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Feminist Literature pg. 2


50 Shades of Feminism - Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach, Rachel Holmes (2013)

Published in objection to the title-referential book series, this collection of 50 women’s voices explores what inspires them, and what (to them) being a woman means.


All the Rebel Women - Kira Cochrane (2013)

A short exploration of the waves of feminism since the 4th June 1913, when Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King’s horse, protesting for suffrage. Cochrane’s work explores the events of feminist activism since then, up till and the present day.


We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)

An essay by Adichi based on her popular TEDX talk, offering a definition of feminism for the 21st century founded in awareness and inclusion.


Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays - Rebecca Solnit (2014)

A collection of seven influential feminist writings on everything from rape culture to Virginia Woolf, the nuclear familiar and colonialism, this book includes Solnit’s titular essay, direct inspiration for the term ‘mansplaining.’

The Guy's Guide to Feminism - Michael Kaufmann, Michael Kimmel (2011)

From “Autonomy” to “Zero” these two advocates for equality address the issue of educating men about feminism in an informal, funny and substantive work.

The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media - Holly Baxter & Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett (2012)

Based on the successful blog The Vagenda, this book is a call to arms about the consistent, insidious and negative sexism that women are fed through magazines, novels, music, fashion, movies and other forms of media representation, which causes us to internalise misogyny and affects many of our decisions.

Angry White Men: American masculinity at the end of an era - Michael Kimmel (2013)

Sociologist Michael Kimmel draws on his extensive research on the demographic of white men in America to diagnose the origins of their feelings of bewilderment and anger at increasing racial and gender equality and their own downward social mobility: a series of changes which sees them them clinging to fallacious beliefs about masculinity and entitlement.

Excluded: making feminist and queer movements more inclusive - Julia Serano (2013)

An exploration of the exclusion of minority groups which occurs within feminist and queer activism, stemming from false assumptions which infect theories, and lead to strictly policing of the members of groups, and at times perpetuating particular forms of sexism whilst vigorously protesting others.

Redefining Realness - Janet Mock (2014)

A memoir by trans activist Janet Mock of growing up multiracial, poor and trans in America, exploring the unique vulnerabilities and challenges of trans people.

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay (2014)

A series of essays by feminist, cultural critic, novelist and professor Roxane Gay, which take readers on a journey through her evolution as a woman of colour via pop culture, literature and personal experience. It asks questions of the ways in which the culture we consume becomes a part of who we are as people.

Everyday Sexism - Laura Bates (2014)

A juggernaut of stories collected by journalist Laura Bates from her website The Everyday Sexism Project, which examines and protests against normalised sexism in the workplace, in the home, and throughout every facet of the world we live in.

My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem (2015)

A rich story of leadership, activism and constant travel, Steinem relates how her lifetime on the road has led her to connect deeply with the people she meets, from her first experiences of social activism in India through her work in journalism and ongoing political campaigning.

I Call Myself A Feminist: The View From Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty - Victoria Pepe (ed) (2015)

A group of twenty-five young women were asked what being a feminist means to them, and whether it is still shunned, and interpreted as meaning anti-men instead of pro-human.

Fight Like A Girl - Clementine Ford (2016)

Australian writer and broadcaster Clementine Ford has penned a call to arms for girls and women to acknowledge their power and fury, and demand that the world do better in the battle for equality.

Feminist Fight Club - Jessica Bennett (2016)

A practical guide for women who want to combat the sexist status quo in the workplace: mansplaining, micro-aggressions, unconscious bias and privilege.

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independant Nation - Rebecca Traister (2016)

An informative and thought-provoking investigation into the sexual, emotional and economic lives of women, and a historic examination of the massive social changes women enacted when given options beyond heterosexual marriage: secondary education, temperance, abolition, suffrage and more.

Girl Up - Laura Bates (2016)

A jaunty and humorous critique of the pressures which society and the media manufacture around body image, false representations of relationships and sex.

Sex Object: A Memoir - Jessica Valenti (2016)

“Who would I be if I lived in a world that didn’t hate women?” From the everyday, to the dark nights of the soul, Valenti explores the toll sexism takes on us through the shaping moments of her adolescence in New York City.



“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human.” Cheris Kramarae

            Feminist literature prior to 1800

The Book of the City of Ladies - Christine de Pizan (1405 CE)

De Pizan created an allegorical city of ladies, using famous women pre-1400 CE to develop a thesis advocating the recognition of women as valuable participants in society.


The Blazing World - Margaret Cavendish (1666)

A young woman discovers a kingdom in another world, where she becomes empress over a nation composed of different species of talking animals, and organises an invasion of Earth to defeat the enemies of her home country. A satirical utopia, considered a forerunner to the science fiction genre.

Emmeline, the Orphan of the Castle - Charlotte Turner Smith (1788)

A criticism of traditional marriages of the 18th century, wherein women’s choices were curtailed in favour of the family’s aims, the heroine Emmeline remains outside the traditional economic structures of English society due to perceptions of illegitimacy for much of the novel, and maintains her person hood by refusing to marry her wealthy cousin, who stalks her obsessively. The novel also depicts other women who stray outside the boundaries of social convention, with varying consequences.




            First Wave Feminism (1800 − 1928)


Primarily concerned with legal issues, such as the right to vote (suffrage). At times closely linked with the abolitionist and temperance movements.

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)

Husband and wife, baby in tow, have rented a mansion in the countryside. The motivation? A cure for the wife’s nervous depression following the birth of their child. The cure? Take her away from everyone she knows, prevent her from painting, or writing, or reading, and install her in a room with obnoxious yellow wallpaper, the pattern of which soon begins to prey on her restless mind. A groundbreaking horror story of a loving, patriarchal husband who drives his wife insane.


The Sultana’s Dream - Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain (1905)

This early feminist science fiction utopia created by Hussain envisioned a world where women are socially and politically dominant, and men live in purdah (strict gender segregation), in a matter-of-fact acceptance of nature.  An entertaining and witty examination of conventional justifications for women’s’ seclusion.


Herland - Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)

Three young explorers discover rumours of a society hidden in the mountains consisting entirely of women: following these, they discover a utopian civilisation composed solely of women who reproduce via parthenogenesis. The serialised novel explores notions of gender, motherhood and individuality. It was followed by a sequel, Her in Ourland.


The Well of Loneliness - Radclyffe Hall (1928)

Banned upon charges of pornography when first published, The Well of Loneliness follows the life of lesbian Stephen Gordon, portraying the social isolation and rejection she suffers for her sexual orientation.

Orlando - Virginia Woolf (1928)

A feminist and literary classic, considered by some to be an extended love letter to Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West, describing the adventures of a gender-changing, immortal poet, Orlando, in his/her journey through time, and his/her misadventures while meeting key figures of English literary history.


Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Rejecting pressure to accommodate the cultural standards of the white majority in Southern America, Hurston’s novel is a frank celebration of rural African-American communities and women’s sexuality, told through the life of main character Janie Crawford.




            Second Wave Feminism (1960’s − 1990’s)


Unfolding in the era of civil rights movements, sexuality and reproductive rights became dominant issues alongside equality. Becoming theoretical, second wave feminism began to develop broad critiques of capitalism, the patriarchy, normative heterosexuality and gender roles.


The Left Hand of Darkness, part of the Hainish Cycle - Ursula Le Guin (1969)

On the planet Winter, conditions are semi-arctic year round, and all the human inhabitants are the same sex. With no knowledge of space travel, or of the existence of life beyond the confines of their planet, they treat an envoy from space inviting them to join a coalition of planets with mistrust and disbelief.


The Female Man - Joanna Russ (1975)

The Female Man stretches across four parallel worlds, and the lives of four women living within them. When Janet Evason, ambassador of Whileaway, begins crossing between the worlds, comparisons of the varying gender roles and experiences of the different women cause them each to re-evaluate their own lives, and their implicit notions of what it means to be a “woman” (a person, really).

We Who Are About To... - Joanna Russ (1976)

A spaceship crashes upon an unknown planet, from which there will be no rescue. Five women and three men survive the crash. When the men in the group determine that they must begin populating and colonising the planet, the female narrator, who does not believe long-term survival is possible, and does not wish to be made pregnant, resists.


Tatterhood and Other Tales AKA Tatterhood: Feminist Folktales from Around the World - Ethel Johnston Phelps (1978)

A collection of twelve folktales gathered from around the world celebrating female characters’ cunning, dedication and strength.


The Wanderground - Sally Miller Gearhart (1979)

In a post-apocalyptic future, an increasingly destructive and controlling body of men live in the cities. Out in the wilderness, the hill women live in harmony with the natural world and one another. Set in a series of loosely-related and interlocking chapters, this intriguing work is an example of the separatist feminism movement.

Daughters of a Coral Dawn, Book 1 of the Daughters of a Coral Dawn trilogy - Katherine Forrest (1984)

Queer-focussed, feminist science fiction. A secret society of part-alien women plot to steal a spaceship and flee the increasingly repressive 70’s-era patriarchal Earth territories to establish their own utopian colony.


The Steerswoman, Book 1 of the Steerswoman Series - Rosemary Kirstein (1989)

A steerswoman is sworn to truth and knowledge: if she is asked a question, she must answer truthfully, and the same applies in return, allowing them to amass and share increasing knowledge about their world. The steerswoman Rowan begins asking questions about an obscure object, and suddenly finds herself fighting and running for her life.


The Colour Purple - Alice Walker (1982)

Pulitzer Prize winning fiction focussing upon the social position of poor, uneducated African American women in Southern America, The Colour Purple explores themes of sexism and racism through the perspective of Celie, a poor, uneducated fourteen-year-old who has been abused by her father and had her children stolen from her.


The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood (1985)

In the Republic of Gilead, Offred is a Handmaid. She has one function: to breed. If she fails, or if she dissents, she will be sent outside to die of radiation, or she will be hanged. But the repression under which she lives cannot smother desire, for love and for freedom.


Ammonite - Nichola Griffith (1992)

Jeep - a world under quarantine, populated by the secretive remnants of a long-ago colonizing mission. A company-funded expedition to the planet falls to a mysterious virus, which kills every man, and is abandoned. So how has the original colony survived? Anthropologist Marge Taishan arrives on the planet to test an experimental vaccine, and to discover the secrets of the survivors.

Dawn: Book 1 of Lilith’s Brood - Octavia E. Butler (1987)

Lilith Iyapo awakens after a long suspension: the world has been destroyed by nuclear war, and the remaining humans rescued by the utterly alien Oankali. Lilith has been chosen to revive her fellows, and prepare them first to meet the Oankali, and then to survive on the wilderness Earth has become.

Unquenchable Fire - Rachael Pollack (1988)

In this suburban fantasy, the middle-class, divorced protagonist is confronted by the sudden imposition of the supernatural into her life: she wakes up pregnant from a dream, and is forced to confront the underlying myths which compose her world…


The Men’s Room - Anne Oakley (1988)

Married with four children and a successful sociologist, Charity Walton abandons all that she has previously known over the course of a volatile 10-year love affair with a married colleague, developing a narrative which explores love and sexual politics.


A Gift Upon the Shore - M.K. Wren (1990)

Two women, eking out a minimalist farming existence after the 21st Century civilisations collapse, dedicate their lives to preserving books for future generations. One day they meet a young man who comes from a community called the Ark. As promising as this meeting might seem, Rachel and Mary soon discover that the Arkites regard all books except the Judeo-Christian bible as blasphemous.

The Steerswoman, Book 1 of the Steerswoman Series - Rosemary Kirstein (1989)

A steerswoman is sworn to truth and knowledge: if she is asked a question, she must answer truthfully, and the same applies in return, allowing them to amass and share increasing knowledge about their world. The steerswoman Rowan begins asking questions about an obscure object, and suddenly finds herself fighting and running for her life.

          Third Wave Feminism (mid-1990’s - present)


The latest wave of feminism is informed by post-modern and post-colonial thought, celebrating ambiguity and recognising the ability of individuals to define themselves.


The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Or On the Segregation of the Queen, Book 1 in the Mary Russell series - Laurie R King (1994)

Sherlock Holmes, retired detective, meets his true intellectual equal - fifteen-year-old orphan, Mary Russell - and they begin collaborating on cases as he trains her in the science of deduction.


Green Rider, Book 1 in the Green Rider series - Kristen Britain (1998)

A runaway from school after her expulsion following a duel, Karigan G’ladheon comes to the aid of a dying king’s messenger, and is tasked to deliver a message in order to save the kingdom. High fantasy, featuring capable women in positions of power, and interacting on a fairly equal basis with males in the narrative.

The World’s Wife - Carol Ann Duffy (1999)

An exuberant and entertaining book of poems exploring the opinions of women excluded from the patriarchal and pop-cultural historical record: Frau Freud, Mrs Quasimodo, Queen Kong, Mrs Midas, Delilah, Eurydice and many more.

Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2003)

Kambili’s world is defined by the high walls of her family estate, and the orders of her fanatical father. Prayer, sleep, study and prayer. When a military coup occurs in Nigeria, Kambili is sent to live with her aunt, where she finds noise, laughter, life and love - and a terrible family secret.


The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood (2005)

Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, endured twenty years of waiting for her husband’s return, fending off amorous suitors and enduring minstrels’ tales of her husband’s adventures with monsters and lusty goddesses. When he returned, he slaughtered the suitors, and, inexplicably, hung her twelve handmaidens. In this novella, Penelope and her maids tell their own story for the first time.


Red Light: Superheroes, Saints and Sluts - Anna Camilleri (ed) (2005)

An anthology of essays and visual materials reinterpreting the contested representation of female icons in popular culture and the historical record.


Ancillary Justice, Book 1 of the Imperial Raadch trilogy - Ann Leckie (2013)

Set in the distant future, the humans of the Raadch Empire have transcended gender pronouns and norms (everyone is referred to as ‘she’), the starship Justice of Toren has been betrayed. Formerly an artificial intelligence existing as and controlling thousands of human soldiers, she now only possesses a single body, named Breq, and a quest for vengeance.


Lightspeed Magazine: Women Destroy Science Fiction - Various (2014)

In 2014, Lightspeed Magazine published an double-issue of their magazine to quell the notion that women are destroying science fiction (often considered as having been created by a woman, Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein). All short stories, art and essays included are the work of female authors.

Following the success of this, Lightspeed also published Women Destroy Horror, and Women Destroy Fantasy issues.

The Fall of Peter Pan - K.L. Webber (2014)

A retelling of the classic Peter Pan. Wendy bargains with Peter Pan to take her away from the adult world forever, while he roams the many universes, eavesdropping on the adult world he both fears and desires. Neverland becomes the battleground for a contest of wills as Wendy, discovers her emerging ability to control the very fabric of reality, and inadvertently challenges Peter for control of the island.

Binti - Nnedi Okorafor (2015)

Binti is the first of the Himba to ever be offered a place at Oomza University, the centre of galactic higher learning. To accept, she must leave behind her family to travel with strangers who do not respect her customs, and court the perils of deep space where the Meduse, enemies of the spread tribes of humanity, could attack.


Uprooted - Naomi Novik (2015)

An engrossing and vivid folktale-inspired fantasy novel. Every ten years the wizard known as the Dragon demands his price for protecting Agnieszka’s valley home against the spreading corruption of the Wood: and she knows that he will choose her friend, beautiful, brave and graceful Kasia.


The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 - N.K. Jemisen

Essun comes home from work to the end of the world: her son lying dead upon the floor, murdered by her husband, who has stolen their daughter and set off into an incoming apocalypse.


The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe - Kij Johnson (2016)

Set in the Lovecraft universe, Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at Ulthar Women’s College. When her most gifted student elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt sets off to retrieve her, before the College is closed down in punishment.

The Girl in the Road - Monica Byrne (2015)

Meena is on the run. There are mysterious snakebites on her chest, and someone is following her. She must flee India at once, and the The Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea, is her only road. As she flees the threat of violence, she also runs towards a shocking revelation from her past.






For a broad overview of the feminist movement:


For access to a wide collection of works written by women, the comprehensive site is a fantastic resource.


On sexist default narrative settings:


The History Girls book review blog (reviews by a group of published female authors), focusing on works by and about women, in additional to vignettes on a range of historical periods and subjects:


A Mighty Girl website posts a plethora of references to books for feminist girls and women – this particular page focussing on biographies of mighty women for adult readers:


Articles about the underrepresentation of women-focussed works in literature, and the underlying gender bias it evidences:


Fangirl Blog published a series of articles on The Heroine’s Journey, as distinct from the monomyth of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey:



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