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Bibliotherapy Series: Women, Part 1

June 24th, 2017 | 2 comments

(This bibliotherapy bundle contains books addressing what it means to be female. I wasn’t sure if I should call it “feminine” or “feminist” because neither term is inclusive or unproblematic. In the end, I simply named this collection “Women, Part 1” — because there’s more to come. If you have a vagina, or even if you don’t, you’ll find something here worth reading.)

Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

What’s it about?

This is a collection of old myths, stories and folk tales that speak to the female psyche. It has been described as an “oracle” and I personally relate to it as my “bible” on feminine instinct and intuition. The myths selected are interpreted through a psycho-analytic lens and cover everything from love, retrieval of intuition, belonging, self-preservation, solitude, sexuality, forgiveness, rage, creative life, obsession and addiction to survival and sovereignty.

What makes it great?

Dr Estes wrote this book in 10 – 15 minute intervals over the course of 20 years. This means you can literally open up to any page and read just one paragraph and extract meaning without needing any context.  Even though the “Divine Feminine” as a subject is so hot right now, the content inside these pages is timeless and beyond trends. It’s also a book that grows with you. I have been reading this book since I was 19. I was searching for answers to heal a broken heart and found them in the story “Skeleton Woman.” At the time, I thought I was, like, so wise to “get” the meaning. Then I re-visited the stories a few years later, and realised I hadn’t. Some stories are still a mystery to me, because I haven’t yet had the life experience to match. This is the magic of Women Who Run With the Wolves. It speaks to your soul, not just your intellect. Wherever you are, whatever page you turn to — is right for you.

You should read it if:

You want to learn how to cultivate the gifts of your feminine soul. You feel called to learn the ways of Wild Woman, to contact her power, and protect that indestructible aspect of your deepest self.

 

Awakening Shakti, Sally Kempton

 

What’s it about?

This is a gorgeous (and practical) exploration of the goddesses of India. Each of the goddesses are expressions of “Shakti” (pure, creative power) and each reflects archetypal energies in all women. Whether you identify more with Kali “bringer of strength, fierce love, and untamed freedom” or the golden girl Lakshmi “who confers prosperity and beauty” you’ll find each goddess is a doorway to a new consciousness. Each goddess myth is accompanied by activating exercises and meditations so you can “install” the goddess energy into your being.

What makes it great?

Growing up in the Catholic faith I really didn’t have access to Goddess stories, for obvious “We believe in one God”-type reasons. Many Western women, like me, are hungry for mythic examples of female deities to guide us. Awakening Shakti is an accessible introduction to the grand tantric narrative, and each of the goddesses is understood within the wider cosmology. It’s been described as a “mythic manual” and I’d agree that for people seeking spiritual myth and story, this book is a fabulous addition to your bookshelf.

You should read it if:

You’re interested in feminine power and the concept of sacred feminism. And especially read it if you’re looking for models of feminine power to unlock your own potential.

 

The Goddess Within, Jennifer Barker Woolger and Roger J Woolger

 

What’s it about?

Much like Awakening Shakti (above), The Goddess Within is an exploration of eternal myths, but this collection is from the Greek pantheon instead. Each of the 6 ancient Greek goddesses – Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, Hera and Persephone – are said to inform a woman’s personality and behaviour. The book is based on the ten years of workshops conducted by the husband and wife authors on the subject of goddess psychology.

What makes it great?

It’s an education on Greek myths with specific attention to female deities. What’s most interesting are the links weaving ancient myth to more contemporary examples of particular modes of being in the world. According to Jungian theory (the authors are Jungian and Gestalt psychologists) archetypes are emotional and behavioural patterns in our psyches. In this way, The Goddess Within, is a fascinating exploration of the female psyche. You will probably recognise your mother, sister, daughter and friends in these ancient characters!

You should read it if:

You’re confused by conflicting expectations and competing desires about what it means to be a woman: the Greek goddesses have so much to share!

 

 

Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham

 

What’s it about?

Creator of HBO series Girls (which I admit I’ve never seen) contributes a collection of personal essays that cover love, sex (and date rape), body image, family, friendship (including girl crushes) and work. Dunham is a divisive character, but her writing is truly splendid. There is no moralising here, just raw analysis from her own subjective viewpoint.

What makes it great?

From her chillingly accurate portrayal of “casual” sex to her hilarious take on therapy and shopping culture, what makes this book great is how it can turn from titillating to tender to terrifyingly truthful  — thus revealing the depths and layers of being a woman in the Western world.

You should read it if:

You appreciate analysis of dating culture, diet culture and weird family and friendship dynamics.

Lena Dunham’s mother asserts that “this book should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand the experience of being a young woman in our culture,” and I would agree.

 

The Fictional Woman, Tara Moss

 

What’s it about?

As the title suggests, Fictional Woman is a a thought-provoking analysis of the false and/or problematic narratives about woman-hood. Part memoir, part social analysis, Moss unpacks everyday sexism, modern motherhood, ageing, body image and female representation in all spheres of life.

What makes it great?

Not all writers can balance rigorous research with touching personal moments, and Tara Moss does this beautifully. It’s more than Tara’s personal story (which is compelling in and of itself) it’s a provocative call to action for those who want to change the old fictions of the feminine.

You should read it if:

You don’t necessarily consider yourself a feminist. It would be a shame not to read this book based on not liking the word. This book will challenge your assumptions – and arm you with facts – so you can unshackle yourself from the fictions and write your own next chapter.

 

Fight Like A Girl, Clementine Ford

 

What’s it about?

It’s been described as a manifesto for feminists (and those who soon will be), and Ford conceives it as a love letter to girls. Part memoir, part call-to-arms, part feminist analysis (obviously…) the book covers sexual violence, rape culture, body image, eating disorders, abortion… and 41 flavours of male misogyny.

What makes it great?

There are those that do not and will not like Ford’s brand of feminism (and I daresay she doesn’t give a fuck about being liked). For me, the most compelling message of Fight Like a Girl is this: it’s okay to feel angry. As women, we are socialised out of our anger to the extent that we turn against ourselves. Ford, like Gloria Steinem, argues we have a right to be angry – because the anger is usually pointing to injustice that must be confronted.

You should read it if:

You’re looking for a context for feelings of not-enough-ness, fear of not being liked, and/or don’t know why feminism is even necessary. I’ve read plenty of self-help type books addressing self-esteem over the years, but none of those books address one of the core constructs contributing to low self-esteem in women: the patriarchy. Ford commands the reader to stop blaming herself (needlessly) and start challenging the pervasive misogynist culture instead. (WARNING: reading this book probably will make you angry. But as long as you use that anger as a positive catalyst for change, feeling angry is not a sin.)

 

Now I’d love to hear from you: what’s your favourite book on the topic of womanhood, feminism or the feminine (or all three!)?  I’m working on my next book bundle for women Part 2 and I’d love to get your input.

 

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2 people have commented
  1. Caitilin says:

    I’m really enjoying this series of posts, Kate. It’s a great way to revisit old touchstones and discover new ones. Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences in this way.

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