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The 10 Best Gender Equality Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

The 10 Best Gender Equality Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

The fight for gender equality is perhaps as old as human civilization itself. But the women’s suffrage movement in the 20th century can be considered one of the pivotal points of the fight for gender equality. Precluding women from voting could not be ignored. The fight to claim universal suffrage was more than just that. It was a fight against decades of systemic discrimination against women.

What followed is history. Many women have championed this through their writings. They have written books based on long and arduous research. These books are a source of strength, inspiration and an account of what it took to be where we are now. In this article, we have the ten best gender equality books.

They cover everything from making the oral contraceptive pill to discussing the hijab. We have carefully picked these books to represent cultures from around the world. Because while speaking of gender equality, we mustn’t get trapped in a single narrative. The mainstream, mostly white representation of gender equality does not fit the bill anymore.

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 Gender seldom presents as a sole issue. It is almost always interlaced with other social perils like race, literacy, caste, and economic status. The authors of our selected books tackle this complex and messy intersectionality. Some of these books also serve as time capsules. Even if a few issues are irrelevant now, it is intriguing to see what women who came before us have gone through.

Many of these books were an act of revolution. Being a woman, writing for women about empowering women must not have been easy. They were products of courage and rebellion. These are the women (and men) who questioned the status quo. Who wouldn’t want to read their work? Take your time with this list and pick out the books that speak to you. Or do one better and just read all of them! We are sure you will love every word.

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Don't have time to read them all? Why not try listening to them? Audible is a great platform for listening to audiobooks because it offers a wide selection of books, including bestsellers and exclusive content. With Audible, you can listen to your favorite books on-the-go, whether you're commuting, working out, or doing household chores.

The Audible app also has features like adjustable narration speed, a sleep timer, and the ability to create bookmarks, making it easy to customize your listening experience. Additionally, Audible offers a membership program that gives members access to a certain number of audiobooks per month, making it a cost-effective option for avid listeners. 

A great resource for people who want to maximize their time and make the most out of their daily activities. Try a free 30-day trial from Audible today, and you'll get access to a selection of Audible Originals and audiobooks, along with a credit to purchase any title in their premium selection, regardless of price (including many of the books on this list!) 

For ebook lovers, we also recommend Scribd, basically the Netflix for Books and the best and most convenient subscription for online reading. While they have a catalog comprising over half a million books including from many bestselling authors, for some of the books on this list, you'll still have to purchase individually - either as a paperback or eBook to load on your Kindle - due to publishing house restrictions. 

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The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

In this book, Betty Friedan tackled a problem that had no name until then. There was a peremptory belief in the post-World War II society that women would attain the greatest fulfillment in domestic chores and childcare. She called these nearly unattainable standards for womanly behavior- the feminine mystique.

The simmering dissatisfaction among American women confined to a supposedly blissful life found voice in Friedan’s words. She argued that for women, just like men, identity was based on personal achievement, primarily through a career. Impairing a woman’s ability to pursue one would prevent her from forming a healthy sense of self.

She also draws on the political atmosphere that catalyzed this change. During the Cold War, the ideal American nuclear family was an ideological battle against the Soviet Union. Women who had taken up their husbands’ jobs during the war had to return to more suitable female roles.

Another crucial observation that Friedman makes is how many women thought this was their problem. Without avenues to vent or talk about their frustration, they imagined that they alone were experiencing those emotions.

Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique is a classic translated into over a dozen languages and sold over three million copies! Friedman draws on many sources- academic data and personal interviews of housewives from the time. But she does not make the book a dry, esoteric read. It remains a personal and powerful story of systemically stunted women. A must-read for all the feminists out there!

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan - Best Gender Equality Books

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The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig

This is the story of how the oral contraceptive pill came about. Believe it or not, birth control was not all the rage in the early 20th century as it is now. Initially, there was no contraceptive pill, just one woman with a vision. Margaret Sanger lost her mother after giving birth for the 11th time!

While working as a nurse on the Lower East Side, she witnessed the suffering of immigrant women with large families. She founded Planned Parenthood to give women agency over their bodies. However, this story also features three other protagonists. We have Gregory Pincus, a brilliant scientist who got kicked out of Harvard in the 1930s due to his experimentation on in-vitro fertilization.

There’s Katherine McCormick, one of the first women to graduate from MIT and the sole recipient of her late husband’s fortune. She bankrolled Sanger and Pincus through the development of the pill. Finally, Dr. John Rock, a Catholic ob-gyn, thought it was not against religion to prevent pregnancy. Jonathan Eig captures the monumental work done by these four people in fashioning the birth control pill.

Eig makes this a compelling narrative full of unexpected twists. For instance, when first presented to the FDA, the pill was billed as an infertility drug regulating hormones so women could get pregnant once they got off it! He also highlights how fear of population explosion was a driver in the acceptance of the pill more than a woman’s control over her body.

The Birth of the Pill is a precious book that makes for an enjoyable and educational read! 

The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig - Best Gender Equality Books

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Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

This is not a conspiracy theory. This book is about women being dished out second-hand treatment and how we got there. The author, Caroline Criado Perez, shows us that poor treatment of women is not due to some mysterious, formless entity we call evil patriarchy but very clear decisions made over the years.

And most, if not all, of these decisions, have been made by men. Often men do not make these decisions to harm women; they do because they are in decision-making positions and don’t know better. And don’t care to.

Did you know that drugs almost exclusively designed for women are tested almost exclusively on men? Women are actively excluded from any drug trials. Why, you ask? Because the changing hormones in a woman’s body make it trickier for the drug to pass the test. This book contains infuriating facts like these. Perez attributes the lack of data to the issues plaguing women today.

Most systems like public transport, cars, and hospitals were all built by men, for men. They automatically exclude the other half of the population. Perez makes a compelling point for a top-down approach to feminist reform. She also addresses the intersection of race with feminism as well. 

Invisible Women is a book that will bring your blood to boil for all the right reasons. We should all be angry about how the systems are inherently exclusive and detrimental to women. Pick this up for a healthy dose of feminist rage!

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez - Best Gender Equality Books

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Betraying the Big Brother by Leta Hong Fincher

This book tells the story of the infamous Feminist Five in China. On March 7, 2015, these five women were arrested for planning to distribute stickers that spoke up about sexual harassment on public transport. They were imprisoned for 37 days and released only after immense global pressure. Leta Hong Fincher writes in detail about each one of the Feminist Five.

She uses them as a gateway into the larger feminist movement brewing in China. Fincher writes about the role of social media in encouraging grassroots activism. She does not shy away from the role of the Chinese Communist Party in crushing dissent on online platforms by using complex censorship methods. There are chapters on the horrific physical and psychological violence against women in China.

She also touches upon the LGBT community and their struggles in a conservative country. However, it is not all glib. There are lawyers, activists and ordinary people rebelling against the patriarchal government.

We see how the country’s lack of the rule of law makes it nearly impossible to put up a fair fight. Fincher gives us enough context throughout the book. Even if you are not extremely familiar with feminism or politics in China, you will be able to follow the book. 

This is a great book to understand what gender equality means in different parts of the world. In a country where most mainstream social media platforms are banned, and all online content is heavily monitored, feminist expression can look very different. Fincher’s well-researched, detailed writing makes this a very informational, albeit shocking, read. 

Betraying the Big Brother by Leta Hong Fincher - Best Gender Equality Books

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Mapping Dalit Feminism by Aninditha Pan

In this book, Aninditha Pan writes about the intersectionality of gender and caste in India. The caste system in India can be understood as a mix of race and class. Dalits are at the bottom of the ladder, historically labeled as untouchables. She draws on Black feminism to explore intersectionality.

Just like black women were largely marginalized from the mainstream feminist movement in the US, Dalit women were left out of the feminist movement in India. Pan argues that Dalit women’s challenges are much more urgent and nuanced than those of upper-caste, educated women in India. She also brings to light the use of sexual violence against Dalit women as a tool of oppression.

She accuses the feminist movement of leaving out Dalit women and the Dalit movement of being patriarchal. She analysis multiple autobiographies to understand how Dalit women build their identity as opposed to other Indian women. While Dalit autobiographies are few and far between, Pan picks up Dalit characters from literature for analysis.

This is a powerful exploration of intersectionality in feminism. The book emphasizes that women are not one homogenous unit with uniform needs. Mapping Dalit Feminism is an important account of the intersectionality of gender with other social constraints like caste, race or class. While all the major feminist movements were well-meaning, they were led by the majority. Many women were unfortunately excluded from being represented. 

Pick this book up to foray into the feminist movement from the other side of the globe.

Mapping Dalit Feminism by Aninditha Pan - Best Gender Equality Books


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It’s Not About the Burqa by Mariam Khan

A stereotypical Muslim woman is a timid, pliable person imprisoned in a burqa. But many Muslim women beg to differ. In this collection of essays, Mariam Khan sets out to claim the narrative of a Muslim woman from those who have snatched it from them. She observed that most people talking about Muslim women were neither female nor Muslim.

On a quest to restore the voice to its rightful owners, she interviewed 17 Muslim women on various topics. They get candid about love, divorce, queer identity, the intersectionality of race, religion and gender, representation and more. This anthology breaks the monolithic notion of Muslim women. It shows them as a kaleidoscope of unique, diverse and brilliant individuals.

We hear stories of women who are devout followers of their faith and those who aren’t as much. There are stories of Black Muslim women, bisexual women, women from different careers, and more, ensuring that we get a sample of just how different each is from another. These highly personal and poignant essays will surely take you on a roller coaster of emotions.

Contrary to the popular depiction of Muslim women, these stories add layers and depth to their personalities. It is an inspiring portrayal of women navigating their faith and identity in the 21st century. Their bravery and perseverance are commendable.

Many issues Muslim women face are made to be about their hijab. Khan dares you to delve deeper and look at the more pressing issues than the hijab. It’s Not About the Burqa is a powerful collection of essays that will inspire you!

It’s Not About the Burqa by Mariam Khan - Best Gender Equality Books

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Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

We all know feminism addresses child care, pay parity, and sexual harassment. But did you know that housing, food and education can be linked to feminism as well? Through her book Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall shines a light on black women’s obstacles in availing of basic amenities.

She accuses the major feminist movements of serving only white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, privileged women. Kendall advocates that feminism needs cannot ignore poverty, gun violence, and subpar medical care that haunts the African American community. She repeatedly stresses the ultimate goal of feminism- equality for all. And the only way to achieve this is to include every single woman in the process.

Kendall writes emphatically about the need to have multiple voices instead of one claiming to know what’s best for everyone. She astutely combines personal anecdotes from her life with statistics to craft a touching story while also making a compelling point.

This book is not an easy read. Kendall does not shy away from difficult truths or mince words. Her brutal honesty only makes this book the enlightening read it is. It is a testament to Kendall’s writing that she never takes an accusatory tone. She strives to break down the facts and make an unrelenting argument for more inclusive feminism. 

Hood Feminism is a great book for those starting to understand the intersectional play of race and gender equality.

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall - Best Gender Equality Books

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My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem is an iconic American feminist. In My Life on the Road, Steinem narrates fascinating tales of her travel and activism. The book starts with her upbringing. Her father was a traveling salesman who could never stay put. Steinem recalls accompanying him as a child, and it’s safe to say that’s how she caught the travel bug.

However, Steinem’s childhood was not a walk in the park. Her parents’ divorce, her mother’s illness and financial instability left a mark on the little girl. But she never blames her father for leaving; she only speaks of him with love, respect and gratitude for his kindness.

Steinem proceeds to write about her time on the road. She attributes her unwavering hope and energy to travel. Having been on the move for nearly two decades, she tells us how traveling came naturally to her. This is not a book that glorifies Steinem or her experiences. It is a very down-to-earth account of the people she has met, her experiences, and the lessons learned while on the road.

There is also a chapter about the time she campaigned for various political candidates. Steinem writes engaging stories of the people she met on her travels, those who inspired and touched her with their stories.

The book is less about Steinem and more about the amazing men and women she met on the road. There are conversations with taxi drivers, flight attendants, college students, truck drivers, and waitresses, to name a few.

Reading My Life on the Road is like sitting with a friend to listen to their life experiences. Curl up with this book for a perfect lazy weekend!

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem - Best Gender Equality Books

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Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism by Laura Bates

If anyone ever feels or says that feminism isn’t as pressing in the 21st century, they need to read this book. The author, Laura Bates, started the Everyday Sexism Project on Twitter, where she encourages women and men to share their experiences with sexism. Some real-life examples of sexism find their way into this book, making a strong case for feminism.

Bates starts by explaining what feminism is and why we continue to need it. This book stands out because Bates does not base her views on her opinions and feelings. She backs them up with data from relevant studies. And examples. Beyond the tweets, Bates also includes many examples of everyday sexism from many scenarios. Dating, work, media and more. When looked at in isolation, these displays of sexism might seem minor.

But Bates brings them all together to make the point that they are part of a bigger, discriminatory attitude towards women. Bates is from Britain and writes heavily about the sexism that British women experience. However, she ensures that it does not become a single narrative. She draws on examples from other parts of the world and includes stories of women from other races and social circles.

In this collection of columns, Laura Bates includes discussion and advice pieces with a few humorous top-ten lists thrown in! This is the sort of book that will have you returning to it. Some of the essays might make more sense as you have new experiences. An engaging and entertaining read for anyone who lives on this planet. 

Misogynation The True Scale of Sexism by Laura Bates - Best Gender Equality Books


Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly

Women are angry for a very good reason. But they are told to hide or mitigate it somehow instead of understanding and expressing it. In this groundbreaking book, Soraya Chemaly encourages women to channel their rightful anger to fashion better lives for themselves. She argues that society’s belittlement of women’s anger is a tool to take away their power and agency.

She emphasizes that anger is good. It can serve as a radar for injustice and an unmatched catalyst for change. Chemaly starts at the beginning- childhood. She contrasts how girls and boys are brought up very differently. Anger is tolerated and, in some cultures, even encouraged in boys. In the same breath, nearly every culture touts anger as an unbecoming trait for a girl.

Women repress anger throughout their lives. We all know women who cry when angry, don’t we? Women are not taught what to do with the years of rage inside them except to push it further down. And smile while doing that. Bates states that this unhealthy coping mechanism might cause mental health issues in the long run.

She reiterates that not understanding feminine rage is nothing to gain and everything to lose. Women all around the world are angry. Anger can be a monumental tool for all women to empathize and support each other.

Rage Becomes Her is changing the perception and conversations around angry women. In a world where women are expected to be nice, warm, and welcoming, the book allows women to be angry. If you advocate for gender equality, you wouldn’t want to miss this one!

The 10 Best Gender Equality Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

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