To continue defending women’s rights, advancing equality, and combatting injustice in all aspects of social, political, and economic life, it’s essential to try and understand how all of these issues are interconnected. This is why our continued education is vital to advance our activism.
From understanding the history of how women continue to battle for reproductive freedoms to what solutions are needed to help us achieve true economic justice, the following resources take a deeper dive into many of NOW’s core issues. Consider adding these books to your holiday reading list to help you become a more informed intersectional feminist activist!
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundation of a Movement by Angela Davis (Core Issue: Racial Justice)
Angela Davis reflects on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolition today in the legacy of liberation struggles throughout the world in this collection of essays, interviews, and speeches. Davis warns against the dangers of capitalist individualism and explains how it is necessary to act collectively to call for systemic change with grassroots organizing: rather than expecting all change to come from one person. Davis also highlights the necessity of building solidarity between movements internationally, explaining that it is impossible to understand the true societal reasons behind certain phenomena without analyzing how these issues exist not just nationally, but globally in similar contexts. Throughout this work, Davis makes sure to include her perspective as a radical woman of color, arguing that feminism is not simply about gender equality, but about fighting the forces of capitalism, racism, and colonialism as well. To create change, mass movements are necessary; however, we no longer need a charismatic male leader for them to succeed, just strategizing, organizing, and mobilizing.
Michele Bratcher Goodwin’s Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood (Core Issue: Reproductive Rights and Justice)
Goodwin analyzes the ways in which the law coerces women facing sex, pregnancy, and maternity, and how this is especially damaging to poor women of color. She looks to how legislators have increasingly punished women for miscarriages, stillbirths, and threatening the health of their pregnancies: such as falling down steps, refusing c-sections, or attempting suicide. This pattern has resulted in pregnant women facing prison time and giving birth while shackled to leg irons, in solitary confinement, or even in prison toilets. In some states, prosecutors may offer women less prison time in exchange for agreeing to be sterilized, with the aid of the medical community who both perform these practices and share patient information with authorities. While poor women have been facing the brunt of this reality, it will only escalate as legislators consider women’s rights to equal that of fetuses and embryos. As Goodwin brings to light the realities of the policing of women’s reproduction in America, it is revealed to be the deadliest for pregnant women in the developed world.
Ching-In Chen’s The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (Core Issue: Ending Violence Against Women)
This watershed collection discusses the reality of intimate violence within social justice movements. To effectively resist violence that exists within “the system,” we must first acknowledge and address the open secret of this type of violence within communities working towards justice. Chen compiles stories from survivors and their allies, documenting community work of creating safety from abuse without relying on the prison industrial complex. This offers life-saving alternatives for survivor safety while still building a road for revolution.
Saru Jayaraman’s One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America (Core Issue: Economic Justice)
Jayaraman shines a light on the minimum wage workers who took the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic that devastated the country. Prior to the pandemic, over 6 million workers earned their wages as tipped workers in the service industry. Many worked for as little as $2.13 (plus tips), the federal minimum wage for tipped workers since 1991, leaving them scraping by to survive. These workers were one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands losing their jobs. This exposed the deep inadequacies of the minimum wage standards in the US and how the most marginalized communities are often the ones left out of the fight for higher wages, such as people of color, many of whom are immigrants, disabled workers, incarcerated workers, and young workers. Not only does Jayaraman tell of the suffering endured by subminimum wage workers, but she offers the necessary solutions to see change begin to happen to overcome this crisis.
White Rage by Carol Anderson (Core Issue: Constitutional Equality)
Anderson pushes back against the phrase “Black rage” that had been used by media commentators to characterize the angry response of African Americans in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014: by calling attention to “white rage” as the kindling to the fire. Since the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865, white reactions have led to rollback of all political gains that African Americans have managed to make; the Civil War and Reconstruction was met with Jim Crow laws, Brown v. Board of Education with the shutting down of Southern public school, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the Southern Strategy and War on Drugs. Making these historical connections, Anderson reveals the actions of white rage that have been made in the name of democracy.
Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism (Intersectional Feminism)
Kendall calls to attention to what she believes is the blind spot of feminism: the basic needs of women. Areas like food insecurity, access to good education, safe neighborhoods, living wages, and healthcare are essential for all women to thrive. These issues have worsened among marginalized women; however, the focus has often become on increasing privilege for few rather than basic survival for all. Many prominent white feminists have little regard for how race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender, she asserts. With this, Kendall claims that the modern feminist movement has failed to help all but few women drawing on her own experiences of hunger, violence, and hyper-sexualization. (Intersectional feminists long associated with the movement would disagree with Kendall on many points,)
Jessie Daniels’ Nice White Ladies (Intersectional Feminism)
Daniels addresses the unintended complicity of well-meaning white women whose everyday choices harm communities of color. She addresses feminism that pushes women of color aside and insulates white women in a bubble of privilege. She looks to how white mothers send their children to the “best” schools, collectively leading to a return to segregation, how they hoard wealth through inheritance, and corner jobs at the expense of people of color. Daniels concludes in offering constructive ways in which white women can challenge and question the system to undo the damage done from their privileged status.