Literature is so often the doorway to alternative thinking or new schools of thought to us, and in this age of political turmoil and greater, global connectivity, it is important to be open minded and free thinking.
Given that it is International Women's Day Today (as it is every March 8th), we thought we'd look at some brilliant feminist pieces of literature that will get anyone out there thinking.
1. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood's novels often have feminist themes at their core with The Handmaid's Tale being her most prominent piece on the subject, but her lesser-known second novel is perhaps a far more visceral in tone and setting. Grappling with notions of national and gendered identity, the book anticipated rising concerns about conservation and preservation and the emergence of Canadian nationalism.
As a young woman returns home to her childhood town to find her father missing, she goes into the wilderness where he was last seen and is overcome by the past and the feelings she felt then and now.
2. Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon
The autobiography of the bassist of legendary and influential, experimental post-punk band Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon recalls her time within the music industry and the inherent sexism aimed at her through it, the media and just via life in general as she returns to the theme of constantly being asked "What's it like to be a girl in a band?"
In a fascinating way, it shows the music industry as a sort of mundane work-a-day place where Gordon was a working mother who would discuss toddlers with Kurt Cobain whilst then ging on to influence scores of other musicians. Anyone who had fallen for Gordon’s steely cool – and the hope that an unconventional woman could have art, love, freedom, success, and a family – won’t be disappointed to learn that Gordon was often feeling her way, just like the rest of us.
3. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
From the author that brought us the compelling Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists, this is a statement about feminism today presented as a letter to a friend who has asked for advice on how to bring up her newborn baby girl as a feminist.
With its fifteen pieces of practical advice, it goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century and argues in an eloquent and enlightened fashion.
4. Attack of The Fifty Foot Women by Catherine Mayer
When journalist Catherine Mayer took to the stage at the Women of the World Festival, she made a point that the British parliament is swarming with more male MPs than the sum total of all women ever to hold Westminster seats and that the UK has greater numbers of men called John at the helm of big businesses than there are female CEOs. This was then later seized upon in the bar afterwards, and resulting conversations led to the formation of The Women's Equality Party.
This book tells of the party's formation along with its aims but also presents a possible future where those have been achieved and what can and must be done to get there.
5. Fat Is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
Written in 1978, this books becomes increasingly more relevant with each passing year as it focuses on the obsession with diets and explores body fascism stating that we should reject the horrors of body uniformity, cherishing the variety of shapes, sizes, colors, ages of us all.
An important piece for understanding both self-love and how to love other regardless of what they look like, but also in how this mindset holds us all back.
6. Angela Carter's Book of Wayward Girs & Wicked Women by Various Authors
A collection of 18 stories about women by women, Angela Carter, familiarizes us with the legion of 20th-century writers who, like her, portrayed feisty ladies. Although the title suggests something negative, the book does not present solely that side of the female experience nor a wholly positive one but a wide gamut of what the world has to offer.
Avery erudite expression of girl power, it is not content with showing us a singular feminist ideal but rather that, all experiences of life where a woman has made her own choices are the ideal.
7. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
A memoir come manifesto that takes in social commentary and satire along the way. This novel approaches the idea of feminity and feminism in the modern age and asks what it is to be a woman and challenges the typical notions of femininity. As fierce as it is funny, it is an intelligent view on a time when feminism is still needed to be put in the spotlight.
A vital read for all genders, if only to better understand one another.
8. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
On the complete opposite end of epic fantasy is this defining work of literary realism that tells of adultery and isolation in rural France and is considered Flaubert's masterpiece. Its influence on literature is almost so familiar that it has become to be considered the norm as the way the language is spun and the story spills forth makes it almost perfect prose. A reaction to the romantic novels of the age, it showed a more realistic and level-headed approach to the world that had not been seen before.
First published in 1856, the story is of a woman who is of a struggling not to be kowtowed by society's expectations, and her view of an ideal life is not the one presented to her elsewhere. Although it may not seem like it now, simply by giving 19th-century woman thoughts and feelings, this novel challenged the very role of women in society.
Frustrated by her powerless position as a married woman, the protagonist questions and struggles against everything that the world has to offer her which is, incidentally, not a lot.
9. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is perhaps best-known for her poetry and is highly celebrated as one of the most prominent African-American female poets. However, Angelou also wrote a seven-volume autobiography about her sensational life and this is the first installment of that explores her childhood rape, trauma, sexuality and experiences of racism.
Undoubtedly traumatic, it is a vital piece on race, gender, and equality as it shows the protagonist going from being a victim of racism with an inferiority complex to a self-aware individual who responds to racism with dignity and a strong sense of her own identity, thus weaving the formation of female cultural identity into the very narrative itself.
10. The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins
A mere 60 pages in length, this The Yellow Wall-Paper depicts the effects of under-stimulation on the narrator, leading her to become obsessed with the color of her wallpaper.
It actually draws on the author's own experience of depression and insanity and is a vital piece of literature concerning American feminism as it often focuses on the inferior status accorded to women by society, with all the tales offering food for thought about the social, economic, and personal relationship of men and women.