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my top six for a feminist reading fix

February 11, 2010

I received an email from a former student asking for references regarding ethnicity, pop culture and identity. As I culled through my citations I reminisced over all those books that impacted my thinking in meaningful ways. I decided to share some of them with you.

These are the six books that have most shaped my own feminist thinking. I don’t claim they are the most representative of feminist literature. They all came into my life at different times and all made different impacts on my thinking in important ways. I have the books listed below with a little blurb accompanying each as to why I think it’s so great.

This compilation-post seems like such a good idea that I hope to regularly post similar lists from others who are actively involved in the animal rights and feminist communities. I know a top-six list is a little unconventional. It just so happens that I hate almost every prime number, so a top-five list was out 😉

In alphabetical order by author…

Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol Adams

I read this book after a friend told me if I was really a feminist I would be a strict vegetarian too (at the time I went by the label “pescatarian”). This book made me despise all feminists who wear fur and cringe when animal rights activists call people “douche bags.” Oh, and I became vegan right after reading it…

Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body, Susan Bordo

I encountered this book toward the beginning of my graduate career. It shaped the way I thought about women and the body and lead me to a lot of fun reading and research. For the next three years my studies centered on the body and I developed and regularly teach a course on the body.

Sexing the Body, Anne Fausto-Sterling

This book brought me from acknowledging that not only is gender socially constructed but a binary system of sex categorization is socially constructed as well. Fausto-Sterling used her background in biology, a deep historical analysis and sociological world-view to break it down and blow my mind!

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, bell hooks

This will be one of the most inspired and inspiring feminist texts you ever read. Some of these ideas seem common now, but they started here! It puts into place the necessity of understanding intersectionality (the idea that there are multiple oppressions that work simultaneously). It also made me realize that academic-speak is not for the masses and a true feminism needs to speak to everyone (hence a blog- though the limitations on this medium are noted!)

Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Catherine MacKinnon

Around the same time as Unbearable Weight came into my life so did MacKinnon’s work. It happened in a contemporary theory seminar my first year of graduate school. As soon as I read the idea that under patriarchy all sex is a form of patriarchal domination I was hooked. Actually, I was hell-bent on combating her. In the end, though, this sex-loving-heterosexual-feminist agreed. (And agreeing didn’t ruin my sex life, so don’t be scared, friends, give MacKinnon a try; and if Toward a Feminist Theory of the State is too harsh, her collected talks, Feminism Unmodified, is more digestible).

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, Adrienne Rich in Blood, Bread and Poetry

It’s short, just read it and soak it up!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Kirwan permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:41 pm

    Valian ‘Why So Slow the Advancement of Women’

  2. Peter Kirwan permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:53 pm

    “under patriarchy all sex is a form of patriarchal domination”

    i had heard of this before and will read a short article at some point. It is strangely impressive to take as your thesis what to most people is a reductio ad absurdum in itself. From what i’ve heard she takes the informed consent route to the conclusion. If so all that shows is that, as many have suspected for a long time, informed consent really isn’t a good standard.

    • February 12, 2010 9:43 am

      she is usually quoted as saying “all sex is rape.” if i remember correctly those weren’t her exact words- though i am traveling and nowhere near a copy of the books so i can’t double check. in any case, her point as i understand it (and it took me many reads and a lot of time to begin to think i understood it) is that in a system premised on men dominating women (particularly through sex and sexuality) we can’t do anything in the sack that doesn’t reify that domination. this is true even if we are not heterosexual, since all of our understandings of sex are entrenched in a society that devalues women and their sexuality.
      i worry about your hypothesis that informed consent isn’t a good standard. it can lead to the idea that it is unnecessary- though i don’t know if that is what you are implying. informed consent needs to be the basic minimum standard.

  3. Peter Kirwan permalink
    February 12, 2010 9:58 pm

    look consent is obviously crucial to sex. What i’m saying is that the doctrine of INFORMED consent doesn’t work very well theoretically speaking, it’s not clear how to easily fix it and it should be replaced by something else. What that something else is i have no idea though.

  4. Peter Kirwan permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:00 pm

    oh and you could probably check for it on google books or amazon. I use the search functions on those a lot.

  5. October 2, 2011 6:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing this list! You’re such a well-informed, astute person, so I value your opinion. I love bell hooks. Her trilogy of books on love are profound. Her book Feminism is for Everybody is one of my favorites to share with people who are new to feminism. It’s like a summary of all her concepts in one concise book. I’ve read some of MacKinnon’s opinions on pornography before, but have yet to read any of her books. I look forward to reading the books you shared.

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