There are loads of brilliant, empowering non-fiction books about feminism, gender, sexuality, modern girlhood and womanhood kicking about at the moment. When I’m reading them though, I can’t help but feel that the way they are being marketed is pretty limiting. Their titles and the narrative voices are very much talking to young girls and women, in fact some of them say “ladies, or gents, hello you if you’re reading!” with a tone of surprise. We know that feminism benefits everyone but in the words of Emma Watson: “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”
I’m not suggesting these books need to be written just for men. Here’s my idea. A couple of years ago after I finished reading a collection of feminist essays I wrapped it back up and gave it to my dad for Father’s Day. While it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped because I needed the book and took it off to France with me before he had a chance to read it, I think the theory behind it wasn’t too awful.
So here are some books I’ve read and thought, “hey, my dad should read this” – maybe your dad should too. Many of our fathers are already feminists, mine is, but let’s not stop there. These books make the perspectives of young women facing sexism really clear and sharing these perspectives with others can only be positive. And what other time is better to give them a little femducation than Father’s Day, fast approaching on 18 June.
I Call Myself A Feminist: The View From Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty
Edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Moss, this book is the book I wrapped up for my dad in 2015. It is a stunning collection of essays about the motivations for and of the feminist movement. But I am a woman under thirty, I know why I call myself a feminist – let’s instead give these essays to the fathers of women under thirty. My favourite of the essays is Alice Stride’s ‘This is NOT a feminist rant’. I quote the following passage often, I think it’s a really eloquent explanation of how sexism is engrained in language:
“I’d wager that the phrase ‘it’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it’ – typically thought of as a ‘woman’s phrase’ – IS such because years of patriarchy has made women hyper-aware of the way things are said to them. We’ve had to absorb sexist bullshit like a never-ending lady sponge since the beginning of time; of COURSE we are supremely sensitive to the nuances of it” – Alice Stride.
How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
This is probably the most obvious book to put on the list. Despite the title I still think this much celebrated book by the genius and hilarious Caitlin Moran, has a lot to offer men. I say this because of the success of her article in Esquire magazine for International Women’s Day 2016. The article is the most popular they have ever published – how crazy is that? Hell, if your dad can’t be bothered to read her whole book, just email him a link to the article. Every time I give the article or the book to a guy they come back saying “that is brilliant, I had no idea but actually feminism is so simple”.
GIRL UP – Laura Bates
I blogged about this recently, and how it is a really brilliant guide to the complexities of being a girl or young woman, but I didn’t learn anything new because I’m almost able to declare that I have survived the trauma of girlhood. It’s a brilliant book for teenage girls and I reckon their dads could learn a lot from it too.
Fifty Shades of Feminism
Edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach this collection of essays is a bit like I Call Myself a Feminist, some names will even be familiar, except there are more essays and they cover a broader discussion of feminism. The writers come from very different walks of life and from various places. It brilliantly demonstrates how feminism doesn’t just mean A, B and C, it can also mean different things to different people. From Shami Chakrabarti and Kate Mosse to Elaine Showalter and Meera Syal, the book drifts from academia to NGOs to the arts and beyond, to explore the nature of and need for feminism.
Animal – Sara Pascoe
Dads love Sara Pascoe. Well they should. You’ll recognise her face from comedy panel shows like Mock the Week, but her first book gives you a totally different insight into a new (but still hilarious) side of Pascoe and her exploration of the female body, feminism and relationships. I talk about it briefly in another blog, but I highly recommend Animal. It is an incredibly interesting, funny and informative book.