Laura Bates picks five books on how to achieve gender equality

From a novel about domestic violence to Nigeria’s queer women in their own words, these are empowering and inspiring works

They say “don’t get mad, get even”. But what if we need to get mad first? What if we can’t begin to imagine equality until we’ve first been allowed to find an outlet for our long-silenced, unacknowledged, righteous fury? Rage Becomes Her, a love letter to women’s anger by Soraya Chemaly, gives women everywhere the permission to get mad as hell … and then to get even.

It’s easy for those of us who have experienced gendered abuse to feel rage, but perhaps more difficult to spur the same passion in those without personal experience of the problem. So Meena Kandasamy’s searing Women’s Prize shortlisted When I Hit You is a timely and vital opportunity to expose readers to the crushing reality of domestic violence and the suffocating ...

Talking to Women by Nell Dunn: a welcome reissue of a radical work

These interviews with accomplished women remain relevant more than 50 years later

It’s easy to understand how Nell Dunn’s Talking to Women had such a powerful impact when it was first published in 1964. In the foreword for the new edition, author Ali Smith describes it as “one of the first books to address the complications of the female self”. Smith views its common theme as: “The radical necessity of giving and having voice. Its interviewees admit and repeat both desire and difficulty in just, well, talking.”

And talking is exactly what happens, in a series of in-depth, far-ranging interviews with women, aged from their early 20s to early 30s. Authors, including Edna O’Brien and Ann Quin, artist Pauline Boty and six more women with voices just as vibrant and valid, occasionally sad and haunting, sometimes even anachronistic and grating, cover an array of subjects from men, marriage, sexuality, children, ...

How to be a black woman and succeed: two friends who have written the manual

Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke have turned a dream into a hot publishing property – a self-help guide for black women

In March 2015, Elizabeth Uviebinené had a brainwave that a less determined 22-year-old might have dismissed as a water-cooler pipe dream. It was ignited by a single chapter in a book by Sheryl Sandberg . “I’d always devoured self-help books growing up – books like Lean In,” says Uviebinené. “These were written by white women and were great but they didn’t have the added complexities of how to be a black woman and get ahead. It was like we didn’t exist in these books. Sandberg had one chapter in her follow-up book [Option B] about a black woman’s experience and it sparked something in me. A need for a sisterhood. I wanted to bottle it.”

The bottling, she thought, would come in the form of a ...

The Years by Annie Ernaux review – a masterpiece memoir of French life

A ‘slippery narrative’ that blends personal and public life by one of France’s most lauded writers receives its English translation

Annie Ernaux is long overdue to be recognised in Britain as one of the most important writers in contemporary France, and this edition of The Years ought to do the trick. Originally published there in 2008, it was immediately heralded as Ernaux’s masterpiece, her brief Remembrance of Things Past. It has been expertly rendered into English by Alison Strayer, who captures all the shadings of Ernaux’s prose, all its stops and starts, its changes in pace and in tone, its chatterings, its silences.

She shows it is possible to write personally and collectively, situating her own story in the story of her generation

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The future’s female? 2000AD’s all-women special

A new sci-fi edition has been written and drawn entirely by women, which the comic hopes will put an end to its boy’s club reputation

It’s one of the UK’s most venerable comic weeklies, but is 2000AD, home of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Robo-Hunter, still seen as a bit of a boy’s thing? More than 40 years after it first hit the newsstands, that image might be set to change, with a new issue created entirely by female writers, artists, colourists and letterers.

The 2000AD sci-fi special includes Batgirl artist Babs Tarr illustrating a Judge Dredd story, graphic novelist Tillie Walden writing and drawing one of the comic’s famous Future Shock shorts, and Irish novelist and playwright Maura McHugh penning a story about Judge Anderson, Dredd’s telepath colleague.

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Female role models to inspire change in society | Letters

We need more books for both boys and girls that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders, writes Jean Pollard. And why can no one remember the work of Eleanor Marx? asks John Airs

I very much enjoyed the supplement of best new children’s books (16 June) but how disappointing to see the continuing massive overrepresentation of male protagonists in these stories. While some recommended books did have a female lead, and there were a couple of books about real heroic women (one described as being sure to inspire girls – why not boys?), there were far, far more where the lead character was a boy and where girls remain accessories in boy’s stories. We need more books for both boys and girls to read that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders in a whole host of activities hitherto seen as “boys’ stuff” if we are ...

We Believe the Women: The Handmaid’s Tale, “Smart Power”

The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review

It is frankly astonishing timing that this is the very week in which The Handmaid’s Tale sends Commander Waterford, Serena Joy, and Nick to represent Gilead up north for diplomatic talks with Canada. Fred cites Ofglen’s bombing as an “opening”—of course he would call it that—for both sides to speak, though it’s unclear what, if anything, Gilead realistically thinks it can offer to a conversation in which it is clearly at a disadvantage. For all of Fred’s bravado, it seems to be damage control, maintaining the fiction that they suffered a terrorist attack, that Gilead is still very much a useful neighbor and maybe even ally.

But to do that, he needs Serena Joy to do what she did at that university years ago: show that women in Gilead are neither oppressed nor voiceless; “show them a strong Gilead Wife.” Her dilemma is a fascinating reversal of Offred’s last ...

The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review

Florida by Lauren Groff review – rage and refusal as Earth reaps the whirlwind

Women fill with fury at waste, eco-apocalypse and the pressure to be flawless in a lyrical and oblique short story collection

Lauren Groff’s new story collection is a portrait not so much of a place as of a particular kind of feeling about a place, as experienced by a series of characters, some of whom seem to be the same woman. She is the mother of two sons, and – like Mathilde in Groff’s acclaimed 2015 novel Fates and Furies, named book of the year by both Amazon and Barack Obama – she is furious beyond all measure. Unlike Mathilde, though, she has children, which raises the stakes. Also unlike Mathilde, she has no name.

“I have somehow become a woman who yells,” the first story, “Ghosts and Empties”, begins, as the mother tries to keep a cap on her anger for the sake of her family. To keep ...

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer – review

The dynamics of a female mentoring relationship are at the heart of Meg Wolitzer’s witty and perceptive novel

Where are we right now? With feminism and all that? There was the vote. We got the vote, which was lovely. Then there was work, and the pill, and sexual liberation, which was all great, and today there’s #MeToo, and Beyoncé, and something else – something like a sinking feeling: a realisation that these might have been a series of battles won, rather than the war promised.

Meg Wolitzer’s 11th novel sympathetically satirises this complicated landscape of contemporary feminism, while also pressing knowingly against these bruises. It’s 2006, and Greer Kadetsky is at her first college party when a frat boy reaches into her top and twists her breast, hard. This small violence ignites her political awakening, but it’s meeting second-wave feminist icon Faith Frank, author of such books as The ...

“Women’s Work” is Men’s Problem on The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review

A father and a son are in a car crash that instantly kills the father. The wounded boy is taken to the hospital. The surgeon exclaims, “I can’t operate on this boy—he’s my son!” How can this be?

I couldn’t help but think of this aggravating riddle that I first heard in the ’90s during this week’s The Handmaid’s Tale, when Serena Joy tells Fred that Gilead possesses the best neonatologist who might be able to help poor baby Angela/Charlotte, and he asks, “Who is he?” That’s the setup, and Serena gets the punchline: She is a Martha. His assumption that the only actually important members of society are male hews too uncomfortably close to the attitudes that make this riddle a stumper, even as recently as a 2014 gender bias study. (The doctor is the boy’s mother, come on people.) So by “punchline,” what ...

The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review

Whispers Will Bring the Walls Down on The Handmaid’s Tale: “After”

The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review pen

“It’s about time things started getting back to normal around here, don’t you think?”

When Serena Joy says this to Offred near the end of this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, it ostensibly sounds as if she’s guiding their household back to its regular rhythms after the disruption caused by last week’s suicide bombing. Yet there is extra weight to the Wife’s words, not to mention the weight of a pen in the Handmaid’s hand. If you’re looking for subtext, it could be Serena Joy subtly pushing not just for Gileadean normalcy, but for the return to the state that existed before the Sons of Jacob.

That could completely be wishful thinking on my part, but what’s undeniable is that the women of Gilead have begun to change how they talk to one another. Wives confiding in Handmaids about their insecurities and rewarding such confidences with little ...

The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review funeral Aunt Lydia
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review Moira Luke Canada
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review Emily Handmaid real names

You cannot be ‘well read’ without reading women | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Male authors rarely recommend books by the opposite sex, while customers are reportedly bragging in bookshops about avoiding female writers – when will this be corrected?

Lauren Groff did something brilliantly subversive last week. In her New York Times By the Book Q&A – an interview in which authors are asked such questions as “What’s the last great book you read?” and “What book by somebody else do you wish you had written?” – she named only women authors. You may not notice it at first, but about halfway through it clicks – perhaps because naming only women in a discussion about great books is so unusual, a point that she hammers home when asked about her ideal literary dinner party:

“I would invite every woman writer I have mentioned here, plus hundreds of others I did not have space to name. I would serve unlimited quantities of ...

I Wish Solo’s Female Characters Could Find Better Escape Routes

Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3

Early on in Solo: A Star Wars Story, Tobias Beckett tells an eager young Han Solo that “if you come with us, you’re in this life for good”—a final warning before he seals his fate as a smuggler. The film’s female characters are not afforded the same courtesy; the systems in which they are trapped—a droid’s existence, a life owned by Crimson Dawn—lack the same opportunities for either turning back or abandoning entirely. But that doesn’t stop Elthree or Qi’ra from looking for a way out.

Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story

Although this is an origin story about a Corellian scumrat chasing down the life that will put him as high up into the stratosphere as he can go, I was much more intrigued by members of the supporting cast: the droid, and the other scumrat whose chains are a lot shorter. Whose ambitions aren’t as arrogant as ...

Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3

Why are middle-aged women invisible on book covers? | Alison Flood

Even when they’re central to the story, women over 40 are getting pushed to one side when it’s time to design the book jacket

Here’s a challenge for you: find a book jacket that features an image of a woman over 40.

My own hunt – as yet unsuccessful – was prompted by the actor and novelist Barbara Ewing, whose novel about a drama-school reunion, The Actresses, has just been reissued. Ewing says she cried when she first saw the cover of the 1997 edition – although it focuses on women over 50, the jacket image was a close up of a young woman’s face. This time around, she and publisher Head of Zeus have gone for an elegant photograph of a silver-haired woman that measures up perfectly to the book’s protagonists. But Ewing says bookshops aren’t interested.

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How Do You Measure A Resistance? The Handmaid’s Tale: “First Blood”

The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy

Forgive the RENT reference, but “Seasons of Love” came into my head when thinking about all of the little moments and factors that build up something so massive as Gilead, or its undoing. It’s not quite 525,600 minutes, but there were several that stuck out from this week, about halfway through the season. The best way to talk about this episode (THIS EPISODE), then, is to focus on the moments. Some refer to the “First Blood” of the episode title; others I just can’t stop thinking about.

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×06 “First Blood”

First of all, Offred’s baby is fine. June’s baby is fine, and she’s going to make sure she—she seems determined that it’s another girl—will not grow up in Gilead and suffer the same fate as the other Handmaids, or young Wives like Eden. But first she has to bide her time and get through this ...

The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy

Balance the books: one woman’s fight to keep great female writers on shelves

Book collectors help determine which writers are remembered – and which are forgotten. Author and book dealer AN Devers explains how seeing female authors being undervalued inspired her to start The Second Shelf project

There is a term still in use in the rare book world to describe both the dealers and collectors of these items – “bookman”. To this day, the word is used regularly to refer to people working with rare books, often in nostalgically and wistfully told stories about impressive figures from the past.

Bookman, or some version of it, is integrated into the name of many bookstores. It also remains a popular title appended to a dealer’s surname: Mr Biblio Bibelot, Bookman, for example. The Bookman was also the title of a literary magazine published in London between 1891 and 1934, and another identically named US journal that ran from 1895 to 1931. This latter Bookman, ...

Maggi Hambling picked to create Mary Wollstonecraft statue

Long-awaited memorial aims to capture spirit and strength of the ‘foremother of feminism’

The pioneering British artist Maggi Hambling has been chosen fo r a long-awaited statue commemorating the “foremother of feminism” Mary Wollstonecraft.

The Mary on the Green campaign, which has been calling for a permanent memorial to the philosopher and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman since 2011, unanimously chose Hambling for the sculpture.

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Never-ending nightmare: why feminist dystopias must stop torturing women

The Handmaid’s Tale has inspired a new generation of writers whose dystopian worlds are ever more bleak, dark and sadistic. But where is the hope?

A woman, pregnant by rape, is denied an abortion, legally detained and subjected to a forced caesarean. A woman on low income wants to leave her controlling partner but can’t, because a government policy designed to “prevent family breakdown” means all their benefits are paid into his account. A woman reports a sexual assault, but the police don’t believe her, so they prosecute her for making a false allegation, while her attacker remains free to attack more victims. Girls are systematically groomed into prostitution, and police ignore their abusers. A man boasts on tape that he can “grab” women “by the pussy”: he is elected president. These are all things that happened in Ireland, the UK and the US over the last decade.

As the ...

Butterfly by Yusra Mardini review – the refugee swimmer whose story swept the world

Trained relentlessly by her father in Syria, Mardini helped steer a people-laden dinghy to safety, then competed in the Olympics

When, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, five women stepped on to the starting blocks for the first heat of the 100m butterfly, one stood out. While the others were identified with a name and their country’s flag, Y Mardini was identified by a white flag emblazoned with the Olympic rings. A beep, and they were curving into the blue pool. Mardini was slightly ahead for the first length, but lost momentum on the turn. She struggled to catch up to the Grenadian swimmer next to her – until the last few strokes, when, like her childhood hero Michael Phelps, she found a final burst of speed, and touched the wall first. The butterfly is a powerful, uncompromising stroke, and head-on pictures of Mardini in full flight only underline this: delicate face ...