Reading List

Feminism and Gender: Verso Student Reading

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Below are some of the most influential feminist polemics of recent years; a mix of foundational texts in critical and left feminist traditions with contemporary books on sex work, technofeminism, abolition and empire. Books demand a Feminism without borders, one that is both anti-rascist and anticapitalist. 

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In Feminist City, through history, personal experience and popular culture Leslie Kern exposes what is hidden in plain sight: the social inequalities built into our cities, homes, and neighborhoods. Kern offers an alternative vision of the feminist city. 

The most comprehensive collection of feminist manifestos, chronicling our rage and dreams from the nineteenth century to today.

Through interviews with key revolutionary scholars, Bhandar and Ziadah present a thorough discussion of how anti-racist, anti-capitalist feminisms are crucial to building effective political coalitions. Collectively, these interviews with leading scholars including Angela Y. Davis, Silvia Federici, and many others, trace the ways in which black, indigenous, post-colonial and Marxian feminisms have created new ways of seeing, new theoretical frameworks for analysing political problems, and new ways of relating to one another. 

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. 

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Global in scope, The Verso Book of Feminism shows the breadth of feminist protest and of feminist thinking, moving through the female poets of China’s Tang Dynasty to accounts of indigenous women in the Caribbean resisting Columbus’s expedition, British suffragists militating for the vote to the revolutionary pétroleuses of the 1848 Paris Commune, the first-century Trung sisters who fought for the independence of Nam Viet to women in 1980s Botswana fighting for equal protection under the law, from the erotica of the sixth century and the ninteenth century to radical queer politics in the twentieth and twenty-first. 

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Aside from Mary Prince, enslaved West Indian women had few opportunities to record their stories for posterity. Yet from their dusty footprints and the umpteen small clues they left for us to unravel, there’s no question that they earned their place in history. Pick any Caribbean island and you’ll find race, skin colour and rank interacting with gender in a unique and often volatile way. Moreover, the evidence points to a distinctly female role in the development of a culture of slave resistance—a role that was not just central, but downright dynamic. 

The first time Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres met the journalist Nina Lakhani, Cáceres said, ‘The army has an assassination list with my name at the top. I want to live, but in this country there is total impunity. When they want to kill me, they will do it.’ In 2015, Cáceres won the Goldman Prize, the world’s most prestigious environmental award, for leading a campaign to stop construction of an internationally funded hydroelectric dam on a river sacred to her Lenca people. Less than a year later she was dead. 

What if we took sex out of the box marked “special,” the contents of which are either the worst or best thing a person can experience, and considered it within the complexity of human life in general? In this extraordinary book, and in defiance of the long-standing media obsessions that turn every sexual topic into a morality tale of monsters and victims, shame and virtue, journalist JoAnn Wypijewski does exactly that. 

A feminist critique of racist feminisms

How can we learn to value difference when it is too often enlisted in the service of domination? Hark and Villa make a compelling case for the urgent necessity for a detoxification of feminism as a matter of urgency, and for an ethical mode of living-with the world, that is, living with alterity.

Drawing inspiration from a forgotten play by Valerie Solanas—the woman who wrote the SCUM Manifesto and shot Andy Warhol—Chu aims her searing wit and surgical intuition at targets ranging from performance art to psychoanalysis, incels to porn. She even has a few barbs reserved for feminists like herself. 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. 

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In this collection of new and previously published writings, leading activists, feminists, scholars, and writers describe the shape of the problem, chart the forms refusal has taken, and outline possible solutions. Importantly, they also describe the longer histories of organizing against sexual violence that the #MeToo moment obscures—among working women, women of color, undocumented women, imprisoned women, poor women, among those who don’t conform to traditional gender roles—and discern from these practices a freedom that is more than notional, but embodied and uncompromising. 

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.

In the era of #MeToo and mass incarceration, The Feminist and the Sex Offender makes a powerful feminist case for accountability without punishment and sexual safety and pleasure without injustice. 

 A pocket colour manifesto for a new futuristic feminism.

A bold, honest and unflinching look at the way we talk and think about rape.

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. Often, we think of surrogacy as the problem, but, Full Surrogacy Now argues, we need more surrogacy, not less!

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.

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. 

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. 

Drawing on a number of different theoretical frameworks, including feminist standpoint theory, socialist feminism, and poststructuralist thought, as well as theories of peformativity and self-valorization, Kathi Weeks proposes a nonessential feminist subject—a theory of constituting subjects. 

Promise of a Dream is a moving, witty and poignant recollection of a time when young women were breaking all the rules. Sheila Rowbotham was, and remains, one of their most effective and endearing voices. 

In De Colores Means All of Us, Martínez presents a radical Latina perspective on race, liberation and identity. She describes the provocative ideas and new movements created by the rapidly expanding US Latina/o community as it confronts intensified exploitation and racism.

First published in 1990, Michele Wallace’s Invisibility Blues is widely regarded as a landmark in the history of black feminism. Wallace’s considerations of the black experience in America include recollections of her early life in Harlem; a look at the continued underrepresentation of black voices in politics, media, and culture; and the legacy of such figures as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison,and Alice Walker. 

Leading historian takes on the lies told about Rigoberta Menchú’s bestselling memoir.

Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. 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.

Is heterosexual sex inherently damaging to women? This is the central question of Straight Sex, Lynne Segal’s account of twentyfive years of feminist thinking on sexuality.

Sensitive but uncompromising socialist-feminist critique of the nuclear family.

Combining the energy of the early seventies feminist movement with the perceptive analyses of the trained theorist, Woman’s Estate is one of the most influential socialist feminist statements of its time. In this foundational text, Mitchell locates the areas of women’s oppression in four key areas: work, reproduction, sexuality and the socialization of children. Through a close study of the modern family and a re-evaluation of Freud’s work in this field, Mitchell paints a detailed picture of patriarchy in action.

Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. Here, in their own words, thirteen narrators recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their harrowing struggle for survival once inside.

A brilliantly original exploration of the interface between feminism, psychoanalysis, semiotics and film theory.

Classic analysis of gender relations and patriarchy under capitalism.

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An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. 

Exploring the sociohistorical roots of gender inequality.

Pioneering study of how ideas about white women have shaped the history of racism.

Women’s Oppression Today is a classic text in the debate about Marxism and feminism, exploring how gender, sexuality and the “family-household system” operate in relation to contemporary capitalism.

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