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A Reading List for the Feminist

Following the many Women’s Marchs occuring globally last week, the feminist voice has been rekindled. Naturally the battle is never really over, however you are entitled to a little downtime between protests, and what better way to do that than curling up with a good book? Here’s a reading list to help enrich your feminist perspective while you recharge.

1. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying — trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself: a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible for women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.”

Witty, engaging, and thought-provoking, “Bad Feminist” examines the structural flaws in feminism, explaining where it fails and what we can do to improve it. Written with a commanding yet personable voice, this series of essays paves the way for honest conversation about modern feminism. This book is especially effective as an introduction to the concept of intersectionality.


2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

“You have been a very, very foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, ‘Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,’ I should laugh at you both.’”

Published in 1899, Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” was one of the first novels to address women’s sexuality in a positive light. This contentious work tells the tale of a woman who rejects her identity as a submissive wife and mother and tries to liberate herself from the strict gender roles of the late 19th century.


3. Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks

“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression […] I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”

For the budding activist: this book defines feminism, recounts the history of the feminist movement and the struggles it has encountered, then discusses how it can be used (by everybody!) to achieve the ultimate goal of gender equality.


4. Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

“Muslim women are hot right now. The thing is, we can’t be cool with society vilifying our identities, while at the same time trying to profit off them. One thing became clear: Muslim Girl became a start-up because it had to. For us, entrepreneurialism is a means to an end. It’s survival.”

From the creator of MuslimGirl.com, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, this candid memoir examines the intersection of sexism and Islamophobia. Through her retelling of her life growing up as a Muslim woman post-9/11, Amani challenges the oppressive rhetoric surrounding the Middle East. In light of recent events, this is definitely an important read.


5. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen

“Feminists come in every shape, size, form, and background. What unites feminists is the belief that every person—regardless of gender, class, education, race, sexuality, or ability—deserves equality. This is a movement about embracing differences and encouraging change that benefits all facets of society. This is a movement about listening as much as it is about speaking up.”

Just released last week, this scrapbook-style book compiles essays from many recognizable feminist voices, including Roxane Gay, Amandla Stenberg and Mindy Kaling. This fun anthology breaks down what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century world and acts as a great introduction to its broader concepts. Here We Are is perfect for any one looking for a lighter read.


6. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano

“In trans women’s eyes, I see a wisdom that can only come from having to fight for your right to be recognized as female, a raw strength that only comes fro unabashedly asserting your right to be feminine in an inhospitable world.” 

In her first book, Julia Serano discusses her life as a lesbian trans women, critically dissects femininity, sexism, and gender, and shines a light on the intersection between queer theory and feminism that is often neglected. This collection of essays is an essential read for keeping your feminism inclusive of all identities.


7. Stolen Sisters by Emmanuelle Walter

“When I am asked what Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) means to me, I think of pain, grief, shock, sadness and anger. I think of the gaping void that families suffer after experiencing the loss of cherished and loved ones in such drastic, traumatic and violent ways that no woman or girl should ever be subjected to.”

Journalist Emmanuelle Walter’s poignant piece amalgamates two years of research on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. By focusing on the stories of two murdered indigenous women, Walter examines the national issue of violence against women through a personal lens, and raises questions surrounding how the Canadian government has failed to act.


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Third-year journalism student at Ryerson University. Enthusiastic about enthusiasm, arts and culture, and dogs. Not a devout follower of CP style (see: the Oxford Comma). Campus correspondent for Her Campus at Ryerson. 
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