10 books to read on International Women's Day

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Image: taken from our visual primer for Burn it Down! Feminist Manifestos for the Revolution. Text: taken from The Combahee River Collective Statement (1977), included in Burn it Down!

Prior to its revival by feminist movements in the 70's and its adoption by the UN in 1977, 'Woman's Day' was first recognized in the United States in 1910 following the thirteen week long strike of 20,000 female garment workers. International Women's Day was then recognized by the second Conference of Socialist Women as a means to express internationalism in their struggle. Four years later on this day in Russia, bread riots led by women fed directly into the first moments of the 1917 revolution. International Women's Day has historically been one of protest and collective action.

As International Women's Day has moved further into the mainstream, and away from its political origins, we see the same voices (and ideas) being pushed to the forefront.

Taking International Women's Day back to its radical roots, we bring you 10 books that will broaden your feminist horizons with reading that is anticapitalist, eco-socialist, antiracist, as well as full of rage and defiance.

We need feminist manifestos in all their urgent rawness—their bleeding edge of rage and defiance ignites new and revolutionary possibilities.

The manifesto—raging and wanting, quarreling and provoking—has always played a central role in feminism, and it’s the angry, brash feminism we need now. In this landmark collection spanning three centuries and four waves of feminist activism and writing, Burn It Down! is a testament to what is possible when women are driven to the edge.

Collecting over seventy-five manifestos from around the world, including:

  • “Dyke Manifesto” by the Lesbian Avengers
  • “The Ax Tampax Poem Feministo” by the Bloodsisters Project
  • “The Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft” by Peter Grey
  • “Simone de Beauvoir’s pro-abortion Manifesto of the 343
  • “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female” by Frances M. Beal
  • “The Futurist Manifesto of Lust” by Valentine de Saint-Point
  • “Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary Laws”
  • “Riot Grrrl Manifesto” by Bikini Kill
  • “Anarchy and the Sex Question” by Emma Goldman

Burn it Down! will be available in North America on March 24. Pre-order now for 50% off.

As sex workers face increasing legal threats and decreased safety, this book is more urgent than ever before.

In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.

From three of the organizers of the International Women’s Strike: a manifesto for when “leaning in” is not enough.

Taking as its inspiration the new wave of feminist militancy that has erupted globally, this manifesto makes a simple but powerful case: feminism shouldn’t start—or stop—with the drive to have women represented at the top of their professions. It must focus on those at the bottom, and fight for the world they deserve. And that means targeting capitalism. Feminism must be anticapitalist, eco-socialist and antiracist.

Let us overthrow the “family”.

The surrogacy industry is estimated to be worth over $1 billion a year, and many of its surrogates around the world work in terrible conditions—deception, wage-stealing and money skimming are rife; adequate medical care is horrifyingly absent; and informed consent is depressingly rare. In Full Surrogacy Now, Sophie Lewis brings a fresh and unique perspective to the topic. 

Rather than looking at surrogacy through a legal lens, Lewis argues that the needs and protection of surrogates should be put front and center. Their relationship to the babies they gestate must be rethought, as part of a move to recognize that reproduction is productive work. Only then can we begin to break down our assumptions that children “belong” to those whose genetics they share. 

A genre-defying investigation into sex and lies, desperate artists and reckless politics, the smothering embrace of gender and the punishing force of desire.

Drawing inspiration from a forgotten play by Valerie Solanas—the woman who wrote the SCUM Manifesto and shot Andy Warhol—Andrea Long Chu aims her searing wit and surgical intuition at targets ranging from performance art to psychoanalysis, incels to porn. Each step of the way, she defends the indefensible claim that femaleness is less a biological state and more a fatal existential condition that afflicts the entire human race— men, women, and everyone else. Or maybe she’s just projecting.

A thrilling new voice who has been credited with launching the “second wave” of trans studies, Chu shows readers how to write for your life, baring her innermost self with a morbid sense of humor and a mordant kind of hope.

Charts the history of women’s liberation and calls for a revitalized feminism.

Second Wave feminism emerged as a struggle for women’s liberation and took its place alongside other radical movements. But feminism’s subsequent immersion in identity politics coincided with a decline in its utopian energies and the rise of neoliberalism. Now, foreseeing a revival in the movement, Fraser argues for a reinvigorated feminist radicalism able to address the global economic crisis.

If nature is unjust, change nature!

Injustice should not simply be accepted as “the way things are.” This is the starting point for The Xenofeminist Manifesto, a radical attempt to articulate a feminism fit for the twenty-first century.

Unafraid of exploring the potentials of technology, both its tyrannical and emancipatory possibilities, the manifesto seeks to uproot forces of repression that have come to seem inevitable—from the family, to the body, to the idea of gender itself.

A powerful narrative of Black womens' lives in Britain.

The Heart of the Race is a powerful corrective to a version of Britain’s history from which black women have long been excluded. It reclaims and records black women’s place in that history, documenting their day-to-day struggles, their experiences of education, work and health care, and the personal and political struggles they have waged to preserve a sense of identity and community. First published in 1985 and winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize that year, The Heart of the Race is a testimony to the collective experience of black women in Britain, and their relationship to the British state throughout its long history of slavery, empire and colonialism.

This new edition includes a foreword by Lola Okolosie and an interview with the authors, chaired by Heidi Safia Mirza, focusing on the impact of their book since publication and its continuing relevance today.

A landmark black feminist text.

Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. Michele Wallace blasted the masculine biases of the black politics that emerged from the sixties. She described how women remained marginalized by the patriarchal culture of Black Power, demonstrating the ways in which a genuine female subjectivity was blocked by the traditional myths of black womanhood. With a foreword that examines the debate the book has sparked between intellectuals and political leaders, as well as what has—and, crucially, has not—changed over the last four decades, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman continues to be deeply relevant to current feminist debates and black theory today.

A founding text of transnational feminism.

For twenty-five years, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World has been an essential primer on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of women’s movements in Asia and the Middle East. In this engaging and well-researched survey, Kumari Jayawardena presents feminism as it originated in the Third World, erupting from the specific struggles of women fighting against colonial power, for education or the vote, for safety, and against poverty and inequality.

Journalist and human rights activist Rafia Zakaria’s foreword to this new edition is an impassioned letter in two parts: the first to Western feminists; the second to feminists in the Global South, entreating them to use this “compendium of female courage” as a bridge between women of different nations.