So 2016 was not quite the best year ever for women. Or men. Or sentient lifeforms at large. A lot of us started this past year hoping to break the highest glass ceiling in the country... and now we have a president-elect who brags about assaulting women on tape. That's not an ideal trajectory. But once we stop weeping senselessly about the injustice of it all, it's time to start making some resolutions for a more feminist 2017. With books!
OK, I know that it's going to take more than books alone to fight the rising tide of misogyny and racism (actually, does it count as a rising tide if it's always existed forever?). Books are just one of the many ways to make 2017 a little less horrifying and a lot more feminist. Donate, volunteer, demonstrate, vote, and have serious conversations with the people around you if you want your voice heard. But don't underestimate the power of a feminist reading list, either. Books can reach people in ways that brief conversations and political Facebook fights can't. Books can present a point of view that you never would have considered otherwise. If we want a more equal world, after all, we need more equal literature:
1. Read books written by women
Seriously. Read essays, novels, short stories, memoirs, comics, whatever: just read books written by women. Resolve to read only books written by women for the whole of 2017 if you're feeling ambitious. There are great authors of every gender, of course, but women in literature rarely get the same respect and readership as men. Flip the script and make female authors your top priority in 2017.
2. Read books written by women of color
If the literary world disrespects women in general, it's especially rude to women of color. Books by women of color are often criminally overlooked or underrated. If these books make it onto school reading lists at all, they're treated as a representative of an entire culture, or as existing outside of mainstream literature. Resolve to read only books by women of color in 2017, and enjoy all the great literature that people have been missing out on.
3. Read books written by LQBT authors
Resolve to read more (or only) books by gay, queer, and transgender authors. As we hurtle into 2017, we're staring down the barrel of a government that wants to limit and reverse LGBT rights. Supporting these authors is more important now than ever. You can check out lists of recently banned books to see just how often books by LGBT authors are challenged, and why it's so imperative to get reading.
4. Support literacy in young girls
It's pretty hard to fight for equality when you can't read. A lot of us take learning to read for granted, but in many communities, literacy in young girls (and even grown women) is not necessarily guaranteed. There are a ton of amazing programs and organizations you can get involved with, through donations or volunteering, to promote literacy in girls and women worldwide.
5. Support boys who read “girl” books
How is gendered reading still a thing? Why do we tell little boys that they don't like reading about girls, but expect girls to read about boys? It's not fair to kids of any gender. It's especially unfair to little boys who might actually want to read about princesses and cuddly animals and have an occasional feeling. If there are any kids in your life, resolve to encourage them to read outside of their gendered genres. I mean... can you imagine a world in which every man grew up learning to empathize with women and take their stories seriously?
6. Call out sexism in books
If you notice sexism in a book, resolve to call it out. Have a (polite) conversation with your aunt about why Christian Grey might not actually be the ideal man (your aunt deserves a fictional boyfriend who does BDSM correctly). Point out the toxic masculinity in Hemingway. Stand up for the romance and "chick lit" genres when people try to deride them. Notice how the covers of "women's" books are always styled differently. You can still have problematic faves, just don't let literary sexism slip by unnoticed.
7. Recommend books by women
Give the gift of feminist literature. Resolve to give books by women as gifts this year, because there must be at least one person in your life who needs to read more books by women. Recommend books that you think might educate your friends and family on issues you care about. Get the word out about underrated women writers, because they need all the help they can get.
8. Read feminist theory
Yeah, OK, so Judith Butler isn't exactly a fun read, but a lot of feminist theorists write for the general public. Pick up bell hooks, if you've never read her before. Make a list of books on feminist theory that look interesting to you, and resolve to read them all this year. You'll gain a better understanding of your own feminism, and you'll realize that reading theory isn't all that scary, after all.
9. Donate your books
I know that you don't want to part with any of your precious, darling books. But I also know that you need the shelf space. Resolve to clean out your bookshelf this year, and donate all your space books to programs like the Women's Prison Book Project. You can even purchase books specifically for the project, if you really can't bear to part with any of your own!
10. Support feminist bookstores and publishers
Feminist bookstores are an endangered species. Support your local feminist bookstore, and check out any meetings, programs, or performances they might offer. You can also support small publishers who focus on publishing women by buying their books, or requesting them at the indie bookstore near you. If you don't have any indie bookstores to speak of, consider starting a feminist book club in your own neighborhood. Reading books by women is a great start, but it's going to take whole communities of literary women if we truly want to make progress in 2017.