I am a sucker for a good book club — heck, I’m a sucker for a sorta mediocre book club, to be totally honest here. I join book clubs like other folks order coffee or pickup their dry cleaning: with great regularity and very little analysis. At the time of this writing, I’m a member of precisely six book clubs of various genres and commitment levels, and as far as my well-stocked bookshelves are concerned there’s definitely room to join a few more — and if I’ve learned one thing from my compulsive book-club-joining ways it’s this: book clubs can change your life.
It’s clear that the world is starting to change for women in a big way this year — and joining a feminist book club might be just one way to help yourself make sense of it all. Between the power of the Women’s Marches and the devastation of rampant sexual assault cases there’s a lot of gray area, and room for a whole lot of questions about what feminism means to you and where you might find your own place in it all. Reading some great feminist literature — and gathering together with some feminist book-lovers like yourself — might be exactly what you need to hold space for yourself and your questions, and start to work out some much-needed answers. Plus, by reading feminist literature you’ll be supporting women who, like the women of the #MeToo Movement today, have dared to tell hard stories about their lives. A book club and feminist activism all rolled into one? You can’t beat that.
Here are seven ways joining a feminist book club could totally change your life — and your bookshelves — this year.
1. More books, anyone?
This one is simple (and obvious) but impactful. The natural consequence of joining a book club is that you read more books — joining a feminist book club equals more feminist books. The more books you have, the more time you spend reading and ergo, the less time you have to spend on things that are damaging for your book-loving, feminist spirit; like scrolling through the troll-driven responses to Hillary Clinton and Roxane Gay’s tweets. (Which, yes, technically is also reading, but is the kind of reading that takes no time in convincing you civil society is not just coming to an end, but actually ended somewhere around 2015.)
2. Exposure to new ideas is never a bad idea.
Sure, plenty of ideas are bad, (note: feminism and the book clubs that celebrate it are never bad ideas,) but mere exposure to new ideas, discourse, experiences, and ways of thinking has almost universally life-changing (and ultimately positive) effects. A feminist book club that explores the history of the movement, its challenges and successes, the ongoing struggle with intersectionality, the different experiences of women from a variety of backgrounds, the various criticisms of the movement, and more — and leaves plenty of room for dialogue after sharing each read — is bound to leave you a different kind of reader, and a different kind of feminist, by year’s end.
3. You’ll find a community of built-in allies.
Chances are if you and the members of your feminist book club are putting aside time in your already-busy lives to regularly come together each month over a shared text and conversation, you’re going to have more than a few things in common. Certainly not everything — again, that intersectionality point is key — but enough that you can start to form a sisterhood of advocacy with one another. (Ideally, one that supports each of you, while reminding you of your blind spots, and teaching you some new things along the way.) After all, we’re stronger together.
4. It’ll help you form your game plan for the resistance.
In the same way that folks leave the annual Women’s March thinking: “OK, that was some great energy right there — but what now?” you might develop similar feelings about your feminist book club. What’s great about diving into the activist lit of the feminists who came before you is that some solid game plans for the resistance have already been tried and tested. You can definitely learn from activists past: what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be adapted for today, and lots more. (And then, when you're ready to act, you've got a whole book club full of supporters cheering you on.)
5. It might help you sort through some of your own stuff.
I think it’s safe to assume we gals have a lot of our own stuff going on these days — questions, concerns, awakenings, realizations, periods of discouragement and heartache, and more. With the rise of #MeToo and Time’s Up, the rise of highly-publicized sexual assault cases, the White House sanctioning of language and ideas that are in no way female-friendly, (just to name a few examples) you’ve probably been on a roller-coaster of emotions and empowerment these days. Maybe some stuff has even come up in your own life — stuff you wish you’d had space to speak up about before, or things you didn’t even know you were allowed to be mad about until now. Reading the words of feminists who have been there, done that, and sharing those readings with other ladies like you, can be a great step in helping you sort out all kinds of things you’ve been avoiding until now. (Believe me, I write from personal experience here.)
6. You’ll curate that arsenal of come-backs you’ve always wanted.
If you’re the kind of gal who has spoken her mind and stood up for her body since the very beginning, I tip my pink pussy hat to you. If you’re more like me, chances are when you’ve been confronted with inappropriate comments, sexist conversations, invasive questions, or even exploitative physical contact, you’ve awkwardly smile-grimaced, stood there speechless and jaw-dropped, or ignored it. (I mean, how many times growing up were we told when a boy pulls our hair or pushes us on the bus it means he likes us, so we should just ignore it?)
However, with an arsenal of great feminist books and the ideas that fill them behind you, you might be surprised how much differently you’re able to respond the next time you’re confronted with a situation that feels just totally wrong to you. I know I have, and let me tell you: I sleep a whole lot better at night after I say what I mean and I mean what I say.
7. It could inspire you to change someone else’s life.
Now that you’ve assembled your feminist-book-lovin' group of allies and friends; you’ve formulated your game plan for the resistance; you’ve sorted through some of the struggles of your own past as a woman in the world; and you’ve got a brain (and bookshelf) full of feminist facts, history, inspirations, anecdotes, and defenses, it’s time to get out there and fight. Fight for yourself, ally with others, help hold greater space for the sisterhood, and you might actually change the world for the better. (And if not the world, at least your own little corner of it.) Rally on, readers.