Powerful Stories by Female Authors Who Challenge the Gender Status Quo

Female authors are voices of social justice and this time they’re challenging gender normativity and roles. Read about six powerful authors and their novels here!

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While feminism has been on the rise since Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women in the 18th Century, the most recent decades are focusing on the recognition and equality of the various groups on the gender spectrum. These six female authors write about gender role reversal, gender fluidity and normativity, and breaking down social expectations.

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin sits gender specificity on the back burner. Jemisin likens a penis on a woman to that of hands having fingernails, which is normal and of no import to the value of a person’s character. Her cast of characters is gender and sexually diverse, a fact that is mostly accepted in the novel’s world, the Stillness. Transgender Tonkee, gay Alabaster, bisexual Innon, and genderless stone eaters who don a human gender as a courtesy when interacting with humans are just a few of the reasons this groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy novel is challenging social normativity of gender classification.


Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet

Lesbians who crossdress, “male” prostitution, and gender fluidity, are themes one does not typically associate with the sexually repressed Victorian era. Waters explicitly explores gay relationships, secret societies of repressed lesbians and gays, and partnership toxicity in this erotic historical romance.


Kathleen Winter, Annabel

Wayne was born in 1968 to a working-class family in a tight-knit restrictive community in rural Canada. He is intersex but is assigned male at birth, his vagina sewn up by doctors. Wayne’s father forces masculinity upon his son while Wayne’s mother and the midwife, Thomasina, on the other hand, secretly nurture his femininity. This novel explores the difficulties of raising a child with characteristics outside of the norm, of the dichotomy of parental expectation and love – which too often do not coincide – and the confusion of attempting to understand oneself.


Naomi Alderman, The Power

This 2016 dystopian sci-fi novel asks, “What happens when the dominant roles of men are suddenly in the hands of women?” Women in Alderman’s novel suddenly have the power of electricity in their hands, resetting the world’s social structure. This novel highlights how humans decide who sits in the echelons of power, and it comes down to fear. Men were once more powerful and strong, now it takes a second of thought and a touch to incapacitate or kill.


Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood

This sci-fi trilogy deals with aliens who decide to save the war-torn human race via cross-breeding. A progressive gender-centric novel, the alien Oankali has three genders: male, female, and ooloi (who can manipulate the DNA of individual cells). Reproduction requires all three genders. Offspring of the Oankalo-human pair are born genderless until metamorphosis, a process that is contradictorily a biological and a personal desire. A deeply moving thought-provoking series on human nature, Lilith’s Brood is an exploration of social versus biological. It will cause you to think about bias you didn’t know you had, and reflect on your own ideologies regarding the human construct.


Gail Dayton, One Rose Trilogy

Dayton challenges the social order in this fantasy series where one country (Adara) is ruled by a matriarchy and is at war with another (Tibra), a patriarchy divided by a feudal caste system, with women at the lowest rung. Families in Adara are polyamory, children are raised by the whole, and women hold the magic. A titillating work that evaluates the benefits of such relationships and leadership, questions the veracity of gendered power structures, and has plenty of magical action and erotic scenes to keep you entertained. 


Gender identity and sexual orientation are not diseases or mental health issues. 39% of the LGBTQ+ community experience mental health crisis every year due to the burdens placed on them by society and family. Please reach out to a professional to help alleviate the real mental health struggles affecting you. Mental Health America is an amazing resource for finding and connecting with professionals who understand and are waiting to help.

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