Five Essential Books on Feminism That You Should Read

Books on Feminism BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of BELatina.

“One is not born a woman. One becomes one,” wrote existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir in her seminal work on feminism, “The Second Sex.” Beauvoir explains in her 1949 book how there is “no biological or psychological destiny that defines a woman as such. She’s the product of history, of civilization, first of all, which has resulted in her current status.”

In short, being a woman is a social construct imposed by a masculine, dominant and oppressive system.

If we understand this fundamental principle, we understand that the struggle we observe this March is much bigger than we have imagined. It is a personal, intimate, and sometimes painful deconstruction of what we have been taught to believe that being a woman is.

That is why there is no more powerful weapon than information when faced with such a titanic task. To this end, we have curated a list of five fundamental books on feminism to understand the global scope, specifically in Latin America, where extra layers of complexity are involved in being a woman. 

In this vast territory, being a woman implies a mortality rate due to gender violence, a more accentuated precariousness, and a heteropatriarchal system that we could argue is much more toxic.

To combat it, these are our weapons:

“La culpa en la mujer. Una emancipación pendiente,” by Piedad Ruiz Castillo

La culpa en la mujer. Una emancipación pendiente, by Piedad Ruiz Castillo BELatina Latinx

“Since Eve, guilt has a woman’s name (…) The woman is a mother, cares, loves, and desires, and is condemned to guilt because of it. Can we affirm that this is already the past? What traces remain?” asks clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Piedad Ruiz Castillo in her book “Guilt in women: A pending emancipation.”

A work “addressed to all women in general and to victims of gender violence in particular, and to all professionals who, from the different institutional devices, welcome these women, whether in social services, psychological care or in the police or judicial field,” as the author explained to Efeminista.

“Antología Feminista,” by Lastesis

Antología Feminista, by Lastesis BELatina Latinx

The Chilean collective Lastesis gives voice in this anthology to women artists, philosophers, and essayists who have marked the history of art, culture, and thought and who, in turn, served as inspiration for the collective’s performances. In it, the gazes of Mary Wollstonecraft, Judith Butler, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Lina Meruane, among others, intertwine.

“When we were invited to make a feminist anthology, we could not refuse the possibility of presenting our own vision of feminisms,” the collective said.

Much has been written about feminism, but in this case, “the challenge, however, was to deliver our gaze: who are the fundamental, basal, indispensable women and men who have cemented our path in feminism.”

“Hood Feminism,” by Mikki Kendall

Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall BELatina Latinx

For American activist, essayist, and cultural critic Mikki Kendall “being a feminist is an action, it is not just an identity.” She explains so in her book, “Hood Feminism. Notes From the Women White Feminists Forgot,” in which she criticizes mainstream feminism, which, she asserts, has failed to integrate issues of race, class, and sexual orientation into the struggle.

Kendall tells through her own experiences why hunger, violence, hypersexualization, homelessness, and meeting basic needs must also be addressed as a feminist issue.

“Awakening,” by Rachel Vogelstein and Meighan Stone

Awakening, by Rachel Vogelstein and Meighan Stone BELatina Latinx

“Awakening” echoes personal stories from different cultures and walks of life about women inspired by the #MeToo movement. It chronicles a global movement that forever changed the way women organize and fight against sexual violence and discrimination. “Awakening” sheds light on the feminist struggle in countries where being a woman is more challenging, such as Brazil, China, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Pakistan, but also in more egalitarian societies, such as Sweden.

“Revolt of the Whores,” by Amelia Tiganus

Revolt of the Whores, by Amelia Tiganus BELatina Latinx

Romanian feminist activist, Amelia Tiganus, gives a critical chronography of prostitution, explaining its economic and political connotations. 

“The exploitation of women’s and girls’ bodies, because there are more and more girls and in fact, the average entry into the prostitution system is 13 years old, has become a multinational. And we have to analyze that at a global level, this is related to economic and political movements,” she said in an interview with Efeminista.

Tiganus speaks from her experience in prostitution, having been sold at the age of 17 to a Spanish pimp and having gone through more than 40 brothels in five years in the first prostitution-consuming country in Europe.