Hello again world, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been able to post anything (depsite my promise to myself of one blog a week), but I’m finally back on the blogging band wagon. It turns out, my timing couldn’t be more perfect, since it’s International Women’s Day and I’ve been itching to write this piece for a while anyway.
Whether you’ve read my blogs before or you’ve only taken a fleeting glance at my homepage/ Instagram etc, you’ll know that books are kind of my jam. I’m also a quiet, but nonetheless ardent, feminist and so it should come as no surprise that I have more than one favourite literary female. From the fictional to the factual, here are some of my top gals:
Could you have written Frankenstein at 18 years old, having already run off with your married lover and had a miscarriage? Me neither. Mary Shelley is a boss-ass bitch. She held her own in a world full of Byrons and (Percy) Shelleys and beat them at their own game. Even without all that, Frankenstein is still an iconic story and one that everyone’s heard of – which is more than a lot of the other Romantics can say (I still love them all though).
Spoiler alert coming up: I hate when a strong female character has to meet her grisly end just because she can’t/ won’t conform to society’s restrictive and downright silly norms. Regardless of her gruesome end, Anna Karenina, is one of the best literary women; props to Tolstoy for making his female lead human, imperfect, complex and still a heroine.
Arguably one of the most important strong literary females because of her place in a children’s book. Matilda teaches children and grown ups alike that it’s OK to be different and that your unique talents matter, regardless of the many, many people who might try to bring you down. Another honorary shout out has to go to Miss Honey for backing Matilda’s genius despite everyone else being giant bullies.
Toni Morrison has a way of communicating a language, a heritage and a culture that’s so alien to so many, in a way that’s so relatable. Having become become one of the leading African American voices in literature and a believer in the equitable feminism we recognise today, she’s more than deserved her place on my list.
I love an author who can take a good look at her surroundings and call bullshit on the whole thing. And if there’s anyone who can do this, it’s Muriel. I only recently added a couple of her novels to my library but she’s definitely become one of my favourites, especially where the sass is concerned.
Like Muriel, Jane’s also pretty great at calling out society, in a brilliantly subtle way. It takes some getting used to, but once you get past the language barrier, you can see that Jane Austen has some serious shade to throw.
Scout’s already pretty cool in To Kill a Mockingbird but she’s even cooler in Go Set a Watchman. She’s not afraid to speak her mind or stand up for her beliefs and while she might be more than a little bit volatile, the ultimate conclusions that she draws about human nature and society as a whole make a lot of sense.
Every single woman in The Colour Purple
There are so many novels out there that follow the “one woman against the world” narrative. Don’t get me wrong, that’s an important narrative, but I don’t think it’s as important as the “women working together to make their lives better” one. The Colour Purple is ultimately a story that covers motherhood, abuse, sexism and the experiences of African American women, but it covers all these things through the eyes of a collective of women going through the same things and looking for a way out together.
Anyone who’s as perceptive and compassionate as Virginia Woolf was always going to make it on the list. Not only are her stories some of my favourites, I also love that she takes each and every viewpoint into account, from the tiniest moth to a whole city of people – someone who’s able to think beyond themselves in such detail is definitely someone with an incredibly strong mind.
There are so many more and I could probably spend weeks on this but I’ll save some for the International Women’s Days to come.