From The Second Sex to The Beauty Myth

Barbara Ellen in The Guardian:

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)

SimoneTo ask what influence this book had on gender politics is akin to wondering what the sun ever did for the earth. The answer? Everything. Today, The Second Sex is still hailed as the mothership of feminist philosophy. “One is not born, but rather becomes (a) woman,” muses De Beauvoir (the quote varying, according to the translation). Exploring topics from sex, work and family to prostitution, abortion and the history of female subordination, De Beauvoir challenges the notion of men as the default (the ideal), and women as “other”. For many, The Second Sex represents not just key feminist reading, but rather essential feminist thinking and being.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)

This book was no mere pity-party for dissatisfied 1950s/60s Valium-gobbling US housewives. It was a call to arms, demystifying what became known as “second-wave feminism” for ordinary women all over the world. Friedan also identified “the problem that has no name”, probing the lack of fulfilment in women’s lives – where everything “domestic” and trivial was deemed theirs, and everything important was “men only”. With a precision and defiance that still resonates today, The Feminine Mystique challenged the notion that, for women, anatomy was destiny.

Sexual Politics by Kate Millett (1970)

Sexual Politics brought the fizz of iconoclasm to gender politics, tackling how women were routinely diminished and over-sexualised in literature and wider culture. Calling out the likes of Norman Mailer, Henry Miller and DH Lawrence, for what might be politely termed patriarchal/male dominant gender bias, and impolitely, literary macho dick-swinging, Millett set the benchmark for in-depth, no-holds-barred feminist critique. Her book remains relevant today because it encouraged readers to question not just the topics cited, but everything around them and tounderstand better how sexism could be systematically ingrained, culturally as well as politically.

More here.