal reputation was reflected in the reception of My Life on the Road: while many enjoyed it and thought it brought out important issues, some were also quick to point out her extreme views and one-sided arguments. Walker's The Color Purple, however, seemed to gather a more positive response. The classic has been often attacked for its mature themes but Our Shared Shelf embraced it wholeheartedly. A lively discussion on both novels is still ongoing as not everyone is reading at the same pace. The latest novel was announced on the 1st of March: bell hooks's All About Love: New Visions centers around - you guessed it! - love.

The book selections are still appearing on the site with a small delay: The February pick, The Color Purple, was announced on the side of February - preventing readers from getting their hands on a copy in advance. Fortunately, the March book was revealed already on the first day of the month. Receiving a heads-up (consistently) would distribute the demand of the novels more evenly and prevent the cost of the books shooting up in a matter of days, if not hours (as happened with My Life on the Road). Luckily, the group is trying to work around the problem: many of the members are paying it forward by sending their copies around the world as well as providing information on the cheapest purchasing options. One has to admire the connectedness of the massive number of people forming the club. There are even meet-ups being organized in cities around the world.

Even Finland has its place in the group: there is a discussion thread for both a possible meet-up and on feminism in our country. We were even talked about in the Actual Feminist Societies thread! The group currently has only a handful of Finnish members but the number is sure to increase as time passes. After all, educating yourself on topics so essential to all of us and taking a stand is paramount! In Watson's words:

 I invite you to step forward, to be seen, and to ask yourself, “If not me, who? If not now, when?" (UN Women)

And now we here at Her Campus at Helsinki extend the same invitation to our readers.

Her Campus at Helsinki also has its own book club on Goodreads. Read here about some of the reasons why you should join.

Our #HeForShe photo shoot is also up on our Instagram and the behind-the-scenes material was compiled into this Snapshot.