I have spent my entire academic life focusing on gender history: any essay that I could manipulate to have a sex and gender angle, I most definitely would. It’s the area of study in which I’m most well read on, the idea of feminism (and particularly the world of academic feminism), can be intimidating to many people.
I’m not going to try and define modern feminism here (that would require a thesis word count), but the books I’ve detailed below provide an initial way entry point in exploring different aspects of feminism in the twenty-first century
Now, I admit that all of these books are targeted at a younger audience – particularly towards millennials and Gen-Z in the case of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Everything I Know About Love. And I know that I am a millennial myself, but I do feel that there is a universality and inclusivity to each work, that hopefully makes them accessible to a wide audience.
Each is flawed in its own way – these are not academic texts, and I’m not claiming that any of these are a bible which provides all of the answers, or is even representative of all types of feminism or all women.
But they’re a good jumping off point.
How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran
Ah, old reliable. Caitlin Moran’s memoir seeks to make feminism more approachable for every woman by telling stories from her own life, and this is the book which first ignited the strident feminist in me.
Mr O’Neill, my Government and Politics A Level teacher, declared to his class of nine seventeen-year-old girls that before we could start studying feminism as a political ideology, we all had to read How to Be a Woman.
By the time we reconvened a few days later, all of our outlooks had changed, and none of us have looked back since that point over six years ago. (I do see the irony in being introduced to the topic by a male teacher!)
The entire book has Moran’s signature style, using humour to tackle serious topics, to make issues such as abortion less intimidating. It’s a riot from start to finish, and is still as relevant as it was when published in 2011.
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies), curated by Scarlett Curtis
Considering I have just written an MA dissertation with this book as a case study, there are many things I could say (and have said) on the topic of Scarlett Curtis’ curated collection of essays.
Published in 2018 to an enormous amount of fanfare, the collection Feminists Don’t Wear Pink sees contributions from fifty-two different authors, from many walks of life. Some authors give their verdict on 21st century feminism, others muse on the female body, or offer insight into their own journey to feminism.
So we have Keira Knightley discussing the interpretation of women as the weaker sex. Activist Amika George considers the power of the menstrual cycle while academic Claire Horn provides a ‘short history of feminist theory’.
I do have quite a few issues with this publication which could warrant a blog post of their own (or a dissertation!). Overall however, the contents are inclusive and wide-ranging, and thus provide a more varied introduction to feminism than you would normally get in a singular book.
Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton
Potentially a slightly odd choice, as it is not a book explicitly about feminism. Dolly Alderton’s intimate memoir recounts the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of growing up and navigating a multitude of different types of love along the way.
In its entirety, Everything I Know About Love is truly a testament to female friendship, and the power that comes with realising that you alone are enough. Personal stories, satirical observations and even recipes all weave together to strike a note of recognition with women of all ages – whilst genuinely making you laugh.
To be honest, I also had a series of little cries along the way.
This is just a shortlist of books on this vast topic. If anyone wants some further reading suggestions, particularly on the academic side, I would only be too happy to oblige! I have many bibliographies to call on…
Please comment below if you have any additional suggestions for a jumping off point – it’s a topic I will truly never be tired of, and I would encourage some healthy debate!
This is the second of two posts for week 4 of Non Fiction November 2019. You can find the first post which is a request for recommendations of top notch memoirs here