With the ever changing society we live in today, literature and academic studies concerning important topics, such as gender, is one that should be read with open minds. The following five books were written by authors who wanted the readers to think about gender in a new light.
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A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
This micro-history of the life of a midwife living in colonial New England gives a new perspective on gender roles in history. After Ulrich discovered Martha Ballard’s diary detailing her day-to-day life as the only midwife in her small town in Maine, she realized that Martha Ballard perfectly defies previously held notions about gender roles in colonial America. Martha was a mother and a self-taught Midwife who delivered or assisted more than eight hundred births. She was well-respected and knowledgeable in botany, healing, and midwifery. Martha defied the gender stereotype that many historians have given the era in which Martha lived in. She made medical history, yet, is only known because of her diaries. Ulrich’s deep analysis of Martha’s diary not only shows that women were capable and important to society in a time where women couldn’t even vote, but she also shows us that because of Martha’s gender, her accomplishments were pushed under the rug or were credited by a man. Ulrich’s micro-history on Martha’s life is definitely one to make the reader think about what we think we know about gender relations in history, and what actually happened.
From Jim Crow to Jay-Z: Race, Rap, and the Performance of Masculinity by Miles White
This study breaks down African-American male masculinity and the misrepresentation and dehumanization of black males in the pop culture and in everyday society. Throughout history, African-American males who were in role model positions were often mistreated and demonized due to the stereotype of the African American man. These stereotypes include misogyny and deviance. White links the destruction of the African-American male public figure to these stereotypes in his groundbreaking study.
Not That Bad edited with introduction by Roxane Gay
Not That Bad is an anthology of personal essays written by victims of rape, assault, and harassment of all genders. Gay collects original, real writing by the victims that address the aftermath of everyday life as a victim. The title “Not That Bad” is what victims of assault or sexual harassment are often told if they were able to survive the attack. The personal essays make the reader think about the role of gender in our society and how a criminal is able to perform these heinous crimes. While having been victimized in their past is what the authors have in common, each story is different and has a different message. Gay also collected works from more well-known people, such as Gabrielle Union. Not That Bad is a heartbreaking, yet enlightening anthology on the lives of victims and how gender norms have shaped their healing process.
Earthcare: Women and the Environment by Carolyn Merchant
Merchant conducted this academic study sixteen years after her study on the correlation between the destruction of the environment and the oppression of women as a gender. Her original study, The Death of Nature, is one that caught the attention of many feminists in the 80s, so much so that she wrote the sequel, Earthcare, to expand her arguments even further with new perspectives and different evidence. Merchant describes the correlation of her main argument by looking at mythology and religious texts, such as Adam and Eve. She also dedicates a good portion of her work to explaining and showcasing how women have helped save and preserve the environment. Merchant’s work is definitely worth the read. Her thoughtful arguments are sure to make you think about the role of gender in the environment.
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine
This book focuses on how the idea of gender is simply a social construct. Fine uses studies in psychology and neurology to debunk the myth that men and women have different brains that have shaped gender roles in society. Fine also touches on the behavioral differences between the male and female brain and how society has constructed the idea that men aren’t empathetic and women can’t fix cars. This insightful book argues using modern science, allowing the readers to really reflect upon themselves, and the true differences and similarities of men and women in their own lives.
Andria Modica is a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, where she majors in History. She has written for other online publications and wishes to continue to do so throughout her college career. She loves to be in the know about all different types of news and loves how being a journalist allows her to express her feelings about certain topics that faces youth culture.