By Rachel Epstein published
Nine out of 10 times, people who are hesitant to label themselves as a feminist don't know the true definition of feminism—which, to put it simply, is the belief in the equality of men and women. The perfect reason why we should all be feminists (for more on that, see the book of the same name, below). The next time it feels like we're at a standstill on our progress towards women's rights, look to these 15 feminist texts for inspiration—and, more importantly, a powerful reminder that we're in this together.
'Hood Feminism' by Mikki Kendall
Mikki Kendall's Hood Feminism, out next month, is the wakeup call we all need when discussing feminism. Too often food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care aren't part of the conversation, which comes at the expense of white privilege. Hood Feminism brings it all to light.
Andrews McMeel Publishing 'The Witch Doesn't Burn in This One' by Amanda Lovelace
Amanda Lovelace's The Witch Doesn't Burn in This One, part of Lovelace's "Women Are Some Kind of Magic" series, is a refreshing collection of poems that empowers women to take control of their minds and bodies.
Puffin Books 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
ICYMI: Louisa May Alcott's beloved Little Women was adapted into a movie by Greta Gerwig at the end of 2019. While Alcott didn't necessarily set out to write a feminist novel in 1868, Gerwig's adaptation certainly makes it like she did. Do yourself a favor and read the book, then watch the film.
Crossing Press 'Sister Outsider' by Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider encompasses 15 essays and speeches dated from 1976 to 1984 on sex, race, ageism, homophobia, and class. The collection is considered a classic with Lorde's dedication to exploring identity and change, specifically among African American women.
'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay
Being labeled a feminist can get complicated—especially when society encourages you to act or behave a certain way. In Bad Feminist, author and cultural critic Roxane Gay explores how to overcome these labels through her own personal experiences.
'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one of Barack Obama's favorite authors, makes a compelling argument for why everyone should embrace equality of the sexes, based off of her viral 2012 TED Talk of the same name. Fun fact: Part of Adichie's speech was included in Beyoncé's 2013 song, "Flawless."
'The Sun and Her Flowers' by Rupi Kaur
Following the success of her first poetry collection, Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur's second heart-tugging collection, The Sun and Her Flowers, reminds us of the strength and power of women. Its five sections—Wilting, Falling, Rooting, Rising, and Blooming—are filled with relatable moments of love, healing, growth, and learning to accept who you are while still challenging the world around you.
'The Future Is Feminist: Radical, Funny, and Inspiring Writing by Women'
Jessica Valenti, one of the most well-known modern feminists of our time, and other icons, including Salma Hayek, Chelsea Handler, and Mindy Kaling, bring their whip-smart perspectives to this new collection, The Future Is Feminist. The essays explore what it means to be a feminist yesterday, today, and tomorrow. One very important topic of discussion? Resting bitch face, or as some may know it, RBF.
'This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America' by Morgan Jerkins
In Morgan Jerkins' collection of essays, This Will Be My Undoing, the acclaimed writer brilliantly describes life as a Black feminist in a white America, and how she and other Black women are fighting to navigate their way through the white feminist movement that continues to dominate our country.
'The Awakening' by Kate Chopin
Now's probably the time you regret just reading the Cliff's Notes of Kate Chopin's The Awakening in English Lit class. The classic (first published in 1899!) is the best-known example of early feminism. The main character, Edna, struggles with her family's views on femininity and motherhood. Relatable.
'Men Explain Things to Me' by Rebecca Solnit
Thank Rebecca Solnit for creating the popular term "mansplaining," which originated from her hilarious essay on what happens when men assume women don't know what they're talking about. According to Solnit, it's due to a combination of "overconfidence and cluelessness."
'The Bluest Eye' by Toni Morrison
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison's debut novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), explores society's long-problematic beauty ideals through its main character, Pecola—a young black girl mocked for the color of her skin. After her traumatizing experiences with sexual assault and bullying, she must confront what it means to conform to the world around her.
'Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger' by Rebecca Traister
How to cope with the overbearing patriarchy currently fueled by the Trump administration? Read Rebecca Traister's Good and Mad, which illustrates how women have channeled their rage through historical events like the Women's March and the #MeToo movement—sparking a timely debate of what it means to be an "angry woman" today.
'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood
Now a popular TV show, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale takes us through a dystopian world where women, known as Handmaids, are assigned to have children for elite couples. There's absolutely no freedom, and the women are controlled by the Commander they're forced to have sex with. It's a haunting reminder of how society can view a woman's worth.
'Moving Beyond Words: Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking Boundaries of Gender' by Gloria Steinem
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem wants you to know that you aren't confined to female stereotypes in her highly-praised 1995 collection of essays, Moving Beyond Words. Over the years, she's used her own experiences as a woman to help propel the movement towards equality. ••• For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter. SUBSCRIBE HERE
Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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