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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Women’s History Month may have passed, but picking up a book written by a strong female can be an excellent way to celebrate all year long. Three authors who have made a profound contribution and impact on women’s history have done so through their social commentary, empowerment, and of course, through their intensive gaze on the feminine experience. Margaret Atwood, Florence Given, and Ottessa Moshfegh have all written incredible pieces that will ring in the season to celebrate women.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

If you have not already read the classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, open a new tab and immediately order it. This fiction novel about a dystopian patriarchal society is a terrifying gaze into what could be the future of our society. The novel takes place in the fictional Republic of Gilead, where a disaster occurred that led most women to become infertile. The remaining women who still have the ability to reproduce are forced to be handmaids and undergo government-sanctioned rape in order to carry babies for the elite.

The deeper you get into the novel, the harder it is to separate fiction from reality as it points to large systemic issues, specifically the lack of reproductive rights. The novel deals with the concept of not having the basic human right to your own body, and for women in this age especially, it is a true hallmark of the female experience in all that it is and could be. It is terrifyingly shocking, riveting, and an important read.

By writing about a “fictional” world in which women do not have bodily autonomy, Atwood empowers women to stand up for their rights. The Handmaid’s Tale also serves as a warning for society moving forward because it paints a picture of a potential, very realistic future if society continues to head in a direction that oppresses women rather than listens to them. If we are being completely honest, we could call it a cultural reset considering its tenets are such a huge statement and warning to society. The Handmaid’s Tale truly left an impact after it was released, and will live on for ages as one of the greatest feminist novels of all time.

 Florence Given: Women Don’t Owe You Pretty

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty is a stepping stone into the feminist conversation. While it is argued that it is by no means groundbreaking, in my opinion it is impactful because it provides an introduction to the real concepts and takes that modern feminism presents. To one that may not be well-versed or involved in the feminist equation, this novel can be a gateway. 

One important aspect of this novel is the way it presents the male gaze and the harmful consequences of constructing our identity according to this gaze. This novel is all about restructuring the very structured, patriarchal systems of oppression imposed upon generations of women. Not only does this novel tackle the patriarchy in its own way, but it also deals with the personal battles that women face on a daily basis which, surprisingly, can often be ourselves. Feminism is a broad area of study, but Florence Given’s Women Don’t Owe You Pretty directs some of the most important areas of study into her intriguing novel that is acclaimed to be accessible by many. Given is a great author to read to familiarize yourself with the world of feminism and celebrate everything it means to be a woman in this age; the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Author Ottessa Moshfegh is renowned for her portrayals of the female psyche through her intense and complicated female protagonists. My Year of Rest and Relaxation magnifies the feminine experience in an untraditionally progressive manner. Feminine progression in society is often measured by a woman’s productivity and ability to work and earn equality rather than just attaining it in the first place. While women in the workplace play a huge role in the generational and societal shifts to gaining autonomy in many contexts, this pressure and mold can be harmful when used as the sole format for gaining independence.

We are living in the age of the “girlboss”. This novel poses the question “why can’t women be seen as equal to our counterparts even when we are doing nothing?” Moshfegh presents the view of a woman doing nothing for a year and her innermost disturbing thoughts throughout. The unnamed protagonist is unhinged and this novel does a really good job of exploring the female experience. My Year of Rest and Relaxation makes a statement that it should be okay to not do things that you don’t want to do without getting your societal equality taken away.

Throughout generations of literary geniuses, these three women have shown their zest for describing all aspects of womanhood, whether it be our rights, our autonomy, or our innermost universal experiences. They have created works that will impact women for years to come and support them as they explore their own womanhood. It is crucial to recognize important women in society, but also recognize that every woman is an important woman, and these novels highlight that.

Hello! I am a third year Communication major here at UCSB. I love trying new food places, going to museums, getting coffee with friends, and traveling. I am so excited to write and share my life, thoughts, and experiences.