15 Feminist Books to Read In 2015 to Help You Stay Passionate All Year
Finally, in 2014, the word "feminism" was more important than ever before. Even Hollywood stars were reclaiming the word "feminism," and it was fantastic to see a heightened awareness of women's issues in the public consciousness. (See, not all of 2014 sucked.) If all goes well, we'll continue to see that fire spread straight into 2015.
Whether that happens, however, isn't just up to Hollywood: it's up to us, too. We have to stay energized, educated, and connected to each other, and we have to keep talking up what's important to us. These conversations won't just be about abortion rights, equal pay, and maternity leave (which, of course, they'll include) — they'll also center on funny culture quirks like the decline of the Brazilian wax, "mansplaining," and whether or not a real feminist can love songs with misogynistic lyrics.
That's where this book list comes in. For 2015, I picked out 15 books that each give a vibrant take on feminism. That's the 360-degree view of feminism — not just for the academic or the political or the reluctant ones. The stuff that's in these pages is what's going to keep the conversations lively, and keep feminism at the forefront of everyone's minds in the year to come.
So, whether you're a diehard feminist who knows what she's all about, a confused one who's not totally sure how to wear the term, or a person who is a bit weary of the F-word, there's a book for you below. Pick out one for your New Year reading list.
This book reminded me how to be a badass woman. It also caused me to almost pee my pants laughing at least 10 times. Moran uses cheeky British sarcasm to call out what she dubs "All The Patriarchal Bullshit." She urges women — all women, of all ages — to reclaim the word "feminism."
As a feminist who has watched trashy TV and mouthed the words to way too many blatantly misogynistic songs, Gay's collection of essays gave me hope that I — an imperfect person who has my moments of confusion about women's issues — can still call myself a feminist. Gay uses her experience as a woman of color, a college professor, and a pop culture critic to slice into what's wrong with our society today.
When Wolfe suffered an injury to her spine that caused a major drop in her ability to orgasm, she embarked on a quest for information about the vagina's link to the brain. I would describe this quest as academic/medical/gigolo-y — she does at one point research a male masseuse with a very particular specialty. Using tons of medical evidence, she proves that sexual violence and even negative comments about the vagina shut down synapses in the female brain and prevent a woman from thriving. She also finds that good consensual sex with a respectful, thoughtful, communicative partner (yes, even if that partner is a fling) can make a woman happier, more confident, and more creative.
Ever come home from work, collapse, and waste the night away watching Netflix... only to realize that you, a working professional, are out of clean underwear for tomorrow? During these moments, I picture the typical overworked, full-time employed mother's post-work plight and feel a pang of sympathy. Crabb understands how today's moms tick; she draws a clear picture of a modern household and concludes that working women need wives! Not real human ones, but a variety of mitigating forces like paid-for housework and childcare, a spousal balance of chore-doing, and respect for the hard work that "housewifery" is. Because no one should have to do it all, and because a homemaker of any gender's work must be respected.
Want to become a better feminist... and person? Read the late Angelou's collection of poems. Her voice breaks your heart and heals it at once. It's not a wonder that this woman's writing has touched millions. If poets are the soul of a nation, then this self-proclaimed feminist's words prove there's hope after all.
Yes, another Moran title on this list. If there were some kind of international prize for brutal honesty that makes you cry-laugh, Moran would win it. In this coming-of-age novel, How to Be a Girl draws from the author's early life as a working-class girl with humor and a healthy dose of British swear words. Moran doesn't apologize for — and in fact, she relishes in — the troubling, not-so-ladylike experiences of her youth. And I love her for it.
You know those subtly sexist moments that either caused your head to explode or suddenly go numb? Solnit has had those too, and she offers insight on how to handle these situations in her collection of essays. When Solnit describes the experience of being condescended to via mansplaining, you'll feel like she's reading a page straight from the book of your life. Her essays contain witticisms and dark humor, but the takeaway — that sexism is not something anyone has to put up with — won't elicit much giggling. This is a brave book.
Babygate: How to Survive Pregnancy and Parenting in the Workplace by Dina Bakst, Phoebe Taubman, and Elizabeth Gedmark
It's rough out there for expecting moms and couples — they're often discriminated against with built-in employment policies just because they're building a family. This book is a roadmap, complete with quizzes, testimonies, state-by-state laws and regulations to be aware of, plus comparisons to countries outside of the United States. (Prepare to be very jealous of Swedish people.)
Your fact of the day: Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, was quite the philanderer, as well as a BDSM fanatic. Lepore's exploration of the Marston's fetishes blends with feminist history and sophisticated commentary on the cartoon lady, and the result is equal parts titillation, brain-food, and "Wait, really?" moments. After reading it, I wondered if this Amazonian "Wonder Woman" could be considered a feminist heroine at all, but that questioning made me feel smarter and more empowered.
Davis' debut novel, Shifting Through Neutral, was a finalist for the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and she's made some noise again with this novel. Into the Go-Slow's intriguing plot has a universal appeal for anyone searching for her feminist identity: After her sister's death, Angie, an African-American college grad living in Detroit, takes off to Nigeria to retrace her beloved sibling's final steps. What she uncovers forces her to decide what type of woman she wants to be.
If you've ever been frustrated with the way people treat or talk about your female boss, or if you are that female boss, you won't want to miss Spar's insights. Jill Abramson's famous firing shortly after her debut as executive editor of the The New York Times raised, and still raises, many questions about how comfortable Americans are with female top-dogs. The story of how this firing came to be conjures many questions about gender and leadership. As Spar puts it, "This stuff doesn't happen to men. It just doesn't."
Pollitt argues that women's abortion rights are being eroded right now, and she calls for a stop to it all. Citing statistics and historical tragedies that serve as a slap in the face to anyone working to take away a woman or family's right to choose abortion as an option, Pollitt's meticulously proven points empower every reader.
Want to laugh? Want to be inspired by Poehler's killer attitude? Here you go. Poehler lights a fire under her readers to dream big, peppers the journey with a healthy dose of irony and self-deprecation.
What will it take to make a woman president here in the United States? The conversational tone of this book appeals to readers young and old, and its emphasis on interviews of an array of famous, fascinating people — people like Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Nancy Pelosi, Nicholas Kristof, Melissa Etheridge — make it fun to read. Their answers to the question the title poses will hurt you, inspire you, and make you a better leader.
Gracious and witty, Adichie argues that gender should not be a script for raising boys or girls. She comes across as a warm and nurturing person, like that big sister, auntie, or teacher that inspired you (or that you wish you had). She touches upon serious matters such as sexual violence, as well as the more subliminal insidious behaviors that marginalize women and limit men around the world. Her message is a positive one: culture can change if we do.