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The Women You Need to be Reading This Women’s History Month




The invite for women’s history month seems to have been lost in the post. It doesn’t seem a huge ask, we only wanted 31 days out of the year to celebrate the female sex and their accomplishments. Yet, headlines this week have been dominated by catty debates on Kate vs Meghan, Piers Morgan hijacking a women’s confession of her deteriorating mental health, and a disappointing resurgent of #notallmen after calls for a figurative male curfew in the UK. During a month in which women are meant to be celebrated, we are being asked to defend our fear when walking alone at night, to justify our claims of sexual assault and to apologise for bruising the male ego when we ask them to do more.


Whilst one blog post will not change the tide of this public debate, in amongst the justifiable anger and pain that the past week has caused for women in the UK, there feels a need for a little more positivity. When our own words fail us, it is probably time to look to those who are paid to articulate their feelings in print. If you are looking to feel inspired by the female experience, these are the women you should be reading this month.


Eve Babitz

Eve Babitz, Vanityfair.com


I selfishly cannot talk about female writers without writing my own love letter to Eve Babitz. I don’t think the now reclusive icon would want to be considered a feminist writer, nor an icon. She has become famously shy. The appeal of Babitz writing lies in the hedonistic glee of her prose. Through her six novels and countless articles, as the reader, we get a glimpse behind the curtain of old Hollywood and true LA. Sex and Rage was the first novel I read that made me say, I want to write like that. Eve’s writing is as intoxicating as the countless drinks she and her characters consume, there is no apologising for her sexuality and the enjoyment she feels as a woman.


At times, ‘feminist’ writing can be exhausting to read. Often depressing, often requiring some sort of self-reflection, and almost always leaving you with the sense that life is unfair and cruel, especially to women. The difference with Eve is that she seems to love life with a vengeance. Reading an Eve Babitz novel makes you want to make the most out of your life.


Eve Babitz, medium.com


The novels may not have been popular at the time, and Eve not as respected as fellow west coaster Joan Didion, but the Babitzance is here.


Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood, Thegentlewomen.co.uk


A list celebrating female authors would be incomplete without Margaret Atwood. The success of the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale has allowed the “social realism” of Atwood’s 1985 novel to gain a new generation of readers. Atwood has regularly rejected the term ‘feminist’, stating that her prose simply reflects society. The society in The Handmaid’s Tale is bleak, the near future tyrannical land of Gilead warns of a time in which autonomy over the female body is controlled literally by the patriarchy. During Trump’s administration, the dystopian America was regularly drawn upon by protesters and women’s rights activists to highlight the dangers of policy u-turns regarding women’s access to sexual health clinics and family planning.

Women's rights protests, womenandhome.com


It may not be an easy read, but it is wholly worthwhile. Atwood is the opposite of a #wokefeminist, her commitment to tackling women’s issues rarely labelled as feminism by herself, but far more cutting than any Twitter feminists could manage. Her 2018 op-ed, Am I A Bad Feminist, cuts through the performance activism we have normalised on social media and gives fascinating insights on what it means to advocate for women’s rights in the real world. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, try The Edible Women and The Blind Assassin.




Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith, Theslate.com


Few contemporary authors have received as much critical acclaim as Zadie Smith. The influence of Smith’s mother and her Jamaican heritage is strong throughout her novels, presenting the experience of ‘other’ in presumed white spaces. Smith doesn’t fully focus on women’s issues, instead weaves these themes through her novels as additions to her prose. Again, it feels like a relief to not have to focus on women ‘issues’ and instead just enjoy a good book.


Most of you will have least have been recommended White Teeth as a must-read book, and you should probably get round to reading it. Equally enjoyable is Swing Time, which tells the interlocking tale of two former dancers as they grow up, and The Autograph Man. If you don’t already love Zadie Smith, you should probably start.



White Teeth, penguin.com


To list all the must-read female authors would take weeks. From Virginia Woolf to Nancy Mitford to Nora Ephron. A novel doesn’t need to tackle huge issues and try to compartmentalise all women’s issues, if it tries it can be quite tiring. It is simply enough to write and to write well. We are so used to seeing women forced to talk about their negative experiences, that the joy of Eve Babitz feels like an oasis. Atwood and Smith equally refuse to simply focus on the female experience, instead writing as humans.


In a month when women don’t feel very celebrated, making the effort to read female writers and authors is a small way to honour the female experience. It may not make the headlines feel less bleak, but escaping into a good book is a very welcomed distraction. Hopefully, this blog post has given you some inspiration for your next read.


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