Mar 8, 2012

Happy International Women’s Day: A Reading List & Some Links

International Women’s Day logo

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day devoted to highlighting the fact that despite all the crucial steps we have taken towards gender equality in the last century, “women are still not paid equally to their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.”

I thought that this year I’d mark the day by posting a list of non-fiction titles from my archives and my wish list that should help answer the perennial question, “Why are we still celebrating IWD anyway? Aren’t we all equal now?”; as well as help put the struggle for gender equality into historical perspective:
  • Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank — virginity as a cultural construct is inextricably linked to attempts to control women’s sexuality. Hanne Blank explores the historical roots of this construct and some of its present day ramifications.

  • Bluestockings by Jane Robinson — A wonderful and very readable history of the first generation of women to graduate from British universities.

  • Millions Like Us and Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson — My favourite writer of social history takes a look at women’s lives during WW2 in Millions Like Us, whereas Singled Out deals with the generation of unmarried women that followed WW1.

  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde — A collection of essays analysing the relationship between sexism and racism, among other things.
  • Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks — Like Lorde, hooks writes about intersectionality and the way racism and sexism interact, but she does so from a more scholarly and historical perspective.

  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf — Woolf’s classic essay has its shortcomings, but it’s still an extremely powerful piece of writing about the relationship between the very real circumstances of women’s lives and their creativity.

  • The Equality Illusion by Kat Banyard — A powerful demonstration of just how far from equality we currently are.

  • Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine — In what is probably my all-time favourite non-fiction feminist book, Fine thoroughly dismantles neurosexism: the repackaging of old gender stereotypes in the language of pseudoscience. Plus she does it in a style that is witty, very accessible, and an absolute joy to read.

  • Woman by Natalie Angier — Another excellent feminist science book, in which Angier writes a passionate celebration of the female body.

  • Yes Means Yes! edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti — The subtitle – Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape – says it all. A collection of insightful, powerful and passionate essays that combine a deconstruction of rape culture with a sex-positive attitude.

  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi — Satrapi’s funny, thoughtful memoir of growing up in Iran has become a modern classic for a reason.
And here are a few more books I haven’t reviewed yet, but which I think sound extremely interesting:

International Women's Day Cover collage

Do you have any recommendations of your own? What would be on your International Women’s Day reading list?

I also can’t resist using this opportunity to once again plug the Year of Feminist Classics project. We’re reading The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan this month, and it’s never too late to join us!

International Women’s Day also seems like the perfect opportunity to draw your attention to Renay’s excellent analysis of the coverage of women writers in science fiction and fantasy blogs, which was posted over at Lady Business a few days ago (and which features actual stats and graphics of the kind you can’t really argue with). Also, Amy wrote a great post full of useful links about this problem beyond the speculative fiction community that I recommend that you all read.

Affiliates disclosure: if you buy a book through one of my affiliates links I will get 5%.


  1. That's such a great selection - thank you for that. I also really enjoyed reading Caitlin Moran's How to be a Women. Happy IWD!

  2. Happy Women's Day to you too, Ana! That is a wonderful list of books! I remember reading your reviews of some of them and liking those reviews very much. I want to read Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own' sometime soon. Nice to know that you are reading a book on Marie Stopes now :) Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I have her book 'Married Love' which I want to read sometime.

  3. I'm a little sad to say that I didn't know this was going on today, I knew it was happening but not the date. Otherwise I would have tried to read some more appropiate books. Thank you for this wonderful list of recommendations Ana. Happy IWD :-)

  4. Great list of books! I've only read a small handful of them.

  5. A good way for things to progress would be for my library to get some of these books. They seem to avoid them and it is just too expensive to buy everything that I want...

    Great list, though! Happy International Women's Day to you!

  6. Happy International Women's Day! Thanks for posting such a great list. Two of my favorite classics are, Tillie Olsens Silences and On Lies, Secrets and Silence by Adrienne Rich.

  7. Thanks for the great list of books! Several of them I really want to read and I will hopefully start Delusions of Gender sometime this year, I've been wanting to read it for quite awhile.

  8. Thanks for the list - I'm woefully under read in this area.

  9. This is such a great list, and I am thinking about printing out and taking it to the library with me. Lots of great recommendations here today. Thanks for compiling this and sharing it today!

  10. Okay, simply going to bookmark this site as "book list I can't live without." I'm quite discouraged with myself to find that despite the fact that I've added nearly all of these to my wish list in the past (and bought many of them!), I've only actually read one and a half of them. And the one I read was actually one of my favorite reads from last year! Why can't I prioritize better?!!

  11. I definitely have to get my hands on Virgin, that book sounds so interesting.

  12. I knew I could count on this blog for remembering IWD. I have been on a Simone de Beauvoir nerd out lately. Just finished Tete A Tete yesterday. I recommend all of her books: novels, The Second Sex, and her four volumes of memoirs. She gets to the emotional and intellectual and political barriers that we face though because of her and many others, the oppression slowly lifts. However, we are still the second sex, we are the "other" and we must not let up for one second in the heart, the mind, the marketplace or the political arena. Thanks. Things DO mean a lot.

  13. Yet another wonderful Ana post to bookmark when I need a list of books to go to :D I'm gonna need a whole folder just for you in my bookmarks toolbar :p

  14. Thanks for an excellent post Ana! There are so many books I want to read on it, and once university is done in April, I'm hoping to join the Year of Feminist Classics project :)

  15. thanks for sharing these books I must try some more only read persepolis have the woolfe book some where I think as brought a number of his books over the years ,all the best stu

  16. I definitely added a few books to my list. Thank you! Z has read Unnatural Selection and he said it was really interesting. I'll need to read it soon.

  17. Thanks for this fantastic list of books and reviews. Some of these I've also loved, others I really want to read!


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