As a student who’s focusing on women’s studies at school, I’ve read many enthralling pieces that have not only been interesting, but have truly made an impact on how I see the world. And with International Women’s Day approaching on March 8, I wanted to highlight some of the best books to read for those interested in learning more about women’s experiences and the fight for their rights. To find out which books should be on your reading list, I turned to gender-studies students across the country to find out which ones have made the biggest impact on their lives. Keep reading for their recommendations on the books everyone should read to continue their feminist education.
On the Impact of Patriarchy:
The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy by Allan G. Johnson
“This book is a really amazing nonfiction work that explains the system of patriarchy and how it impacts people of all genders. It also is an amazing call to action and provides ways we can combat the patriarchy in our daily lives. I think this aspect of the book is really encouraging. I’ve begun to really analyze my everyday behaviors and the things I say as to make sure I’m not contributing to my own oppression (and to the oppression of others). I now know that I can actively make a difference every day.” —Ellenina Illacobucci, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor at Georgia State University class of 2020
On Understanding Where Pop Culture and Feminism Overlap:
Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal by Jack Halberstam
If you are interested in the ways in which the media and feminism intersect, this is a book that should be at the top of your reading list. “This is an amazing pick if you have some background already on feminism, pop culture, or queer theory. Halberstam playfully explores subversive pop culture through a queer lens, and themes range from SpongeBob to Lady Gaga. This book changed my view on ‘consumer’ feminism and made me pay closer attention to subversive cues in the media.” — Sadie Ronga-Rubin, Women and Gender Studies major and Queer Studies minor at Pace University class of 2019
On Appreciating the Diversity of Women:
The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits by Mihaela Noroc
“Mihaela Noroc traveled around the world taking portraits of women and collecting their stories to share. It is absolutely breathtaking to see such beautiful photos of women both similar to and completely different from myself. Some make me laugh and some make me cry, but each woman carries something special that I can see in each portrait. One of my favorites out of the 500 portraits is of a woman in Milan, Italy. It reads underneath, ‘I met Daniela in one of the city’s markets, where she was working 12-hour days. She shared some painful experiences: She had suffered three miscarriages and one divorce. But all the pain and hard work didn’t stop her from being an optimistic and warm person.’ Something I love about this book is that I felt oddly connected to these women. A portrait and a couple sentences can go a long way. There aren’t any specific themed stories in this book besides the theme of how beautiful, strong, and intelligent women are from all walks of life. It warmed and strengthened my heart. Looking through it makes me feel like I can do anything as a woman.” — Ariana Giordano, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor at Marist College class of 2020
On What It’s Like to Be a Woman:
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
“Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is a text that acknowledges the complexities and intersections of feminism. Gay’s text is essentially a portrait of her feminist journey and is one that encourages the reader to grow their understanding of feminism within political and cultural realms of society today. She covers topics like the fact that a lot of traditionally ‘feminist’ elements of the media—such as the TV show Girls—are not inclusive of women of color, the issue of girl-on-girl hate, and the harmful and careless language that surrounds discussions of sexual violence. Gay also writes about the intersections of race and entertainment within feminism as well as where politics, gender, and race intersect. As the child of Haitian immigrants and as a queer woman herself, Gay’s experience is very much reflected in Bad Feminist, but the journey she depicts is one that many women can relate to in terms of their own feminist growth. Her work helped me realize that we’re not perfect feminists, but we should still strive to grow and improve every day, not only bettering ourselves but also bettering the world we live in.” — Fidan Baycora, PR chair of the Feminist Student Union at George Washington University class of 2020
On Intersectional Feminism:
Black Looks: Race and Representation by Bell Hooks
“I believe one of the most important feminist books that I’ve had to read and use for research for several of my women’s studies classes is Black Looks: Race and Representation by Bell Hooks. It focuses on issues of blackness and black feminism, which is usually ignored in this age where white feminism is all too popular. It is made of several different essays—all written by Bell Hooks—that discuss the issue of how black women are represented in a racist light through various images seen in our white patriarchal society (including films and music). I think it’s really important to be educated on issues that do not just involve ourselves. Not only does the book deal with issues we should all be familiar with, like cultural appropriation, but it also showcases an extra layer of oppression that black women go through that we see practically every day.” — Natalie Geisel, Communications and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major at George Washington University class of 2020
What feminist books are on your reading list? Tell us about them on social media! Don’t forget to tag @cfashionista.
Featured photo by @alwaysannawade.