In case you missed it, I have decided to spend February reading exclusively on feminism! Check out the books I aim to read and the reasons behind my Feminist February Challenge.
During Week 3 I moved away from fiction and embraced some history and culture; continuing on with both Bad Girls Throughout History and Bad Feminist.
This was a good chance for me to branch out in the types of books that I read and I was so glad that I did because I learnt so much. Ann Shen’s beautifully illustrated book is like History of Women 101 – covering all of the wonderful women who you never learned about in school. The book explores women chronologically and from all over the world from Cleopatra to Catherine the Great, through to Coretta Scott King to Malala.
I have come away from this book with an even longer reading list as I now want to explore the many women it featured. Considering I have studied literature for years I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the first female novelist, Aphra Behn. Equally I am keen to look into older figures such as Tomyris and Khutulun, not to mention abolitionist figures Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beecher Stowe. I am completely inspired by Nellie Bly’s work in journalism, not to mention Margaret Sanger’s achievement’s in women’s reproductive health.
However, while Shen showcased the many achievements women should be proud of, Gay used a series of essay formats in Bad Feminist to show how far we still have to go to make feminism reconcile with other movements such as Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ rights.
Gay’s form was highly academic but also readable and relatable. Alongside this, I began listing to Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain which was a much more informal and personal exploration of the same issues within pop culture. Through these books the same issues kept reoccurring – availability of non-stereotypical representations of people of colour, the language we use which has racially insensitive connotations, and ultimately the extent of violence faced by women and people of colour.
I’m glad I reached outside of my comfort zone this week, since next week I will be returning to fiction with On Beauty, paired with bell hook’s Feminism is for Everybody to round off the intersectional feminist reading.