It’s cold outside, the lights are dazzling and I’m sure most people are running themselves ragged fitting in all those Christmas parties and making sure the food is bought and presents ready. It can be a tough time of year for many, so why not set aside some time, find a calm moment and read a feminist book to make your heart soar. Or perhaps sit down with the children in your life with a stemming cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine and read a feminist children’s book with them, challenging the norms and perhaps breaking through the stereotypes they have been bombarded with over the Christmas period.
In December 2015, just after the release of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, We Should All Be Feminists, Sweden announced that every 16 year old would be given a free copy of the text. The books were distributed by the SverigesKvinnoLobby (Swedish Women’s Lobby) and publisher Albert Bonniers. The book itself was based on Adichie’s own TED talk of the same name, where she was critical of the rigidity of modern masculinity as well as defined gender roles for both men AND women.
At the launch in Stockholm, Adichie had a message, “I want to live in a world where men and women are happier. Where they are not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. And that’s why I’m a feminist. Feminism is about justice.”
I understand the purpose and hope embedded in this project – it will act as a catalyst for discussion about gender equality and feminism. The written word can be incredibly powerful; shaping ideas, thoughts and beliefs. It can ignite passion, anger, joy and frustration. Books can also articulate feelings and beliefs that go unnoticed, struggling to find their own voice and articulation. I have personally experienced this with so many of the feminist books that continue to take over my own shelves, each one igniting something inside me, new thoughts, articulated feelings, passion, encouragement and often a connection with others, letting me know that I am not the only one experiencing this.
Since my late teens, I’ve always been pulled towards books with strong female protagonists. These books have inspired me, showing me that anything is possible and that I’m not, nor should I be, limited in my chosen endeavours. At University, given I was undertaking many arts subjects with huge quantities of required reading each week, I didn’t get through as many books for pleasure as I would have liked. But once I graduated, I devoured book after book - primarily feminist books. The following books are just a few of the ones that resonated for me.
Hanna Rosin – The End of Men
This book depicts a positive and uplifting vision of women in America. I read this at a time when many others were saying with frustration that women’s position and opportunities hadn’t changed in more than 20 years; in some cases, even regressing. Rosin’s book demonstrated that, although there continue to be issues, women were adapting to get the most out of life and their unique situations.
Annabel Crabb – The Wife Draught
This argues that the reason women are not progressing into executive and leadership positions, despite their education, skills and ability, is because they (generally) do not have wives. Unlike their male executive counterparts who focused uninterrupted on the work task at hand, executive women do not have a dedicated wife at home, cooking, cleaning, and ensuring their children are fed and organised. Female executives often have husbands who work full time and as such, whilst trying to focus on their work project, they are also thinking about the project their child had to finish that night and making sure they would get to their afterschool sports activity on time. It raises a good point!
Bridget Christie – A Book for Her
This is a book I could not put down. It covers Christie’s feminist awakening and the discovery that everything is not as equal as she previously assumed. Instead there were huge issues facing women across the world that require acknowledgement and resolution, such as female genital mutilation.
Cordelia Fine – Delusions of Gender
I heard Fine speak a few months ago and was wowed by her research and thesis. Using hard facts and thorough research, she debunks the idea that men and women are hardwired to be different, arguing that old myths have helped to perpetuate the status quo. Fine’s talk was incredibly fascinating and engaging but what still resonates with me so many months later is her argument that we are basically obsessed with the differences between sexes, despite there being so many more similarities.
There are many other amazing feminist books out there for all ages, but these are a few of my favourite. There are even children’s books now that show little girls don’t have to be princesses: they can be adventurous, imaginative and curious. I didn’t have those as a child. There are comedy books that invoke uncontrollable laughter on the Tube whilst, miraculously, exploring the many ways women continue to be constrained. There are academic books that apply rigorous research, academic thought and weighted arguments to the many plights of women, offering solutions and ways forward.
The list above is by no means exhaustive - can any list really be? - but it’s a start. Just like Sweden’s project, these books can also be used to inspire discussion, self-awakenings and a new appreciation and acknowledgement of the need for feminism. I hope you enjoy.