This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saswati Chatterjee. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

8 Books To Get You Started On Your Feminist Journey

More from Saswati Chatterjee

Sometimes, the hardest part of feminism is remembering how much you can get wrong (and that’s okay! Getting it wrong is how we learn) and to that end, I’ve spent a lot of time reading up and around the subject.

What exactly are ‘feminist’ books? Is it possible to have books which entirely explain the concept of feminism through and through by themselves? If there’s anything that can be certain about as diverse a movement as this, it is that people everywhere will have different interpretations and ways of looking upon it. These can range from the expansive (covering trans rights, reproductive rights, black women’s right etc) to the extremely narrow, leading to confusion. Understandable since feminism is in itself a form of political theory and deserves a study in its own right.

Here’s a list of books which I feel is a good introduction to the world of feminist literature.

‘Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics’ by bell hooks

If there’s ever a word which brings strong emotions to the table, its feminism. Throughout history, be it the first wave, second wave or third wave, feminism has prompted strong reactions, both for and against it. In all the noise, the common message is sometimes lost, sometimes misunderstood. bell hooks brings to the table this feminism that people sometimes miss and talks about the hardest hitting topics (abortion, violence, race etc) in a manner so as to introduce their relevance not just for women but for everyone. Highly recommended as a beginner text for anybody wanting to grasp the basics of feminism.

‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ by Mary Wollstonecraft

The title is a heavy one and understandably so. But before you get scared off, it is recommended that you give it a try. Considered as one of the seminal texts of feminist theory (or Women Studies), Mary Wollstonecraft’s text talks about the role of women in the developing world and how they can be much more than mere ‘wives’. She is among the first to discuss the idea of regarding women as mere ornamentation and not human beings by themselves. Written in the 18th century, it is a political treatise whose ideas still hold strong today. For trivia hunters out there, Wollstonecraft is also the mother of another renowned female author: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin also known as Mary Shelley, author of the first science fiction novel Frankenstein.

‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf

Not so much a book as a fairly large series of essays/lectures, this is also considered another great classic. Woolf explores the meaning of women’s space, especially women’s space in a largely man centered world. It takes the idea of a room both literally and figuratively, i.e., a room as space for women writers and also literally a room for women to write- women need money and the luxury to write, both which can come with a room of their own. It still rings true now and is a fascinating read to boot, so don’t miss it.

‘Protector of the Small’ by Tamora Pierce

Adding a dose of fiction to the so far heavy-on-theory list, Tamora Pierce’s Young Adult Novels are a joy to read for both young and older readers. While Pierce has always been known for her strong female protagonists, she particularly shines in the Protector of the Small series which introduces Keladry of Mindelan, one of the first female knights in a realm of male knights. Set in a fantasy, the series tackles very real issues from menstruation to pregnancy and how Keladry deals with becoming the first female knight of her generation.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood

Set in a dystopian future, The Handmaid’s Tale examines a world in which women and their bodies have becomes literal objects of subjugation (one of the characters is named ‘Offred – Of Fred’- in other words, she has no identity beyond that of the man who owns her). The result is a brilliant work of speculative fiction and one of the best feminist novels of our time. It was also the winner of the first Arthur C. Clarke award and was also nominated for the Nebula and the Booker.

‘The Madwoman in the Attic’ by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

A discussion of Victorian literature from a feminist perspective, Gilbert and Gubar both offer their take on the concept of madness among women, especially the age old concept of ‘hysteria’. The title is taken from Jane Eyre where Mr. Rochester’s first wife Bertha is kept locked up in the attic because she’s mad. Women in certain roles have always been dismissed or had this form of madness ‘hoisted’ upon them. They become the titular ‘madwoman’. Even if the analysis is considered a little dated now, it’s still well worth a read.

‘The Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir

A book which ends up in the Vatican’s list of prohibited books should be worth looking at. ‘The Second Sex’ is a text written during Second Wave Feminism (and many consider it the starting point). In this book (published in two parts) Beauvoir examines the woman’s body, her sexuality and her role in society through the lenses of history starting from the Dark Ages up till the time of which she is writing. She examines the ideas of many famous thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Engels, and Alfred Adler (to name a few) and traces the path of women’s movements from the domestic sphere to the public sphere. ‘The Second Sex’ covers a vast range of topics right from economic production to menstruation and is worth reading simply for its sheer breadth of information.

‘The Colour Purple’ by Alice Walker

Rounding off this list with one of the most beloved yet frequently targeted books of the last century, ‘The Colour Purple’ continues to move people young and old alike. Walker takes on a range of topics in her story about Celie, a young black woman in the rural South. Celie is black, poor, uneducated and a woman – a recipe for absolute oppression. But despite all of this, she holds her own and survives and emerges victorious at the end of the novel. Walker discusses many so called ‘taboo’ topics in the novel right from lesbian relationships, to menstruation to pedophilia, domestic abuse, rape and yet through its very lense on reality, does ‘The Colour Purple’ become one of the most hard hitting and feminist novels of our age.

This list not meant to be an exhaustive reading of feminist texts. There’s a whole world of books out there for people to read and enjoy. For further reading I would recommend, other works of the authors given above (such as Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series) as well as texts as Alison Bechdel’s graphic novels and comics such as ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ and ‘Are You My Mother?’, You may know Bechdel from the famous Bechdel test, a test for gender bias in films. Other books include Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ which is considered by many as one of the first feminist stories as well as a discourse on women’s mental health and the evergreen Jane Austen (‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’).

You must be to comment.

More from Saswati Chatterjee

Similar Posts

By Charkha Features

By Raghavendra

By Samadrita Chowdhuri

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below