Believe me, I know how tempting it is… Between the never-ending election headlines, the evening debates over drinks that grow uglier and uglier by the day, and all that unfriending you’ve been forced to do on social media. So, if the absolute last thing you want to do on the morning of November 8 is wake up early, stand in line, and vote, I know how you feel — I really, really do. (Which is why I sent my ballot in early, by mail.) It’s also why I’ve put together this list of books that will inspire you to vote next Tuesday: because now, perhaps more than ever, women need to cast our ballots, have our voices heard, and seriously feminist the shit out of this election.
Why now, more than ever, you might ask? (Um, have you been watching the news?) But OK, fair question — after all, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote back in 1920, and the Equal Rights Amendment soon followed; since then we’ve had Roe v. Wade and Title IX, we’ve had women elected to all levels of government (excluding, you know, that big one.) We can open our own bank accounts, earn our own livings, run our own businesses, buy our own homes, conceive our own children with nary a man in sight, and provide our own orgasms (again, with nary a man in sight.) We can marry whomever we want, regardless of race, gender, or religion; and we can subsequently divorce whomever we want, regardless of race, gender, or religion. We can pursue higher education, initiate law suits, serve on juries, join the Army, open our own credit cards, and select a birth control method that suits our lifestyle. ALL things that were illegal, prohibited and/or simply not done by women in the United States prior to 1920 — and all things that are still denied women across other parts of the world. So why is your vote in the 2016 presidential election so important?
According to an article published by Ms. Magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation earlier this year, currently in the United States the growing number of women registering to vote is well exceeding that of the number of men. In fact, in the 2012 presidential election, almost 10 million more women voted than men; if we women continue flooding our local polling places at these rates — and better, outpacing even ourselves — we’ll continue to be a deciding force (maybe the deciding force) in the leadership of this country. And as one feminist to another (who has spent most of this election season uncomfortable, appalled, and enraged by the manner in which women have been spoken to and about, on national and international platforms) I think it’s definitely time for all of us leading ladies to send a message to the world that: “We gals — we’ve got this one.”
Here are 11 books that will inspire you to vote.
1. Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About It by Kate Harding
If you hadn’t heard the term “rape culture” — despite its increasing prevalence in recent years — before the 2016 election, you’re probably quite familiar with it now. And while I don’t think anyone expected gender violence to land at the forefront of the 2016 campaign season, the fact that it’s there indicates how ingrained into American society rape culture really is — even though it’s never been spoken about as widely, and as publicly, as it has been in recent years. Hard-hitting feminist Kate Harding tackles the issue of rape culture in her book Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About It, defining the term for those who still don’t quite understand it, offering examples of the ways sexism and gender violence play out in our society, and presenting ideas for addressing rape culture and establishing more effective paths to justice and healing for those most affected by it.
2. Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf
Since the vagina has been up for grabs this election season — literally, though — I think it’s about time we all try to understand female identity from a holistic perspective: mind, body, and spirit; a thinking, feeling, and acting entity. (One that would much prefer you keep your hands to yourself unless expressly asked to do otherwise, thanks so much.) Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography explores exactly that mind-body-spirit connection, combining scientific research with cultural history to offer readers an expansive perspective on how women — and our vaginas — have been understood (and misunderstood), politicized, and deligitimized throughout the history of the United States and across the world. It’s kind of like that episode of Sex and the City when Charlotte learns to love her lady parts. Only more political, and better.
3. In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed
The fact that at several points during this election season a prospective Clinton presidency has been compared to the tyrannical governments that exist around the world is, quite possibly, one of the most ignorant conversations held forth so far. It not only shows a complete lack of regard for the real experiences of women living under repressive, violent, and oftentimes deadly regimes all over the world, it’s also American arrogance at its worst. A perfect example of this particular absurdity is Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed’s memoir In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom. In the memoir, Ahmed describes her years living alongside and serving the women of Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Islamic state — many of whom have been so disconnected from the truths of their own minds and bodies that aren’t always empowered to make even medical decisions for themselves. That hardly sounds like a Clinton presidency to me — in fact, it sounds a heck of a lot like that other guy.
4. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
Speaking of reclaiming the right to make our own freaking intimate decisions about our bodies, let’s add Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights to our 2016 election bookshelves. Pro is a powerful and necessary book that dissects the language we still use to talk about abortion in the United States, takes a critical look at the impulse to legislate women’s bodies, and emphasizes the importance of upholding the Roe v. Wade ruling. Pollitt argues that abortion is not only a moral right, it can also have positive social and economic implications for women and their families.
5. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
We all know by now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been outspoken about her distain for Donald Trump — and seriously, we love her so much for it. But the Notorious RBG was a badass long before she made Donald cry. This Supreme Court Justice has spent her career developing the reputation of an unrelenting feminist, a fierce civil rights advocate, and a gal who simply refuses to quit. Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik celebrate the life and work of this notorious lady in Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If anyone can inspire you to vote, it’s RBG.
6. Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian by Howard Zinn
Here’s what I love about Howard Zinn’s writing: he stares down the failings and flaws of the United States, taking a hard look at actions, policies, and politics that would plummet even the most optimistic of activists into hopelessness, and still he leaves you feeling inspired to take action, to reclaim your inherent power, and to stand for what is right. In this particular case, that would involve voting. So hop to it.
7. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Not expressly political, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things acts as more of a pre-voting therapeutic venting session — one that’ll remind you why men seriously cannot be allowed act like complete as*holes on television and Twitter, and then be rewarded for it with a prime piece of real estate on Pennsylvania Avenue. In Men Explain Things to Me Solnit describes the trouble with conversations between men and women: in that men think they know all the things, and are responsible for telling them to the (nasty) women. This book, in addition to being equal parts hilarious and frustrating, also addresses the serious issue of women being silenced all over the world — many times at the expense of their health, freedom, or life.
8. The Wind Doesn't Need a Passport: Stories from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands by Tyche Hendricks
Since we’ve now heard the phrase “The Wall” uttered (see: shouted) so many times that one of the best Pink Floyd albums of all time will likely be forever ruined for me, let’s take a moment to talk about the U.S.-Mexico border, shall we? Tyche Hendricks’s The Wind Doesn't Need a Passport: Stories from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands tells a story of our southern borderlands that has been entirely lost in this election season: one where Americans and Mexicans coexist, where culture is exchanged freely and peacefully, and where politics still often takes a backseat to basic humanity. Are there things that need to be sorted out about the U.S.-Mexico border? Definitely. Will a wall do that? I'm gonna go with: nope.
9. Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman
RBG makes an appearance on this list again, but this time she’s tag-teaming with the equally notorious Sandra Day O’Connor. In case you don't already know, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the first and second women to serve as United States Supreme Court justices — and they seriously killed it from day one. Linda Hirshman’s Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World tells the story of this friendship that really did change the world — from the gender discrimination SDO and RBG faced in law school all the way to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have dedicated both their friendship and their careers to working toward equal rights for women everywhere.
10. What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?: Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power by Marianne Schnall
Hmm, good question. What will it take to elect a woman president? This collection of interviews and essays from women like Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem, Sheryl Sandberg and Kirsten Gillibrand, and many more, asks exactly that question, and compiles answers from a vast array of sources — both women and men, Democrat and Republican. Exploring the obstacles that have historically held women back from positions of power, to the ways we can and are overcoming those obstacles today, Marianne Schnall’s What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?: Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power is an especially fitting read for this election.
11. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman
While this book would have been a far more inspiring read back when many of us were feelin’ the Bern (and needed that extra push to get out and vote in the Primaries) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media is essential for understanding how the mainstream media is designed to promote certain narratives that influence our choices on everything from how we spend our money to who we vote for, and inform how Americans see ourselves in the large context of geopolitics. And while Manufacturing Consent might leave you feeling like you can’t trust any of the information you’ve received from the media this election cycle, it’s important to cast your vote with the full knowledge of why you feel the way you do, and an awareness of how certain candidates, policies, and issues have (or haven’t) been marketed to you.
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