How Accessible Is Literary Feminism Really?

Illustrated by Ellie Campbell

Wanting to become more knowledgable about feminist theory is something many of us may be striving to do in 2021; maybe it’s an addition to your New Years checklist, right after learning how to illustrate or bake banana bread. However, for many the world of literary feminism - which often acts as an entry into more complex feminist thought - is something that can be inaccessible, due mainly to finances or the physical inability to process literary text.

The assumption that everyone can go out and purchase multiple texts surrounding feminst theory is one that is inherently classist as it rests on the assumption that all individuals have the disposable income to purchase multiple books priced around £12.99. This price is fair to compensate for the labour put into these books, but not everyone can afford this, and the option of borrowing books from a library isn’t an option that many would feel comfortable with during the pandemic. In a similar manner, audio books which would serve as an alternative choice for those who are unable to digest text options are also an option that is not financially viable for many. As a result, many who may be wanting to delve into feminist theory through books and audio may find themselves priced out.

Of course there is always the option of accessing articles online for free, and these resources can provide a great insight into feminist theory. However, a lot of the time the content is quite hard to digest which is where literature such as ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given and ‘What A Time To Be Alone’ by Chidera Eggerue come in. These two texts have been at the centre of a lot of dispute regarding the true intersectionality of feminism and the ways in which Black women pave the way for white writers. With large fonts, quotes and images that weave feminist theory with memoir material these texts are helpful in providing content that is digestible and easy to read. For lots of people these books are a launching pad or foundation for building their feminist knowledge, with such texts recommending other resources that readers can look into, which means readers can develop and grow their database of feminist theory.

Academic articles that can be accessed online from sites such as jstor or wiley are something that can dishearten those stepping into feminism due to the sheer amount of terminology and theory they expect you to already be aware of. Of course, academic texts are one of the key ways in which we can actually become fully versed in feminist theory as they contain the work of individuals who have spent years of their life researching and collating theories and ideas. However, it’s unrealistic to expect those new to feminism to not only understand such literature, but find it engaging as well.

Added to this, there is the visual format of such academic style texts that can be a struggle for many individuals such as those who are dyslexic. Formatting of a page that features large amounts of text set on a plain white background fails in engaging such readers and adds to the struggle of reading. This is where these texts with illustrations, colourful pages, shorter chapters and larger fonts are so crucial, yet those who can’t afford them are priced out of accessing these digestible ideas.

Although not the most academically rich, infographics found online can also be incredibly helpful for those who struggle to process larger amounts of information or access these higher priced texts. Infographics can act as a key stepping stone, with the distinctive large fonts and colours characteristic of an evening spent with Canva, making complex ideas more accessible to those who struggle to digest the large amounts of information that a book or article would provide.

The combination of being fed huge amounts of knowledge paired with the inability of many to afford them means that some of these feminist texts aren’t the best option. As a result alternate options may be more helpful, one these options is podcasts. There are a number of podcasts that provide ideas of feminism and promote discussions centred around intersectionality e.g. ensuring that the mic is firmly presented to marginalised voices. These podcasts include:

YouTube is also a great platform where individuals can be introduced to concepts within feminism such as misogyny, intersectionality and sexuality. A combination of audio and visual makes the ability to remain engaged and interested much easier and makes youtube blogs a great option for those wanting to dip their toes into feminist thought. Some great channels include:

Instagram has become a platform that has become a hive of accounts promoting deep discussions on feminism and intersectionality. Some great accounts include:

-Fat Pheebs


- Indiaysabel

-Lesbian Herstory Archives

- Colourful Activist

Becoming fully versed and comfortable in understanding and engaging with feminist concepts is a process that no-one is going to immediately pick up. Unfortunately, the interaction of online platforms with individuals who create supposedly new and innovative “feminism Bibles” presents the idea that these are ideas that can be picked up easily and instantly from a young age by simply reading these texts as well as others, which is inaccurate to claim. Literary texts are not the sole way that people feel comfortable or able to learn from and ultimately aren’t as accessible as some may believe them to be. Resources such as podcasts, Youtube blogs and Instagram pages are not going to present you with the deepest level of feminist knowledge either, but can present an option that is far more accessible and digestible than forms of feminist literature for those who are feeling a little out of depth in the world of literary feminism.

The decision to broaden your feminst knowledge has to begin with the realisation that in order to truly learn and understand, a variety of viewpoints and voices have to be listened to and these may not all be found within popular literary feminist texts. So plugging in your headphones and sitting down to a podcast or a video can be a great way in taking a more multidisciplinary approach to learning about feminism as well as engaging with more visually and digestible content.

Article by Rachella Lartey