Let me tell you a random story. A few years ago, a journalist from a respected South African newspaper listed me as one of The Top Feminists to Follow on Twitter. Now, while I identify as a feminist, the women listed alongside me were all militant campaigners for female rights and valiantly fought trolls daily. All I had done was write one or two articles for Feminists SA. The result of the unexpected PR was a sudden surge of feminists following me on Twitter, awaiting pearls of my feminist wisdom with baited breath.
The pressure was enormous. I'm a people pleaser of vile proportions and wanted to please my newfound feminist squad, while remaining palatable to the general public. You know, not an 'angry feminist' like those other girls. Because, the problem with the feminist gaze is that it can be a real pop culture downer. Once you've grasped the innate patriarchy in our society, you can't just unsee it for half an hour so you can get through an episode of the Kardashians. It's a full time point of view that is not without it's complexities or contradictions. And that's what freaked me out the most. I'm flawed, hypocritical and I didn't feel like I was a good enough feminist.
Anyway, while I am less evolved at expressing my own feminist views, I seek out the feminist views of others so that I can make sense of what it means to be a strong, smart woman in this world. So here is my list of top feminist reads, some academic, some casual, some real stories, some fiction, all awesome. Enjoy, and let me know what your favourites are!
How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran. This book should be prescribed reading for all women from their teens onwards. It's hilarious, self-deprecating and excruciatingly honest. I honestly can't recommend it enough.
Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay. I've included this on the list as Roxanne Gay writes an amazing passage on privilege (with regards to gender and race) that every human being should read. I found the book a bit cloying and monotonous otherwise, but maybe you'll feel differently.
Becoming Unbecoming, Una. A story about gender violence, told in graphic-novel form and set against the background of the Jack-the-Ripper hunt.
The Pumpkin Eater, Penelope Mortimer. A strange, archetypal story that deals with subjects like motherhood, marriage and monogamy from a feminist perspective.
The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf. This novel exposes how the pursuit of physical beauty is used to oppress and contain women. A great tool to interrogate our desire to always be pretty.
Pretty Honest, Sali Hughes. Told you I was contradictory. Sali believes that care in your appearance can be an act of empowerment and self expression, and that make-up gets a bad rap among feminists. I'm all for this school of thought and am not tossing aside my lipstick any time soon.
Foxfire, Joyce Carol Oates. A 1950's small town girl gang, turning against their male oppressors and each other with equal venom with a fire burning too hot to last. Holy shit. Why wouldn't you want to get lost in this book?
Living Dolls, The Return of Sexism, Natasha Walter. This straight-talking books examines today's standards for women and makes a compelling case for why we need feminism now more than ever.
Rape: A South African Nightmare, Pumla Dineo Gqola. Rape, and rape culture, is a pervasive South African epidemic. This book is a harrowing, but necessary read that paints a definitive picture of rape in South Africa that anyone who identifies themselves as a feminist should read.
Pink Sari Revolution, Amana Fontenella Khan. This story follows the case of a young woman arrested on charges of theft who was, in fact, raped by her accuser. Her salvation comes at the hands of an illiterate child bride who is the de facto leader for a 20 000-strong gang of women in distinctive pink saris. Together they bring attention to abuses of power on behalf of the police and the government.
Asking for It, Louise O'Neill. I'm really glad there is a trend towards thrillers dealing with issues involving date rape as consent, because this is one of the areas where rape culture needs to be snuffed out the most. This novel centres around the rape of a beautiful 18 year old and the way her community turns against her. Harrowing and potentially triggering for rape survivors.
Beloved, Toni Morrison. Anything by Toni Morrison really.