10 Books to read if you really want to understand what women go through
Regardless of what's been happening recently, there’s nothing new about crimes against women. They suffer through physical, mental and emotional abuse on a daily basis and have for centuries. And although it’s notable survivors are garnering the attention to change the way things happen, this current revolt appears to be only the beginning of a new era.
One thing is clear, women have hit a threshold for putting up with the bullshit. Yet to move forward, it’s time the other half steps up to better understand the feminist struggle.
So in attempt to help everyone, we’ve compiled a list of reads that will assist you on your journey of awakening. However, simply reading the books on this list won’t do the entire trick; investing in and internalizing these prolific tomes will.
Time to help everyone dip their toes in the beautiful ocean that is the feminist ideal.
by Roxane Gay
“Change requires intent and effort. It really is that simple.”
Journalist, feminist and overall badass Roxane Gay bursted through feminist stereotypes with eviscerating force, and made no apologies for herself along the way. Each essay in the book tackles an aspect of the struggles women face, and although it’s a fast read, Gay’s frank voice might feel a bit overwhelming to the male reader — which is the point. Read this with vigor, but place it down after every chapter to allow the female truth to really sink in. This book is like receiving that hug from the most wicked and intimidating woman you know; it’s terrifying and comforting both at the same time.
Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin
by Anaïs Nin
“I hate men who are afraid of women's strength.”
As a man, if you’ve never heard or read Anaïs Nin, you’ve completely missed out on one of the most important writers of the 19th century. The perspicacity of her writing jolts readers into her complicated sexual and emotional relationships. However, these entries aren't a chronological account of her carnal exploitations, they’re a complex reflection of how these interactions affect her psychological state. As one of the first feminist authors of erotica, Nin harbors no regret for existing as an intense sexual creature. Nor does she take issue with shattering feminist stereotypes.
The Feminine Mystique
by Betty Friedan
“The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.”
Although in 2017 Friedan’s take on feminism was criticized as superficial, racist and classist, "The Feminine Mystique" inspired a woman’s movement that will forever be remembered. Friedan’s take on the monotony of the '50s/'60s housewife culture not only challenged the cultural necessity of enslaving women in the home, but also brought to light the importance of women and the psychological ramifications of perpetuating these norms. Although some of her assertions can be considered outdated now, the idea that women are forced into roles for the sole purpose of making men comfortable still holds true today.
The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
Known for her poetry, Plath’s only novel is an exploration of her journey through womanhood. And it’s not pretty. This semi-autobiographical account is a crucial read for guys, as it explores the juxtaposition of inner and societal conflict women experience when attempting to balance what aspects of our choices truly fulfill cognitive and emotional needs compared to what individuals within our social circles demand. Most importantly, this novel reveals how these incongruities often result in severe psychological issues.
A Vindication of The Rights of Women
by Mary Wollstonecraft
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
Best known to the fellas as the mother of the author who wrote "Frankenstein" (Mary Shelly), Wollstonecraft also authored one of the most prolific feminist reads of the 18th century. Unfortunately, her expressed frustrations about the need for women to receive the same rights as men are still relevant. One of the most poignant themes that runs through the book, is the ridiculous misogynistic demand that men place on women to be seen as moral and virtuous. Her argument is that once we can strip these outdated stereotypes and begin to see women as actual people (so weird!), perhaps then men will refrain from treating them as second class citizens.
The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.”
It’s maddening to be a woman in a man’s world; this eerie account of a woman suffering from “nervous depression” is a haunting account of a wife driven mad by her husband’s need for control and his sadistic manipulation. He prevents her from working or writing by imprisoning her in a hideously wallpapered bedroom; and because of her isolation she eventually and predictably goes mad. Gilman’s account of this woman’s slow descent into insanity brings forward what it feels like to be consistently quieted by men, and what happens when they've had enough.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina.”
Fathers. Buy. This. Now. One paragraph can't do the book justice, however the short of it is that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a request from a friend to provide her suggestions on raising a feminist daughter — and did she ever. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores many aspects of what it is to raise a strong woman by addressing themes such as, “feminism-lite,” how male and female difference is completely normal, and the importance of teaching girls to embrace who they are. This is a thoughtful, profound read that provides parents with essential tools on how to raise formidable, confident women.
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
by Melissa Harris-Perry
“Therapists are less likely to perceive a black woman as sad; instead they see her as angry or anxious.”
Never one to cower in the face of controversy with a plain refusal to be silenced on issues she is passionate about, Harris-Perry’s in-depth exploration of discrimination is nothing short of brilliant. She examines the African-American woman’s experience and how that impacts their sense of self and how they are unfairly perceived. The subject matter will make men uncomfortable, which is what it wants — she doesn’t mince words and has no problem addressing the hard-hitting racial issues. Harris-Perry’s writing also provides a sense of hope and community that is achievable if everyone just put forth the effort.
Milk and Honey
by Rupi Kaur
“you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness on my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and not easy
for the mind to follow”
"Milk and Honey" inspires nothing less than a profound awakening in those who read it. If you’re looking for a shot of what it’s like to be a woman, Kaur’s poetry delves into abuse, assault, feminism and remarkably does so with captivating images and compelling language. Kaur supplies her readers with uncompromising honesty, which won’t allow you to come up for emotional air. Because of the intense subject matters, you’ll be tempted to put it down; but don’t, keep moving through each painful account of womanhood like it's the last thing you'll ever do.