Books & Feminism

Books That Made Me a Feminist

by Fiona Martinez

A little while ago there was an article published about some of the books which Virago publishers felt had made them a feminist. Inspired by that article, I wanted to share a few of the texts which made me a feminist!


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

I read this text as a GCSE student, after my spectacular English teacher chose to go against the standard texts of the male-centred, male-authored Of Mice and Men or Lord of the Flies and introduced us to this incredible text of courage, strength and the overcoming of adversity. Even as a rather naïve young person the strength of Maya and the beauty of Angelou’s words resonated with me. This autobiography stayed with me long after I left the classroom, and the wider body of Angelou’s work (And Still I Rise is one of the best poems ever written) has influenced my feminism and my understanding of intersectionality over the past ten years.

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay

This witty, honest and repeatedly relatable collection of essays made me laugh, nod enthusiastically in agreement and (occasionally) cry. Gay has an understanding of the problematics of being a modern day feminist, in a world where the misogynistic lyrics to certain music make you shudder but you find yourself swaying to the beat. Gay’s confession that she herself is a ‘bad feminist’ but that ‘it’s better to be a bad feminist than no feminist at all’ resonated with me and, given the fandom which now surrounds her, many others.

Fear of Flying, Erica Jong

This was a novel recommended to me countless times by numerous feminists, and when I finally bought a copy I completely understood why. I devoured it in 48 hours, and actually read part of it on a plane whilst smirking at the irony. The novel’s exploration of a woman in a fraught and often comical heterosexual marriage and its frank portrayal of sex made this hilarious and relevant almost 50 years after it was published. Note: Radio 4 recently did a dramatization of the novel and the Mail were outraged at the language and subject matter – proof the novel is needed even now, and an added bonus that in reading this novel you’ll be reading something the right-wing press hate!

The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir

Like many students, I read The Second Sex in pieces throughout my time as an undergrad. When my partner and I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris a few years ago he bought this for me as a birthday present from Shakespeare and Co, and this was the first time I read the text in its entirety cover to cover. It was not only an excellent gift to be bought for me by my male partner, but it became the foundation of my research proposal which eventually became a PhD research project! This text keeps on giving; you can read the same chapter at different stages of your life and find different meanings and a new understanding. It’s by no means flawless, but the scope and originality of what de Beauvoir covered in this text is astounding and remarkable.