International Women’s Day celebrates all women’s achievements – the personal, the political, the social and the economical ones. But more than celebrating, this date is a reminder that the fight for gender equality is still very much needed. The first celebration took place in New York, in 1909, and nowadays is celebrated annually on March 8.
- Women earn on average 9% less than men
- 62 million girls are denied education all over the world
- Worldwide only 22% of parliamentarians are women, in the UK it reached 29% in 2015
- 1 in 3 women are sexually abused at some point in their lifetime
- Each minute, 28 girls are married before they are ready
- An estimated 200 million girls have undergone Female Genital Mutilation
- 71% of all trafficking worldwide are women and girls
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed 52% of sexual harassment claims in 2015 despite 1 in 3 women suffering
- There are more CEO’s named John than there are women CEO’s altogether
- Only 7% of director’s behind 2016’s top-grossing films were women
- A mere 17% of 3,212 producer, editors and writers on these films were women- the same percentage in 1998
- The International Organisation for Migration found that 80% of Nigerian women who arrive in Sicily will go on to live a life of forced prostitution in Europe
- 68,000 women in the UK are currently homeless
- Women only make up 17% of crowd scenes on screens yet we are 51% of the population
- 85,000 women in the UK are raped every year and over 400,000 are sexually assaulted
- 70% of speaking roles in Hollywood films are men (although actresses are 5 times more likely to be asked to get naked than their male counterparts)
- Women in Britain spend an average of £18,000 on their periods over a lifetime, making period poverty a very prevalent problem in the UK
- More than 137,700 girls missed school in 2017 due to not being able to afford sanitary products
- 8,000 girls a year are expelled or drop out of school in Tanzania due to pregnancy
- 60% of all undernourished people are women and girls.
- According to a 2016 ActionAid survey, 79% of women living in cities in India, 86% in Thailand, and 89% in Brazil have been subjected to harassment or violence in public, as had two-thirds of women in London, UK.
- According to a 2011 study by the United Nations, between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact in the workplace. The same study states that 83% of girls in the US ages 12 to 16 experience some form of sexual harassment in public schools.
- 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of getting fat, and 46% of 9-11 year olds say that they are “sometimes” or “often” on diets.
- And, male privilege keeps dominating our society. Here, you will find 160+ examples of male privilege in all areas of life.
We are readers. We know that books are one of our strongest and most important tools to generate knowledge and change. Here’s a list of books that discuss female identity, female experience, and feminism. From fiction to non-fiction, here are books that will strengthen your voice.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)
Simone de Beauvoir’s essential masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of “woman,” and a revolutionary exploration of inequality and otherness. Vital and groundbreaking, Beauvoir’s pioneering and impressive text remains as pertinent today as when it was first published, and will continue to provoke and inspire generations of men and women to come.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates (2014)
Women are standing up and #shoutingback. In a culture that’s driven by social media, for the first time women are using this online space to come together, share their stories and encourage a new generation to recognise the problems that women face. This book is a call to arms in a new wave of feminism and it proves sexism is endemic – socially, politically and economically. But women won’t stand for it. The Everyday Sexism Project is grounded in reality; packed with substance, validity and integrity it shows that women will no longer tolerate a society that ignores the dangers and endless effects of sexism.
In 2012 after being sexually harassed on London public transport Laura Bates, a young journalist, started a project called Everyday Sexism to collect stories for a piece she was writing on the issue. Astounded by the response she received and the wide range of stories that came pouring in from all over the world, she quickly realised that the situation was far worse than she’d initially thought. Enough was enough. From being leered at and wolf-whistled on the street, to aggravation in the work place and serious sexual assault, it was clear that sexism had been normalised. Bates decided it was time for change.
This bold, jaunty and ultimately intelligent book is the first to give a collective online voice to the protest against sexism. This game changing book is a juggernaut of stories, often shocking, sometimes amusing and always poignant – it is a must read for every inquisitive, no-nonsense modern woman.
You can the book here.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)
A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on the 24th of October, 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women’s colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled Women and Fiction, and hence the essay, are considered nonfiction. The essay is seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.
Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lord (2017)
“Lorde seems prophetic, perhaps alive right now, writing in and about the US of 2017 in which a misogynist with white supremacist followers is president. But she was born in 1934, published her first book of poetry in 1968, and died in 1992. Black, lesbian and feminist; the child of immigrant parents; poet and essayist, writer and activist, Lorde knew about harbouring multitudes. Political antagonists tried, for instance, to discredit her among black students by announcing her sexuality, and she decided: “The only way you can head people off from using who you are against you is to be honest and open first, to talk about yourself before they talk about you.” Over and over again, in the essays, speeches and poems collected in Your Silence Will Not Protect You, Lorde emphasises how important it is to speak up. To give witness: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”
You can buy the book here.
The Bloody Chamber and other stories by Angela Carter (1979)
Angela Carter was a storytelling sorceress, the literary godmother of such contemporary masters of supernatural fiction as Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J. K. Rowling, and Kelly Link, who introduces this edition of Carter’s most celebrated book, published for the seventy-fifth anniversary of her birth.
In The Bloody Chamber – which includes the story that is the basis of Neil Jordan’s 1984 movie The Company of Wolves – Carter spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition.
You can buy the book here.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (2014)
Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
You can buy the book here.
The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector (1964)
Aficionados of South American fiction as well as literary critics will welcome this posthumous translation of a nearly plotless novel by one of Brazil’s foremost writers. Availing herself of a single character, Lispector transforms a banal situation—a woman at home, alone—into an amphitheater for philosophical investigations. The first-person narration jousts with language, playfully but forcefully examining the ambiguous nature of words, with results ranging from the profound to the pretentious: “Prehuman divine life is a life of singeing nowness” or “The world interdepended with me, and I am not understanding what I say, never! never again shall I understand what I say. For how will I be able to speak without the word lying for me?” These linguistic games frame existential and experiential crises that Lispector savors and overcomes. Although this idiosyncratic novel will not have wider appeal, those with academic or markedly erudite tastes should find much to like.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
The Color Purple is a classic. With over a million copies sold in the UK alone, it is hailed as one of the all-time ‘greats’ of literature, inspiring generations of readers.
Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.