In September we asked the readers of The F-Word to send us their lists of recommended feminist books: what are their favourite feminist must reads? Here's the results. The most recommended book? Germaine Greer's The
Various Authors, 16 October 2002
This is off the top of my head; I haven’t been reading as much as I would like
Both Inga Muscio and Rebecca Walker have spoken at my college, so that’s why I’m
partial to these two books. “Cunt” is just all-over a good book, and touches
on a lot of issues, and “To Be Real” is a compilation of essays, so it has
various perspectives. The rest focus on glbt issues. “Lesbian Ethics” is a
bit scary if you’ve never been aware of separatism, but it makes some good
points. “Herland” is a book I had to read for my Utopia class, and it shows a
potential feminist utopia.
My all time feminist favourites:
Sorry that they are all fiction books, but they just stay with you for
longer, I think.
I will love to see the results of your reader’s top feminist books!
Here are the ones I could think of on the spot…
what adolescent girls today must face. An important read for parents! (of sons
daughters!- about young girls, but raising feminist friendly sons is
roll. But doesn’t include Beatles or Elvis, rather all of the women who
shaped the music of the past century! Awesome!
incredible story teller. It is a collection of short stories told from the
perspective of different black women, mostly during the Civil Rights Movement.
Alice Walker doesn’t just write stories, she transports her readers into her
Dear F word,
Not being a teenager, I always keep Germaine Greer’s The Whole Woman by
Hi F-word – books
Not a bad start, I reckon.
This is my top ten list of so-called ‘feminist’ literature (not in order). These
women have influenced, changed and inspired me. Most importantly though these
writers have given me (and hopefully loads of other women) the strength,
courage and wisdom to continue my quest for female equality.
order for the human race to continue, women must be safe and empowered. It’s an
obvious idea, but like a vagina, it needs great attention and love in order to
be revealed.” (Ensler, 1998). Amazing…Truly Amazing…
women were completely powerless in the Victorian times.
of women, even my grandma loves it!
women too and you can’t deny that there’s a bit of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda
and Charlotte in all of us.
writes). This woman wrote the beautiful poem, Still I rise where she wrote the
line, “Because I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs.”
Wow! Her autobiographical novel is just as intense and wonderful.
Irish women deserve a voice too and Devlin gives them a unique one.
This woman is a genius, in this novel she writes about the plight of black
women and shows the marginalisation of them in American society.
brilliant and extremely funny.
In case I have angered a few people I have to mention five more amazing
feminist but worth reading).
point in feminism)
My list is unique to me and I think it is important to include a diverse range
of women’s literature, even if this means that I have left out classic feminist
texts! If you haven’t read any of these books then I recommend them all, become
a vagina queen and indulge.
I’d like to recommend “Refusing to be a man” and “The end of
parables on sex and selfhood” by the American radical feminist
Reading these books has changed my life. Stoltenberg articulates the model
of masculinity as no one else ever has. At last, all those frustrating
things about manhood that you knew were forms of terrorism but couldn’t
articulate why are brought together and the pieces of the jigsaw really fit.
Pornography, prostitution, being crap at relationships, the myth about
male labido etc etc – are all now ONE coherent issue, one blueprint that
explains every question I have ever grappled with and exposes the fact that
it is MASCULINITY that feminists must address – not just female oppression
over and over again. Every thinking person should read his work.
These are in no particular order and the list is by no means exhaustive. There’s
loads of important first wave stuff missing and nothing that mainly focuses on
ethnicity, employment or war (for example). My main area of interest right now
is sex, so much of what I’ve listed deals with issues around this subject.
Basically, these are just a few of the books that initially inspired me so the
list definitely won’t please everyone!
It was around 1997 when I first read this collection of essays by Feminists
Against Censorship. This was the first time I had seen a detailed exposure
of the patronising sexism lurking beneath anti-pornography dogma. Three years
later, I joined the group (something I should have done much sooner).
Anti-censorship feminism is often very misunderstood and mislabelled and I
would recommend this book to anyone, whatever their stance.
Great style, brilliantly written – shame about the politics. The writer
basically gives the impression that we can either return to modesty and cosy
sexism or expect a barrage of misogyny and rape. Are men really so unable to
respect genuine female autonomy? Must ‘respect’ have a smug price attached to
it? Shalit seems to suggest that, if a woman wants to have any sense of control
over her body, her only sensible option is to put her sexuality on hold. She
implies that accepting our inevitable ‘feminine’ passivity and saying no to sex
until we find someone ‘special’ is the best deal we can hope for if we want to
avoid the wrath of hard-done-by men.
Though some of the overall contrived sweetness and humour does occasionally
grate, this book is often genuinely witty, forceful and charming. It didn’t
change my views on sex, but it’s a book I won’t forget.
Again, this is essential reading but with a few disappointments along the way.
Cline is right in her assertion that ‘fifty years ago it took courage for a
woman to admit she was enjoying an active sex life’ and that ‘today it takes
courage to admit that she is not’. I would agree that society places far too
much pressure on women to sexually perform or find a partner. I was, however,
disheartened with the ‘Perpetual Virgins’ chapter of the book, as I would like
to see a denouncement of the very notion of virginity itself and the idea that
anyone who has not had conventional penis-in-vagina sex is a virgin. Virginity
is a socially constructed commodity, which is designed to be given away or
taken. The ‘virgin’ is at a disadvantage, liable to being patronised and
incapable of being equal to a sexual partner, unless, they too, are a ‘virgin’.
It doesn’t matter whether the state is, as Cline discusses in ‘Celibacy and
Passion’, ‘transitional’ (unwanted) or ‘perpetual’ (part of a deliberately
celibate person’s sexual identity). In fact, I would argue that the term
probably almost always holds a transitional implication, as ‘virginity’ is
commonly viewed somewhat differently from non-‘virginal’ celibacy. This is
because the ‘virgin’ has never had so-called ‘real’ sexual intercourse and
therefore, through the current discourse on sex, holds ‘something’ that can be
If I remember rightly, Cline does not address these issues. It’s still a good
Yes, it’s an overly obvious choice and hard to sum up without saying what
everyone else says, but I just couldn’t leave out Germaine Greer. ‘The Female
Eunuch’ is essential second wave reading and her polemical style never dates.
‘The Whole Woman’ is the sequel that Greer said she would never write. But in a
climate where so many people seemed (and, a few years later, still seem) to be
saying that feminism had ‘gone far enough’, Greer understandably felt that
silence would have been ‘inexcusable’. In a programme screened around the time
the book was published, she summed up the common attitude as:
‘Now we can vote, feminism has achieved its aim and can fold its tent and piss
However ambivalent I might feel about Germaine Greer, (why does she keep
associating herself with the Daily Mail? Didn’t she slag off Suzanne Moore for
wearing lipstick in 1995? Did she really call Jade Goody a fat bitch in 2002?),
I could never discount her influence and power.
I read this shortly after reading ‘Female Desire’ by Rosalind Coward.
Both these books made me think about desire and sexuality in a way that I had
never consciously confronted before. We (women) are culturally trained to focus
on how others see us and this gets in the way of our own sexual development and
desires. Meanwhile, young boys are culturally trained to deny their charm,
prettiness and potential to be objectified or consumed by another person. This,
in turn, gets in the way of not only their own sexual development but also that
of the women who are orientated towards them. My particular stance is that,
whilst I sometimes enjoy the mirror, I will not allow my own sexual desire to
be distracted by it. Essential reading.
This is a much needed antidote to the kind of ‘victim’ feminism that, for a long
time now, has actually been undermining us rather than helping us to achieve
our goals. This book is an optimistic and pragmatic look at how we can move
forward. Having read this book, feminism is still a serious issue for me and
there is still much to be done, but I always try and bear in mind that a
feminist existence needn’t be a miserable and depressing one.
The writer is always objective, thorough and reasoned, even when dealing with
prejudiced and bigoted arguments about homosexuality. This book is relevant
reading for anyone with a commitment to sexual liberation and a zest for
outwitting the opposition.
The highly personal and revealing survey responses always draw me in again
whenever I take it off the shelf. But most importantly, it was one of the first
books I ever came across that really challenged our society’s most common
definition of ‘proper’ sex.
This book liberated me in terms of my attitude towards female masochists and
masochist fantasists. I think there is a rather unfortunate tendency within the
feminist movement to try to police each other’s sexual fantasies. This really
is almost as unhelpful to the cause for women’s sexual freedom as society’s
heterosexist expectations are. It’s true that I am often bored and disappointed
by the same old sermons about what women are supposedly programmed to
automatically want sexually. However, this does not give me the excuse to write
off another person’s fantasies as invalid or assume that another woman can’t
possibly be a feminist if she enjoys something which I find hard to square with
my feminist politics. Of course, her not being a feminist at all wouldn’t write
her off either (and to say that does not undermine my commitment to
My list – in no particular order!
Amazing and powerful analysis of the pressure put on women and girls to be thin
Flawed but energetic and passionate book which varies from chapter to chapter.
She’s not always right, but she’s still got it.
Comprehensive introduction to the Third Wave
Enthralling memoir about life during the whirlwind of the American Second
Interesting and encouraging collection of essays from a new generation of
Lively, fun, entertaining and inspiring book about “the anatomical jewel”, what
it means to be a woman, and more.
Proving that feminism can be fun and intelligent at the same time.
Classic explanation of how feminism is denegrated time and time again just
as women begin to make progress.
Currently I am interested in researching cultural and anthropological
differences towards women. Especially the biological myths that science and
religion and to some extent mythology, have always perpetuated. I recommend to
everyone, Natalie Angier’s Woman: an intimate georgraphy. The
biological inaccuracies expounded by society and science that she exposes are
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