Well, hello there friend.
I see you’ve clicked my post because (hopefully) you’re interested in reading some non-fiction feminist theory goodness which we love to see. I do want to say though, that this post is by no means an exhaustive list as there are so many wonderful texts out there, but here are some that you could begin with or use to expand your knowledge surrounding feminism.
Many of the books in this list intersect feminism with other social issues, such as class or race, and I did that on purpose as there is no feminism unless it’s intersectional feminism. I remember getting into a twitter debate about the differences between ‘white’ feminism and intersectional feminism.
Some people just don’t really want to critically engage in conversation – they just want to scream that they’re right in your face.
Some of these books range from the more accessible to what would be considered the more ‘academic’ (or pretentious, I’m looking at you, Butler) but they all have contributed to feminism and feminist theory in an incredibly significant way.
We’ll start with the more denser academic texts. I feel like we can’t have this list without mentioning 𝓙𝓾𝓭𝓲𝓽𝓱 𝓑𝓾𝓽𝓵𝓮𝓻. I’m going to specifically recommend 𝓖𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓮𝓻 𝓣𝓻𝓸𝓾𝓫𝓵𝓮, but most of their work I would also recommend. If you can get your hands on their articles/essays as well, they can be a fantastic read as they are more concise and to the point.
𝓖𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓮𝓻 𝓣𝓻𝓸𝓾𝓫𝓵𝓮 does exactly that; it troubles the relationship between gender and the sexes, disrupting essentialist biology which positions gender identity as the inevitable byproduct of one’s reproductive sex organs. It is one of the most fundamental texts in feminist theory (as well as gender and queer theory), but it is an incredibly dense philosophical text, so be warned. I would recommend reading book reviews published in journal articles to supplement your reading and understanding as well as using the internet overall to help.
I’m putting the next recommendation in the ‘academic’ section purely because I sometimes find her texts challenging to get my head around purely because of the philosophical lens she positions her theories within and that is 𝓢𝓪𝓻𝓪 𝓐𝓱𝓶𝓮𝓭. To say that I adore 𝓢𝓪𝓻𝓪 𝓐𝓱𝓶𝓮𝓭 would be an understatement. 𝓐𝓱𝓶𝓮𝓭 occupies a really interesting position in academia at the moment, purely because she is actually working outside of the academy. 𝓐𝓱𝓶𝓮𝓭 resigned from her position as Professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London in protext at the university’s failure to sufficiently and properly deal with the issue of sexual harrassment. She is an icon.
I’ll specify her book 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓟𝓻𝓸𝓶𝓲𝓼𝓮 𝓸𝓯 𝓗𝓪𝓹𝓹𝓲𝓷𝓮𝓼𝓼 which is a cultural critique on happiness and the need to be ‘happy’, especially in terms of queerness, to conform to societal norms in which ‘happiness is promised to those willing to live their lives in the right way’. I would also recommend 𝓛𝓲𝓿𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓪 𝓕𝓮𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓲𝓼𝓽 𝓛𝓲𝓯𝓮 – it is an incredible critique as well as a meditation on feminism in everyday life interwoven with feminist theory. Although I’ve only read chapters of both of these texts, I have found them fundamental to how I understand feminism.
Now, the next recommendation is one of my personal favourites because it is written by one of my all-time favourite scholars, 𝓣𝓪𝓵𝓴𝓲𝓷’ 𝓤𝓹 𝓽𝓸 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓱𝓲𝓽𝓮 𝓦𝓸𝓶𝓪𝓷: 𝓘𝓷𝓭𝓲𝓰𝓮𝓷𝓸𝓾𝓼 𝓦𝓸𝓶𝓮𝓷 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓕𝓮𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓲𝓼𝓶 𝓫𝔂 𝓐𝓲𝓵𝓮𝓮𝓷 𝓜𝓸𝓻𝓮𝓽𝓸𝓷-𝓡𝓸𝓫𝓲𝓷𝓼𝓸𝓷. This is one of the foundational texts in my opinion of feminism, especially from within the Australian context. 𝓐𝓲𝓵𝓮𝓮𝓷 𝓜𝓸𝓻𝓮𝓽𝓸𝓷-𝓡𝓸𝓫𝓲𝓷𝓼𝓸𝓷 writes so beautifully for an academic, you won’t be able to stop reading! She imbues all of her work with such passion that really comes across when reading. This particular book is exactly what it says in the title: it focuses on how mainstream white feminism has pushed aside the unique experiences of Indigenous women, especially in theory. It explores white feminist representations of Indigenous women, as well as how white feminist discussed race. If you only want to read one ‘academic’ text from this list, read this one. If you’re Australian, this is compulsory reading. And she works at my university!!!!! So freaking cool!!!!
The next recommendation is a given. One of 𝓐𝓷𝓰𝓮𝓵𝓪 𝓨. 𝓓𝓪𝓿𝓲𝓼’ key theoretical texts, 𝓦𝓸𝓶𝓮𝓷, 𝓡𝓪𝓬𝓮 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓒𝓵𝓪𝓼𝓼. This text is considered a seminal piece of historical work as well as feminist as it explores race, gender and class inequality from slavery to contemporary history. It works to provide an alternative history, wherein women are at the forefront, their voices and stories heard, as well as bringing light to the racism and class prejudice imbued in mainstream white feminism. This is compulsory reading.
Although this next recommendation is slightly outdated, it is still important in the ability to trace the beginnings of feminist critical theory. I feel like you all know where this is going. 𝓢𝓲𝓶𝓸𝓷𝓮 𝓓𝓮 𝓑𝓮𝓪𝓾𝓿𝓲𝓸𝓾𝓻’𝓼 , 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓢𝓮𝓬𝓸𝓷𝓭 𝓢𝓮𝔁 was a groundbreaking work of feminism which draws on sociology, anthropology and biology to examine the limitations that exist on female freedom and expression. I would recommend reading this book slowly, and to consider each chapter as essays that are separate but not, if that makes sense. I personally enjoy reading the ways in which traditional perceptions of gender and gender roles impacted the way women now exist. (I woud also recommend as a side note to bust open volume one of 𝑴𝒊𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒍 𝑭𝒐𝒖𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒍𝒕’𝒔 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑯𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒐𝒇 𝑺𝒆𝒙𝒖𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒚 which goes into some detail about Victorian modesty and the Church’s influence on gender roles).
I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 𝓡.𝓦. 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓷𝓮𝓵𝓵’𝓼 work also. 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓷𝓮𝓵𝓵’𝓼 work centres on examining gender, and she actually was one of the founders of masculinity studies and further conceptualised the theory of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and the gender order theory. Her books, 𝓖𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓮𝓻 & 𝓟𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻 and 𝓖𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓮𝓻 are foundational and highly informative. She helped concieve of gender as not just an indivualistic notion, but one that occurs through a social structure. I use Connell quite a lot in my own research as she also utilises the concept of an ‘insitutionalised micro- culture’ which has it’s own gender structure mechanisms that work in those spaces. Absolutely key in feminist theory as well as gender theory.
Our next category I call the more accessible forms of feminist writing, that is through either popular non-fiction commentary or memoirs/essays. The first one I’ll talk about it one that I read a few months ago which absolutely wow’ed me and that was, 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻 𝓞𝓾𝓽𝓼𝓲𝓭𝓮𝓻 𝓫𝔂 𝓐𝓾𝓭𝓻𝓮 𝓛𝓸𝓻𝓭𝓮. This is a collection of essays which reflect on race, gender and feminism through the lens of 𝓐𝓾𝓭𝓻𝓮 𝓛𝓸𝓻𝓭𝓮 herself. Again, this collection of essays explores race, class, sexuality and womanhood whilst also examining white mainstream feminism and those it leaves behind. 𝓐𝓾𝓭𝓻𝓮 𝓛𝓸𝓻𝓭𝓮 has such a powerful voice and I loved every second of reading this book.
𝓗𝓸𝓸𝓭 𝓕𝓮𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓲𝓼𝓶: 𝓝𝓸𝓽𝓮𝓼 𝓯𝓻𝓸𝓶 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓸𝓶𝓮𝓷 𝓦𝓱𝓲𝓽𝓮 𝓕𝓮𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓼 𝓕𝓸𝓻𝓰𝓸𝓽 𝓫𝔂 𝓜𝓲𝓴𝓴𝓲 𝓚𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓪𝓵𝓵 is one that I think everyone has heard of because it was incredibly hyped when it came out. As it should have been. I read this around the time it came out and it was an impactful read. I learned so many things, it changed my own perception surrounding ‘what is feminist issues’ and it is one of those books that, if you are a white woman who considers herself a feminist, you must read it. Honestly, read this (or any of these) instead of 𝑹𝒐𝒃𝒊𝒏 𝑫’𝑨𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒍𝒐’𝒔 𝑾𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒈𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒚. This is an interventionist text that is accessible and informative, and Kendall’s writing is powerful and engaging.
I couldn’t have a feminist recommendation list without the one and only 𝓡𝓸𝔁𝓪𝓷𝓮 𝓖𝓪𝔂. What an icon.
I am specifically recommending 𝓑𝓪𝓭 𝓕𝓮𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓲𝓼𝓽 as I personally consider this a go-to foundational feminist text that is incredibly accessible and educational. I love 𝓡𝓸𝔁𝓪𝓷𝓮 𝓖𝓪𝔂 so much and almost all of her non-fiction work is written through the lens of feminism but I think 𝓑𝓪𝓭 𝓕𝓮𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓲𝓼𝓽 specifically is a fierce read that considers the human at the centre of feminism as well as the ways in which mainstream feminism has worked to elevate white women to the detriment of others. It is absolutely fantastic.
The last two books I will recommend are technically ‘queer theory’ books but also offer something for the feminist reader. 𝓘𝓷 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓶 𝓗𝓸𝓾𝓼𝓮 𝓫𝔂 𝓒𝓪𝓻𝓶𝓮𝓷 𝓜𝓪𝓻𝓲𝓪 𝓜𝓪𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓭𝓸 is now of my favourite memoir’s of all time. How in the actual hell did I not read this sooner? Classified as a memoir, 𝓘𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓶 𝓗𝓸𝓾𝓼𝓮 turns the genre on its head. It deconstructs and remakes what it means to be a memoir, with an interweaving of experience and story with queer theory. I loved it so much. i do recommend looking up the trigger warnings. From memory, there’s psychological and emotional abuse.
Then we have my other favourite memoir I read this year and that was 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓻𝓰𝓸𝓷𝓪𝓾𝓽𝓼 𝓫𝔂 𝓜𝓪𝓰𝓰𝓲𝓮 𝓝𝓮𝓵𝓼𝓸𝓷. What a wonderous piece of work. With this one though, I do think there will be people who love it or people that hate it. It is written in a very unique way, almost like vignettes or different fragments that work to make a whole. I personally loved it. Similar to 𝓘𝓷 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓶 𝓗𝓸𝓾𝓼𝓮, the memoir itself undergoes a transformation and a deconstruction – changing the definition of what a memoir means. I love this type of memoir-that-isn’t-but-is especially when it’s imbued with queer theory. At the centre of this book is Nelson’s relationship with her partner who is gender-fluid and both of their experiences as well as meditations on family and motherhood.
I told you it would be a small recommendation list! If you want more, let me know because this was fun! What would you recommend? I most likely have missed and forgotten heaps!
Until next time, happy reading!
All the love,