10 Essential Feminist Texts Everyone Should Read

By Katherine Rundell

As FX’sMrs. Americabrings the battle over second wave feminism to our small screens, now is as good a time as any to check in with the essential feminist reading list. These books explore the intersectionality of feminist discourse from the ‘60s to the early 2000’s, giving a voice to the importance of race and sexuality in the conversation. Get informed, get angry and get inspired.

1. Gender Outlaw By Kate Bornstein

Over the last decade the mainstream conversation about gender has become more sophisticated and thank God that terms like non-binary have entered the broader consciousness. Kate Bornstein has been on the front line of this debate since the early ‘90s and we all have something to learn from Gender Outlaw, her fiercely funny treatise on how gender is shaped by cultural and political forces.

2. Bad Feminist By Roxane Gay

“I’m a feminist, but…” is most likely a familiar expression to all of us, which explains how Gay’s Bad Feminist hit a nerve and took the world by storm. This book is an antidote to the impossible standards that women are held to no matter where they are up on the political spectrum. It’s a lucid, hilarious and deeply wise essay collection that explores everything from love songs to an intersectional examination of tokenism in the media.

3. We Should All Be Feminists By Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Ngozi Adiche’s wide reaching pamphlet-turned-TED-talk was distributed by the Swedish government to every Swedish 16-year-old because of the essential message. Accessibly and powerfully written, the book forcefully argues that we need feminism more than ever in the 21st century. You’ll be sharing it with everyone in your life.

4. Men Explain Things To Me By Rebecca Solnit

When she coined the term “mansplaining” Solnit tapped into a familiar female experience and helped us to conceptualize one of the most frustrating daily microaggressions encountered everywhere from the office to the outdoors. Solnit is an insightful essayist and this collection is likely to enrage and empower in equal measure, a potent combination.

5. Sister Outsider By Audre Lorde

In 2020 it’s well acknowledged that feminism must be inherently intersectional, and we need a diverse selection of voices to provide this. As a poet and author, Lorde is a founding feminist figure of that intersectionality. Queer and black perspectives are emphasised in this powerful collection of essays that explore injustice in all its forms.

6. The Feminine Mystique By Betty Friedan

Friedan’s seminal work from 1963 can be considered a foundational feminist text, launching the second wave and playing a role in the creation of a new generation of critically conscious women. In some ways reading the Feminine Mystique can feel like doing your feminist homework, but Friedan’s deconstruction of how culture views women is as relevant today, if not more so.

7. Unbought And Unbossed By Shirley Chisholm

“Move over Dreams From My Father, this came first,” says Kendra Jensen, feminist at BigAssignments and University Assignments. “This autobiography of the United States’ first black female Congresswoman, Unbought and Unbossed takes its name from Chisholm’s powerful campaign slogan. With her political career Chisholm showed what was possible when you take on the status quo with passion and daring.”

8. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Greer’s landmark book influenced the second wave of feminism throughout the ‘70s. Lisa Dudley, writer at Research Paper Help and OXessays reveals that “it was a highly confrontational book, attacking the nuclear family as a tool of patriarchal oppression and arguing for female sexual liberation. The passion of these second-wavers can be an inspiration to us all in a more cynical time!”

9. the witch doesn’t burn in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Lovelace’s remarkable poetry reclaims the title of Witch to create a totemic image of female power. These poems inform and inspire women to take control of their own stories, a message we all need to hear as societal forces so often do the opposite.

10. Women, Culture, & Politics By Angela Davis

As a veteran activist and campaigner, Davis is an essential voice in the intersectional feminist discourse. This collection of essays from 1989 explore race and gender from a global perspective. Davis is one part academic, one part activist and her informed yet impassioned tone is a source of inspiration.

Feminism’s long intellectual and activist history is represented in full here and we hope you find some inspiration in these books. The fight isn’t over!

Katherine Rundell is a writer at Personal Statement Help and Paper Writing Service websites. She is interested in structural inequality and writes about the female experience. She is also a tutor at Essay Writing Service UK portal.

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