Must-Read Books for Feminist Coaches

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By Becky Mollenkamp, ACC

My coaching work has evolved a lot over the years. The most meaningful and important shift has been my commitment to operating an inclusive feminist business. That means I acknowledge the harm that patriarchy causes all people, and do my best not to add to that harm.

If you are on a similar journey and want to expand your understanding of patriarchy, inclusivity, consent, and more, then here are a few books that have been helpful in my own work.

(Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning—at no additional cost to you—I’ll get earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.)

“Feminism is For Everybody” by bell hooks

A quick but powerful read, this book covers so much ground—consciousness raising, reproductive rights, beauty standards, race and gender, classism, parenting, and more. As with all of the books on this list, hooks is a product of her time. This book by the professor and activist came out more than two decades ago. It could do better in offering a fully inclusive vision (notably around trans rights), but it is a solid foundational piece for anyone beginning their journey into understanding the inclusive feminist lens.

“Hood Feminism” by Mikki Kendall

Released in early 2021, this is one of the newer books on this list and like “Feminism is for Everybody,” it covers a lot of ground. Although my own feminist education had already taught me much of what’s covered here, I still very much appreciate receiving the information through the eyes of a younger Black educator. It’s definitely a solid choice for younger readers beginning to explore these topics.

“Fierce Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff

Although not specifically about feminism, the author does a fabulous job of acknowledging privilege and difference. This is a fabulous book for coaches who want to help their clients cultivate self-compassion. In fact, I’d argue you cannot be a truly inclusive feminist coach unless your work is rooted in compassion.

“Fearing the Black Body” by Sabrina Strings

Working with clients who identify as women, especially those who belong to further marginalized communities, means you must understand the ways their bodies have been historically mistreated. This book shines a light on how the historic stigma of larger bodies is, at its core, radicalized and racist, and that fat phobia is a means to validate race, class, and gender prejudice.

“The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor

This is approachable, powerful book investigates where systems of oppression live inside all of us. Taylor’s radical self-love framework is a wonderful starting point for helping clients identify and dismantle bodily-based hierarchies inside and outside themselves as they embark on building new worlds of possibility.

“Pleasure Activism” by Adrienne Maree Brown

People not at the top of the patriarchy hierarchy are conditioned to believe they don’t deserve or aren’t allowed pleasure (sexual and otherwise). This is further compounded by living in purity culture, which so many of us do. This book helped to revolutionize how I prioritize pleasure, and how I help my clients do the same.

“You Belong” by Sebene Selassie

In the past, my go-to book recommendation for people interested in mindfulness and presence was “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Now, I tell people about “You Belong.” It conveys so much of what Tolle discusses, but far more simply. Plus, it delves into so many other topics (connection/community, confidence) that are important to many coaching clients.

“Patriarchy Stress Disorder” by Valerie Rein

Think what’s holding you back is Imposter Syndrome or some other version of not living up to your potential? Perhaps what’s really getting in the way is patriarchy and patriarchal conditioning. This is an incredible place to start with unpacking and dismantling the indoctrinated beliefs we are all born into by living in patriarchy. This was one of the most important books in motivating my own journey into creating a truly inclusive feminist coaching business.

“Oppression and the Body” by Christine Caldwell

If you work with your clients on embodiment, it’s important to understand how the body has been and continues to be the primary source of oppression. This collection of essays explores the multitude of ways embodiment relates to social inclusion and marginalization. Anyone will learn something from the stories of the Black, female, transgender, disabled, fat, and queer contributors who share what it means to live in a marginalized body.

“Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay

In her collection of essays, Roxane Gay takes readers through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color and through the culture of the last few years, while commenting on the state of feminism today. It’s a beautiful, witty, and insightful look into what it means to be a woman continually growing to understand herself, society, and culture.