From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on feminism, this page features philosophy books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on feminist philosophy. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or pick up one of the classics.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best philosophy books on feminism in no particular order.
An Introduction to Feminist Philosophy – Alison Stone
This is the first book to offer a systematic account of feminist philosophy as a distinctive field of philosophy. The book introduces key issues and debates in feminist philosophy including: the nature of sex, gender, and the body; the relation between gender, sexuality, and sexual difference; whether there is anything that all women have in common; and the nature of birth and its centrality to human existence. An Introduction to Feminist Philosophy shows how feminist thinking on these and related topics has developed since the 1960s. The book also explains how feminist philosophy relates to the many forms of feminist politics.
The book provides clear, succinct and readable accounts of key feminist thinkers including de Beauvoir, Butler, Gilligan, Irigaray, and MacKinnon. The book also introduces other thinkers who have influenced feminist philosophy including Arendt, Foucault, Freud, and Lacan. Accessible in approach, this book is ideal for students and researchers interested in feminist philosophy, feminist theory, womens studies, and political theory. It will also appeal to the general reader.
Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction – Rosemarie Tong
Publisher’s Description: In this survey of feminist theory, Rosemarie Tong provides coverage of the psychoanalytic, existential and postmodern schools of feminism. The author guides the reader through the complexities of even the most notoriously difficult thinkers. Students will meet and become familiar with many of the essential figures in the feminist tradition, from Wollstonecraft and Engel, on through de Beauvoir, Dinnerstein, and Daly, and up to Mitchell and Cixous. The text treats all views with respect and encourages students to think critically and sympathetically about a wide range of views that have a direct relevance to their own lives.
The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy – Garry, Khader, & Stone
Publisher’s Description: The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy is an outstanding guide and reference source to the key topics, subjects, thinkers, and debates in feminist philosophy. Fifty-six chapters, written by an international team of contributors specifically for the Companion, are organized into five sections: (1) Engaging the Past; (2) Mind, Body, and World; (3) Knowledge, Language, and Science; (4) Intersections; (5) Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics. The volume provides a mutually enriching representation of the several philosophical traditions that contribute to feminist philosophy. It also foregrounds issues of global concern and scope; shows how feminist theory meshes with rich theoretical approaches that start from transgender identities, race and ethnicity, sexuality, disabilities, and other axes of identity and oppression; and highlights the interdisciplinarity of feminist philosophy and the ways that it both critiques and contributes to the whole range of subfields within philosophy.
Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology – Ann Cudd & Andreasen
Publisher’s Description: Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology addresses seven philosophically significant questions regarding feminism, its central concepts of sex and gender, and the project of centering women’s experience. Topics include the nature of sexist oppression, the sex/gender distinction, how gender-based norms influence conceptions of rationality, knowledge, and scientific objectivity, feminist ethics, feminst perspectives on self and autonomy, whether there exist distinct feminine moral perspectives, and what would comprise true liberation.
Features an introductory overview illustrating the development of feminism as a philosophical movement. Contains both classic and contemporary sources of feminist thought, including selections by Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Simone de Beauvior, Kate Millett, bell hooks, Marilyn Frye, Martha Nussbaum, Louise Antony, Sally Haslanger, Helen Longino, Marilyn Friedman, Catharine MacKinnon, and Drucilla Cornell.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – Mary Wollstonecraft
Publisher description: This volume brings together extracts of the major political writings of Mary Wollstonecraft in the order in which they appeared in the revolutionary 1790s. It traces her passionate and indignant response to the excitement of the early days of the French Revolution and then her uneasiness at its later bloody phase. It reveals her developing understanding of women’s involvement in the political and social life of the nation and her growing awareness of the relationship between politics and economics and between political institutions and the individual. In personal terms, the works show her struggling with a belief in the perfectibility of human nature through rational education, a doctrine that became weaker under the onslaught of her own miserable experience and the revolutionary massacres.
The Subjection of Women – John Stuart Mill
Publisher’s Description: Written in 1861 and published eight years later, this influential essay by the great English philosopher and economist is still relevant and its arguments significant. Believing that the subjugation of women was primarily political and psychological in origin, Mill urged the establishment of “complete equality in all legal, political, social, and domestic relations between men and women.”
Arguing for both legal reforms and a social revolution, he focuses on women’s exclusion from the political process, their lack of any rights in marriage, and the benefits to be obtained by their liberation. Moreover, if they are to share the freedoms enjoyed by men, equal opportunities for employment and education for women are also necessary.
For its time, the work was radical and far-reaching in its demands; but despite its repeated emphasis on forms of oppression and recognition of the difficulties endured by women, it is essentially an optimistic work maintaining a firm belief that increased equality and liberty for women were inevitable. Carefully researched and clearly expressed with great logic and consistency, the book remains a landmark in the struggle for human rights. In this inexpensive edition, it will certainly be welcomed by feminists but will also appeal to anyone interested in the philosophical, human, and social issues underlying the idea of freedom and equality for all people, regardless of gender.
The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir
Publisher’s Description: Simone de Beauvoir’s essential masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of “woman,” and a revolutionary exploration of inequality and otherness. Unabridged in English for the first time, this long-awaited edition reinstates significant portions of the original French text that were cut in the first English translation. Vital and groundbreaking, Beauvoir’s pioneering and impressive text remains as pertinent today as when it was first published, and will continue to provoke and inspire generations of men and women to come.
Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny – Kate Manne
Publisher’s Description: Misogyny is a hot topic, yet it’s often misunderstood. What is misogyny, exactly? Who deserves to be called a misogynist? How does misogyny contrast with sexism, and why is it prone to persist or increase even when sexist gender roles are waning? This book is an exploration of misogyny in public life and politics by the moral philosopher and writer Kate Manne. It argues that misogyny should not be understood primarily in terms of the hatred or hostility some men feel toward all or most women. Rather, it’s primarily about controlling, policing, punishing, and exiling the “bad” women who challenge male dominance. And it’s compatible with rewarding “the good ones,” and singling out other women to serve as warnings to those who are out of order. It’s also common for women to serve as scapegoats, be burned as witches, and treated as pariahs. …
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Feminist Theories – Carleton College
- Rebels, Radicals and Revolutionaries: (Deconstructing) The History of Western Feminism – University of New Mexico
- Feminism and Philosophy – Carleton University
- Feminist Theory – Proposed Syllabus
- Philosophical Issues in Feminism – Rutgers University
- Feminist Philosophy – University of Houston
- Introductory readings for feminism?
- The philosophy of Feminism
- What feminist philosophy can you recommend me?
- How do I become more educated about feminism?
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Philosophy Books on Liberalism
- The Best Books on or by Simone de Beauvoir
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.