Understanding women’s history; the psychological, biological, social, political and economic struggles females have faced throughout the centuries, and that led to women’s oppression and gender inequality is crucial to be able to change females’ role in our society.
- The Second Sex, Vol; 1 & 2, by Simone De Beauvoir
It is probably the most iconic literary work on feminism.
De Beauvoir examines in two captivating volumes the origins of females’ reality, explaining why are women considered inferior and what have been the consequences of such a perception from men’s standpoint. The author then describes the world as it is proposed to and experienced by women, thus enabling readers to have a deep understanding of the difficulties faced by females.
Drawing in history, biology, sociology, psychology and anthropology, The Second Sex is as important and relevant today as when it was first issued in 1949.
2. A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft
Published in 1792, A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women is undoubtedly the first groundbreaking piece of feminist literature. Wollstonecraft wrote a plea for women’s education as the sole tool to their liberation from men’s oppression; arguing that women are brought up with the ultimate goal to please men and take care of the household; they are encouraged to appear delicate, sentimental, without any strength of soul and body. The author claims that habits such as exaggerated sensitivity and gallantry harm greatly the possibility of any equality of the sexes. Only a common education between boys and girls, founded on the exercise of the mind could possibly establish true and lasting gender equality.
3. A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room Of One’s Own was based on two college lectures given by the author in 1928, after Woolf had been asked to speak on the topic of Women and Fiction.
She blames females’ lack of education and freedom for their alienation; arguing that because women were denied the required environment that would have allowed them to express their genius, they were reduced to live their daily routine.
“Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no lock, no bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”, she pens.
Woolf states that only financial independence and freedom from cultural restrictions could render women independent.
4. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
“The problem that has no name”. That is how Friedan describes women’s unhappiness in the 1950s. Despite living in material comfort and being married with children, females were not satisfied with their lives and felt they needed more, without being able to pinpoint what was missing in their lives.
The author analyzes the role played by magazines, which were run by men for the most part, in spreading the image of the happy housewife or the unhappy careerist, thus creating the “Feminine Mystique” and encouraging women to stick to their status of housewives and mothers.
5. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
In The Beauty Myth, Wolf discusses unattainable beauty standards and women’s relationship with their body. She argues that at a time where females have become financially independent and despite the power they may have in society nowadays, low self-esteem issues due to beauty tyranny created by media are more relevant than ever.