What is feminism? The question often invokes a sense of persecution against men. Feminism and the feminist movements have however never been against men rather they demand gender equality and equal opportunities for both men and women. Read these simple books to find out the relevance and meaning of feminism as it has evolved.
A guy once told me that he doesn’t like the ‘feminist type’ of girls. A little surprised I asked him what ‘feminist type’ means? The boy gave a long winding explanation, the long and short of which was that feminism is a shorthand for a witch hunt aimed at destroying men. It might sound a one-off incidence but it’s not. It betrays a common stereotype. The term ‘Feminism’ antagonizes a lot of men and women who think that being a feminist means hating men, painting all men as tyrants and that women identifying themselves as feminists are out there to wreak revenge upon men. If you are one of those people, you couldn’t be more wrong. Feminism doesn’t preach women to leave their husbands, hate their children or wreck their families. So what is feminism? Feminism and the feminist movement is simply about giving everyone an equitable place in society regardless of their gender. I have curated a list of simple books that will help you get a better understanding of the movement. You might not read all of them from cover to cover but you should at least google each one of them and read their Wikipedia entries to understand what the feminist movement stands for. I am listing out the books that made me understand Feminism as I understand it today.
- We Should All be Feminists
Were you short of time and in need of one book explains it all, try ‘We Should All be Feminists’. One of the most accessible books on feminism, the book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is based on a Ted Talk by her with the same title. A quick and easy read, Nagozi’s book deduced feminism in the simplest framework of gender equality illustrated through anecdotes from her own life.
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Published in 1892 it was one of the earliest feminist books. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman advocates women’s education so that they can become ‘equal companions’ to their husbands rather than just being wives to them. It demands women be treated as human beings than being viewed as ornaments or property to be traded in marriage. A pioneering text of the feminist movement it places men as the benchmark for women even as it stops only at equally rather than exceeding. It is not a fault in the book but simply an acknowledgment of the times where dreaming of gender equality was a great leap of faith in itself.
- Sultana’s Dream
Published in 1905, Sultana’s Dream by an Indian Muslim scholar Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain pre-dates most of the European texts on feminism making it one of the earliest texts on feminism in the world. The book depicts a feminist utopia called Ladyland where women run the world and men are confined to purdah. In this utopian land, women employ technology for farming and harness solar energy besides they have also mastered the art of controlling the weather. The normal workday in Ladyland is only two hours long since men used to waste six hours of each day in smoking. The only religion followed by the inhabitants of Ladyland is that of love and truth. Easily available online, it’s a must-read feminist book.
- A Room of One’s Own
In her classic essay, Virginia Woolf presents the case of Shakespeare’s fictional sister who is equally talented but dies without expressing her talent, more so because of a lack of means. In the book, Woolf gives a straight message to women that they must ensure a fixed source of income and a room of their own to enjoy freedom.
- The Second Sex
It is a herculean task to finish the 900-page long book, but the reward is worth the back-breaking labor. The Second Sex by Simon de Beauvoir singlehandedly changed the course of the feminist movement in the 20th century. In her book, De Beauvoir explains a radical difference between gender and sex. While women are born with different sexual organs, the male-dominated society imposes a gender on them by assigning duties like childbearing or house chores to them.
- A Terrible Matriarchy
A Terrible Matriarchy is the coming of age story of a young Naga girl. Written by one of the most renowned Northeastern writers Easterine Kire who lives in exile in Norway, the novel is woven around the conflict between tradition and modernity. In the background of simmering Naga conflict, a seemingly rigid grandmother, the matriarchic of the tribe, is bent upon training a young granddaughter Dielieno to be a perfect housewife, only for her to rebel against the training. The novel depicts the immense resilience and strength of women as they hold their family together in the face of curfew, poverty, and tragedy.
- The Grass is Really Like Me
The book of poems by the renowned Urdu poet Kishwar Naheed tries to argue the case for women suppressed by fanatic religion and conventional morality. With poems like ‘We Sinful Women’ and ‘The Grass is Really Like Me’, the book is a loud protest against the chains placed on women by hypocritical religion. It depicts that Islam is being used as a stick to beat women into excepting the slavery of men.