Feminist Fortnight: Best Feminist Non-Fiction Books
Feminist Book Fortnight has begun, uniting almost 50 independent bookshops across the UK in promoting feminist literature through events on the hundredth anniversary of some women in the UK getting the vote.
To celebrate this series of events, I thought I’d put together some of the best feminist non-fiction books that can be enjoyed by anyone. I’ve deliberately steered clear of heavy-going textbook style reads, any of these books can easily be enjoyed by anyone.
First up, I should probably make it clear on what is meant by feminism. Dictionary.com defines it as – ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’
Whether you’re a parent looking to inspire your children with the life stories of feminist icons or you simply want to understand how feminism is changing the world, you’ll find something to suit you on this list.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
I couldn’t start a list of best feminist non-fiction books with anything but this. Laura Bates took the internet by storm when she founded the award-winning Everyday Sexism project in 2012. The project began as a simple website where women could share ‘instances of sexism experienced on a day to day basis.’ The website has now collected over 100,000 stories of gender inequality from across the world. Laura has gone on to write numerous articles for the Guardian and Independent, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List and has been named a Woman of the Year by The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan, and Red magazine.
Everyday Sexism was Laura Bates debut book, published in 2014 by Simon and Schuster (she has since gone on to write Girl Up and Mysogynation).
Everyday Sexism was the first non-fiction book I ever read on modern sexism. I’d read historical accounts and picked up enough stories from my mum to understand that women have come a long way from her generation to mine, but it’s Laura Bates’ who vocalised many of the problems that I, and the women around me, were experiencing.
This book addresses areas that have been exposed as the most problematic by the stories submitted to the site. This includes Women in Politics, Women in Public Spaces, Motherhood and What About the Men? as well as many more. Each of these chapters starts with shocking and often hugely demoralising statistics surrounding women’s roles in society, how they are portrayed and the violence conducted against them. For example:
1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime – UN, 2008
Please do not mistake this for a man-hating book as this couldn’t be further from the truth. As the chapter What About the Men? points out, men have their own battles with sexism and many have been vocal supporters of the Everyday Sexism project. What it does expose are the newer struggles being faced by younger generations. The minefield that is sexting for teenagers and how boys attitudes to girls have changed now they can easily access hardcore porn online (even in the classroom) and start to see it as a norm.
Obviously, you don’t turn the final page and find the cure for sexism, but this book is a passionate call to arms. A request to every single person to stand up against discrimination. Bates refers to the campaign’s success in pressurising Facebook to take down images of violence against women. Once businesses and individuals came together to protest against Facebook, their combined voices could not be ignored and this is exactly what she asks for in this important and inspiring book. Call it out, don’t let it go, don’t be made to feel like the victim, don’t walk past like it’s not your problem, it’s time to all stand together and be heard.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
The concept for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was originally pitched on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, their original $40,000 goal reaching an incredible $675,614, become one of the most funded books in the website’s history.
Creators Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo came up with the idea of this book after seeing how strongly young children’s books suffered from gender stereotyping. They decided to create a collection of beautifully illustrated stories for girls, not about princesses and ponies, but about real-life women who have changed the world. Elizabeth I, Ada Lovelace, Jane Austen, Serena Williams and Coco Channel are just a few of the 100 world-changing women to grace the pages.
Not only is this one of the best feminist non-fiction books out there but it also represents the positive light in which parents are looking to promote feminism to the next generation.
If you want the little girl in your life to be a dream big, then read this to them at night!
We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is well known for her feminist writing across both fiction (Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun) and non-fiction. Recently she won the PEN Pinter Prize, the judges praising her “sophisticated” approach to “gender, race and global inequality”.
Chimamanda reached an entirely new audience with her hugely popular TED Talks. Her 2009 talk, The Danger of A Single Story, is now one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time. Her 2012 talk We Should All Be Feminists struck a chord with viewers worldwide, its popularity led to it being published as a book in 2014. You can watch it below:
Women and Power by Mary Beard
Many will know the classicist and scholar Mary Beard from her BBC series Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome and Meet the Romans with Mary Beard. She’s also an award-winning author and in this bitesize book, Mary takes a look at how history has treated women in power (including how she was treated by internet trolls after appearing on television). Just like We Should All Be Feminists, Women and Power is made up of two lectures that Mary Beard conducted in 2014 and 2017. The book has been updated since the original lectures were given to include up-to-date examples.
Nasty Women edited by Laura Jones & Heather McDaid
Nasty Women is a collection of twenty-one essays on what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. This book is another success story from the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, inspired by Donald Trump referring to Hilary Clinton as a ‘nasty woman’ during the 2016 presidential election.
The essays range from personal experiences with contraception, politics and race from strong female voices. Passionate, unique and timely, these are the voice of modern feminism at their most powerful.
Check out my full review for Nasty Women here.
Thank you for checking out my best feminist non-fiction books.
Let me know your best feminist non-fiction books in the comments below or let me know on Twitter.