Five Feminist Texts Today: What it Means to be a Feminist in the 21st Century?


by Vanessa Garcia

As I start my year as writer in residence at Girls’ Club, I’m sitting here thinking about feminism. I’m thinking about what feminism means today. Whose contributing to it; whose writing about it; whose pushing buttons, and starting important conversations? Here are five “texts” I’m considering as my “top five feminist texts” right now (they change constantly, but this is what they are today).


In 2007, FX premiered the show Damages (now available on Netflix). The show aired for three seasons and portrayed a woman at the top. Although it shows a central character, Patty Hewes (played by Glenn Close), who most definitely cannot “have it all” — she chooses her legal career over family, outwardly, openly, and proudly — it is still a show that complicates the idea of a powerful woman, and for this, it is absolutely noteworthy. Patty Hewes and her protégé of sorts, Ellen Parsons (played by Rose Byrne) are morally compromised women of power, and this is something we hardly ever get to see, especially on TV. Finally, here was a feminist version of the smart shows we’d all grown to love — The Sopranos, Mad Men, and, later, Breaking Bad — and it was thrilling. Not to mention that it made way for a show like Homeland, later. The entire three seasons (that aired on FX; later two more seasons aired on Direct TV’s Audience Network) are what I consider to be one of the most interesting early 21st century feminist texts.
(pictured above)

2. THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS by Claire Messud —

Michiko Kakutani got it wrong in her NY Times Review of this book when she compared it to “Single White Female” — the book’s much, much more complex than that. Messud is one of the fiercest, most intelligent writers out there. What I love about this book is that it’s about an angry woman. And we’re not talking superficial bra-burning anger, not at all. We’re talking deep rooted anger smoothed over by surface, a surface that can no longer hold. The book’s beginning: “How angry am I? You don’t want to know. Nobody wants to know…It was supposed to say “Great Artist” on my tombstone, but if I died right now it would say “such a good teacher/daughter/friend” instead; and what I really want to shout, and want in big letters on that grave, too, is FUCK YOU ALL.”


In 2008, revved up about the way the media was treating Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, and fed up with the age-old glass ceiling comprised of double standards, Siskind shifted careers. Walking away from Wall Street and towards the non-profit sector, Siskind became president of The New Agenda — an organization whose mission it is to improve the lives of women and girls by bringing about systemic change in the media, at the workplace, at school and at home. You can read Siskind on The Huffington Post and The New Agenda’s ideas on the organization’s blog.


The Guardian called her one of the Top 100 Inspiring Women in the World. She’s also, at 34, considered to be one of the many women at the helm of “fourth wave of feminism” (though she wouldn’t like that terminology). She founded a blog called, which is really first-rate writing about women. Her latest book is called “Why Have Kids?” There’s plenty to read and plenty to consider when dealing with Valenti…

5. THE END OF MEN: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin —

The patriarchy is dead, says Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic and founder and editor at Double X (Slate’s women’s section). What feminist wouldn’t be excited with a statement like that? The idea behind Rosin’s book is that women are adapting more easily to the ever-fluid world of 21st century socio-economics, and, therefore, succeeding. Men, on the other hand…not so much.

So, that’s my shortlist. What’s yours?

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