A Year of Feminist Classics

Because they're better together :)

Category Archives: bell hooks

Feminism is for Everybody

Feminism is for Everybody cover

If you’ve missed the discussion on this title so far, do check out the introduction and discussion posts to see what participants have been saying. Though work has been busy and I’ve not had time to respond to everyone or interact as much as I wanted to, I’ve loved following the points that everyone has been making.

Here I’m going to talk a bit about some of my favorite parts of the book, and I hope that you will do the same in the comments! I’d love to discuss further. Remember of course that these are my own thoughts only and I share them not as anything other than my own, and to get discussion started!

I really enjoyed the read, and while I thought it didn’t quite reach her stated goal of being a primer or introduction for those who don’t know about feminism, I think it definitely works well as a book showing an overview to those already familiar with the basics of and reasons for feminism. I like her definition which is short and to the point, and which acknowledges the fact that feminism isn’t about putting women above men, it is about ending sexist oppression – any form of sexist oppression, and that women can be just as sexist as men sometimes. We all need to acknowledge the ways in which we oppress other women, she says, and work to eliminate that in ourselves.

Personally, I just love intersectionality. Nothing gets me as excited as books that deal with them full on and dissect and discuss multiple issues and oppressions – because that is how life is. Life isn’t compartmentalized so how can we theorize as such? I loved the way hooks discusses how feminism needs to consider the intersectionality of other identities and oppressions. I find it hard to understand how you can stand up against one type of injustice while turning a blind eye to others. Clearly if we all stand together we have a much better chance, and we are all suffering in some way be it via sexism, classism, racism, homophobia, or anything else. If we say we don’t care about any issue but the one that affects us, we lose the chance to make allies who can also be there for us when we need support. If we care only about instances where we are oppressed without caring about instances where others suffer similar oppressions, how can we not  be seen as being hypocritical in some way, seen as showing that ending oppression isn’t our goal, but rather only furthering our own interests?

Another part I loved was the section on global feminism and the way hooks discusses the issues inherent in the way that many American women think of feminism around the world, and try to control the discussion and the issues. I’m so glad that through this project we’re learning more about feminism around the world and from various voices. I would agree with what she says too on the importance of consciousness raising groups… while I’ve never been a part of one, discussions online have definitely helped me to see so much more than I would have myself. In fact, perhaps this site functions like that in a way, allowing us all to learn more about various feminist issues and ideas and discuss them together.

bell hooks is an author who seems to always get me thinking. After now reading two of her works I’m looking forward to reading more by her. Anyone have some favorites by her they might recommend to me?

What about you, what was your favorite part of the book? (Also, please leave links to your review in the comments!)

Feminism is for Everybody: Further Discussion

Feminism is for Everybody cover

I’m  not sure about anyone else but I’ve been slowly working my way through the book and while finding it a bit repetitive in parts, am still finding it interesting. It’s not quite what I was expecting, but am still happy that we chose it as our first read. I thought I’d post a few discussion questions today that I’ve been thinking about.

First off I want to ask – do you think this book would convince someone who didn’t identify as a feminist why it is important to do so / that they might want to do so?

hooks defines feminism simply as:

“A movement to end sexist oppression”

What do you think of that definitely? Personally I love the definition, especially when we get into her supporting ideas behind it, but I want to know what others think of it. Does it work? Why or why not?

Introduction to Feminism is for Everybody

Feminism is for Everybody cover

Each time I leave one of these encounters, I want to have in my hand a little book so that I can say, read this book, and it will tell you what feminism is, what the movement is about. I want to be holding in my hand a concise, fairly easy to read and understand book; not a long book, not a book thick with hard to understand jargon and academic language, but a straightforward, clear book – easy to read without being simplistic.

As hooks explains in the introduction, this book is for all of us who have had questions about why we identify as feminist directed at us. It is also for those of us who may wonder what feminism is all about. I’ve often wanted a book like this and so personally I’m really looking forward to reading what she has to say. I’m hoping that this book is indeed all that she says it will be, if so I may be bulk ordering it to lend to many family, friends, and co-workers.

We chose to start with this book, this year, because we want to highlight that feminism, and this project, is for everyone. All opinions (constructive and with no personal attacks, however) are welcome and we look forward to great discussion amongst all of us. I do hope that many of you will join us in this book and find out how broad feminism really is, and learn an easy way to answer some of those annoying questions.

Through the month we will be discussing the  book in more detail and talking about how feminism is, indeed, for everyone. We will be asking you what feminism is for you, as well, through a few exercises. Additionally, we will be talking about and exploring the life of bell hooks, a truly remarkable activist and author.

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.