A reading list for men who care about feminism

Wade Davis wants men to get real.
Wade Davis wants men to get real.
Image: Quartz
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I often fantasize of a world in which male friends casually chat about bell hooks or Audre Lorde, as my female friends and I do. That fantasy recently became reality, when I met Wade Davis, the former NFL player turned feminist activist who is on a mission to teach men about gender equality and healthy masculinity.

Davis, who frequently writes and speaks about men’s role in feminism, educates pro and college athletes and executives at companies like Google about sexism, racism, and homophobia. He’s the NFL’s first LGBT-inclusion consultant, a UN Women Global Champion for Innovation, and creator of the #BlackMenAndFeminism campaign.

Outside of boardrooms and locker rooms, Davis is eager to help men find texts that will get them excited about feminism. His educational approach is fundamentally humble, as he said when we met at a gender-equality conference:

If you met me 10 years ago, you’d dismiss me as a total jerk. I used to be the person who would say ‘”Not all men.” I really think the key for me, and a lot of men, is that we actually have no clue what your lives are like. To be honest, we have no idea. We think about how to attract you—I’m a gay man but I spend enough time with straight men, and I know that straight men think about how to attract you but they’re rarely deeply invested in actually learning what your lives are like. So when I started reading books written by women about women I was like, “Oh shit, they are talking about me. Literally this is me!” And I’m a gay man!

As an outspoken feminist who frequently fields criticism from men who don’t understand sexism, Davis’ evaluation hits the nail on the head. So how do we get more men to admit their ignorance and actively seek a feminist education?

Thankfully, many men are interested in such a pursuit. Almost daily, I receive messages from men—friends, acquaintances, strangers—asking me what they should read to be better feminists. I do my part by sending each man who messages me How We’ll Win, Quartz’s year-long project on the fight for gender equality—especially the fourth edition, which is a collection of interviews with 50 industry-leading men on masculinity, insecurities, and feminism.

But if I’ve learned anything from interviewing many powerful men, it’s that men need to hold one another accountable. Davis just did men worldwide a favor, sharing the top books he recommends for male feminists on Instagram. Below, you can find Davis’ reading list, supplemented by the books and essays Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the Cornell English professor, poet, and feminist activist, recommends, which he recently shared on interview with Quartz. And then you’ll see some recommendations of my own.

Davis’ reading list:

The Origins of Others by Toni Morrison

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, by Mychal Denzel

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

Ngugi’s reading list:

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Gloria E. Anzaldúa and Cherríe L. Moraga

“The Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements” by Huey P. Newton

“Sexual Assault: When You’re on the Margins: Can We All Say #MeToo?” by Collier Meyerson

“The Emancipation of Women” by Thomas Sankara – an African global feminism blog written by Minna Salami (and watch for her forthcoming book in 2019, Sensuous Knowledge: A Radical Black Feminist Approach For Everyone)

My two cents:

Beyond the brilliant texts listed above (Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde is my absolute favorite), I’d also recommend:

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister (note: also anything written by Traister)

So you want to talk about race? by Ijeoma Oluo

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Amateur: A True Story of What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks