Intersectional Feminism | Collection Development

Recently, American feminism has been compelled to account for the disparities within the movement in terms of priorities, scope, and access. Historically, the concerns of white women in America have been at the forefront; women who exist at the intersections of racial and economic inequality, as well as women fighting for gay rights and disability rights, have too often been ignored. Poor women of color have never had the benefit of a megaphone, nor the luxury of prioritizing their lack of presence in corporate boardrooms. The women who are most vulnerable in this country are fighting to survive; their voices should be imperative.

First- and second-wave feminism earned women, in 1920, the right to vote; brought more of them out of the home and into the workplace; and saw the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Third-wave feminism brought new topics into the national conversation while also attempting to deal with the fallout from the backlash against the gains made by the second wave. The Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s was an effort to wrest control of the feminist narrative and avoid media spin, keeping it grassroots. The 1990s also saw the proliferation of zine culture, which laid the groundwork for publications such as Bitch and Bust.

Today’s fourth-wave movement is characterized by body and sex positivity and has a strong digital presence. Intersectional feminism focuses on solidarity among social justice movements as well as shared responsibility for equality rather than a sole emphasis on individual rights, ambitions, and concerns. However, the adage “the personal is political” does still characterize feminism, by necessity. Scholarly works exist alongside memoir and poetry in illustrating the breadth of women’s experience.


While the presentation of topics including abortion, equal pay for equal work, and sexual harassment will change and texts will need to be updated, one must exercise caution when weeding in this area. Past feminist works provide a valuable historical time line of the evolution of the movement. Older works by scholars like Angela Y. Davis and Cherrie Moraga are still relevant, and researchers of gender studies and feminist history will find both historic and contemporary titles helpful. Classic feminist volumes remain in print and are often revisited with new introductions and afterwords. Histories and re­appraisals about first- and second-wave feminism continue to be written, and the concerns of intersectional feminism are on the rise—expect to see more contemporary narratives in the future.

Feminist titles are not only published by major houses but also smaller, independent presses. It is worth digging deeper to amplify marginalized voices. Feminist magazines often provide book lists and reviews of titles outside the mainstream. Women from all avenues have important stories to tell, from the arena of #GamerGate to campus rape culture to sexual harassment throughout all industries. Library patrons are diverse across economics, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality—titles pertaining to the primary concern of feminism, equality for all women, must reflect that.

Starred titles (redstar) are essential for most collections.

An LJ reviewer since 2015, Barrie Olmstead is the Adult Materials Selector, Sacramento Public Library (SPL), CA. She has worked at SPL for 11 years, first as a teen/adult librarian and then in acquisitions for seven years

Third Wave

redstarEnsler, Eve. The Vagina Monologues. Random. 2007. 272p. ISBN 9780375505652. $21.95; pap. ISBN 9780399180095. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780375506581.

In this collection of monologs, women share stories around topics such as body image, menstruation, rape, female genital mutilation, sex work, and orgasms. Ensler offers a classic work of the third wave, making the case for the vagina as a tool of female empowerment and reclaiming the word cunt.

redstarFaludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Crown. 2006. 594p. notes. index. ISBN 9780307345424. pap. $15.99; ebk. 9780307426871.

A classic work by Faludi, this title serves as a treatise on where feminism stood at the end of the second wave, which was followed by a swift backlash in the 1980s, as the Reagan Administration and evangelical movements sought to control women’s bodies and ability to progress in the workforce. (LJ 11/1/06)

Fourth Wave

Eltahawy, Mona. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. Farrar. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780865478039. $25; pap. ISBN 9780374536657. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780374710651.

Eltahawy, an Egyptian American writer, surveys the landscape of Middle Eastern feminism after the Arab Spring. She identifies areas of women’s lives that demonstrate male hostility: the demand for veiling and virginity until marriage along with genital mutilation and lack of recourse for domestic violence and rape. (LJ 3/1/15)

Hurley, Kameron. The Geek Feminist Revolution: Essays. Tor. 2016. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780765386236. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780765386243. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765386250.

Hurley covers everything from geek culture to #GamerGate to the lack of diversity in publishing. She speaks from the perspective of being a feminist at the forefront of Internet culture as well as a woman creator in a landscape that is often hostile toward women. (LJ 6/1/16)

Kafer, Alison. Feminist, Queer, Crip. Indiana Univ. 2013. 276p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780253009227. $75; pap. ISBN 9780253009340. $27.

Kafer writes at the intersections of feminism, ability, and queerness. She argues that ableism is still the predominant discourse. To attempt to “fix” or prevent disability is to deny alternative ways of being and leads to a failure to advocate for those possibilities.

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America. ed. by Samhita Mukhopadhyay & Kate Harding. Picador. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781250155504. pap. $16; ebk. 9781250155511.

This anthology assesses the feminist terrain postelection. Contributors maintain that the path forward is through ­coalition-building, accountability, and active, sustained resistance to policies that are blatantly harmful to women. (LJ 9/15/17)

Pollitt, Katha. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Picador. 2015. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780312620547. $25; pap. ISBN 9781250072665. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781250055842.

Pollitt, an award-winning columnist for The Nation, tackles the “personhood” argu­ment, reaffirms the priority of women’s lives and health, and explains why abortion is often necessary, welcomed, and desired. (LJ 9/15/14)

Serano, Julia. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Feminity. 2d ed. Da Capo. 2016. 432p. ISBN 9781580056229. pap. $20; ebk ISBN 9781580056236.

Serano, a lesbian transgender activist and biologist, introduces the term transmisogyny and discusses the connections among transphobia, sexism, and ­homophobia. Trans women are frequently marginalized or rejected by the feminist community. Serano argues that trans activism is feminism and that femininity should be embraced and empowered in all its forms.

Silliman, Jaell & others. Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice. 2d ed. Haymarket. 2016. 384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608466177. pap. $19; ebk. ISBN 9781608466641.

Based on organization case studies and interviews, this book outlines the ways in which women of color have always had to fight for reproductive justice outside of the mainstream feminist movement. The authors illustrate the power of coalition-building and identity-based organizing and the need for culturally specific health information.

Solnit, Rebecca. The Mother of All Questions. Haymarket. 2017. 180p. ISBN 9781608467402. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608467204.

Activist and historian Solnit, who is widely credited with launching the term mansplaining into the public discourse, provides commentary on a variety of topics, including rape jokes, the gender binary, and a patriarchal culture that continues to silence women. (LJ 2/1/17)

Stryker, Kitty. Ask: Building Consent Culture; An Anthology. Thorntree. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781944934255. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781944934262.

Stryker, founder of, presents a multifaceted view of a consent culture that she deems essential to resisting its inverse: rape culture. The message is one of safety and self-advocacy: learn what works for you, ask for what you want, and empower others to do so as well. (LJ 10/15/17)

Zeisler, Andi. We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Covergirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement. PublicAffairs. 2016. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9781610395892. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9781610397735. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610395908.

Zeisler discusses the commodification of feminism, exemplified with the rise of celebrity feminism and companies peddling products to a female market. She argues that this lightweight pop feminism has banked the fires of activists, robbing the movement of its grassroots urgency. (LJ 3/1/16)


redstarGay, Roxane. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Harper. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062362599. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062362605.

Gay lays bare her experience of being a black woman of size in the world, claiming her right to a voice. This book provides valuable insight into the ways overweight women are treated in society and the work it takes to reckon with sexual violence. (LJ 6/1/17)

Mock, Janet. Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me. Atria. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781501145797. $24.99; pap. ISBN 9781501145803. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501145810.

Mock relays what it is like being a young woman trying to determine how and when to disclose her trans status and what it meant to claim it. She also discusses her job at a strip club to help pay for college, which serves to destigmatize sex work. (LJ 6/1/17)

Steinem, Gloria. My Life on the Road. Random. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780679456209. $28; pap. ISBN 9780345408167. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780812988352.

Steinem, a pioneering second-wave feminist, takes stock of feminism in its current incarnation with the benefit of hindsight. Her accounts of the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment and the 1977 National Women’s Conference are illuminating; her friendships with Florynce Kennedy and Wilma Mankiller broadened her perspective. (LJ 8/15)

Intersectional Feminism ROOTS

Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. Yale Univ. 1993. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300055832. pap. $22.

Ahmed highlights the contributions of Muslim feminists, who rejected a strictly Western interpretation. She describes how in an effort to assert the inferiority of Muslim religion and culture, the Western patriarchy, specifically in the Victorian era, deliberately misinterpreted and overemphasized female oppression.

redstarDavis, Angela Y. Women, Race and Class. Vintage. 1983. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780394713519. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307798497.

Scholar and activist Davis takes a historical approach to feminism, outlining black women’s heritage of tenacity and resistance. She explains how perseverance and self-reliance are the keys to racial justice, economic freedom, and sexual equality.

redstarGarcia, Alma M. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. Routledge. 1997. 344p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780415918015. pap. $59.95.

Garcia showcases the voices of Chicana poets and writers to outline the growth of Chicana feminism. Chicana women have always existed at the intersections of class and ethnicity and have had to assert their own identities between the Chicano movement and the women’s liberation movement, neither of which prioritized them.

redstarhooks, bell. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Woman and Feminism. 2d ed. Routledge. 2014. 220p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781138821514. pap. $27.95.

Scholar and cultural critic hooks lays out a case for why black women historically received the brunt of brutal “terrorization” during slavery owing to their proximity to white families. This legacy of rape and institutionalized sexism has persisted to this day and legitimized sexual exploitation of black women.

redstarLorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing. 2007. 192p. ISBN 9781580911863. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780307809049.

In her seminal essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Lorde argues against a white patriarchy that oppresses people on multiple fronts. She also explores the ways in which acknowledgment of difference can foster communities instead of dividing them, leading to creative social change. (LJ 9/15/07)

redstarMoraga, Cherrie & Gloria Anzaldua. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. 4th ed. State Univ. of New York. 2015. 336p. illus. ISBN 9781438454382. pap. $29.95.

Moraga and Anzaldua create a foundational anthology that centers the experiences of women of color and queer women and demonstrates that they have always been on the front lines of economic, racial, sexual, and environmental justice. First published in 1981, this edition features a new preface and foreword.

redstarSuzack, Cheryl & others. Indigenous Women and Feminism: Politics, Activism, Culture. Univ. of British Columbia. 2011. 296p. index. ISBN 9780774818087. pap. $39.95.

In a collection of wide-ranging essays, female activists and writers from different tribes offer themes on indigenous feminism. They argue that colonization reordered gender relations to subordinate women, regardless of precontact status. Native women on reservations are in a state of forced dependency and are especially vulnerable to sexual violence.


Bitch Media 

Launched in 1996, Bitch magazine is “a feminist response to pop culture.” With a robust online site, Bitch Media features articles, interviews, a podcast, and reviews of music, film, and books.

Crunk Feminist Collective 

Created by Brittney Cooper (Eloquent Rage) and Susanna M. Morris, CFC aims to create a space for feminists of color to speak on politics, activism, music, and more.


Cofounded by Jessica Valenti (Sex Object), Feministing is an online community looking to engage young feminists. The site addresses a broad range of issues, including the #MeToo movement and LGBTQ rights.

Ms. Magazine

Founded by Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Ms. Magazine debuted on newsstands in 1972. It remains a vital presence in feminist dialog today and a prominent advocate for women’s rights.


Hollaback!; for Apple or Android.

Users can download harassment stories they’ve witnessed or experienced in real time. Searchable by map; some major cities have local chapters.

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  1. Leanne says:

    Also check out This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins and Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper.

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