I was always a feminist, but it took me until over thirty to realize it. Once it hit me, it hit hard. I wanted to shout it and all the reason we still needed it from the rooftops, but I refrained. I was still working to understand what was going on and exactly what those reasons were. I read a lot during that first year and I started writing my first blog. These seven books were the books that are still at the forefront of my mind, reminding me that there’s still work to do. They remind me that we did not start down this road on our own and we carry with us the progress of those who came before us. They remind me that we have a responsibility to those fighting adjacent battles and that we are better off as allies than either of us fighting alone. For the complete list of books I read during that first year as a confirmed feminist, click here.
This is how it started. I know that since the publication of this book, it has been attacked on many fronts by feminists as blaming women for their own problems. To me, it felt like someone who had made it out of this ditch was helping me figure out how to get out too. It was neither of our faults that we were in there and some ditches are deeper than others, but no one is was going to help us get out of them. Sometimes the best we can get is a few hints on how to get out for ourselves.
It isn’t perfect, but no one is. No single book on feminism or women or equality can address all of all of it. If you are working and wondering what you could do to for yourself to get further ahead, this is a great place to start. The book inspired a movement, find it’s website here. And when you’re done with this one, a good next stop is Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers (A NICE GIRLS Book)
I don’t remember how it is that I came across this one after Lean In. When I had found it, I had to read it. I was mesmerized by it. There was something about the way that Bessey invites us to the bonfire. She doesn’t tell you what to think, she just asks that you take a look and make up your own mind about it. Don’t listen to others and read through the text, all of it, with an open mind, not one that’s decided before the eyes hit the page. I also didn’t see it coming that there was this side of Christianity, not like this. I had never been in a church that demanded women stay on the sidelines and tried to use scripture to back it up. I had no idea that this was a conversation that people were still having in the church.
I particularly liked the advice to not pick apart the Bible as if it is a successive set of tweets. Each verse should not be pulled from the whole of the passage and passages should not be pulled from whole of the story without proper context. I am hoping to understand these kinds of things better as I read it for myself through my Bible series on this blog.
I remember thinking to myself that I should go back and do the homework, learn the history. I knew the suffragettes were the women that got us the vote and I had learned that they were great women who campaigned with gusto (I found out later just how little I knew about them too). What I didn’t know was where the women’s lib movement came from. I didn’t know anything about why women hadn’t all been happy as housewives, though I was grateful for them. I’m not the housewife type either, not that there’s anything wrong with those who are.
I read this book expecting to find all these things that the women’s liberation movement had given us but instead I found a lot of things that hadn’t changed. I was shocked. Don’t get me wrong, improvement has been made in several arenas, but I had expected that. I didn’t expect the many that are still issues. If you think the women’s liberation movement is over, even for middle class white women, check this out and see just how much has stayed the same.
This book had been referenced several times by the others. When I finally got to read it, I was just as shocked as with the last one. Modern America is very different from what Beauvoir describes here. I was not prepared for the thorough manner that she would use to go through all the stages of life as a woman, particularly of that time. It explained so much.
There were still many places that were relatable, but not as many as The Feminine Mystique. This one was just brutal in every little way. I was particular shocked by the way she spoke of abortion. It wasn’t that she condoned it, though she does. It was the way she talked about it in accordance with the men of her time that got me thinking about the realities of the argument that surrounds it. It was also much longer than I expected it to be, but totally worth it.
I had always thought the male/female thing was pretty cut and dry. It was interesting to find that it wasn’t and that there was a lot more history behind it than just the last century. I’ve heard people say all the time that we are more than our biology but it didn’t start to make sense until I realized how insane biology could be. I know it doesn’t sound like it should go together since the idea is that we really are bigger than our biology, but it helped me connect the dots. If biology is really this crazy, we never were just our biology. There was always more going on there and it’s that way with everyone, not just the gender non-conformists. I am bigger than my cells and hormones and genes. I always knew that about myself, I just never related it to the gender argument before. This book was a revelation that gave me insights that helped me walk through all the rest of the reasons why all feminists should be LGBT allies.
As one thing always leads to another, I had finished the previously mentioned book and wanted a personal account. I did read Transgender History in between and that is also amazing and enlightening. What made this one stick out in my mind and help me propel forward in the thought process was all the other little things that it included. It had the personal touch that talks about the everyday moments that can tear you down because other people think it’s their business what you have going on where even when they don’t want to touch any of it. It had the ways that your non-conformity becomes your identity to people instead of the whole of you. The personal touch was beautiful and I’m reminded all the time that there are people who have an entirely different thing that they get judged for and holds them back that I had no idea about before I started admitting that I was a feminist. Now, I just wish to be as good an ally as I can to them.
This was the last book that I read in that first year that woke something in my soul. It helped me articulate my opinion. When it comes to the matters discussed in this book, I knew what I thought, I just used to have a much harder time explaining it to people. I never bought into that idea that women and men are innately better at anything. All those things that men said women were “just better at” had taken work to master. I had a feeling their things had too. Finally, I had a book that explained why those perceptions still linger and why it often still looks that way. It also gave me some questions to ask people when they say stuff like that, not to be argumentative, but to invite them to explore it a little more. Fine breaks down several studies and indications that gender is more in our heads than we think, and those thoughts effect us more than we want to admit they do. There’s an interesting section on “gender priming” that I love and have worked hard to counter when I’m going to things that make me feel primed.
These seven books have become my go-to whenever people bring up their topics. They make complex topics much easier to understand and have passages and stories that have stuck with me as I’ve continued figuring out what being a feminist is about nowadays. As I mentioned before, I’ve read many more books on all this and most have been very informative or inspiring, but these are the books that would sit on my nightstand, if I was still buying paper books. As it is, they stay in my queue, available and highlighted in the formats they were downloaded in, not to be archived. Try them on Audible or the free Kindle app.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?