The best books on femininity

1 authors have picked their favorite books about femininity and why they recommend each book.

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Conscious Femininity

By Marion Woodman,

Book cover of Conscious Femininity

Marian Woodman has been my shero ever since I attended a workshop of hers. I recall sitting in the audience listening to her speak and blinking my eyes. How could it be that she could shape-shift from a coy flirtatious maiden, into a warm nurturing mother, and then moments later appear as a regal, confident, and sovereign queen and then a deeply wise crone? She clearly understood and embodied the full range of the conscious feminine in its various aspects.

Of her many books, this is the one I love the most because, in this collection of interviews with her, the passion of her speaking voice comes through the written word loud and clear. Her phrasing is so delicious, my tattered copy is underlined throughout.


Who am I?

I’m a clinical psychologist who has specialized in women’s issues and disordered eating for over thirty years. Born on the island of Guam, I was raised in a matriarchal and multicultural household where storytelling was a means of transmitting important concepts, traditions, and values, and was a way to experience meaningful and joyful connections with others. Because I was raised by strong women and my indigenous ancestors were Chamorro, a matrilineal culture that honored the motherline, I have always been interested in the archetypal feminine rooted in these stories, although I didn’t discover the term until I began to study psychology.


I wrote...

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

By Anita Johnston,

Book cover of Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

What is my book about?

My book is about how the dismissal, denial, devaluation, and degradation of the feminine principle within our culture and within our psyches has contributed to the epidemic of women who struggle with negative body image and disordered eating. It uses fairytales and folktales from around the world and the archetypal feminine embedded in them to explain the deeper issues that underlie the struggle with food and body image.

Femininity

By Susan Brownmiller,

Book cover of Femininity

Another classic, written in 1984 by the author of Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Brownmiller covers a lot: body, hair, clothes, voice, skin, movement, emotion, ambition. She says in her prologue, "I offer this book ... in the hope that the feminine ideal will no longer be used to perpetuate inequality between the sexes, and that exaggeration will not be required to rest secure in biological gender." 


Who am I?

I am the author of several novels—in addition to the one featured here, Impact, It Wasn't Enough (Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award), Exile, and What Happened to Tom (on Goodreads' "Fiction Books That Opened Your Eyes To A Social Or Political Issue" list).  I was a columnist for The Philosopher Magazine for eight years, Philosophy Now for two years, and the Ethics and Emerging Technologies website for a year ("TransGendered Courage" received 35,000 hits, making it #3 of the year, and "Ethics without Philosophers" received 34,000 hits, making it #5 of the year), and I've published a collection of think pieces titled Sexist Shit that Pisses Me Off. 


I wrote...

Gender Fraud: a fiction

By Peg Tittle,

Book cover of Gender Fraud: a fiction

What is my book about?

In a near future, 'gender recognition' legislation is repealed, and it becomes illegal for males to identify as females and females to identify as males. However, due in part to the continued conflation of sex and gender and in part to the insistence that gender align with sex, it also becomes illegal for males to be feminine and females to be masculine. A gender identity dystopia.  

Gender Fraud: a fiction was a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award 2021.

The Beauty Myth

By Naomi Wolf,

Book cover of The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women

I first read this when it came out in 1992, at a time when few people were publicly connecting body image and feminism. This book literally changed the way I saw the world! It liberated me to stop spending so much time and energy trying to make my body fit an impossible mold and to start using my talents for more important things.


Who am I?

I’ve been reporting on and writing about food, eating, health, and body image for the last 25 years. So much of what we’re taught about those issues, it turns out, is wrong, inaccurate, and often damaging. I’ve made a point of uncovering the truth in those areas and to write about it in ways that help other people through this difficult terrain. My writing philosophy can be summed up in six words: I write so I’m not alone. And, I would add, so you’re not alone, either.


I wrote...

Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight—and What We Can Do About It

By Harriet Brown,

Book cover of Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight—and What We Can Do About It

What is my book about?

Over the past twenty-five years, our quest for thinness has morphed into a relentless obsession with weight and body image. In our culture, "fat" has become a four-letter word. Or, as Lance Armstrong said to the wife of a former teammate, "I called you crazy. I called you a bitch. But I never called you fat." How did we get to this place where the worst insult you can hurl at someone is "fat"? Where women and girls (and increasingly men and boys) will diet, purge, overeat, undereat, and berate themselves and others, all in the name of being thin?

Body of Truth systematically unpacks what’s been offered about ‘truth’ about weight and health.

Sexing La Mode

By Jennifer M. Jones,

Book cover of Sexing La Mode: Gender, Fashion and Commercial Culture in Old Regime France

A major divergence in the nature of elite men's and women’s clothing styles took place in the eighteenth century that symbolized a new understanding of both femininity and French national identity. The fancy dress men wore at court transformed into the sober black suit of the male professional, while women’s clothing became increasingly ornate, fussy, and “feminine” in the modern understanding of the term. Jones links fashion and gender systems to social, cultural, and economic practices—including the rise of consumer culture—and demonstrates why the study of fashion and sexuality are far from frivolous.


Who am I?

As a child (and budding feminist), I inhaled historical fiction about queens and other formidable women. This led to my scholarly interest in female power and authority. Aristocratic women had meaningful political influence in Old Regime France through family networks and proximity to power. However, with the French Revolution of 1789, women’s exclusion from political power (and the vote) was made explicit. This led me to examine the tools women had to accumulate political and social capital, including beauty and the control of fashion. We need to take the intersection of beauty, fashion, and politics seriously to understand the operation of power in both history and the modern world. The books I chose privilege my own interest in eighteenth-century France, but have a broader significance. And they are all really fun to read!


I wrote...

The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry

By Tracy Adams, Christine Adams,

Book cover of The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry

What is my book about?

This study explores the emergence and development of the position of the French royal mistress through detailed portraits of nine of its most significant incumbents. While kings have always had extraconjugal sexual partners, only in France did the royal mistress become a quasi-institutionalized political position.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, key structures converged to create a space at court for the royal mistress. The first was an idea of gender already in place: that while women were legally inferior to men, they were men’s equals in competence. For example, because of their legal subordinacy, queens were considered the safest regents for their husbands; in a similar fashion, the royal mistress was the surest counterpoint to the royal favorite. Second, the Renaissance was a period during which people began to experience space as theatrical. This shift to a theatrical world opened up new ways of imagining political guile, which came to be positively associated with the royal mistress.

Circle of Stones

By Judith Duerk,

Book cover of Circle of Stones: Woman's Journey to Herself

I have read this book nearly a hundred times. Given that it is less than seventy pages long with sometimes only twenty-five words (or less) on a page, that may not seem like much of a feat. But the exquisite spacing between the words invites the reader to drop deep into the lost feminine, to pause, and to feel her essence. This book allows us to not only recognize what has been lost but also to repeatedly imagine how our lives might be different if we could fully experience and embrace the archetypal feminine.


Who am I?

I’m a clinical psychologist who has specialized in women’s issues and disordered eating for over thirty years. Born on the island of Guam, I was raised in a matriarchal and multicultural household where storytelling was a means of transmitting important concepts, traditions, and values, and was a way to experience meaningful and joyful connections with others. Because I was raised by strong women and my indigenous ancestors were Chamorro, a matrilineal culture that honored the motherline, I have always been interested in the archetypal feminine rooted in these stories, although I didn’t discover the term until I began to study psychology.


I wrote...

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

By Anita Johnston,

Book cover of Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

What is my book about?

My book is about how the dismissal, denial, devaluation, and degradation of the feminine principle within our culture and within our psyches has contributed to the epidemic of women who struggle with negative body image and disordered eating. It uses fairytales and folktales from around the world and the archetypal feminine embedded in them to explain the deeper issues that underlie the struggle with food and body image.

Milk and Honey

By Rupi Kaur,

Book cover of Milk and Honey

I recommend this book because it places emphasis on women knowing their self-worth. This book also speaks about loving deeply and not having that love given back in return. I could identify with being in relationships that have made me feel unloved and unworthy. I could also identify with having that eye-opening moment when you come to the realization that you are this beautiful, gifted, wonderful human being worthy of having a person in your life who recognizes and truly appreciates you for all that you embody. The takeaway from this book I gained is to never love anyone more than you love yourself.


Who am I?

I'm the author of Penelope’s Purple Passions. I've been in love with writing poetry since I was a little girl. I would go under the bunk bed at night with my flashlight and write all these poems about love, not that I knew anything about love, but what I did know was how writing poetry made me feel. I believe love is truly the most valuable gift we can give to another soul in our lifetime. I want my poetry to empower people and be that beacon of light in people’s lives.  Poetry is the avenue where I can spread love and hope globally to anyone who picks up my books.


I wrote...

Penelope's Purple Passions

By Penelope Chaisson,

Book cover of Penelope's Purple Passions

What is my book about?

Penelope’s Purple Passions is a story of the butterfly who innocently falls in love only to find out that love can be complicated, and that it changes and evolves just as she does. She is about to embark upon a life-changing journey—one of self-discovery, transformation, and evolution. Once the butterfly accepts that everything is about growth and evolution, she views her journey differently. It’s as though someone has given her a new lens to see through, and now her vision is clear for her expectations of life, love, and self-worth. Then, there’s the ultimate realization that without the hardships and growing pains, she would not have been able to transform into the beautiful butterfly that she sees when she looks in the mirror.

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