While the 8th of March marks International Women’s Day, we should be thinking, discussing, and reading about equality every day of the year. Here are five titles to get you started.
The first wave of feminism began in the late nineteenth century, yet its predecessors emerged as far back as the 1700s. When Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published in 1792, it started a new era concerning the issues of what Beauvoir would later call „The Second Sex“.
It was writing, thus, that got the gears moving and, a couple of centuries later, it’s still writing that helps us understand, think through, and enact the changes our society needs when it comes to equal rights between the genders. Whatever your identity may be, here are some of the most crucial recent texts you should be reading in order to inform yourself and right the wrongs of oppression.
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
The Feminist movement of today is an evergrowing force, with a continually rising number of people ready to speak their truth. High among them is, most certainly, author, professor, and social commentator Roxane Gay — the voice behind some of the most influential writing on the rights of women.
While Gay’s oeuvre counts a great number of titles, her 2014’s release under the name Bad Feminist might just be her magnum opus on the topic. This essay collection is as personal as it is thought-provoking, taking us on a journey through the author’s own struggles and contradictory thoughts she experienced during her evolution as a woman of color. Her surprising dose of humor mixed with sharp takes on modern-day womanhood makes for a deeply profound portrait of our culture and everything wrong with it.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – Caroline Criado Pérez
Have you ever thought about the impact data can have on our everyday lives? It’s all around us — in economics, in healthcare, in development, education, politics, and finances. It’s the petrol that fuels the world of the 21st century. Yet, how does it affect women? In her investigative non-fiction piece Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Pérez presents us with the discovery that in an information-based world – the data we use isn’t really in the favor of women.
If gender isn’t taken into account when conducting studies, test runs, and predictions, only using men as the default gender (which happens more often than not) — it’s the shoulders of women on which we put on additional biases and discrimination. Invisible Women faces us with a shocking number of cases in which science, numbers, and their faulty application lead to difficulties for women in all spheres of life.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot – Mikki Kendall
One of the reasons that led to the bad reputation current-day feminism has is the divisions inside of the movement itself. However, true equality needs to include, solving the problems of and offering a dignified life to everyone, and not just to the percentage of people who already have certain privileges.
This is the main point of Mikki Kendall’s non-fiction bestseller Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. Arguing for access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, medical care, and a living wage, this author rethinks the many faults of a type of feminism that only focuses on the rights and needs of certain women — often white, often straight, and often middle or upper class. Fighting for inclusion, Kendall’s book asks us to reach for an egalitarian movement where no one will be left behind.
In the Dream House – Carmen Maria Machado
Memoirs are some of the most powerful tools to bring us closer to the personal stories of real-life people. Opening up about her abusive same-sex relationship — an issue which to this day remains on the margins of society — Carmen Maria Machado’s book In the Dream House is one of the most impactful pieces of creative non-fiction we didn’t even know we needed.
With a hybrid structure, exploring different forms of storytelling and thus bending a plethora of genres, Machado’s piece on toxicity, manipulation, and gaslighting shows how falling in love with the wrong person can alienate and hurt us rather than help us grow. Combining her mesmerizing prose with research and facts on violence against queer women, this memoir is a must-read that will finally open our eyes to a topic we need to see more clearly.
Know My Name – Chanel Miller
In January of 2015, student-athlete Brock Turner sexually assaulted a woman the media only knew as Emily Doe. Four years later, we finally got to hear her story in her own words. In her memoir Know My Name, Chanel Miller boldly talks about her traumatic and heartbreaking experience, with a raw and honest take on the way the law mishandles the many victims it claims to be defending.
Miller’s book shines a light on the way our culture protects predators and the strong bias the criminal justice system has against women. At times emotionally draining and hard to read, this work of non-fiction is a necessary read in the era of the #MeToo movement, offering, at the same time, a safe space for a woman to tell her story without interruptions.
Inequality often makes us furious. However, instead of simply being angry, turn your rage against the system into a force of change. The first step in your journey might await you between the pages of a book.
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