Alright ladies, take a deep breath and say it with me: Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States of America. How’d that feel? A little dirty? A bit like a rhinoceros accidentally stepped on your trachea? Do you find yourself suddenly empathizing with everything Truman Burbank had to go through when he realized his entire life was just one giant lie manufactured by elite powers beyond his control? Yeah, me too. That's why now is the time to turn to feminist activists and authors for inspiration and motivation.
For most of us active feminists and modern feminist activists, last Tuesday when we suddenly found ourselves unwillingly shoved into Trumplandia, a night of shock was followed by a day of tears, which — for some of us — was followed by another day of tears, perhaps with some protesting thrown in for good measure. People all over the news and social media called for hope, for patience, and for enduring faith in the human spirit — and don’t get me wrong, that’s all lovely. But it’s been a week, we’ve had sufficient time to make our way through the stages of grief, and now it’s time to take some real action: whatever that might look like for you. Join a protest, donate to Planned Parenthood, reach out to your friends and family of color and see how they’re feeling, volunteer with an immigrant rights organization, have a mindful and informed conversation with someone who voted differently than you — just get out there and start working for the world you thought you were getting on election night.
Upholding the American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power doesn’t mean we have to allow a complacent transfer of power. Autocracies are enabled by the people living beneath them. Is it easier to just go about your daily life, cautiously avoiding eye-contact with that couple across the street whose Ford F-150 Raptor makes you wonder whether or not they’d challenge your right to an abortion, and keeping your fingers crossed for 2020? Sure. But that’s exactly how dictators like Adolf Hitler, and Kim Jong-un, and our new president-elect’s personal hero Vladimir Putin rise to power and stay there. It’s time to point our collective fingers at the president-elect and say: oh, by the way, all that junk you spewed about your inherent right to disrespect my body, revoke my reproductive rights, deport people I love, and religiously-profile nearly 1% of the American population, thereby unleashing a wave of bigotry, misogyny, sexism, racism, and homophobia across this country — that's not going to fly anymore.
In my own life, I became a writer, a feminist, and an activist because of the women who came before me — the feminist activists who raged against authority and the feminist authors who knew the power of words to inform people’s hearts, minds, and actions; something our current president-elect clearly has yet to grasp. Read their words, find your own inspiration, get out there, and fight.
Here are 20 feminist authors who will inspire you to get started.
1. Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything
2. Malala Yousafzai, author of I Am Malala
3. Angela Y. Davis, author of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle
4. Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics
Kate Millett is an American feminist, activist, and
writer who is known for her influence on second-wave feminism — a feminist
movement that began in the 1960s and focused on issues of domestic violence and
sexual assault. Millet has written a number of books in defense of feminism,
her most well-known being Sexual Politics,
which looks at the myriad (often unrealized) ways patriarchal norms infiltrate daily
life, from literature and politics, to psychology and domestic life.
5. Dorothy Day, author of The Long Loneliness
Dorothy Day was an American journalist and social activist
who co-founded the nonviolent civil disobedience group the Catholic Worker
Movement, and dedicated her life to equal rights and providing necessary direct
aid to the homeless and those living in poverty. As an activist she was
intensely critical of political policies that led to war and that promoted racism,
sexism, and economic inequality, and today she is considered the most famous political
radical in American Catholic Church history. Day wrote a number of books about social
activism, including House of Hospitality,
From Union Square to Rome and Loaves
and Fishes: The Inspiring Story of the Catholic Worker Movement. Her memoir
is The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography
of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist.
6. Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring
Credited with being an early activist in the global environmental movement, Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist, who is best known for her work fighting against the use of synthetic pesticides. After writing her 1962 title Silent Spring, which focused on the environmental damage caused by pesticides, the use of the pesticide DDT was banned across the United States, and a grassroots environmental movement was founded, which ultimately led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
7. Gloria Steinem, author of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions
8. Shirin Ebadi, author of Until We Are Free
9. Sheryl WuDunn, author of Half the Sky
10. Lillian Hellman, author of The Little Foxes
Lillian Hellman was an American playwright who became known for her political resistance when she was blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the anti-Communist paranoia of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and was known for her critique of America’s pre-World War II appeasement of Adolf Hitler, as well as her stance against American’s who were complacent in CIA spying on American citizens, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal.
11. Nikki Giovanni, author of Love Poems
12. Rigoberta Menchú Tum, author of I, Rigoberta Menchú
13. Rebecca Solnit, author of Savage Dreams
If you loved the 2014 feminist take on the infuriating
gender dynamics that exist between men and women, Men Explain Things to Me, then you’re already familiar with Rebecca
Solnit. (The author also gave away a free e-book on hope in the days after
Donald Trump’s astonishing and heartbreaking Electoral College victory.) But
what you might not know about Solnit is that she has been an environmental,
human rights, women’s rights, and antiwar activist for decades. Her book Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape
Wars of the American West, details some of that activism.
14. Anne Waldman, author of Fast Speaking Woman
Anne Waldman is a cultural and political activist, a post-Beat
writer and performance poet who helped Allen Ginsberg found the Jack Kerouac
School of Disembodied Poetics, a lifelong student of Buddhism, and a member of the
Outrider experimental poetry community. As a writer and as a feminist, Waldman
has always been known for pushing the boundaries of what poetry can do. Fast Speaking Woman is an energetic and
vivid collection of poetry that blends feminism and mysticism, religion and
ritual, and celebrates chanting as the ultimate form of poetry and performance.
15. Manasi Pradhan, author of Urmi-O-Uchchwas
Manasi Pradhan is an Indian activist, author, the founder
of the anti-violence against women campaign: Honor for Women National Campaign,
and an activist that defends educational opportunities for girls and women
across India, in order to encourage them to become future leaders of their
communities. As a child and teenager Pradhan was urged to end her education
after middle school, when most Indian women did, but she continued to pursue
her education through two Bachelors and one Masters degree. Pradhan also works
as an author and poet, whose work has been translated into more than eight languages around the world.
16. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
17. Winona LaDuke, author of All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life
18. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan is one of the most widely-recognized
feminists in American history, and dedicated her life to feminism and activism.
She co-founded the National Organization for Women and organized the nationwide
Women's Strike for Equality in 1970. Her writing career took off after her
article about housewives who were desperate for more meaning, adventure, and
independence in their lives was refused publication by mainstream media, and
she turned it into a book instead. That book is the feminist classic, The Feminine Mystique, which is credited
with inspiring the second-wave feminist movement, and chronicles the lives of
several 1950s housewives, and their dissatisfaction with the domesticity of
19. Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen
20. Ann Jones, author of War is Not Over When It’s Over
Ann Jones has dedicated her journalistic career to focusing
on humanitarian and women’s rights issues in the United States and around the
world. She has focused her writing on issues of war, domestic violence, and the
oppression of women. From 2007 to 2009, Jones traveled through Africa, East
Asia, and the Middle East, giving women digital cameras in order to document
how war has changed their lives. Her book, War
is Not Over When It’s Over, is the expansion of that photographic project:
an intimate account of the long-term physical and emotional wounds of warfare,
cultural destruction, and the geographic displacement of women who have spent
their lives living in war zones.