For women’s month, add these books to your reading list.
In the last quarter of the last year, the #MeToo movement was catapulted to the forefront of conversations. Stories of women standing up for themselves and for each other have all the more strengthened those that have been silenced, those that have lived in the shadows of shame, worry, and neglect. Long-discussed ideas about feminism and women’s issues are increasingly getting the attention they deserve.
And this month of March, as we celebrate Women’s Month, we round up books that you might want to include in your reading list to know more about the value of feminism, and how employing this movement slash philosophy does not only help women but the entirety of the human race.
1. We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adapted from Adichie’s TEDx talk that garnered over four million views, the book tackles feminism in the context of the 21st century. Even when we are living in a supposedly “modern” world, Adichie argues that there is still “a better, more equal world” that we can achieve.
It also explains, in a succinct and clear manner, why feminism has sometimes been associated with a negative connotation, one that boxes the philosophy into women who hate men, women who don’t wear makeup, women who are angry at the world, and women who have no sense of humour. This is a very simplistic view of the expanse of the world of feminism, and Adichie rallies that we be not afraid of the word for we can all be better for it once we embrace that, indeed, we should all be feminists.
“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be … a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
2. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
The author of Bad Feminist, a collection of essays revolving feminism and intersections of feminism, Gay’s Difficult Women is a collection of 21 short stories about women in various contexts, circumstances, and situations — women of disenfranchised communities, women of privilege, women in healthy marriages, women in abusive relationships.
It presents the various states that women can be in — states that often challenge the status quo or the expectations set upon them. From childhood abuse to issues of motherhood — she is able to present the whole spectrum of female complexities and not be apologetic about it.
“I was too smart and that made people uncomfortable–most folks where we’ve lived our whole lives don’t trust too much intelligence in a woman. There is also the problem of my eyes–they don’t hide anything. If I don’t care for a person, my eyes make it plain. I don’t care for most. Folks are generally comfortable with the small lies they tell each other. They don’t know what to do with someone like me, who mostly doesn’t bother with small lies.”
3. The Mother Of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
Also a collection of essays, the book explores the many ways in which the patriarchy has silenced, undermined, and gaslighted women. What is most notable for each essay is that it presents a way forward for women, or at least lets the reader reflect on our present realities or how things are, which somehow propels the reader into transforming that reflection into action.
There are themes about love and empathy and how the macho culture embossed in societies can easily turn these values into violence. Much like most of Solnit’s works that ensure a light at the end of the tunnel, the book continues to serve as a reminder that despite the sexism, racism, classicism, hate, prejudice, and judgment that seem to surround us, in all of our essence is a shared desire for connection — one we must employ to make the world better than how we found it.
“We need to stop telling the story about the woman who stayed home, passive and dependent, waiting for her man. She wasn’t sitting around waiting. She was busy. She still is.”
4. Why be happy when you could be normal by Jeanette Winterson
The aforementioned books were straight to the point essays that revolve around ideas of feminism, femininity, and issues that revolve women and those who identify as women. This book, on the other hand, is a memoir, which deeply unpacks the life of the author — what it meant to be a woman in the north of England, what it meant to grow up with a religious mother, what she had to endure after coming out as a lesbian, and how she powered through Oxford despite sexism, snobbery, and homophobia, among others. It is intersectional feminism at its finest.
The memoir may have gloomy, seemingly hopeless stories but it’s all displayed in a witty and elegant way, which makes the reader all the more understand how women, as sort of represented by Winterson, will always have the ability to overcome challenges with unbridled grace and gusto.
“I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.”
Portia Ladrido is a multimedia journalist specialising in social justice, culture, and the arts. She is a human rights journalism fellow at the Philippine Human Rights Information Center and the Metro Manila hub coordinator of the Solutions Journalism Network. She currently writes speeches for the Philippines’ first female socialist senator. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at CNN Philippines.