Bookworms Review: Our Women’s History Month Reads

A book full of sticky notes. We have been reading a variety of feminist literature for Women’s History Month. Illustration by Pearl McNames.

Over the course of Women’s History Month, we have read some wonderful feminist literature and decided to share and reflect on them for you, our loyal readers. If you’re looking to continue educating yourself, all of these books are a great place to turn. Learning about women’s history and feminism can be complicated, and books, like all media, tend to offer varying degrees of quality and intersectionality. We were aided by the recommendations of one of Franklin’s resident Women’s Literature teachers, Fanny Ortega. 

The first book we turned to was the feminist classic The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. With vivid imagery, Atwood paints the picture of a dystopian society which violently imposes roles and limitations on women’s freedom following a drop in birth rates. From the perspective of a Handmaid, a woman who works at the service of a household to attempt to produce children, we see the extreme subjugation and control of women in this fictional society and how it parallels, in some ways, our own. Although it doesn’t explore nearly every consequence of these systems, it would serve as an interesting context for further analysis and conversations around intersections of marginalized identities, specifically trans identities, in this society.

For fans of short essays, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a great introduction to feminism. Using personal anecdotes from her life in both the U.S. and Nigeria, Adichie reveals the intense impacts that discrimination and misogyny can have on women. She doesn’t throw blame solely on men but rather offers a nuanced explanation of the history of sexism so that everyone can learn to unlearn it. If essay reading isn’t really your thing, or you’re looking to learn about feminism in a way other than reading, this essay is adapated from Adichie’s 2012 TEDx talk by the same name.

If you’re interested in the pop culture aspect of feminism and the representation of women, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay could be the book for you. If you haven’t read a Roxane Gay book before, you should absolutely give this one a try. It’s a collection of essays that reflect on her life, the media she consumes, and feminism, with a nuanced look at the intersectionality of race and gender. Although it does sometimes feel like she’s jumping all over the place and some of her points can get a little lost, many of the essays are very thought-provoking. It is a very good starting point for reading feminist essays. 

Another classic author and essayist who examines the intersections of gender, race, and capitalism, among other categories, is bell hooks. As a trailblazing feminist, hooks has written numerous essays, which we highly recommend. Last month, we read Feminism Is for Everybody, a highly readable explanation of hooks’ own feminist philosophy and a great place for beginners to start their own self-education. Ortega also recommends Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, which specifically analyzes the complexities of different types of oppression within feminism. 

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf discusses a very prevalent issue that impacts women—societal beauty standards. She breaks down the way that beauty standards are used to perpetuate the oppression of women. This eye opening book is a great read for everyone, but especially those who want to go into depth about body image in the context of feminism. It has a few moments where the argument falls apart and can feel a little bit dated, but the overarching point that is being made is a very important one. 

Some of these books contain upsetting or triggering content. For more information on these subjects, or if you have any suggestions, reactions, or additional opinions on books that you want to share with us, we welcome all emails sent to bookworms.fhspost@gmail.com

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