Feministe Feedback: Feminism 101 Resources

A reader writes in:

It’s clear to me that i have a lot to learn about feminism and feminist thought in general. I never was exposed to it in an academic setting (to my detriment, i fear) and i want to learn more, so that i can a. better represent a perspective that i know, deep down, is crucial and b. participate more in the conversation in a meaningful way. Besides your wonderful blog and some other online sources that i have found, can y’all recommend some Feminism 101 resources for someone who needs to explore this topic more? There are so many books, blogs, and other resources that i feel a little overwhelmed and i don’t know where to start. I know your readers would be able to point me in the right direction. Thanks for everything you do!

What are your favorite introduction-to-feminism materials, readers?

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43 comments for “Feministe Feedback: Feminism 101 Resources

  1. May 21, 2010 at 7:41 am

    My wife gave me Susan Faludi’s Backlash shortly after we got married. It was one of those “Eureka!” moments.

  2. May 21, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Three 1970s/80s texts (in order of publication): Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape; Dale Spender’s Man Made Language; Susan Faludi’s Backlash.

    Shorter and funnier than any of those three, though very specific in its focus: Joanna Russ on How to Suppress Women’s Writing.

    And a very interesting though occasionally infuriating work: Janet Radcliffe Richards’s The Sceptical Feminist, which takes a stack of basic feminist ideas and critiques them – that is, points out the rational thinking which informs them.

    Novels that I think are really part of the feminist conversation: Margaret Attwood, The Edible Woman and The Handmaid’s Tale: Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time; Joanna Russ, The Female Man; Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room (though I find it unbearably sticky to read and have never re-read it, it’s definitely a classic of 70s feminism).

    I discovered I was a feminist in the early 1980s when I was 13 or 14, and my background reading then and for years afterwards was based on books that my mother (a 70s feminist) had on the shelves. Hence my pointing you at 70s and 80s books. I’m sure others will have other reading lists, and I look forward to reading them…

  3. Bushfire
    May 21, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Well, I would say this blog is the best resource out there!

    Also, here’s a blog dedicated to Feminism 101:

    Some printed books I started with were What Is Feminism? by Chris Beasley and The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir.

  4. May 21, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Feminism is for Everyone by bell hooks is a great intro text. Actually, anything by bell hooks is easy to read, moving, and enjoyable.

  5. May 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I’m a 90s girl, so my introduction to feminism came via Susan Faludi’s Backlash and Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. Again, anything by bell hooks, but Feminist Theory From Margin to Center, was hugely influential.

  6. May 21, 2010 at 9:09 am

    One of my very modern favorites is Full Frontal Feminism. My mom bought it for me a few years ago and it was a REALLY good starting point for new ideas. It’s a super easy read and is very basic, but also hilarious (IMHO).

  7. SeanH
    May 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I recommend Jennifer Saul’s book Feminism: Issues and Arguments. Saul is a lecturer at the University of Sheffield* (my alma mater) where she teaches Feminist Philosophy (the course that made me a feminist) and this is the course text. It goes issue-by-issue – pornography, sexual harassment, multiculturalism, abortion – and examines each one from a variety of feminist perspectives. It’s a very clear introduction to philosophical feminist thought, especially for readers who find it easier to follow philosophical argument than cultural critique**. I strongly recommend it.

    *Saul is also a contributor to the Feminist Philosophers blog: http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/

    **Not that these two things are totally separate, of course – and not to knock cultural critique at all.

  8. Slug
    May 21, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Black Looks by bell hooks.
    I wouldn’t necessarily agree with CuteRedHood that bell hooks is easy to read, but she is incredibly incisive and indisputably brilliant.

    And blogs. Those are easy and very accessible.

  9. Schnee
    May 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I’d go with Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’, in spite of ongoing controversy over the translation, it really answered all the big questions for me, like, ‘Why do some women undermine other women?’

  10. May 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy – I think this is super important for the “Ah Ha!” on culturally supported oppression and to combat the “but the women are doing it” excuse. Plus she’s just so awesome.

  11. May 21, 2010 at 9:38 am

    One Angry Girl’s website (plus fab ways to express yourself). Bitch magazine and Heartless Bitches International. I would have said Venus Zine, but in light of the new owner’s “I am not a feminist” stance, I’m gonna say don’t give her your money. Disobedience art and protest of Nikki Craft — she has some websites of her own (can anybody say “barfing at the beauty pageant”?). Annie Sprinkle.

  12. Schnee
    May 21, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Oh, plus….this is an article that I have found incredibly useful (and succinct) in answering another big question.


  13. oldlady
    May 21, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN in 1792. It’s still a great read.

  14. @nil
    May 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, This Bridge Called My Back edited by Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, and though this book is more academic (in language, etc) than the others, Feminism without Borders by Chandra Mohanty.

    Though there are more books to suggest than these three (including some of bell hooks earlier works), I think this group is a great introduction to feminism of color writings.

  15. May 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

    The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability by Susan Wendell

  16. Lauren
    May 21, 2010 at 10:08 am
  17. Athenia
    May 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

    The Mismeasure of Woman by Carroll Travis!!!

  18. Naomi
    May 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I’m a huge Jessica Valenti fan! Full Frontal Feminism is a good place to start and Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape is a must-read too.

  19. Ms. Annie C
    May 21, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Haha Naomi, I was just about to post the same thing *^_^* On the same note, The Purity Myth was incredible (also by Jessica Valenti)– a serious must-add to the list.

  20. May 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I agree with a lot of the reads out there but my opinion of THE BEST feminist read-for anyone in any place with feminism-is by far Inga Muscio’s book Cunt. It is an easy read but it covers so many topics in such an inspirational way.

  21. May 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Feminist Theory: FromMargin to Center by bell hooks was the first academic book on feminism I’ve read, and recommended to others who also loved it. bell hooks is fantastic, and I highly recommend reading that book, and others by her as well.

  22. Yvonne
    May 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I’m going to recommend “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” as a starting place.


    It’s about white privilege, but its description of the daily effects of privilege are so effective and applicable to all kinds of privilege. I believe there was a version about male privilege done within that last couple of years, but I can’t find it now.

  23. Michelle
    May 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    It’s slightly less about theory, but Our Bodies Ourselves is a great text to explore feminist issues as they apply directly to women’s bodies and healthcare. Plus it’s totally awesome & eye-opening!

  24. Beth
    May 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    All of these recommendations are so good! For an easy, funny, and quick read, I’d also put Andi Zeisler’s Feminism and Pop Culture on the list. Love that book.

  25. Shelley
    May 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” is wonderful and incredibly powerful. I was disappointed by bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody (too complicated), but her Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black was great. I also find that many people are interested in the history of the movement as a way to understand why it is where it is today. For that, I recommend The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen.

    Here is an excerpt from Audre Lorde’s Transformation of Silence into Language and Action: http://iambecauseweare.wordpress.com/2007/06/26/the-transformation-of-silence-into-language-and-action-excerpt-by-audre-lorde/

    And Suheir Hammad’s poem, Exotic, performed for Def Jam Poetry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVkylZEgsY

  26. Rachel
    May 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    For an excellent overview of the rise of modern feminism in the United States, take a look at Gail Collins’ When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. It’s highly readable and sheds a lot of light on the different societal and cultural factors that allowed the feminist movement to gain momentum and bring us to where we are today. If you like history, Collins has written another book, America’s Women, which is also a relatively quick read. It’s about the lives and status of women living in the United States from the colonial era up until modern day.

  27. Bob Loblaw
    May 21, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    The Gender Knot by Allan Johnson is probably the best intro book on patriarchy I’ve personally seen.

    And know a website, directly related to what I was just saying:


  28. May 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

    “Whipping Girl” by Julia Serano is awesome. It’s definitely academic, so feel free to read only the first few chapters. “Yes Means Yes!” is both easy to read and awesome.

  29. Christina
    May 22, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    If you can slog (and I do mean slog, the book was not an easy read) through it to the very very end, what did it for me was “a room of one’s own” by Virginia Woolf. The end is so worth it!

  30. Roxsie
    May 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I got most of my feminism from my 70’s activist mother (i’m british) and she passed on her book collection to me when i became interested in feminism.

    One person who especially stands out is the feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham, her book Hidden From History: 300 years of woman’s oppression and the fight against it really helped me understand things and put them into context. I was lucky enough to meet her recently and i was so overwhelmed it was like meeting a film star. She’s also done a brilliant overview of the twentieth century in her book “A Century of Women” and i really cannot rate “Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World” higher.

    Militant suffragettes by Antonia Raeburn

    This is very hard to get yours hands on but well worth it if you can. There is a popular British spoof history book called 1066 and All that. In response to it Kate Charlesworth and Marsaili Cameron wrote a hilarious and educational book called All That : The Other Half of History which flags up important feminists and their work along the way.

    Not in God’ Image by O’Faolain and Martines

    The Rights and Wrongs of Women by Juliet Mitchell and Ann Oakley (Ann Oakley is someone i would particularly flag up)

    Sexual Politics by Kate Millett

    And the old classic The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan

  31. J.
    May 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I love Gerda Lerner’s _The Creation of Patriarchy_ … for all those times you’ll need to beat down the pseudo-anthropological, ahistorical bullshit about how “Women are oppressed because they’re naturally physically weaker and have to take care of the babies, and men are naturally violent and aggressive because at one time they had to go spear buffalo hunting”. No, gender stereotypes are not “natural”: they are the result of a multitude of cultural factors that were artificially imposed on people by other people.

    Also, FYI, the meat men acquired by hunting in many hunter-gatherer societies was not the basis of a family’s diet. Women both raised children *and* provided a good 80% of a family’s diet by gathering or working with plants.

    Also, Allan Johnson’s _The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy_.

  32. J.
    May 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I’ll second/third/fourth _Backlash_.

    And add, as a good sampling of feminist writing by women themselves throughout history, Joy Ritchie’s _Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s)_.

    And, because I love cultural theory but realize others may not or may not be ready for it, Susan Bordo’s _Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and The Body_.

  33. J.
    May 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Great thread, BTW. I think I’ll keep a running list of these suggestions.

  34. Meghan
    May 23, 2010 at 5:01 am

    John Berger’s book/BBC documentary series “Ways of Seeing” is awesome because it breaks down the male spectator both in classic art and in advertising today, and he uses both text and photo essays. It really gave me a whole new perspective on how I and other women have been taught to view & critique ourselves from the outside “male” perspective. Another great book that explores advertising’s impacts on women is “Can’t Buy My Love” by Jean Kilbourne. These are great books to start with, because they really help you understand the cultural messages you are constantly receiving and how to re-vision them.

  35. May 23, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I think that “Feminism Is For Everybody,” by bell hooks, is a great introduction to feminism. It’s accessible, and it’s pretty comprehensive.

  36. May 23, 2010 at 10:59 am

    P.S. I want to second the suggestion of “The Creation of Patriarchy,” by Gerda Lerner. But I would also add “The Creations of Feminist Consciousness,” by Lerner. They’re both pretty challenging reads, though. So be prepared to take your time, and have a dictionary ready when you read them. They’re totally worth the challenge, and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something when you finish them!

  37. Hannah
    May 24, 2010 at 6:13 am
  38. Bree
    May 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

    While it is not an academic text, Cunt, by Inga Muscio is a great book. I love reading about what other people have to say about feminism but Cunt really helped me develop my own perspective on what feminism is to me. Read it and all the other resources these great people have suggested.

  39. eilish
    May 24, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Dale Spender has a number of great texts. ‘Women of Ideas and What men have done to them’, and ‘There’s always been a feminist movement this century’ are fantastic for opening the door on feminist women in history.

    I’d also recommend Germaine Greer ‘The Female Eunuch’ and ‘The Whole Woman’. She posits arguments that you have to disagree with, and it’s very helpful in forming your beliefs into your own words.

    Do not read anything by Camille Paglia or Christine Hoff Summers. Seriously.

  40. curgoth
    May 25, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I’d second Jennifer Mather Saul’s book Feminism: Issues and Arguments. It’s a good intro – 30 pages per chapters, and fairly good at presenting common feminist issues without taking a strong opinion on them. It was exactly the book I needed after getting stymied by my lack of a humanities education while trying to read larger feminist works.

  41. Steph
    May 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Gotta say, veto on Female Chauvinist Pigs because of the insulting shit about transfolk.

  42. kmw
    May 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    This might come in handy as well! “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Feminism But Were Afraid to Ask” by Rachel Fudge for Bitch mag: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/everything-about-feminism

  43. HHiett
    May 25, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    The Feminist Papers, Yes Means Yes, Feminism Without Borders.

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