Good Minds Suggest—Naomi Wolf's Favorite Books About Gender

September, 2012
Naomi Wolf Writer and activist Naomi Wolf is one woman who's keeping feminist scholarship and discussion alive in the 21st century. Focused on gender equality and the empowerment of women, her work has investigated the pursuit of physical perfection in The Beauty Myth, the experience of motherhood in Misconceptions, and the evolution of female sexuality in Promiscuities. Wolf is also a political consultant and cofounder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an educational nonprofit geared toward young women. Her new work of nonfiction goes straight to the source of femininity. Vagina: A New Biography explores the physical connection between the vagina, the brain, and consciousness itself. Wolf shares the five books she would give to "any young woman or man interested in Gender 101."

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
"The book that started it all, at least in the West. Wollstonecraft connects women's struggle for emancipation with the larger Enlightenment project of expanding democracy and human rights—'liberty'—an intellectual grounding that is often forgotten but these are roots to which we should return. Feminism in my view is nothing more complicated than the logical extension of democracy and human rights."


The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
"This postwar manifesto about how women are 'made,' not 'born,' introduced to a wide audience the idea that feminine roles were socially constructed, not necessarily God given. Beautifully reasoned, too, by this brilliant existentialist."


The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
"[This book] summarized and popularized—some might say simplified—de Beauvoir's ideas for a mass female audience in the early 1960s—the Mad Men era. Friedan introduced to American women the important idea that the 'mystique' of obsessive homemaking and domesticity was a political push to keep women out of the workforce; not so helpfully it set up a lasting template in U.S. feminism that seemed to pit family life and domesticity against career."


The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
"My favorite of all of these, The Female Eunuch came along to herald the Second Wave in the 1970s. This brash, sweeping, well-researched, and provocative manifesto pushed women and men past their comfort levels, speaking frankly about bodies, sexuality, and power. Greer was revolutionary as a writer in merging a confessional, confrontational literary style with academically sound analysis—a very exciting development for women's nonfiction writing (or anyone's)."


Beloved by Toni Morrison
"The only work of fiction on my list. Western feminism was refounded in the 1970s in the context, many argued, of white middle-class women, and this text was among the first to present issues such as violence and subjugation in the context of the institutionalized rape and gender violence of America's slave past; the power of Morrison's literary mastery also began a two-decade challenge to the 'hegemony'—meaning, simplistically, till-then whiteness and maleness, of the 'canon'—of books that were taught as high literature in universities. It began the important movement to open up our ideas of literature—and of gender justice—to include many perspectives, including those complicated by different racial and class issues."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Feminist Fiction



Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Zanten Excellent list, although I am missing Doris Lessing's work, in particular The Golden Note book, a work of importance from the author who in my view wrote the bible on a woman maintaining independence within a relationship and her voyage to get to that point in life. It is a standard work for feminists and made me one when I was in my early twenties.


message 2: by Theresa (new)

Theresa Johanna wrote: "Excellent list, although I am missing Doris Lessing's work, in particular The Golden Note book, a work of importance from the author who in my view wrote the bible on a woman maintaining independen..."

I agree. That book changed my life when I read it in my late teens.


message 3: by Ethan (new)

Ethan Interesting. I have a vagina and I am a man, so I wonder if this book was meant for people with vaginas... or women? Because those two things do not always come in one package.


message 4: by Clare (new)

Clare Fitzgerald Ethan wrote: "Interesting. I have a vagina and I am a man, so I wonder if this book was meant for people with vaginas... or women? Because those two things do not always come in one package."

From the excerpts I've read, it would appear that Naomi Wolf doesn't understand that, because she doesn't understand that other people are not also Naomi Wolf. She's always had a bit of difficulty with this concept but she really seems to have collapsed into full-blown solipsism at this point.


message 5: by Jon Lindsay (new)

Jon Lindsay Miles I recently read Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, as a 56-year-old male. It's not only an immensely rich examination of male-female relationships - particularly from the female end, but also a interestingly structured novel with strongly drawn characters of both sexes.

It's difficult to keep me reading more than a couple of hours a day, but The Golden Notebook stuck me to the chair.


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