Apr 04 2008

No post today; it’s all on you

Despite my ceaseless asseverations about my lack of interest in conducting remedial blaming lessons, novice blamers are constantly emailing me for a radical feminist reading list. I have never compiled one of these, mostly because doing so would be something like work, but I’m tired of getting these emails and giving lame responses. So help a sister out. In the comments, how’s about y’all suggest one or two books that you consider essential feminist writing? Please include a synopsis for each book, or an excerpt, or something. Nicely-written ones will be put in the FAQ somewhere.

Also, if you know a link to someone else’s feminist reading list that I could rip off, by all means, don’t hold back.

Remember, blamers; more than 2 links will land you in moderation.

Thanks. And now I’m off to do something.


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  1. Foilwoman

    I’m actually getting around to reading Femininity by Susan Brownmiller right now, and it’s readable and fascinating. She annoys me, but the book is great. I should have read this years ago.

    Even though it’s pretty mainstream and not radical, Nora Ephron’s Crazy Salad explains a lot of things in a way that a non-radical (or beginning radical) feminist can use as a jumping off point. More later.

  2. Carol

    “Are Women Human” and “Feminism Unmodified” by Catherine MacKinnon. I am trained as a lawyer, and MacKinnon is a pre-eminent scholar in the area of feminist and the law, which is why she sprang to mind first. Both are collections of speeches or essays.

  3. Hilde Lindemann

    Also essential for radical feminist blaming is Marilyn Frye’s 1983 collection of essays called The Politics of Reality. Her image of gender oppression as a birdcage is a classic, and that’s just one of the little gems in there. She writes very clearly, no special background training required.

  4. Blue Alvarez

    I think The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf is a great jumping off point, especially for younger women who may be in the throes of their first major identity crisis.
    Most people here are probably familiar with this book already, but it’s basically essays on how the patriarchy prevents women from being truly empowered by keeping us in the mindset that we must always and above all else look like a “woman”, as the patriarchal system defines that look, regardless of whether that’s how we want to look and despite what else we achieve.

  5. Panic

    The Dialectic of Sex is well worth the read. It introduced the concept of “woman as means of production” to me; by having to ability to produce the next generation, being born a woman automatically qualifies you — in a capitalist system — as something to be owned.

    I read Dialectic when I was 17 or so, very early in my blaming days. I knew that women had been owned, had been seen as property legally for most of history, and were socially still seen as such. However, I never quite understood why. Shulamith Firestone had an answer to that question. While I don’t think this theory explains the entire phenomenon of misogyny, I do think it tackles a lot of it.

    Do I agree with everything in Dialectic of Sex? No, but I rarely agree with everything in a theory. Is this book important for feminist thought? Absolutely. Too many Feminist 101 type courses ignore it completely, because it can be pretty scary for new blamers. Firestone doesn’t apologize for her radicalism. She doesn’t ever pander to men (in fact, many say she goes too far in the other direction). There’s no sexy feminist middle-ground, and that’s really out of fashion now. Which is why I think more than ever, it’s an incredibly important read.

  6. Bardiac

    I think Gayle Rubin’s “The Traffic in Women” is really important. It always makes me think.

  7. narya

    I think two novels are helpful: Marilyn French’s “The Women’s Room” was absolutely crucial to my early blaming (way back in the 1970s). I reread it recently, and it still holds up. I’ve also really liked Sheri Tepper’s “The Gate to Women’s Country.” Other of her work questions sex/gender, as does a lot of Ursula LeGuin’s writing, as well, but “Gate” raises a lot of interesting questions.

  8. kaylagrrl

    I’d highly recommend Adrienne Rich’s “On Lies, Secrets, and Silence;” it’s a collection of her writings. I don’t remember the specifics of what I loved so much about it (it’s been about 10 years since I read it), but I do remember it opening my eyes to a more radical sense of feminism.

    Also, Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s “The Body Project.” It looks at how, as Brumberg puts it, “more than any other group in the population, girls and their bodies have borne the brunt of 20th century social change, and we ignore that fact at our peril.” It is a simply fascinating book and Brumberg uses many, many diary excerpts from American girls to illustrate all her points. It’s probably overly white-middle class in it’s research basis, but considering many of the diaries predate the Civil War, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the white, middle to upper class girls would’ve been the vast majority of young women and girls actually writing in diaries. This text sent me down the path of radical feminism for good!

  9. Apostate

    Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a memoir by an extraordinary Somali woman who left Islam (as I also did). It makes a rousing case for feminism and Enlightenment values, and convincingly demonstrates that patriarchal religions have no place in feminism, something feminists my age have started to forget (particularly when it comes to Islam).

    The other two are obvious, but important for a basic feminist reading list: Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, which is a thorough and first of its kind examination of rape historically, with a cultural/feminist analysis. It’s beautifully written yet hard to read because of the subject matter, but it establishes an understanding of the subject that will fill in the blanks when you learn about horrific things that men do to women.

    Susan Faludi’s Backlash although it is a little out of date, still very relevant and I will be surprised if it doesn’t open the reader’s eyes to some extent, even if they thought they were already aware of insiduous sexism.

    Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz is the horrifying true story of high school jocks who raped a good-natured teen with the mental age of an eight-year-old — and the fall-out from the rape in a community which pilloried an innocent and traumatized child while scrambling to protect the jocks. It contributed to my understanding of jock culture in the U.S. like nothing else has and really drove home the extent to which sexism and misogyny is inherent in it.

    The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade by Victor Malarek. Again, hard to read, but necessary for any feminist who wants a fuller understanding of the sex industry and why it’s problematic, “sex-positive” attitudes notwithstanding.

    I could go on, but that’s sufficient to go on with. I second Femininity recommended above. Very short, fast read and very perspicacious.

    Twisty, thanks for a great blog.

  10. Matilde

    Though it’s not exactly an easy read (nor an easy find), I would recommend Andrea Dworkin’s ‘Intercourse’ – I’m in the middle of reading it right now and I haven’t felt this sort of elation/rage (discovering truth feels wonderful, even when that truth hurts like hell) since ‘Backlash’ (I was fourteen).

    Basing on what I’ve read so far (roughly three quarters of it), she mostly exposes cultural truths about the experience of intercourse both for women and men, and how it is linked with women’s oppression in the P, through the analysis of works of fiction and real-life ‘legendary’ characters such as Joan of Arc (that particular part brought tears to my eyes, I have to say). Her writing has that kind of harrowing poetry to it – I don’t know how to describe it, it’s cold and passionate all at once. Like anger, maybe -, which, combined to the brutality of some of the things she describes, makes it quite demanding on the reader. So in any case, perhaps it’s not recommended to make it your very first ‘radfem’ book. I’m not sure.

    Anyway, an rather lengthy excerpt can be found here :


    Hope this was of some help.

  11. Apostate

    Sorry, had to comment again.

    EVERY woman needs to read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

    We’re on our way to that reality here in the U.S.

  12. rootlesscosmo

    Not a book but an (influential) article: Naomi Weisstein’s “Psychology Constructs the Female,” written in 1967.


    Possibly the first full-on feminist challenge to Freudian and other patriarchal variants of psychology, by a brilliant neuroscientist (and–full disclosure–my friend since high school in the mid-50’s), sidelined for many years now by an exceptionally severe case of CFIDS.

  13. Joanna

    I heartily second the Marilyn Frye and Adrienne Rick suggestions above, both for the rigor of their thought and the approachability of their language.
    Angela Davis’ book Women, Race, and Class (1983) remains a fundamental historical analysis of how race and class shaped women’s movements and feminism in the U.S. and has thought-provoking chapters on issues of rape, reproductive rights, and housework as well. Yes, a lot has been written on these topics since, but I still find this book extremely useful.

    If you read Spanish, Francesca Gargallo’s book Ideas feministas latinoamericanas is both a history of feminist thought in Latin America and a manifesto for a radical feminism centered on women’s theorizing of women’s experience.

  14. Joanna

    My apologies to Adrienne: that should be Rich, not Rick.

  15. Vera

    I second the nomination of The Women’s Room by Marilyn French. That book turned me radical.

    I also recommend Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin. It is a startling, harsh, beautiful work. Read it because you will read about it, since Dworkin is frequently reviled by people who have never taken the formality of actually reading her writings.

    Here’s a sampling, from the Preface of the 20th anniversary edition:

    The public censure of women as if we are rabid because we speak without apology about the world in which we live is a strategy of threat that usually works. Men often react to women’s words–speaking and writing–as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women’s words with violence. So we lower our voices. Women whisper. Women apologize. Women shut up. Women trivialize what we know. Women pull back. Most women have experienced enough dominance from men–control, violence, insult, contempt–that no threat seems empty.

  16. TinaH

    I’ll second the call out to the Gate to Women’s Country.

    If I were compiling a book list for a Blamer in Training, I would start with the Handmaid’s Tale, the Gate to Women’s Country and the Fifth Sacred Thing. All fiction, all very approachable and an amazing way to get someone thinking. Then I’d start with the more hardcore theory books.

    My younger half sister is 23 and a new mom. I’m doing my very best to gently corrupt her away from our rabidly patriarchal catholic upbringing.

  17. Panic

    Holy crap I can’t believe I forgot Backlash! Thanks for the reminder. I (still) blame the Cold That Wouldn’t Die for my omission. Yes, absolutely, 100%, essential. I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry in my life, as when I read Backlash.

  18. susanw

    “It is therefore extremely ironic that patriarchy has upheld power as a good that is permanent and dependable, opposing it to the fluid, transitory goods of matricentry. Power has been exalted as the bulwark against pain, against the ephemerality of pleasure, but it is no bulwark, and is as ephemeral as any other part of life. Coercion seems a simpler, less time-consuming method of creating order than any other; yet it is just as time-consuming and tedious and far more expensive than personal encounter, persuasion, listening, and participating in bringing a group into harmony. None of this is unknown, unfamiliar, unperceived. Yet so strong is the mythology of power that we continue to believe, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that it is substantial, that if we possessed enough of it we could be happy, that if some “great man” possessed enough of it, he could make the world come right.”

    Beyond Power
    Marilyn French

  19. delphyne

    Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly. A philosophical and practical examination of patriarchy and male supremacy – the book that turned me into a radical feminist. It also has some good jokes:


  20. myriam

    A very good novel about a woman raising against fatality and struggling to drive her own life as she wishes, may it be in contempt of laws, morality, or accepted conventions, is for me Goliarda Sapienza’s “Art of joy”.
    This novel is all full of wild poetry, subversive erotism, with a colorful and atypical style, where the voice of the author alternates very freely with the deep psychological acuteness of her main characters observations; the name of the heroin is ironically Modesta, well she’s a maîtresse femme (a boss lady?). The action takes place from 1900 until late 1960 in Sicily, and the personal story of the characters get entangled in the political context from the first world war and the arrival of the “brown fascism”, to what Modesta calls the “white fascism” of 60’s modern Italy. The story of a woman that has to free herself from various and diversificated ideological and psychological traps to finally get close to “the art of joy”, el arte della gioia. Bellìssimo.
    Unless it was written from 1966 to 1976 it was not published until 1996 (white fascism is hard boiled stuff, and when you have the vatican at home, well… forget it)
    Its nearly 700 pages let me still hungry, what more shall I say…
    (Twisty, see that time I tried to do it better)

  21. elanor

    I really liked Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth – How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women” and Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” From wiki:

    It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and often regarded as a major feminist work. In it she argues that women throughout history have been defined as the “other” sex, an aberration from the “normal” male sex.

    You can find more information about them on Wikipedia.

    I am ashamed to admit those books with “A Room of One’s Own” are the only feminist works I’ve ever read. Can somebody link to feminist free Internet books, please?

    Twisty, did you delete my comment to one of the earlier posts, which was stuck in moderation? I ask you there for advice, which of your posts I should translate into Russian.
    Btw, the members of that community are going to make an Internet feminist site and gather material.

  22. atheist woman

    Surprisingly enough, I have a dude author. His name is Derrick Jensen, and even though he may not know it, he blames like a pro. I suggest the Culture of Make Believe, which is essentially a history of the western style Patriarchy, intertwined with stories from his life and his early experiences with child abuse. He even takes on porn for several chapters. He also talks A LOT about the megatheocorporatocracy. That book was the only thing that allowed me to survive my senior year of school.

  23. Alexandra

    When I wrote you one of those emails, you recommended Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch.” It was incredible (thank you).

    But I’ve been more successful recommending Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.” It’s a little more accessible, more contemporary. And, despite the pink cover, it is decidedly not a Fun Feminist book.

    The introduction is here: http://www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?tab=10&pid=521266&agid=2

  24. Feminist Avatar

    Kate Millet: Sexual Poltics.
    This is a good primer. It walks you through examples and the theory behind radfem politics. It discusses a lot of the assumptions that people make about power and gender and compares them to other societies. It’s a very straightforward read.

    I would second the call for Shulamith Firestone, Dialectic of Sex. It is a critique of patriarchy that draws heavily on Marxist theory, but places the root of patriarchy in the relationship between the sexes: on reproduction not production. The postmodernist in you might chafe at the materialistic base, but it’s a great read.

    Simone De Bouvoir, The Second Sex.
    ‘One is not born, but rather becomes a woman’. She was the first radical feminist. It’s a classic and it’s readable.

    bell hooks: Feminist Theory: from Margin to Centre. This is a very readable and short analysis of feminism from the perspective of race. It is engaging and moving as hooks combines theory with the experiences of real black women and is an effective challenge to WASP-centric perspective that can and has dominated feminism. I have just bought her All About Love, which I can’t wait to read.

    Catherine Hall, White, male and middle class: explorations in feminism and history.
    Read the introduction. As an undergraduate, her explanation of feminism and particularly her explanation of the idea of ‘other’ translated what I had been reading in other feminist books into sense.

    Judith Bennett, History Matters: Patriarchy and Challenge of Feminism, (Manchester, Manchester U.P., 2006).
    This is a call to historians to study patriarchy and patriarchal societies to allow greater understanding and thus greater possibility of change. While it is specialist in its intent, it does a good job of explaining the nature of patriarchy and how it is used by theorists. It is quite readable.

    Christine Helliwell, ‘“It’s only a penis”: rape, feminism and difference’, Signs, 25, (2000), pp. 789-816.
    This is a great article that really makes you think about the ‘naturalness’ of sex and gender relationships. While not being a feminist classic, if you want to challenge yourself to rethink how we perform gender then this article really gets you thinking. It is also quite readable.

    A bit more advanced and for those with access:

    Deniz Kandiyoti, ‘Bargaining with patriarchy’, Gender and Society, 2, (1988), pp. 274-290.
    This is a really great article, which highlights the pervasiveness of the patriarchal system in a contemporary context. It describes how the decisions we make are always shaped by the patriarchal context in which we live. It’s not an easy read, but it is not too complex.

    Linda Alcoff, ‘Cultural feminism versus post-structuralism: the identity crisis in feminist theory’, Signs, 13, (1988), pp. 405-436.
    For people who want to be feminist from a postmodernist perspective, here’s how. This is not a primer. You need to have a basic grasp of feminism and postmodernism, but it addresses many of the concerns with the Third Wave.

    Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, (London, Routledge, 1999).
    This is not a primer and in fact is written in the most obtuse style, but the concepts she discusses underpin a signficant amount of debate on the blogosphere. She is arguing for the performative nature of gender, which is not itself a complex idea, but the English is intractable. However, it is quite an important text, so if you think you’re up to it and have a dictionary handy, then go for it.

    Michael McKeon, ‘Historicizing patriarchy: the emergence of gender difference in England, 1660-1760’, Eighteenth Century Studies, 28, (1995), pp. 295-322.
    This is not a feminist text, but it does explain the origins of the form of patriarchy we have today. This is important because we need to realise its not natural and it is changeable, and this article highlights it very well. It is a history article, but beyond this it’s quite readable.

    If you are at an academic institution or can afford a subscription, the journal Signs is fab. It publishes a range of academic articles, but they are generally very readable and keeps you up to date with the latest feminist theorising in academia and beyond.

    Also check out: http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm/, which contains loads of original writings and speeches from feminists during the liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s.

  25. draconismoi

    I also have a dude author. Jack Holland’s Misogyny: the World’s Oldest Prejudice. It summarizes the history of misogyny, from Ancient Greece and Rome on up through US body politics. It provides a wonderful compilation of stories and facts conveniently left out of history texts – showing just how horrific one half of a species can be.

    I also support the fiction recommendations of The Handmaiden’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) and The Gate to Women’s Country (Sheri Tepper). I’d further recommend The Fresco by Sheri Tepper and We Who Are About To by Joanna Russ. (All great scifi novels that explore gender and society).

    For blamers with young children trying desperately to find some good reading material I suggest Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C Wrede. In it we have great fun turning fairy tale stereotypes on their heads as the Princess Cimorene runs away to live with dragons when her parents forbid her from doing all the un-princessly things she enjoys (such as Latin, fencing and magic). It makes a great chapter-a-night read or a first foray into chapter books for a kid going solo with the reading.

    Also: Cunt by Inga Muscio. An essential read for any feminists raised in oppressive religions households having trouble shaking their subconscious disgust of their bodies….or any women who are creeped out by being female (I keep trying to get my mother to read it, but the title puts her off. Sigh).

  26. sam

    My first two radical feminist books were The War Against Women by Marilyn French and Only Words by Catherine MacKinnon.

    The War Against Women is a good primer to help budding feminists connect the dots on how patriarchy is a global system affecting every aspect of our lives. I wasn’t a radfem right after reading it but it hastened me along the path to the unabashedly women-centered politics I eventually adopted.

    When I was a thirdwave porn user dipping my toe into radical feminism’s bottomless pool Only Words was one of the first books I picked up because women at the Ms Boards were quoting MacKinnon left and right and every quote sounded wicked smart to me. I don’t know if it would have had the profound impact on my transformation if I didn’t study linguistics in college, but every time I reread it, and it’s a surprisingly short read, I am awed by the book’s concise common sense and MacKinnon’s unwavering dedication to justice for women.

  27. sam

    Please replace the adverb “unabashedly” with the adjective “unabashed” up there. Being a linguist doesn’t mean you don’t make writing mistakes, but it does mean you can explain why it was a mistake after you realize you’ve made it.

  28. Lara

    “Black Sexual Politics” by Patricia Hill Collins. This is an excellent and in-depth analysis of the intersections of racial and gender oppression and how they rely on one another. Collins uses everything from examples of mainstream media and music industry to case law and visual media from the past couple of centuries in the United States. Her critique of the sexual objectification of women of color (and, in some cases, men of color) are all described in detail as an interconnected web of oppression that is the basis for patriarchy and white supremacy. Furthermore, she uses language that, while mature and sophisticated, is concise and easy to understand for any reader academic or lay.

    “E-mails From Scheherezade” by Mohja Khaf. This small but awesome book is a compilation of poems that pulls you in from the first stanza. Written by a Syrian-American poet, the poems revolve around everything from her personal experiences growing up as an Arab girl in America to witty observations on Orientalist sexism in Western art, to the contradictions between mainstream Western feminist ideology and liberal sexism in American culture. I laughed, sighed, and nearly cried while reading the poems. There is something about Kahf’s writing and story-telling that will touch the reader deeply.

  29. Thealogian

    I’m going to go with–since so many excellent primers have already been mentioned–two books that deal with religion/image of God/dess as foundational to power structures.

    Mary Daly’s “Beyond God the Father”–lots of problems with this book, she was still in her early gender-essentialist mindset and dismissed race as important as gender. But, she does make a good argument for taking down God the Father as foundation to Christianity/generic “in God we trust” Americanism–how we construct the divine has a very real impact on how we construct our social order. (Daly, Mary. Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1973.)

    There are so many to choose from, ugh…

    Okay, let’s go with something by Sallie McFague, Life Abundant or Models of God–I’ll have to go with Life Abundant which speaks of flourishing as the fundamental basis of God/dess’s love–not the necrophillic, death-loving current theological paradigm that doesn’t give a shit about the earth/bodies/women. Also, on that topic, Catherine Keller’s, “Face of the Deep,” but I won’t go on because Twisty will spank me.

    p.s. If you want the memoir/theology, check out Carol Christ, particularly “Rebirth of the Goddess”–she give a great theological argument for abortion as life-giving/life-sustaining. Oh, and for Domestic Violence Theology, check out “Proverbs of Ashes”–wonderful if you are having to work with Domestic Violence survivors who are really concerned about “still being Christian” when Christianity teaches to stay and suffer.
    (Sallie McFague. Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril)

  30. Misty

    “Refusing to be a Man” by John Stoltenberg
    A radical feminist man (and partner of Andrea Dworkin) who covers
    the ethics and politics of male sexual identity (including how this oppresses women and how men can choose not to subscribe to the dominant male sexual identity), pornography and male supremacy, and activism. The pornography chapters are enlightening and infuriating. A good choice for any male’s who are being introduced to radfem.

    “Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race, and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms” Sharene H. Razack
    An account of how institutions including the academy and courts inherently oppress marginalized groups and how being woman compounds this.

    I also 2nd (or is it 3rd at this point) “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin.

  31. MarilynJean

    I second Lara on Patricia Hill Collins. All of her work is amazing. I would also throw in most titles by bell hooks. Also: Gloria Anzaldua.

  32. lump

    “Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography”, a collection of essays/articles edited by Christine Stark and Catherine Whisnant is the most useful and interesting book I have read on why porn is not ‘just a bit of fun’.

    This is an excellent book if you need some real knock-down arguments against the sex-positive defenders who maintain that sex-work is empowering and even somehow feminist. A range of different authors are included, Catherine MacKinnon among them, and there are non-academic voices represented as well with accounts from victims alongside analytical essays.

    Some of the accounts of sex workers are quite harrowing so I have issue a warning: this book may induce sudden desires to violently strangle any male that happens to be in your vicinity – if you don’t already get those that is.

  33. Horace

    I’ve never read anything by Lisa Duggan that didn’t completely blow me away. Not writing exclusively about gender and sexuality, but still making more sense than virtually anyone by taking on neo-liberalism as a patriarchy-friendly system.

  34. brainiac9

    Ditto TinaH’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Another excellent Margaret Atwood book is “The Edible Woman”. I started reading Atwood a few years ago, back in high school, and her fiction really is phenomenal. “The Penelopiad” is also a highly excellent contrast to all that dude-centric mythology. Actually, pretty much everything Atwood I’ve read would be a fabulous intro for new blamers. *is now finished fangirling*

  35. spikat

    Here’s a list from another recent call for feminist books. Scroll down to *Emailbag: Calling All Book Nerds!*

    and the comments section has more books and lists: http://www.haloscan.com/comments/flea/7250138603554782814/

  36. Peppers

    Anything by Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Patricia J. Williams, Kimberle Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, Derrick Jensen, Lisa Duggan, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.

    Critical race feminism!

  37. LeggoMyMeggo

    I recommend Jensen, too, but the book “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.” Hard to read because the truth is damn ugly, but good. Really good.

    I also love ecofeminist authors like Vandana Shiva… I just picked up “Staying Alive: Women, ecology, and development” and it looks pretty darn fantastic.

  38. Jen

    I really liked Dorothy Robert’s “Killing the Black Body”, in which she examines how social policies like welfare and family planning have acted upon false ideas of the deviant overly sexual African-American female and severely violated their basic reproductive freedoms. This book is a great primer on sexism, racism, and how politics institutionalizes such bigotry. It’s also really easy to pass off to people that aren’t fellow Blamers, because they won’t realize that they’re reading something intrinsically Feminist until they’re halfway through it and throughly appalled.

    J. Stoltenberg’s “Refusing to be a Man” is an excellent collection of essays on ways to reject society’s definition of masculinity, and what we stand to lose if we don’t. I’m almost frightened to recommend it to even my Feminist male friends, because it’s such a passionate, but rational, attack on the whole idea of masculinity. Stoltenberg completely rejects male sexual identity as a political and social construction directly connected to male superiority. This book is highly recommended, it was the first thing I read that I considered really radical.

  39. thebewilderness

    Man Made Language by Dale Spender is likely to be an eye opener for the novice blamer.
    It describes how the fraudulent belief in male superiority is supported by the english language.

  40. narya

    I’d throw in some Donna Haraway, too, though it’s a little far afield (Primate Visions is the one I’m thinking about); she tries to show how studies of others species are used to describe human (inter)actions and how the mental structures of the investigators structures what they find in the “animal” world.

  41. sunspots

    I have to recommend The Frailty Myth by Colette Dowling. It’s one of the only books I’ve ever come across that takes to task that whole “but men are just naturally stronger” business. Too little press for this book, if you ask me.

  42. hanna jörgel

    The Descent of Woman by Elaine Morgan

  43. atheist woman

    Leggo My Eggo, that is a different Jensen.

  44. atheist woman

    I apologize for the badgering of your name.

  45. JoJo

    Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her by Susan Griffin – poetic and eco-feminist and very profound

  46. Aunti Disestablishmentarian

    This very same subject was recently tackled on two sister sites:
    Most recently at

    And Damn. I can’t find the link to the other: A discussion at AngryBlackWoman a few months back. I will keep looking.

  47. sonia

    this is the best idea ever.

    Pure Lust by Mary Daly. The entire book is really rich. I think it’s her best in terms of wordiness.

  48. hellonhairylegs

    I always recommend The Whole Woman by Germaine Greer. The way she writes is so illuminating. It covers a lot of different topics including patriarchal medicine and how it affects women. It was the book that made me have my “click” moment.

    I second (3rd, 4th?) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It is a great book on so many levels and scary as hell. It really gets across the effects of Christianity and the patriarchy.

  49. PhysioProf

    This does not really answer Twisty’s question, but I have a post up at my place on “blogging while female”. In the past, readers from here have visited my place and apparently enjoyed what I have to say, so I am going to post the link. If this kind of self-promotion is unwanted, please let me know, and Twisty, please delete this comment if this kind of thing is unwanted.


  50. Praxis

    Lots of great books recommended so far!

    I’d like to second the recommendation of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.

    The importance of Beauvoir’s work cannot, I think, be understated. If you really want to understand concepts like objectification and the social construction of women (i.e. femininity as performance, etc.) then this is the place to start.

    Beavoir also really nails the centrality of reproductive rights to women’s liberation, in particular the foundational challenge to autonomy represented by compulsory pregnancy.

  51. atheist woman

    EEKS, and of course I meant butchering, not badgering. AW scuttles shamefacedly out of thread.

  52. Nia

    The feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan. This is old-fashioned now, because it centres on middle-class white American women in the fifties, and it is sometimes classist and even racist. But it is easy to read and it shows where we’re coming from and why so many of us don’t want to be housewives.

    Pornography – Andrea Dworkin. The prologue is the best explanation of the fallacy according to which women have power over men because they are physically attractive. The rest of a book is an excellent development of the prologue.

    finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com is a blog dedicated to creating a feminist primer online – excatly what IBTP is not.

    The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. I don’t like the style very much, but it is a comprehensive guide to the pressure put on women in order to be “beautiful”.

    The Body Project – Joan Jacobs Brunberg. Same theme as The Beauty Myth, but less inflammatory and more academic. It centres exclusively in American teenagers, while The Beauty Myth is more extrapolable to other cultures.

    Global Woman. A recent collection of essays about immigration trends, with Third World women as care providers in rich countries, as childminders, cleaners, prostitutes, etc.

  53. Nia

    oh, and one book written by a man: Michael Kimmel’s The Gendered Society. It is more focused on the fact that gender in a social construct, it dismounts many stereotypes on what ies “normal”, and it insists over and over on the effects of considering men the default humans, and women, the exception.

  54. Arianna

    Well, this solves my dilemma of constructing a summer reading list.

    As a vegetarian-feminist I’d like to throw in The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams.

  55. tinfoil hattie

    Who Cooked the Last Supper? by Rosalind Miles. Awesome.

    The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker – not a feminist tome, but the only dude-written book I’ve ever read that GETS how women are violated day-to-day, minute-to-minute, in our society. Also, he gives great strategies for keeping yourself safe in a society that refuses to hold men accountable for their actions against women.

  56. Meghan

    Absolutely Handmaid’s Tale for the baby blamer. And The Beauty Myth really clicked with my younger sister (20).

    I think people have really covered the non-fiction, but I’d like to add some fiction suggestions. There’s some really exciting novels that have come out recently — The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall (it will be released as Daughters of the North in the US), which concerns a post-peak-oil feminist commune/army in northern Britain. Gorgeously written, too. Another stunner is Always by Nicola Griffith, the third of her Aud Torvington books. Aud is a six foot two Norweigian lesbian ass-kicking detective, and the book has a fabulous mystery plot. But half of it focuses on a self-defense class taught by Aud, and the material in there about gender, power, and violence takes the book to an entirely different level. You can get a taste of it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicola-griffith/taser-buzz-kill_b_95114.html

    Finally, there’s an award named after science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr., aka Alice Sheldon, which is given to a work of fiction that best “explores or expands” ideas about gender. I’m on the 2007 jury, so I’m a little biased, but the list of award-winners and short lists are a great place to start in terms of fiction. More about the award here: http://www.tiptree.org/ Science fiction has an especially healthy and robust feminist tradition — something about the genre’s ability to think outside of our world? I don’t know. But there’s tons of great stuff there.

  57. Rebecca

    For the real novice (though it’s useful for anyone), I highly recommend *The Gender Knot* by Allan Johnson.

    Also, for the true Dworkin reading experience, you can’t do better than *Letters from a War Zone*.

    Many of Dworkin’s essays, etc. are available here:


  58. LeggoMyMeggo

    Oh sorry! Sloppy. I meant Robert Jensen.

  59. TwissB

    o I’m glad that so many of Andrea Dworkin’s great books are being mentioned, as well as John Stoltenberg’s powerful “Refusing to Be a Man.”

    o Cheers for early groundbreaking books that are being cited.Here’s another-“For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English” stimulating throughout, but especially telling histiry of gynecological misogyny.

    o Sheila Jeffreys’s brilliant “The Spinster and Her Enemies” which reviews men’s successive manipulations of what they dictate a woman must do to be a real woman and how lesbians get it all wrong. (This is a very dull summary of a wonderful book that deserves better.)

    o Fascinating view of art history in “The Painted Witch: How Western Artists Have Viewed the Sexuality of Women”. He absolutely nails the men (including a small group who saw women as people), but interestingly doesn’t see his own sexism in regarding a few great women artists as second-rate.

    o I second the choice of Stark and Whisnant’t “Not For Sale” and add Rebecca’s fine critique of the post-feminist sophistry on sex that can be found by Googling “Said It” or seeing her give it as a lecture last year: Rebecca Whisnant addressing the National Feminist …Not Your Father’s Playboy and Not Your Mother’s Feminist …Watch video – 47 min –

    o Might as well tout my papers collected at http://www.equality4women.org

    o Finally, for the present, I love Catharine MacKinnon’s “Feminism Unmodified” and would remind everyone that her name is spelled CATHARINE., not CathErine.

  60. TwissB

    And I blame all typos and other errors on the fact that this Enter Your Blame Here box only permits one to type in invisible ink.

  61. Apostate

    Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing. Cogent, convincing, tightly-written, full of examples from women’s literature. For anyone with feminist leanings and a love of literature, very eye-opening.

    I had a post up about this on my blog here.

  62. myriad

    I am new here and love the blog, as does my girlfriend.

    I am surprised that Ursula Le Guin has only got one mention so far I think, and no-one has listed any titles. I’d like to rectify that; in no particular order –

    The Eye of the Heron – wonderfully elucidates the philosophy of non-violence and passive resistance, while simultaneously examining sexism, domestic violence, totalitarianism / patriarchy, and living within the limits of a planet. It’s a tour de force bringing together multiple strands of radical feminist thought.

    Her collection of short stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters – stories in this taught me about some of the most fundamental ethics of what it means to be human, and why I the lens of radical feminism is the best lens to examine that through.

    Her “children’s” stories about the world of Earthsea are based on my favourite philosophy, the Tao Te Ching. While often written from a male protagonist’s viewpoint, like many of Le Guin’s books – something which has earned her the ire of feminists – I think what they taught me is what a man should be like. And better yet, as she has gotten older, she has gone back to Earthsea to write profoundly feminist parables, and that body of work stands now powerful and balanced.

    One of her most recent books, The Telling. – continues her quest as an older woman to write from a far more overtly feminist, female viewpoint. It continues her exploration of non-violent cultures and their struggle to survive white patriarchy, does not stray from examining the relationships between men and women, and throws in her first lesbian protagonist for a full-length work.

    In sum, anyone who hasn’t read Le Guin is greatly missing out; and unlike Tepper she never lines her ducks up and then refuses to take the shot.

    In the non-fiction categories, the three most important feminist books I read that turned me radical in my late teens /early twenties were The Female EunuchThe Beauty Myth and Backlash.

  63. Sal

    Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.” includes the phrase “We believe that we are Sexy and Funny and Competent and Smart. We do not need to be like men, or like strippers, or like anything other then our own individual selves.” (from memory so forgive me if I’m not spot on). This has become something of a mantra for me to remind myself that I can do anything I want. A good book.

    Also, it’s already been said, but The Beauty Myth is a fantastic book and was what opened my eyes to blaming in the first place…

  64. scout

    Yes! to all the above. Also:

    The First Sex (1971) by Elizabeth Gould Davis, was the first book I read that restored the female to human history for me. Her proposals, that the past was matriarchal and that the default design of the human is female, are still being debated by archaeologists and scientists. But what rocked my soul was her delineation of how, as the patriarchy originated and developed, it co-opted the spiritual truths sacred to the female at the same time it effected a 180 degree reversal, so that reverence for the female (xkcd cartoon #387: http://xkcd.com/387/) was made anathema to the patriarchy. When I read it in 1985, I found The First Sex eye-popping, devastating, and enlightening all at once. It is “Dedicated to the memory of my sister Barbara whose tragic death in 1968 impelled this work, for ‘to put away my grief I purposed to commence a booke.’ (Marie of France)”

    The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (1983) by Barbara Walker is an alphabetized compendium of lingual/cultural cross-references, where we can look up cunt and read: ‘Derivative of the Oriental Great Goddess as Cunti, or Kunda, the Yoni of the Uni-verse. From the same root came country, kin and kind. (Old English cyn, Gothic kuni). Related forms were Latin cunnus, Middle English cunte, Old Norse and Frisian kunta, Basque cuna. Other cognates are ‘canabula,’ a cradle, or earliest abode; ‘Cunina,’ a Roman Goddess who protected children in the cradle; ‘cunctipotent,’ all-powerful (i.e., having cunt magic); also cunning, kenning and ken: knowledge, learning, insight, remembrance, wisdom. Cunt is ‘not slang, dialect or any marginal form, but a true language word, and of the oldest stock.’

  65. Ann Bartow

    “Writing A Woman’s Life” and “Reinventing Womanhood” by Carolyn Heilbrun. “Writing A Woman’s Life” will be especially meaningful to folks who blog about their lived experiences.

  66. Anastasia B.

    So many good authors and books already suggested here; I second them all.

    However, I’ll throw in several from the art/film/visual culture world, as they are extremely relevant to the advancement of feminism, both in artistic practice and discussion of theory.
    -Susan Bee and Mira Schor, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism
    -Norma Broude and Mary Garrard, The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact
    -Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble; also Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”
    -Katy Deepwell New Feminist Art Criticism: Critical Strategies
    -Teresa De Lauretis, Feminist Studies, Critical Studies
    -Joanna Frueh, Cassandra L. Langer, and Arlene Raven, New Feminist Criticism: Art, Identity, Action
    -JoAnna Isaak, Feminism and Contemporary Art: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Laughter
    -Amelia Jones, Body Art/Performing the Subject; and The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader
    -A. Juno and V. Vale, Angry Women
    -Mary Kelly, Post-Partum Document
    -Lucy Lippard, The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art
    -Marsha Meskimmon, Women Making Art: History, Subjectivity, Aesthetics
    -Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures
    -Linda Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power: And Other Essays
    -Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference: Feminism, Femininity, and the Histories of Art
    -Helena Reckitt, Art and Feminism
    -Carolee Schneemann, Imaging her Erotics
    -Rebecca Schneider, The Explicit Body in Performance
    -Mira Schor, Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture
    -Marcia Tucker, Bad Girls (exhibition catalogue)

    Also, a few that dissect the psychoanalytical world:
    -Laurie Schneider Adams, Art and Psychoanalysis
    -Jessica Benjamin, Shadow of the Other: Intersubjectivity and Gender in Psychoanalysis; and The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination
    -Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender; Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory; The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture
    -Melanie Klein – anything if you can find it
    -Rosalind Minsky, Psychoanalysis and Gender
    -Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

    And finally, because it’s essential: Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

  67. an amateur feminist

    I’m partial to Helene Cixous, particularly her essay “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Also, there’s Laura Riding (a.k.a. Laura (Riding) Jackson), with Anarchism Is Not Enough and The Word Woman, among others.

  68. bigbalagan

    Gyn/Ecology – Mary Daly. Mary deeply undermines the language and rhetoric of patriarchy by using those weapons in a self-explosive way.

  69. Kate

    What a wonderful thread! I can’t wait to read some of the stuff I’ve discovered here.

    In addition to many other titles that have already been recommended, I suggest “For Her own Good” by Barbara Ehrenreich – 150 years of the experts’ advice to women. Health and medicine is a fascinating lens for examining women’s oppression. This book covers everything from treating “hysteria” with a cliterodectomy to deprivational “rest cures” to marketing strategies for PMS medications.

  70. Noether

    Covering: The Hidden Assault On Our Civil Rights
    Kenji Yoshino

    Examines how people censor their own actions in response to cultural demands. Shows through a series of legal cases that while you may be protected from discrimination for not _being_ a white dude, non-white/non-male/non-straight behavior is seen as voluntary and is not protected.

    You can read an excerpt from the introduction at

  71. Elise

    I’m on my second reading of Sex, Time and Power by surgeon Leonard Shlain. The summary here is much better than anything I could write in a few sentences and it’s only about a page: http://www.sextimeandpower.com/.

    It’s all psycho-bio-social evolutionary theory, but it sure explains a lot.

  72. Kate

    “The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker – not a feminist tome, but the only dude-written book I’ve ever read that GETS how women are violated day-to-day, minute-to-minute, in our society. Also, he gives great strategies for keeping yourself safe in a society that refuses to hold men accountable for their actions against women.”

    Second! I’m reading it now – favorite quote: “At core men are afraid women will laugh at then, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.”

  73. Agnieszka

    Although I haven’t read it all yet, I recommend the collection of essays Feminist Revolution by Redstockings. It’s out of print but it seems pretty easy to get used copies:


    The version that’s available is missing some essays “for legal reason” (it says on the inside flap) which I understand caused quite a flap. Be that as it may, I still think that the essays that are in the book are worth reading.

  74. ElizaN

    ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Absolutely chilling, mainly because it seems so likely. (On a related note, here’s a page with some quotes from ‘For Her Own Good,’ in case anyone needs anymore encouragement. http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/owngood.html)

    ‘Ain’t I A Woman,’ by Sojourner Truth. I’ve never read a speech to equal this one.

  75. TwissB

    It’s good to see two more listings of “For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women.”

    I forgot to mention that the author of “The Painted Witch” is Edwin Mullins.

    Some feminist writers who make great use of media examples as evidence for their insights and analysis:

    Susan Faludi’s “Backlash” is rich in media sources. Her one flaw, I believe is that she blames “the Right Wing” and names names, but lets liberal media misogynists off the hook, with vague references to “people” or “Americans.” That may explain why her book was treated more kindly by reviewers than Dworkin’s and MacKinnon’s were.

    Two powerful media studies are Ann Jones’s “Women Who Kill” on how society handles the awkward phenomenon of women who commit murder(don’t overlook the preface with its elegant deadpan send-up of “feminist” historians who describe harm to women without naming the agent of the harm) and “Next Time She’ll Be Dead: Battering and How To Stop It.” Again, an angry woman who can be constructive and wittily ironic at the same time.

    Susan Douglas’s “Where the Boys Are: Growing Up Female With The Mass Media” has a deadly chapter on media handling of the women’s rights issue “ERA As Cat Fight” – exactly what I always called it, but she has the quotes from Harry Reasoner et al. to demonstrate why.

    British columnist Joan Smith’s “Misogynies: Reflections on Myths and Malice” – everything from the Air Force Song Book to the glamorization of Jack the Ripper and assorted Stranglers. “Dissects the grimly popular culture of anti-female fear and loathing. Irreverent, chilling and honest.”

    Peggy Reeves Sanday’s “Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus” – An anthropologist anatomizes the elements,media and otherwise, of a culture on a real campus that nurtures violence against women. The only thing missing is to identify the anti-competitive impact of such incidents on women students which is a great motivator, just as it is in workplace sexual harassment.

    As already mentioned, Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs” does an fascinating job of assembling and analyzing the media evidence that promotes a hyper-sexualized self-image for girls and women as empowerfulment on the hoof. The chapter “Pigs in Training” is a must read for teens.

  76. Wogglebug

    Ginmar assembled an introductory-feminism reading list at http://ginmar.livejournal.com/962138.html#cutid1.
    It includes books and links to online sources. Lots of debunking material, especially debunking common myths about rape and related issues.

  77. Laima

    A lot of my favorites have already been mentioned (including _Gift of Fear_), and many others I will have to track down for myself. But one I haven’t seen anyone else cite (sorry if I missed it) is _Eve’s Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History_ by Robert S. McElvaine, which rocked my world when I first read it back in 2001, and I have recommended it to many friends.

    Since I haven’t re-read it recently, I’ll excerpt part of the cover flaps –

    “Anchored by its unforgettable reinterpretation of the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory for women inventing agriculture, _Eve’s Seed_ is a book of multiple heresies and transgressions. At that pivotal moment in history, which McElvaine designates the Agricultural Megarevolution, what later seemed to have been a hunter-gatherer paradise was lost. The traditional male role as hunter was devalued and the relatively tranquil sexual parity of the Stone Age was upset, setting in motion a sequence of events that continues into the modern world.

    As McElvaine says, ‘hell hath no fury like a man devalued’ – and unfortunately women have borne the brunt of that fury throughout history. … Drawing on a wide range of sources, from biology, anthropology, archeology, mythology, religion, and popular culture, McElvaine shows how the interplay between our evolutionary heritage and changing environments and between the sexes have shaped the course of history, from hunter-gatherers to the contemporary world. From the Holy Spirit to the Invisible Hand of free trade economics, he deconstructs many of our most persistent myths to reveal the grim sexual politics at their core.”

  78. C. Atrox

    Brand new this year:

    “The Feminist Philosophy Reader” edited by Alison Bailey and Chris Cuomo.

    Over 800 pages of feminist fun compiled from the essays of a multitude of women writers. One could compare it to a more complex and modern version of “Sisterhood is Powerful!”

  79. delphyne

    Another great book is “Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed” edited by Renate Klein and Diane Bell, a collection of essays on radical feminism, including a section of rebuttals of 1990s anti-feminist post-modernist theory:


    It’s published by Spinifex Press one of the few feminist presses that exist (they also publish Sheila Jeffreys):


    There’s also the Womens Press whose catalogue is worth browsing:


  80. Enid

    No More Nice Girls, by Ellen Willis (essays)
    The Sexual Contract, By Carole Pateman (philosophy)
    Bananas, Beaches and Bases, by Cynthia Ensloe (globalization)
    The Amazing True Story of a Teeneage Single Mom, by Katherine Arnoldi(nonfiction graphic novel)
    All Things Are Labor, by Katherine Arnoldi (short stories)
    Series of biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt, by Blanche Wiesen Cook
    Anything by Christine Stansell, Mimi Abromovitz, Edin and Lein.

  81. Amananta

    Oh, reading lists! If I might add my humble contributions here (and I must say, many excellent suggestions above, but I saw a few good ones that were missed):

    “The Demon Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism” by Robin Morgan. A deconstruction of war, terrorism, and “the hero” from a feminist perspective. Also any collection of her poetry, if you like poetry.

    “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” by the late Molly Ivins: A collection of columns she wrote on Texas and American politics. There are more collections, and they are all good – that just happens to be the one I can remember right now. Both funny and maddening by turns.

    The “Dykes to Watch out For” comic collections by Alison Bechdel. A funny insider look at lesbian lifestyle. Sort of a comic lesbian soap opera. If you are lesbian or know a lesbian, you will see someone you know in this comic.

    And my life would not be complete without “The Complete Hothead Paisan”, by Diana Dimassa, to be read curled up in bed with a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate on those really, really bad days. No guilt!

  82. wren

    Long time blamer, first time poster, wanted to get in on this discussion!

    Lots of great books have been listed so far, I’m looking forward to reading some that I haven’t yet and rereading some that you’ve all reminded me of. I’d like to add Feminist Thought, by Rosemarie Putnam Tong. It was assigned reading for a course I took called Race, Class and Gender; the class was an exploration of predjudice and the status quo in America. Feminist Thought was a great explanation of different types of feminism (radical, liberal, eco, etc) with the philosophy, beliefs and major works of each group. I thought it was really helpful in refining my views on feminism and the patriarchy, and I think it serves as a great introduction to various feminist views and how they conflict or tie in with each other.

    I’d also like to add Appetites: Why Women Want, by Caroline Knapp. I thought it was a compelling discussion of how society has indoctrinated women into ignoring their desires in favor of meeting society’s (read: the patriarchy’s) expectations.

    I’d also really like to add another vote for Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country. I think it is thought provoking and engaging in a way that won’t be a turn off to men or new feminists.

  83. mearl

    In addition to many of the above, my favourites in the more current studies are as follows:

    Fantasies of Femininity – Jane M. Ussher
    (portrayals of women in art, film, advertising, literature, and erotica/porn)

    Fugitive Information: Essays From a Feminist Hothead – Kay Leigh Hagan
    (a great theoretical primer, very humourous)

    Wifework – Susan Maushart
    (a concise book about what you have to look forward to if you get married – argh!)

    Counting For Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth – Marilyn Waring
    (the ultimate feminist guide to world economics: will turn your perspective upside down)

    Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families – Pamela Paul (my new fave)

    Sex, Lies, and Advertising – Gloria Steinem (an old fave)

    I will be barreling like a madman through the books recommended by other Blamers until my head is so pointed that I can skewer the Patriarchy with it. Great post!

  84. Mo

    I’ve recently really enjoyed The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis.

    Her Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America was really interesting too.

  85. masaccio

    I’d like to suggest something for girls: Tatterhood and Other Tales by by Ethel Johnston Phelps (Editor) and Pamela Baldwin Ford (Illustrator). My daughter wore this book out, as she did Pride and Prejudice and a few others.

  86. Eudoxia Smithereens

    A lot of mine have already been mentioned: The Gate to Women’s Country, The Dialectic of Sex, For Her Own Good, Backlash (twenty years old, and as such its pop-culture and news references will stump young blamers, but I think the trends it describes are still in force. It can be a fun exercise to substitute current examples of the same things while reading), and any Atwood.

    I also heartily join the chorus praising Derrick Jensen; his dissection of corporatist, dominator culture is a thing of beauty.

    Here are some that have not been mentioned: Carol Tavris’s The Mismeasure of Woman, which critiques a lot of gender-essentialist assumptions and the shoddy studies that periodically get media attention for “validating” them, and also shows how women are neglected by medical and legal traditions based on the male model, Catharine MacKinnon’s Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, which is an exhaustive catalogue and synthesis of feminist legal, social and economic theory, and, another dude author, Robert Minor’s Scared Straight, which explains how homophobia and sexism relate to one another.

    There’s one more that I’m reading that’s kind of special-interest: Women from Another Planet? Our Lives in the Universe of Autism. As you might guess, it’s an anthology of writings (poems, essays, whatever) by women on the autism spectrum. Many of the essays deal with gender, and the difficulty of fulfilling the female social role while autistic. The whole book functions pretty admirably as a corrective to the popular image of autism as the exclusive province of train-schedule-memorizing little boys and geeky, awkward single men, and I recommend it to any autistic or Asperger blamers out there.

  87. Stella

    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)

    Also, I am sure someone else must’ve mentioned it, but The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams should be more widely read.

  88. Pontiste

    I now have about five sticky notes’ worth of a reading list jotted down. My local ILL will be busy this month. (But I’m going to buy the Marcotte book, dag blameit!) Thanks, everyone!
    I’m a little late to the table on this, so maybe everyone’s already gone on to other things, but does anyone have any recommendations for some kind of ‘stealth’ entry-level blaming material? Something I could use to propagandize/proselytize my darling mother, who at 60-odd still believes that God’s Plan(TM) for women is for them to be June Cleaver?

  89. Lisa KS

    Maybe I missed it, but I’m seriously amazed that Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin isn’t on here. (You will also learn a lot of cool stuff about linguistics in general.)

  90. Cass

    “Intercourse” -Andrea Dworkin

    “Male Fantasies” -Klaus Theweleit (in two volumes)

    “Trauma and Recovery: the Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror” -Judith Herman

    Those are probably my big three. “The Gift of Fear”, which several blamers mentioned upthread, deserves a special mention just because it should be required reading for any female > the age of twelve. And finally, when I’m feeling really blue, I like to read a volume of selected speeches by Barbara Jordan. (Or better yet, listen to the accompanying DVD.)

  91. phio gistic

    Ah, Stella, I was just going to post Mary Wollstonecraft. The whole thing is online here:

    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, with strictures on political and moral subject. Published in 1792.

  92. Eudoxia Smithereens

    Pontiste, I’m not sure this is entirely what you’d be looking for, but another book I recently finished is Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away, which gathers the stories of a bunch of women who became pregnant as teenagers and gave away their babies in ’50s and ’60s.

    It’s not long on theory, as it’s mostly these women telling their own stories, and framed in the larger story of the author searching for her own birth mother. That human-interest, family-history kind of thing might be enough to interest your mom, and reading about these women’s ordeals as they tried to do The Right Thing by the patriarchy and still found themselves shamed for it might make her think some about whether it’s even possible for women to win at the patriarchy’s game. (If she doesn’t make that connection herself, well, that’s why you read it too and discuss it with her!)

    Hope that helped. I would also recommend any Margaret Atwood that isn’t Handmaid’s Tale for stealth-feminist value. Not that Handmaid’s Tale isn’t great, but nonfeminists probably wouldn’t read it.

    My own mother is a feminist, but we have shared an Atwood fandom ever since I introduced her to her books.

  93. Lara

    I know Enid gave an awesome list of books, but I just want to let everyone know ahead of time that Ellen Willis is not only pro-porn but also supports the idea that rape fantasy porn is “normal” and “healthy” for women to view and get involved in. Yeah :P Enid, I am not sure if you knew anything about that. Anyway, I am super excited about this reading list, so much to read, so little time! I can’t wait to go and finally read a FULL Dworkin book instead of just her (phenomenal) essays and speeches.

  94. mearl

    Oh yes, and I just finished an amazing book called “Conquest:Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide” by Andrea Smith. It’s a good summary of current radical feminist Native American activist thought.

  95. Foilwoman

    Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace should be on the list. Also The Robber Bride. They’re not as straightforward as The Handmaid’s Tale (which I love and should also be on the list, but someone else already listed them), but really, for the heterosexual women at least Atwood’s interpretation of how romantic love ideals and traditional female roles just, well, screw us are pretty necessary. And they’re great books.

  96. Eliza

    I love many of these books, and I think this is a great list.

    One favorite of mine is Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy, a great myth-busting and feminist introduction to the history of the idea. Fascinating and well worth reading.


    (Sorry I can’t seem to italicize the title. Now you know what a geek I am.)

  97. Joselle

    What a wonderful list. I’ve recorded all the books that are new to me, ones that I’ve always meant to read but never got around to, and ones that I read many years ago and need to reread.

    My feminism has been reinvigorated in the last few weeks of reading IBTP. My feminism also has been recharged with my transition into veganism and my interest in animal rights. So, I second Stella’s recommendation (and I think it was, sadly, the first time mentioned on the list, Stella) of The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams. Whenever I read another wrongheaded post on veganism and AR activism on Feministing, I pull my hair wondering why they just don’t read this already.

    I’d also like to add a book that isn’t about feminism per se but really saved and continues to save me from the self-loathing and shame that comes from childhood sexual abuse: The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. When I finally read a few pages for the first time, I started crying in the middle of Barnes and Noble because I’d never read anything that so completely let me off the hook for what happened to me. It places the blame squarely on the abusers but isn’t a knee-jerk, one-sided view of abuse, which was so helpful. It understands the complexity of abuse, particularly since so much sexual abuse occurs, not with stranger molesters lurking in alleyways but within families and amongst people who have some sort of relationship prior to the actual physical abuse taking place. THAT understanding is what saved me and what made sense to me. Additionally, the book and the companion workbook also are full of practical, helpful exercises and you can read as much or as little as a time as you need.

  98. Amy

    * “Woman Hating: A Radical Look at Sexuality” by Andrea Dworkin
    * “My Gender Workbook’ – Kate Bornstein

  99. saikungreader

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the novelist and poet, Marge Piercy.

    I was raised by a 2nd waver feminist mom and read Brownmiller, Ephron, etc. when I was a teen, but it was her novels and poems that really helped me to understand what was going on in my society and among many women and even inside myself. They also helped to provide context for women’s history and struggle.

    Some of my favorite novels by her:

    *Small Changes
    – set in the late 1960s and 1970s, mostly Boston area

    * Braided Lives
    – set in Detroit, Ann Arbor & New York in 1950s – coming of age novel showing how lack of good contraception and illegal abortion, along with so many ridiculous beliefs about women warped and destroyed so many women’s lives

    * Gone to Soldiers
    – historical novel of WWII – most of the characters are women – a factory worker, a woman pilot, a woman resistance fighter, a woman war correspondent.

    *City of Darkness, City of Light
    – Excellent novels of the French Revolution, I didn’t know
    about our feminist foremothers of the 1780s before I read this book.

    * Woman on the Edge of Time

    *He, She, and It

    – Both are great Science Fiction w/ feminist themes. Woman on the Edge of Time has some Shulamith Firestone elements & invented the great non-gendered pronoun “per” (person)

    Her novels address feminist issues, issue of sex and power and politics. They also are good as novels – you want to keep turning the pages.

    Her poetry is also excellent, some of my favorite of her poetry books are:

    *Circles on the Water

    *The Moon is Always Female

    *My Mother’s Body

    Her official website:

  100. Pontiste

    Wow, saikungreader, of course! I can’t believe I (and we all) forgot Marge Piercy. Discovering her sci-fi definitely helped advance my feminist thinking back in high school, and her historical fiction really blew me away. I love her no-nonsense yet sensual poetry, too. Her memoir, Sleeping with Cats, is very good, too.

  101. TinaH

    Oh, another one: Evelyn Reed’s Woman’s Evolution: From Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family. It’s a Marxist feminist work, but served me well as a foundational document and gives you solid grounding in debunking that whole evo/psych crapola.

  102. figleaf

    (Hi Twisty, it’s still me, I’m just switching to a new email address since spamulators pretty consistently don’t like my real URL. –fl)

    In addition to having been pleasantly enlightened by “Dialectics of Sex” (thanks for finally getting me to read it, Twisty) I agree with TwissB that Ehrenreich and English’s “For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women” is pretty eye opening. Alexandra says read Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” and I thought it was fantastic. I just read Amanda Marcotte’s “It’s a Jungle” which has the usual straight-ahead razor-sharp analysis you expect from her combined with awesomely snarky survival suggestions.

    Some other books that haven’t been mentioned:
    Rachel Maines’ “The Technology of Orgasm: ‘Hysteria,’ the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)” is a serious sleeper that digs deeper into the same medical sexism Erenreich and English do, plus a seriously painful-if-you’re-a-man dissection of heteronormativity, phallocentrism, and plain old dude-itude.

    Then there’s Stephanie Coontz’s “Marriage, a History,” which pretty thoroughly dismantles… well… *everybody’s* stereotypes of what “traditional” marriage even was, assuming there ever was such a thing. (Startling but supported claim: the ancient Greeks, while obviously not at all anti-patriarchs, switched to democracy in part to break the hold of then-dominant patterns of alliances through patriarchal marriage. Go figure!)

    I’m not sure Joan Sewell’s “I’d Rather Eat Chocolate” would meet the Twisty separatist standard but it’s a pretty cool, very personal analysis of the “what’s wrong with us/you women’s libido” industry and offers some interesting experiments in asexuality as an alternative to separatism.

    bell hooks’ “Feminism is for Everyone” is great because it’s short, it uses small words, and its pretty accessible to people who want or need a first-time introduction to the variety of ways to get into feminism.

    I don’t know if “Fat is a Feminist Issue” is still respected but when I read it back in the 1980s the unapologetic connection they made between weight, space, presence, and power gave me a heck of a lot to think about.

    And by the way, just before I found this post, Twisty, I mentioned over at my place that I was interested in feminist books that would be suitable for my eight-year-old daughter and, for that matter, eleven-year-old son and their elementary-school classmates. So far I’ve got one person who said her mom gave her easy-reader biographies of first-wave feminists, which is actually a pretty great idea, but other than that it’s been other people saying “hey if you hear of any good ones let me know.” So anyway, even though it’s not necessarily down a spinster aunt’s alley I’m wondering can you recommend some good books or authors for young people?

  103. Merry

    In addition to the works of fiction that my sister, Meghan, listed above, I’d add The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. It has its controversial semantic decisions, but LeGuin’s reexamination of gender is conceptually amazing and incredibly illumination as to the implications of having or not having a womb in this world, among other things.

    I definitely agree with Meghan and some others who mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale, works of fiction are really important too! One of the most awesome papers I’ve written yet for school was on Handmaid’s Tale and LHoD. I would also look up the short fiction of one Meghan McCarron, especially “The Flying Woman.”

  104. Pam in UK

    Excellent list – somehow I seem to have acquired most of these essential reads in the past 30 years – I hope that moving them from one shelf to another gets the content absorbed by osmosis.

    For children’s books, there’s no better source than Letterbox Library, run by a co-operative of women who started up some 25 years ago when then could not find good books for their children. If you’re UK based, please shop there instead of at Medusa.com. Maybe postage would discourage imports to USA, but a unique reference all the same.

    Just found your blog. There goes another hour a week.

  105. rowmyboat

    Totally late to the game here, but I was browsing the site and stumbled in.

    Anyway, I recommend Transforming a Rape Culture, edited by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth. (I always feel like, when ever name-your-favorite-feminist-book lists come up, that I’m the only one who’s ever heard of it.)

    It’s a collection of essays, many by recognizable names, about the existing rape culture and hoping for its demise.

  106. Hedgepig

    What a great post to revive!
    Here’s a couple of books I keep thinking about lately for some reason:
    A Passion for Friends, by Janice Raymond. This deconstructs heteronormativity nicely, and offers some alternatives.

    Witchcraze, by Anne Llewellyn Barstow. This one’s for anyone who thinks women as a group have never been the target of genocide.

  107. Bearded Lady

    “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin
    “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir
    “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture” by Ariel Levy
    “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” by Adrienne Rich in “Blood, Bread, and Poetry”. Norton Paperback: New York 1994.
    Anything by Monique Wittig, particularly her essays “One is Not Born a Woman” and “The Straight Mind”
    “The Woman Identified Woman” by Radicalesbians
    “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa (eds.)
    “Masculinities” by Raewyn/R. W. Connell
    “Hipparchia’s Choice: An Essay Concerning Women, Philosophy, Etc.” by Michele Le Doeuff
    “Patriarchy and Accumulation On A World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour” by Maria Mies
    Anything by Christine Delphy

  108. Felicity

    Delphyne: ‘Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly. A philosophical and practical examination of patriarchy and male supremacy – the book that turned me into a radical feminist. It also has some good jokes’

    Reading this atm and it’s a- mazing. I think Twisty should write an updated, relevant- to- today version of something like this! At the moment we have ‘Noughty Girls’ on the shelves. Yes, *barf*

  109. J1

    For Girls: Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman.” As a girl, this palatable intro to the concept of NOT hating my body was a welcome beacon in the patriarchy.

    Also: OurBodies OurSelves. Again, for burgeoning blamers, this volume (while mayhap invoking nervous giggles) successfully allows the concept that one’s body is not, in fact, vile.

    +++ All Atwood titles, Deborah Tannen’s early work on communication (for those interested in such), Greer’s “Female Eunuch”

  110. M.

    -The Purity Myth
    -He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut

    I recommend these two books [both by Jessica Valenti] because, not only are they interesting and infuriating, but I gave them to a friend who didn’t really see the point of feminism today. These two books set her on the path of patriarchy blaming.

    This book list was a great idea! I look forward to reading some of the ones others have suggested.

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