Feminism is for Everybody
by bell hooks
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Did we like it?
Our book club began with Bell Hooks because we wanted foundational feminist theory that was short and accessible. This is an updated version of Hook’s earlier attempt to define feminism in her book entitled, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. She begins with debunking harmful myths about angry feminists and addressing a definition of feminism that appeals to everyone’s motivations for activism. She simplifies the definition by stating, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (xii).
Hooks continues to outline the criteria for a feminist revolution, which cannot happen until we “…end racism, class elitism, and imperialism” (Hooks, xii-xiv). What our group found very useful was her look into the background of second wave feminism and how it evolved and split between several polarizing sects of feminist objectives; those that wanted equality within the status quo and those that wanted an all out reform or revolution to end patriarchy. She discusses class, race, gender, violence, global feminism, feminist masculinity (which started a conversation about letting men into our group), and women’s sexism towards other women that is often the strongest impediment to transformation and sisterhood.
Her chapter entitled, “Feminist Education for Critical Consciousness,” really validates our group’s mission to recover and understand women’s history. This chapter also reinforces the need for women to develop a clear understanding of feminism so that we can go out and educate others against anti-feminist backlash because otherwise, as Hooks says, “we allow mainstream patriarchal mass media to remain the primary place where folks learn about feminism, and most of what they learn is negative” (23). Raising our own consciousness became our mission.
Many of the women of the group also identified with the chapter, “Beauty Within and Without” because in it, Hooks deals with old sexist notions of feminine beauty that we all feel entangled in. Many of the mothers in the group also appreciated her look into parenting, gender roles, and male domination in the home. Finally, we all welcomed her discussion on feminism and its broader implications in chapters, “To Love Again: The Heart of Feminism” and “Feminist Spirituality” because we all share the desire to love, to collaborate, to support, to not compete, and to understand the “value of mutual growth and self-actualization in partnerships and in parenting” (Hooks 103).
Why these ratings?
Despite its academic leaning (which only some found problematic), Hooks offers a comprehensive, yet accessible book for a book club with various levels of interest in feminist theory, and it helped our group figure out and unify everyone’s understanding of feminism right from the start.