This was a tricky list to narrow down, but here are my five favourite Feminist (or what I’d define as Feminist) books that I’d strongly recommend to anyone interested in reading around the subject.
1) WETLANDS by Charlotte Roche.
Reading Wetlands isn’t always a pleasant experience. It follows the mind and thoughts of 18-year-old Helen Memel as she lies in a hospital bed due to a nasty intimate shaving accident. Helen describes in graphic detail previously taboo subjects such as anal intercourse, hairy armpits, period blood and sexual pleasure. Julia Kristeva’s theory of Abjection states that the abject is an experience situated outside the concept of an object and the concept of the subject. Facing the abject can often be traumatic or uncomfortable, for example, coming face to face with a corpse, blood or vomit. This repulsion a natural response from being a subject, or a person. Roche’s descriptions, therefore, are not always comfortable or enjoyable but they do serve a strong purpose. Women, undeniably, deal with a huge pressure to be clean or ‘pure’, constantly maintaining their bodies, hair and faces in order to be seen as the purer sex. Yet, nothing is spoken of how it feels to actually live in these bodies, to deal with these everyday bodily functions such as blood and vomit. The smokescreen of purity and cleanliness in disseminated. However, despite the furore over the brutal depiction of these subjects, the protagonist remains like-able and vulnerable. She tries desperately hard to get her separated parents back together, showing a tender emotional side. The book is graphic, yes, but most importantly breaks down taboos whilst remaining funny and touching.
2) THE WOMEN’S ROOM by Marilyn French
Fay Weldon said that The Women’s Room is “the kind of book that changes lives” and I would completely agree with that statement. The novel is set in 1950s America and follows the life of Mira Ward as a young and ‘conventional’ young woman in a traditional marriage stuck in the sexist throes of suburbia. After years of unhappy marriage, her husband eventually files for divorce leaving Mira to gradually discover her own intelligence, Feminism and true love based on equality. The novel describes the friendships between women in clear and wonderful detail whilst also dealing with more difficult subjects such as rape and violent protests.
3) HOW TO BE A WOMAN by Caitlin Moran
Feminism can be FUNNY. Big gasps. Women can be FUNNY. Shock face. How To Be A Woman is like having a chat with your best friend. You know the type that goes on until three in the morning over a bottle of wine, where you discuss adolescence, bras, pubic hair and celebrities. Feminism doesn’t have to be stuffy or academic but can discuss contemporary issues and daily experiences in an accessible and hilarious way. Nice one, Caitlin.
4) THE EQUALITY ILLUSION; THE TRUTH ABOUT MEN AND WOMEN TODAY by Kat Banyard
UK Feminista’s Kat Banyard reminds the world that there is still a long way to go before men and women are truly equal. Banyard starts by discusses appearance and eating disorders, the pressure young girls feel to wear make-up and been seen as attractive and fit to face the world. She also mentions the fact that the majority of pornography is heterosexual and degrading to women, creating a pressure during sexual relationships. Women are still regarded as bodies, or objects, rather than real people which leads to severe insecurity, sexual harrassment, domestic violence and abuse. Banyard also discusses other issues such as the fact that women are still a minority on Parliament and business companies in the first world. This book is engaging and extremely easy to read and digest. Although many people today may not see the importance of Feminism as men and women are supposedly equal, Banyard reminds us that it is simply not so. All Feminism strives for is completely gender equality and the eradication of discrimination based on gender. Even though many young women I know wouldn’t necessarily call themselves Feminist, I wonder if after reading this book and discovering the stereotypes and expectations that affect both men and women, they would change their minds and join the fight for complete equality? I sure hope so.
5) INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
In 2005, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named by Time magazine as one of the 1oo most influencial people in the world. Her memoir Infidel describes her youth in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya whilst going on to speak about her flight to the Netherlands and her eventual election to Parliament. It deals with her own personal complexes of the Islam religion and her disgust at the common practice of female circumcision. The murder of Theo van Gogh is also mentioned, with whom she produced the short film Submission, which portrays four fictional characters wearing a a see-through veil, describing the abuse of Muslim women.