In honour of International Women’s Day next month, we thought we would share some of our top literary picks discussing women’s issues. These are just a handful of the hundreds of books about women’s rights and experiences that have had a real impact on us here at the Huda Organics office!
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir - The Second Sex is a landmark of contemporary feminist literature and philosophy. Published in 1949, The Second Sex was considered a revolutionary and explosive dissection of society from a female perspective. De Beauvoir examines ideas of female identity, otherism, the limits of female freedom, and the deeply ingrained beliefs about the relationship between the sexes. The Second Sex draws on thoroughly researched anthropological, biological, sociological, and psychoanalytic concepts to create its narrative in favour of female liberation. It is still considered by many to be a masterpiece that is just as relevant and powerful today as it was when it was first published.
Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks - Ain’t I a Woman is a groundbreaking work of feminist literature. It is a fiery and scathing examination of black womanhood. hooks argues that racism, both overt and internalised, as well as sexism and classicism, have led to black women suffering from the worst conditions and lowest status of any group in American society. hooks maintains that the women’s suffrage and feminist movements were largely white and middle class in nature, meaning that they failed to adequately address issues concerning poor or minority women. Slavery and misogynistic views held by both white and black men were responsible for typecasting white women as ‘virgins’ and black women as ‘whores.’ This stereotyping contributed to the systemic devaluation of black women through the justification of their oppression, brutality, and rape. hooks’ seminal work opened the door for black women studies and broadened the scope of feminism to include principles of intersectionality.
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker - The Colour Purple is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and one of the most formidable works of fiction of the twentieth century. The Guardian describes The Colour Purple as a ‘genuinely mind-expanding book,’ detailing the traumas and ultimate triumph of its protagonist, Celie. Born into segregation and poverty, a young Celie endures the trauma of serial rape by a man she refers to as ‘father,’ as well as the anguish of being separated from her sister, and later, her two children. Celie’s fate changes when she meets the enchanting Shug Avery, a singer and magic-maker, who epitomises self-determination and self-love. The novel, written through a sequence of letters spanning over twenty years, chronicles Celie’s journey of self-discovery and redemption, and reuniting with those she loves. Walker’s intimate and compassionate portrait of the plight of these women removes the veil of darkness surrounding domestic violence, sexual abuse, misogyny, and racism. Walker’s use of Black English vernacular gives these women the autonomy they lack in society to speak of their own experiences in their own words. The Colour Purple is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, which is able to resist becoming hardened and bitter despite suffering a lifetime of systemic abuse.
Invisible Women: Exposing Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez - Invisible Women is a game-changing book written by an award-winning campaigner and literary activist, Caroline Criado-Perez. Invisible Women offers an expansive and meticulous examination of case studies, stories, and data that reveal the unseen bias impacting the health and wellbeing of women across the world. According to Invisible Women, the world is largely designed for and by men. This disparity means that men are viewed as the default, while women are forced to assume the role of atypical outliers. The result is that any data used to inform government policy, technology, urban planning, and healthcare is often skewed in the direction of men’s interests and needs, rather than women’s.What is the price that women pay for the discrimination and bias embedded in our systems, you may ask? Women pay for this hidden gender inequality in money, wasted opportunities, discomfort, and time. The truth is that, in some cases, women pay for this bias with their lives. Invisible Women is essential reading in today’s data-driven world.
If you have read any of these books, we would love to hear your thoughts and even criticisms of them. More importantly, however, we would love to hear about any books that have touched you so that we can share them during this important month!