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10 Feminist Memoirs and Essays to Ignite Your Rebel Side

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Feminism lit is lit

Feminism’s reputation, especially that of modern-day movements following the Trump era and #metoo proclamations, leading to marches and pussy-shaped caps, leaves a heavy distaste in the mouths of many. Sure, the heretics of loud-mouthed, overgrown pits and shoved ideologies of women in victimhood do more harm than good in gaining likability with the very sex they wish to impose, but I don’t think the conversation of sexism should ever relinquish. The way in which our actions take place in our contemporary society, and not just by our words of intent, shapes the views portrayed of women as a whole through the media, in the workplace, within the wage gap, and in domestic settings.

To say there is a divide between traditional, first-wave feminism and modern, new-wave feminism holds truth. While the women of Ancient Greece and China, for example, lived in a patriarchal society that condemned them to be seen as subordinate property, women still did not receive the right to vote in the US until 1920. Even the dualistic dynamic symbolism of yin and yang, of feminine and masculine energies as integral parts of a whole, has been generally presented as inherently hierarchical, especially in Chinese Confucianism.

Women in civilizations and societies around the globe, such as those in India, Africa, and the Middle East, to this day, the forgotten girls and villages of genocide, struggle with intense gender disparities and violence against them, not to mention the underlying subversive patriarchal dominance that is woven into the very fabric of our American Dream.

The most recent example of this severity is illuminated through the terrorist attacks of the ‘Incel’ organization, or the “involuntarily celibate,” a lonely hearts club turned into a Reddit gathering of violent misogyny, of rape fantasies and mass murder fueled on the very hatred of women alone, and their cursed fists at genetics, waving in anger for giving them small peepees.

Feminism is not the radical notion that men aren’t people, but a zest for equality between the sexes, fueled by a hatred not for men, but of injustice.

It’s about equality, at the end of the day, and honoring equally the divine energies of femininity and masculinity within us all.

It’s a human rights issue, end of story.

So, here’s to women who live beneath a glass ceiling, lobbing rocks into the abyss and hoping their culmination of cracks will cause its very weight to crumble, allowing a collective sigh of relief.

Below is a collection of books that have found themselves to me on my weekly strolls through the local bookstores of San Francisco, falling into my lap during sale bin escapades or by carefully reading each spine lining the shelves of non-fiction, my own supporting a contorted head, tilting and waiting for colors and titles to beg for my embrace. For additional book information, click on the pictures. 

10 SEXUALLY REBELLIOUS, BOLD, AND POWERFUL BOOKS TO BREAK THE STATUS QUO

Did you say femoral or femme oral?

Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski

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An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy.

Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never be the answer—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

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In a timely follow-up to her national bestseller Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit offers indispensable commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more.

 

 

 

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

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“Who would I be if I lived in a world that didn’t hate women?”

Hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the most visible and successful feminists of her generation,” Jessica Valenti has been leading the national conversation on gender and politics for over a decade. Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes on women’s lives, from the everyday to the existential. From subway gropings and imposter syndrome to sexual awakenings and motherhood, and reveals the painful, embarrassing and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City.

Future Sex by Emily Witt

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Witt’s debut provides an illuminating, hilarious account of sex and dating in the digital age, when hook-up culture and technology have vastly altered the romantic landscape. As a 30-something single woman, Witt explores her own sexual and romantic ambivalence as a symptom of society’s expectations and challenges herself to abandon her comfort zone. She gamely participates in an orgasmic meditation session and a public BDSM performance, uses nitrous oxide at a group sex party, and guides readers down the rabbit hole of Chaturbate, a website where women on camera get paid to perform everything from naked yoga routines to ennui-laden existential monologues. Witt is a master at pithy observations.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

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Roxane Gay is one of those public intellectuals who has come to represent a school of thought: in her case, a 21st-century intersectional feminism that’s friendly to lipstick but against body shaming; fond of pop culture but strongly critical of its exclusionary tendencies. She is known for her fierce stance against violence towards women, and against the way fictional representations tend to normalize or even excuse it. But in her new short story collection, she is in danger of suggesting that women can find abuse both cathartic and sexually satisfying.

 

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

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Sex-positive rebel Kim Addonizio is used to being exposed. As a writer of provocative poems and stories, she has encountered success along with snark: one critic dismissed her as “Charles Bukowski in a sundress.” She opens up to chronicle the joys and indignities in the life of a writer wandering through middle age.

 

 

 

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

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A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians, and marvels at the contingencies of our existence, especially the roles of women.

 

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft

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Published in 1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was the first great feminist treatise. Wollstonecraft preached that intellect will always govern and sought “to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness.” Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.

 

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

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A Room of One’s Own is Virginia Woolf’s most powerful feminist essay, justifying the need for women to possess intellectual freedom and financial independence. Based on a lecture given at Girton College, Cambridge, the essay is one of the great feminist polemics, ranging in its themes from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to the silent fate of Shakespeare’s gifted (imaginary) sister and the effects of poverty and sexual constraint on female creativity.

 

 

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

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From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.

Honorary Mentionables:

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

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An affecting and hope-filled posthumous collection of essays and stories from the talented young Yale graduate whose title essay captured the world’s attention in 2012 and turned her into an icon for her generation.

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assem­blage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

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Award-winning filmmaker and performing artist Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection. In these stories, July gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanding, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world. Her characters engage awkwardly — they are sometimes too remote, sometimes too intimate. With great compassion and generosity, July reveals their idiosyncrasies and the odd logic and longing that govern their lives. No One Belongs Here More Than You is a stunning debut, the work of a writer with a spectacularly original and compelling voice.

Thank you, and happy reading!

What are your favorite feminist novels? Xx

2 Comments

    1. brittfasano

      Hi Trixie!

      If you lived near me, I would def let you borrow both her poetry books!! They are very sweet and succinct poems detailing Rupi’s quest for self-love and equality for women with her own little drawings. I definitely cried reading Milk & Honey- I found both books at my local bookstore in the poetry section, but I know you can get them online pretty easily too!

      And thanks for asking! Bukowski in a Sundress or Sex Object definitely stirred some rebel within me, and I love any novel that normalizes the sexuality of women in such humorous prose, especially for women deemed no longer young (so I guess anyone under 25? -_-).

      Xx

      Like

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