Published on April 10th, 2014 | by Molly Westerman



Parenting magazines and books getting you down? It’s rough out there for parents who like to read but dislike sexism!

Check out these books when you’re sick of the usual fare.


Had it up to here with people insisting girls “naturally” adore pink and boys “naturally” play with weapons, because hormones? Try psychologist Cordelia Fine’s smart and funny demolition of bad gender science, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (2010). Then pick up sociologist Emily Kane’s The Gender Trap (2012), an interview-based exploration of how parents push—and push back against—gender norms for their children. Both of these books are full of awesome.

Struggling with the sense that you’re tired after a long day of “doing nothing” with your baby? Try psychotherapist Naomi Stadlen’s What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing (2004). Unfortunately, to get to the useful bits you’ll have to wade through yucky gender essentialism and class privilege. Although it’s way too much for me, I know other mothers who felt downright saved by this book in the early months.

Wishing our culture had a better way to talk about your parental skills and labor, without this “maternal instinct” bullshit creeping in? Try philosopher Sara Ruddick’s classic Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace (1989). Come on, Part I is entitled “Thinking about Mothers Thinking,” and Ruddick’s definition of mothering assumes that men can be mothers too! You know you want to hear more

On the market for discussions of feminist parenting, reproductive rights, and partnerships all in one book? Try bell hooks’ very readable Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics (2000) and get ready to ponder race, gender, class, and especially love.

Childbirth, Codex Nova 2641, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

In the mood for some history? Try Jacqueline H. Wolf’s fascinating Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America. Think big thoughts about childbirth, gender, pain, and power.

Not so sure about this fluffy princess dress business? Try Peggy Orenstein’s engaging critique Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (2011). Bonus points for glitter on the cover.


Anatomical Chart Company

Looking for a pregnancy memoir that’s, well, brilliant? Try ecologist and poet Sandra Steingraber’s Having Faith. Steingraber’s gorgeous writing puts pregnancy and birth in the context of science, politics, history, and the environment and then flat-out blows my mind.

Want some sex advice that isn’t awful? Try The Mother’s Guide to Sex: Enjoying Your Sexuality Through All Stages of Motherhood (2001) or Sexy Mamas (2004)—whichever you can get your hands on. They’re both inclusive, matter-of-fact, and deeply empathetic guides by sex educators Anne Semans and Cathy Winks.


Weirded out by American attitudes toward teenagers and sex? Try sociologist Amy T. Schalet’s Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex. You’ll feel validated and learn about family life in the Netherlands: win-win!

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About the Author

Molly Westerman is a writer, book nerd, literature PhD, and parent of two. Her current projects include a book for feminist parents and the blog First the Egg. A former Southerner and forever bourbon-drinker, Molly now lives in and loves the fine state of Minnesota.

6 Responses to Molly Westerman has 13 BOOKS FOR FEMINIST MOTHERS

  1. Talcott says:

    “Meet Polkadot,” is a book (for ALL ages) about a non-binary Trans child- written from a feminist and Trans-liberation perspective!!

  2. belle says:

    The book I felt saved me was Torn In Two by Rozsika Parker — an exploration of maternal ambivalence and how it works to make us better parents. Also great is Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich. I will check out the Cordelia Fine recommended here.

  3. Kaitlin says:

    The Revolution at Point Zero by Sylvia Federicois an excellent counter point to lean in feminism, including her essays on organizing for paid housework as part of a feminist, socialist revolution.

  4. Minna says:

    “Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else” by Carmen Gimenez Smith is a beautiful poetic feminist memoir that looks at motherhood as she is pregnant with her second child while her own mother is dying. She tackles the unique struggles of being an artist mom and the writing is so gorgeous and real.

  5. Kaitlin says:

    Oh and After Birth by Elisa Albert is an amazing novel about motherhood, loneliness, and attachment parenting.

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