This week actor and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson delivered a speech at the United Nations Headquarters, calling for gender equality to be seen not only as a women’s issue, but as human rights issue that requires action by men too. The aim of HeForShe is to ‘bring together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity for the benefit of all’. Marking this initiative, LSE Review of Books rounds up 8 inspirational books on gender equality, masculinity, and femininity.


Interested in women’s rights and human rights?

The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights by Minky Worden
Women’s rights have progressed significantly in the last two decades, but major challenges remain in order to end global gender discrimination. The Unfinished Revolution outlines the recent history of the battle to secure basic rights for women and girls, including in the Middle East where the hopes raised by the Arab Spring are yet to be fulfilled. Featuring essays by more than 30 writers, activists, policymakers and human rights experts, Natalie Novick concludes that the book’s thoughtful organization and structure make it easily accessible to anyone interested in human rights, women’s issues or global inequalities. Read the full review.

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Interested in constructions of masculinity?

Enlisting Masculinity: The Construction of Gender in U.S. Military Recruiting Advertising During the All-Volunteer Force by Melissa T. Brown
Enlisting Masculinity explores how the U.S. military branches have deployed ideas about masculinity to sell military service to potential recruits. Based on an analysis of more than 300 print advertisements published between the early 1970s and 2007, as well as television commercials, recruiting websites, and media coverage of recruiting, the book argues that masculinity is still a foundation of appeals today. Lucy Delap finds out more on how the talks of a crisis in masculinity may be just rhetorical. Read the full review.

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Interested in gender equality in cities?

Fair Shared Cities: The Impact of Gender Planning in Europe by Inés Sánchez de Madariaga and Marion Roberts
Bringing together a diverse team of leading scholars and professionals, Fair Shared Cities offers a variety of insights into ongoing gender mainstreaming policies in Europe with a focus on urban/spatial planning. Natalie Novick finds that through the examples of effective policy contained in these pages, the contributors shows how the successful implementation of gender mainstreaming is in the collective interest and it is possible that the city can be constructed more effectively into a place that is more equal for everyone. Read the full review.

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Interested in challenging the influence of pornography?

Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism by Julia Long
Countering the ongoing ‘pornification’ of Western culture and society, with lads’ mags on the middle shelf and lap-dancing clubs in residential areas, anti-porn movements are re-emerging among a new generation of feminist activists worldwide. This guide to the problems with porn starts with a history of modern pro and anti political stances before examining the ways in which the new arguments and campaigns around pornography are articulated, deployed and received. If you’re looking for a history of anti-porn activism, this is a good start. But if you’re looking for an argument against pornography, this book fails to deliver, writes Stephanie Spoto. Read the full review.

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Interested in equal pay and the glass ceiling?

Shattered, Cracked or Firmly Intact? Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide by Farida Jalalzai 

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka made history when she was appointed the world’s first woman prime minister. In the half-century following her achievement, fewer than eighty women worldwide have attained the office of prime minister or president. In Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact?, Farida Jalalzai aims to explain the mechanisms that push politically active women into relatively weak posts and why women who successfully attain executive office almost always hail from political families within unstable systems. Senia Cuevas is impressed by this thorough text. Read the full review.

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Interested in parental leave policies around the world?

The Origins of Active Social Policy: Labour Market and Childcare Policies in a Comparative Perspective by Giuliano Bonoli
Since the mid 1990s, governments throughout Europe have invested massively in two areas: active labour market policy and childcare. The result, a more active welfare state, seems a rather solid achievement, likely to survive the turbulent post-crisis years. This book contains case studies of policy trajectories in seven European countries and advanced statistical analysis of spending figuresGiuliano Bonoli provides a rich and well-referenced narrative, which readers can use to scaffold their understanding of Western European social policies, writes Donna Peach. Read the full review.

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 Interested in women’s participation in male-dominated workplaces?

Recoding Gender: Women’s Changing Participation in Computing by Janet Abbate
In Recoding Gender, Janet Abbate explores the untold history of women in computer science and programming from the Second World War to the late twentieth century. Demonstrating how gender has shaped the culture of computing, she aims to offer a valuable historical perspective on today’s concerns over women’s underrepresentation in the field. Jennifer Miller recommends this book for both readers interested in an account of women’s participation and contributions in the field of computer science and to those seeking answers to the challenges in setting policy for the scientific and technical workforce. Read the full review.

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Interested in the impact of sex-selective abortions?

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men by Mara Hvistendahl
The high number of sex-selective abortions taking place across Asia has tipped the gender balance to such an extreme that over 160 million females are “missing” from the population. Therese Hesketh finds that a wealth of fascinating historical detail makes Unnatural Selection a strong read, but a number of important contemporary issues seem to have been omitted. Read the full review.

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