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20 Essential Feminist Books to Read for Women's History Month

5 Books | by Harper's Bazaar

The perfect picks for this—and any—time of year.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

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Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and the call for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecrafts work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrageWalpole called her a hyena in petticoatsyet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.

Feminism Is for Everybody

Feminism Is for Everybody

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What is feminism? In this short, accessible primer, bell hooks explores the nature of feminism and its positive promise to eliminate sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. With her characteristic clarity and directness, hooks encourages readers to see how feminism can touch and change their lives—to see that feminism is for everybody.

Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist

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New York Times BestsellerA collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

A Room of One's Own

A Room of One's Own

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"But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction—what has that got to do with a room of one's own? I will try to explain." So begins what is widely regarded as the foundation text of feminist literary criticism, Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Probably Woolf's most readable and entertaining book, it was based on papers delivered at Newnham and Girton Colleges—the two women's colleges at Cambridge University. Never losing sight of her undergraduate audience, Woolf provides a brief history of women's writing in English, a scathing account of the subtle and not so subtle ways in which women have been discouraged from writing, and a recommendation for how to change matters: "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." In the process, Woolf takes on women's economic disadvantages, the underfunding of women's education, the discouragement of women from certain kinds of (lucrative) work, the ways in which women are socialized into suspicion of each other, and how women participate in their own systemic oppression. Yet, in spite of these weighty subjects, A Room of One's Own remains throughout funny, light-hearted, engaging for the novice reader while still offering "nuggets" to the worldy-wise. It is, above and beyond all else, a very model of essay writing. This Broadview edition provides a reliable text at a very reasonable price. It contains textual notes but no appendices or introduction.

Gender Outlaw

Gender Outlaw

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"I know I'm not a man . . . and I've come to the conclusion that I'm probably not a woman, either. . . . . The trouble is, we're living in a world that insists we be one or the other." With these words, Kate Bornstein ushers readers on a funny, fearless, and wonderfully scenic journey across the terrains of gender and identity. On one level, Gender Outlaw details Bornstein's transformation from heterosexual male to lesbian woman, from a one-time IBM salesperson to a playwright and performance artist. But this particular coming-of-age story is also a provocative investigation into our notions of male and female, from a self-described nonbinary transfeminine diesel femme dyke who never stops questioning our cultural assumptions. Gender Outlaw was decades ahead of its time when it was first published in 1994. Now, some twenty-odd years later, this book stands as both a classic and a still-revolutionary work--one that continues to push us gently but profoundly to the furthest borders of the gender frontier. With a new introduction

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