Women across the world and in all different cultures are taught from an early age to speak quietly, not to swear, to begin questions with apologies and qualifiers, and to wait to speak until they’re spoken to. Writing is a realm in which women can speak up as loudly as they want.
The page is a space for women to start a dialogue and reveal parts of their lives and thoughts that might otherwise receive more pushback were they to be voiced; on a smaller scale, consider the powerful (if not quite literary) tweets behind the recent #YesAllWomen Twitter campaign, one of which read “#YesAllWomen because this hashtag may be the only place some women can speak safely.”
Luckily for us, there are plenty of women writers who are able to write honestly and assertively about their lives. They may write about feminism, but their writing is also itself a feminist act itself in that they disrupt and deconstruct a patriarchal literary tradition. The list could go on and on, but writers like Marge Piercy, Toni Morrison, Gayatri Spivak, and Caitlin Moran work within a feminist framework (in poetry, novels, theory, and memoir) and engage in intersectionality, knowing that feminism is a complex creature involving race, class, religion and age.
Here, some great quotations from feminist books to inspire you:
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
“For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, our feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets.”
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
"Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.”
Feminism Is for Everybody by bell hooks
“If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.”
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
“Aside from blow jobs, though, I'm through with being the perfect girlfriend, just through with it. Then if he's sore with me, let him dump my ass. That will just give me more time to be a genius.”
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
"The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket."
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Brontë who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
Sula by Toni Morrison
" 'When you gone to get married? You need to have some babies. It’ll settle you.' "
" 'I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.' ”
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
“Every human body has its optimum weight and contour, which only health and efficiency can establish. Whenever we treat women's bodies as aesthetic objects without function we deform them.”
Bossypants by Tina Fey
"All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
“The ultimate sexist put-down: the prick which lies down on the job. The ultimate weapon in the war between the sexes: the limp prick. The banner of the enemy's encampment: the prick at half-mast. The symbol of the apocalypse: the atomic warhead prick which self-destructs. That was the basic inequity which could never be righted: not that the male had a wonderful added attraction called a penis, but that the female had a wonderful all-weather cunt. Neither storm nor sleet nor dark of night could faze it. It was always there, always ready. Quite terrifying, when you think about it. No wonder men hated women. No wonder they invented the myth of female inadequacy.”
Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria E. Anzaldua
"I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent's tongue — my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.”
Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio
"When we're quiet and bleeding, we stumble upon solutions to dilemmas that've been bugging us all month. Inspiration hits and moments of epiphany rumba 'cross de tundra of our senses. In this mode of existence one does not feel antipathy towards a bodily ritual that so profoundly and reinforces our cuntpower."
Loving in the War Years by Cherrie L. Moraga
"...it is not really the difference the oppressor fears so much as the similarity. He fears he will discover in himself the same aches, the same longings as those of the people he has shit on... . He fears he will have to change his life once he has seen himself in the bodies of the people he has called different.”
image: Library of Congress/wikimedia