One of my goals this year in my self-care resolution was to spend more time in one of my favorite hobbies: reading. Reading offers a chance for me to escape into worlds that I can only explore with my imagination and the opportunity to learn more about topics that fascinate me. One of those topics is feminism, so when we headed off to Europe in December I filled up my Kindle with these five books exploring feminism, women’s rights, and the dangers of patriarchy.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
This was one of the first books that I read in a Barnes and Noble while I was trying to wrap my head around what it meant to be a feminist, but it was about time for a re-read. As a Christian, one challenge is reconciling what you learned in Sunday School with what feminism fundamentally means. Rachel Held Evans spent a year practicing (and deconstructing) all of what the Bible says about being a woman, which resulted in this tongue-in-cheek memoir. She highlights Biblical women whose valiant behavior seems to contrast with scripture’s dictates, uncovers the problems with current day proponents of “Biblical womanhood,” and wrestles with the failures of applying the culture of Biblical times to modern life.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
According to Roxane Gay, she’s a bad feminist. Why? Because she’s human and isn’t perfect. Because she loves pink and dances in clubs. Because she once rejected feminism because it seemed too limiting and the title was only given as an insult. This collection of essays explores a number of different topics along her journey to embracing feminism, including female friendship, sexual assault, and dissections of popular culture from Chris Brown to Girls and Fifty Shades of Grey. She also delves heavily into the impact of race and what it means to be a black feminist in a feminism dominated by the interests of straight, white women.
You Don’t Have to Like Me by Alida Nugent
This memoir is about what it is like growing up as girl and growing into a woman. About how as a woman, you can have fear and apprehension about simply walking home from work and find yourself sharing safety tips with each other. She writes, “At the very least, these tips serve to remind me how completely absurd it is to be a woman these days. In the same GChat conversation, you can talk about the best way to use a curling iron and whether pepper spray is legal in your state.” Nugent believes that the two greatest barriers to women embracing feminism are either not knowing what it really means or being afraid that others won’t like them if they do. So using the book as her platform she speaks out about what feminism is (equality and freedom of choice) and isn’t (man-hating and tossing all your make-up), while exploring mixed messages about gender and the hurdles of growing up, including friendship, body image, fitting in, and sex.
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you are looking for a quick read, this essay delves into all the baggage that contemporary feminism carries along with it. From others perspective, she writes, if you are a feminist, “You hate men, you hate bras, you hate African culture, you think women should always be in charge, you don’t wear makeup, you don’t shave, you’re always angry, you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t use deodorant.” Through stories about her childhood and adulthood in Nigeria, a country more controlled by patriarchal norms then the U.S., she advocates for us to raise and socialize our boys and girls differently.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
With the Handmaid’s Tale coming out on Hulu in April it seemed like the perfect time to read this novel for the first time. It is set in a dystopian future in which life has returned to the “ideal” of the Old Testament Bible. The story is told by Offred, a handmaid, one of women whose responsibility is to resolve the problem of infertility in the land by living and procreating with wealthy couples. It is a strictly patriarchal society in which women have no rights, freedoms, jobs, or money and function only in the roles that society has assigned them. It is a frightening look into what a return to a patriarchal society could mean to the United States, just as 1984 or Brave New World explore other ill effects of authoritarian societies.
What is your favorite book that you’ve read in the last month?