by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915
Herland left me conflicted. Part of me wanted to stand up with my fist raised and yell, “PREACH!” Part of me, though, bemoaned the central idea behind this feminist utopia. For, if a woman does not want to be a mother, is she still a woman? Is her life still valid? Does it still have meaning? Gilman’s answer to this appears to be “no.” While so much of this journey of three men into a strange land populated only by women continues to ring true even a century later, I couldn’t help but be disappointed in the idea the womanhood equals motherhood. This is one belief that I am all too eager to have die away.
by Ali Smith, 2016
I typically don’t pay attention to long lists for book awards. If a book I’m already interested in gets nominated, this might spur me to pick up sooner than I otherwise might, but they don’t ultimately affect what I choose to read. The case with Autumn, however, was different. I can completely credit my reading of this novel to the panelists at The Reader’s Room, all of whom, in their annual Man Booker Long List read, heaped high praise upon the book. I honestly don’t think it would have crossed my radar had it not been for their glowing reviews, but I’m so glad that it did.
by Rebecca Solnit, 2014
Ah, mansplaining. Who among us hasn’t suffered to listen to a man tell us what we already know? In my case, it’s most often come from those telling me how to run my business when they have no knowledge of said business and no idea why I’ve made some of the very valid decisions I’ve made (like, what you are insisting I do is, in fact, illegal in this state). Mansplaining is not new, but the term gained quite the life after the publication of the essay that bears the same name as this book. What starts as a humorous anecdote of Solnit being schooled on a book that she wrote turns into a much needed examination of women’s silencing. And before you’re quick to jump to the defense, Solnit readily admits that [hashtag] not all men are like this. I know not all men are like this too, but I’ll be damned if not all women have been affected by some of the behavior she discusses in this essay collection.
by Laura Jones & Heather McDaid, eds., 2017
Leave it to Book Riot to not only force me to read outside of my typical bounds, but also to lead me right to the perfect books at the perfect times. When I read their article extolling British indie publisher 404 Ink‘s Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays & Accounts on What It Is Like to Be a Woman in the 21st Century, I jumped at the chance to use it to fulfill the “read a book published by a micropress” challenge task. While the book went immediately out of print on the day of its release – International Women’s Day – I was pleased to receive notice the very next day that the ebook was available for immediate download. Download I did and not only am I glad to have crossed off this difficult task, I’m happy to have done it while also providing support to the authors speaking on these very necessary subjects.
by Margaret Atwood, 1986
I read The Handmaid’s Tale years ago and, while I loved it, I didn’t remember many specific details of this classic feminist dystopia. I’ll just give it a little re-read before the Hulu series comes out, I thought. Little did I know that I’d find myself reading this, fists literally clenched, terrified that I was staring into my future.
by Roxane Gay, 2014
One of my favorite things to admit is how quickly my identity as a feminist would be questioned if one were to look at my Spotify playlist. As much as I champion my right to remain single, independent, and with equal opportunity, I still like to shake it like a salt shaker when the Ying Yang Twins come on. I find it amusing because it goes against the grain of the stereotypical notion of “feminist.” Truthfully, I freely admit my penchant for booty music because it exemplifies one of my core beliefs about feminism – there’s no one right way to be a feminist.
I have mixed feelings about All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (Rebecca Traister, 2016). On the one hand I see the importance of shining light on a traditionally marginalized group, for that is what single women are. On the other hand, I’m not entirely certain who the intended audience is. Is it for married women, wishing to understand their unmarried daughters, sisters, and friends? For men, wishing to gain some insight into the opposite gender? Or is it for people like me, who can’t help but see themselves reflected so sharply? My guess is that it’s a bit for all – there’s as much to gained by reading about people whose lives are vastly different from yours as there is comfort to be found in discovering that you are very much not alone. For that may indeed be Traister’s theme – although we may be single, we are not alone.