by Keava O’Loan
2014 was hailed by many as the ‘the year of feminism’. With The Guardian listing its most inspiring young females, Huffington Post rhyming off the reasons why it was a great year for feminism, The Telegraph explaining how pop culture made the ‘F-word’ cool, and Buzzfeed chipping in with their countdown of ‘22 Powerful Moments That Made You Proud to Be a Feminist in 2014’, there’s certainly no shortage of articles you can read to reminisce about the feminist highlights of last year. However, with many still on the fence (or even worse, completely in the dark) about what it means to be a feminist, we here at The Ink Ladies thought it was time to do some research. If, like us, you are completely swamped by your module reading lists, fear not! To save you the hassle of reading everything from the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘feminism’ to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (although both are recommended reads), we rounded up some of our favourite feminist books. Not only do these texts make feminism funny, relatable and accessible, we guarantee that whether you’re male or female, they’ll open your eyes to what it means to be a woman in today’s society.
‘How to Be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran
Moran, a writer and broadcaster, is known by many as a media personality – one of those people who is prolific on Twitter, regularly appears on panel shows, and shares her opinions with the nation in her column at The Times. ‘How to Be a Woman’ charts her journey from girl to woman, starting on her thirteenth birthday. Covering topics such as puberty, porn, motherhood, abortion, strip clubs, and many more, Moran’s witty, friendly voice makes potentially heavy subject matter easy reading.
“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
‘The Vagenda’ by Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
As students, Baxter and Cosslett spent a lot of money on women’s magazines, and a lot of time laughing at articles entitled things like ‘50 Sex Tips to Please Your Man’, ‘Get That Beach Body FAST!’, and ‘Preparing For Your First Vajazzle’. When they stopped laughing, they started to feel uneasy. They launched a blog named The Vagenda, which aimed to shine a critical light on women’s media; exposing the ludicrous, manipulative, and often damaging ulterior motives at play. Their book of the same title tackles these same issues, with chapters such as ‘Body Politics’, ‘Sex in Magazineland’, and ‘Let Us Eat Cake’. Essentially, it cuts through the media bullshit you’ve been fed since you picked up your first copy of Mizz.
“If Page Three is the sexist builder hollering at you in the street, then Grazia and Cosmo are the frenemies who smile to your face and bitch behind your back. It worried us that women such as us, reared on a diet beginning with problem-page questions about tampons in Bliss magazine and graduating on to Company, weren’t being offered any of the necessary tools to deal with increasingly sinister content. There comes a certain point (probably around the time that you’ve picked up your tenth issue of Cosmopolitan) when your brain is encased in such a large volume of fluffy bullshit that you switch off and start thinking, ‘My elbows are fat.’”
‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxanne Gay
Roxanne Gay’s book charts her conflicting views on what it’s like to move through the modern world as a woman. She blasts rap music as she drives to work every morning, even though she finds the lyrics deeply offensive. She loves anything pink, although for a while she pretended her favourite colour was black – it just seemed cooler. She reads Vogue, and not in an ironic way. She occasionally fakes her orgasms, even though she is certain the sisterhood wouldn’t approve. She is not entirely sure who the sisterhood are.
“The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman… Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman. I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey
Whether you know her from SNL, 30 Rock, or Mean Girls, you know Tina Fey. Fey’s book is similar in style to Moran’s ‘How to Be a Woman’, recounting her development from girl to woman. Although not as explicitly feminist as the other books listed, every topic discussed is shaped by the theme of female empowerment. Just the fact that it’s the story of a female achieving insane levels of success in a predominantly-male dominated industry makes this a very inspiring, necessary read, in our minds. Included are anecdotes about her first trip to the gynaecologist (where she passed out), starting out as a female comedian, and what she has learned from reading fairy tales to her daughter.
“I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”
Dig into one of these books (or all of them!) and get involved. Whether it’s something as simple as joining the #AllWomen or #HeForShe Twitter campaigns, or doing something big to show your support for this year’s International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, every act of support counts. Feminism has come a long way since Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragette movement, but there is still a long way to go. We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2015 – let’s make sure this year is even more empowering, progressive, and feminist than the last.