Your Ultimate Feminist Book-Starter Kit
It’s Women’s History month, but all-year-round is the perfect time to get stuck in to a feminist book. Leena Norms – video creator, podcaster and producer – gives us her guide to the must-reads your bookshelves are missing.
I didn’t call myself a feminist until I was in my twenties. Whilst I was campaigning for a girl’s football team at my school at the age of eight, and very quick to insist that I was treated exactly like my brother (sometimes better, I was a bit of an Angelica from the Rugrats)... the word didn’t enter my vocabulary until I was around fourteen, and when it did, I didn’t really see a use for it.
Weren’t men and women naturally capable of different things? Couldn’t we just call it ‘equality’? I had waited my whole life to wear a bra, why would I burn it?
I came to it grudgingly at first; 'feminism' was the boy in the rom-com who you first think is an arrogant troll, but by the end of the film, is the only person who sees you as you are and turns out to be quite fit.
Here are the fittest – I mean, most useful – feminist books on my shelves. Some of them were there with me in real-time, rolling their eyes at my hand-me-down opinions and patiently asking the awkward questions. Never judging me, going at my pace, providing snacks. Others are new ones that I would really like to pop in a time-capsule and throw through the sky of 2005 and bonk teenage Leena on the head.
Whether you still have your own reservations or know what you believe but can’t really explain why, or always feel awkward when everyone starts talking about feminism and you’re not sure what to say… these books won’t judge you and they go well with a mean hot chocolate.
How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
An oldie but a goodie. As many jokes as there are truths; this is the book that made me do 180 degrees on the word ‘feminism’ and made me snort with laughter at the same time.
Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies, curated by Scarlet Curtis
This is one for my time machine; essays (but often they feel more like sticky notes, poems, texts, love letters) from huge names and new voices. The Kiera Knightly one is my favourite. Keep it by your bed and have a sweet lucky dip of delicious pep-talks whenever you’re feeling deflated.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
The first thing you need to know about being a feminist is that you will be a bad one. We all are. You never really stop. This is a glittering guide to shame, imperfection and the nuances of trying to mesh your beliefs with your actual life.
Gender Games by Juno Dawson
Some people are scared to read about trans experiences because it can lead us to re-examine our own flawed definitions of ‘woman’ – it’s okay to feel confused; we’ve been brought up in a world that is really still at the beginning of understanding gender, after all. This is a perfect and generous account of Juno’s own experiences, plus a wider look at why, if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it needs an update.
Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
Race is such a huge part of many women’s experiences; this is a collection of complex but approachable essays you can dip into to learn more about the intersections between race, class and gender. My favourite one is ‘Poetry is Not a Luxury’ but they’re all wonderful and, as someone who doesn’t experience racism personally, really essential learning for me.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
This is a really short, easy read that made me feel like I was taking my head out of a fish bowl I’d been wearing on my head my whole life. There is so much my brain had been trained to tell me is normal that just isn’t, or shouldn’t be.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Did you know that women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in car accidents because seatbelts are designed for men? And don’t even start me on the gender pay gap. If you’re looking for a handbook to the cold-hard facts to use in your own activism, here she is.
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