A Year of Feminist Classics

Because they're better together :)

Update on “Ain’t I A Woman?” and the “Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology”

I am very sorry about being such a lousy host this past month, or rather, disappearing completely. Life has been crazy and I cannot give you any more excuses than that. Below you will find a small introduction to Bell Hooks. As I haven’t finished the book myself, I do not have discussion questions, but I do hope some of you have written about it and will post the links here. I will edit the post as people comment. I personally only finished the introduction, but knew immediately that I had to finish it sometime soon. She raises such interesting points and it baffled me how I never looked beyond the issue of whether race was at all mentioned in feminist text, to ask how it was represented.

bell hooks is the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins. She was born on September 25, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Her childhood was spent in a working class family of five sisters and one brother and her school career started out at a racially segregated school. She received a BA in English from Stanford University and a Master in the same subject from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1967. Her doctorate studies were completed in 1983 with a dissertation on Toni Morrison.

Gloria Jean Watkins’ interest revolve around the intersection of race class and gender and how these categories work to perpetrate systems of oppression. Her first book, Ain’t I a Woman? was written as an undergraduate and published while she was not yet a doctorate, in 1981. She published a collection of poems before this book ‘An There We Wept’ in 1978, also under her pen name bell hooks. She choose this name because it was the name of her grandmother, who she says was “known for her snappy and bold tongue, which [she] greatly admired.” The lower case lettering was chosen to distinguish herself from her grandmother.

Ain’t I a Woman has since become an influential work of postmodern feminist thought. In it, bell hooks tackles questions of the devaluation of black womanhood, the marginalisation of black women, the disregard for questions of class and race within feminism and the influence of media and representation on these issues.

Since 1981, she has published a wide range of books, most of which tackle the issues of feminism, race, representation and media from a postmodern perspective.

Have you written about bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman? Then leave a comment below and I will compile an overview post as soon as possible.

About the collection of essays that is also listed for this month. We originally included it because of the article “Under Western Eyes” by Chandra Talpade Mohanty. I have reviewed it previously here. It is an interesting article and related to “Ain’t I a Woman?” in that it raises questions about the disregard for colonial discourses in feminist studies.

However, there are many more interesting articles in “Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology”. There is one, for example, that explores the many ways in which women’s rights and headscarves were used in politics of the Revolution in Iran.

My original idea was to request whether people wanted to read specific articles and then sent me a link, or a review, of the article, by email. I would then compose an over view post or several guest posts throughout the month. If anyone is up for it, I would still like to do so, and post throughout the months November and December.

Again, I am sorry for the rubbish hosting this month.

For anyone who is wondering: I haven’t yet wrapped up “The Second Sex” because it appears only Ingrid reviewed it up to now.

10 responses to “Update on “Ain’t I A Woman?” and the “Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology”

  1. Ingrid November 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Ahh, this is where the traffic to my review of The Second Sex is coming from, haha. Thanks for the link! I wish some other people reviewed it … I’d love to discuss it more.

  2. dangermom November 2, 2011 at 1:38 am

    It’s just as well–my ILL request has gotten lost between two libraries and now no one knows where it is! Either the postal system ate it or it’s mouldering in the wrong department. Or it could show up tomorrow, who knows?

  3. dangermom November 3, 2011 at 3:55 am

    I got the book! It had gone to the public library instead of the one where I work.

    Tonight I had a fun ‘historical feminist’ moment. I was at a city meeting to keep our local historical mansion open after cuts in the state park budget. A few people were there dressed in Victorian costume, and one woman got up and declared herself to be Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “rabble-rousing since 1848.” She had a purple suffragette sash and everything. She spoke on the historical importance of our town’s founder (and he really was very important, though no one has ever heard of him, IMO because he didn’t name everything after himself like some people I could mention). One thing he did, she reminded us, was to run for US President in 1892 on a platform of women’s suffrage–and prohibition. He never had a chance, but he got the most votes of anyone who ever ran on prohibition!

    OK this has nothing to do with bell hooks, but I had to share…

  4. amymckie November 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I’m most of the way through the book myself but keep being distracted by life it seems. Am absolutely loving it so far – so fantastic.

    • dangermom November 11, 2011 at 1:28 am

      I’m a little more than halfway through. I can only read 20-30 pages per day, because eventually the words ‘white’ and ‘black’ stop making sense and start looking like nonsense…you know how that happens when you repeat a word over and over?

  5. dangermom November 14, 2011 at 12:20 am

    OK, I did it! I finished the book and wrote my post, which is at http://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2011/11/feminist-classics-aint-i-woman.html . I managed to miss the part where you said she was an undergraduate when she wrote it, which might account for a few of the oddities of the text I noticed (lots of generalizations). Anyway, I thought that it was a great book–though hard to read because of the content. I cannot understand why the local libraries here do not own a copy (I expect there used to be one or two and that they’ve been lost in the past few decades). Anyway my thoughts on it are hardly original or fascinating, but I hope they’re not too bad.

    I did look over the first essay in the “Third-World” book too, but I have to confess: it was just too much academic-speak for me to want to dive in and read a lot of it. (Yes, I am a lightweight.) I did think a lot of her points about the generalizations and stereotypes thrown around about third-world women, as if they are some giant homogenous block population(!), but OTOH I think that her points have had some influence over the past couple of decades, and we’re quite a bit better about it now (I hope).

  6. onereadleaf December 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    I swear I will catch up by the end of the year (no,seriously!) but I posted about both Ain’t I a Woman and Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism.

    Working on Gender Trouble now. I kind of want to sit Butler down and explain to her what an unclear antecedent is. Working my way through it, though!

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