Friday, Mar 31, 2023

Bell Hooks: A Radical, Black Feminist Whose Ideology Created Far Reaching Impact

Bell Hooks: A Radical, Black Feminist Whose Ideology Created Far Reaching Impact

A feminist, author and activist, bell hooks, died on Wednesday at the age of 69. A look at her work and her representation as a Black feminist in the world of pop culture.

Author, feminist bell hooks. Twitter

“The one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love our female selves is where our search for love must begin.”

– Communion: The Search for Female Love, 2002

Acclaimed author, activist and feminist of colour, Gloria Jean Watkins, famous by her pen name bell hooks, passed on Wednesday at her home in Benya, Kentucky,

The 69-yer-old radical feminist, with her work, had pushed the idea of feminism beyond the realms of middle-class, white families. Her work mostly spoke about the struggles of Black working-class women that hardly found their place in the upper-class feminist movement.

Her sister Gwenda Motley confirmed her death on Twitter and said the cause was end-stage renal failure.

hooks had an immense effect on feminism and Black women who refuse to align with a movement that is exclusionary to the experiences of women of colour. She adopted her maternal great-grandmother’s name owing to her admiration for her grandmother. However, she insisted on keeping the letters of her name in lower case to establish an identity for herself.

Who is bell hooks?

Born in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the author, activist and feminist has authored over 30 books on feminism, intersectionality, race and capitalism.

hooks, in her early years of education, was subjected to racial discrimination in schools. Growing up with trauma, she moved to an integrated school in the late 1960s. She eventually received her in English Literature from Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She completed her PhD at the University of California.

Since 2004, hooks taught at Berea College in Kentucky, the liberal arts college that offers free tuition, reports The Guardian.

hooks’s first book, “And There We Wept”, a collection of poems was published in 1978. Her first major work, ‘Ain’t I a woman?’, published in 1981 was widely recognised as a landmark feminist text. The book was written by a 24-year-old hooks and in 1992 it was declared one of the 20 most influential books in the past 20 years by Publishers Weekly.

Over time hooks authored several other novels including,  Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center in 1984, All About Love: New Visions in 2000 and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity in 2004, centred around the themes of love, feminism and race.

hooks believed that her pseudo name would suggest a new individual, a way of erasing the identity of a child “who was always wrong, always punished”, reports the Washington Post. Further, she believed that the lower cases of her names were to convey a message -- what is more important is the substance of a book, irrespective of who the author is.

hooks, a radical feminist

hooks work has always been centred around how the feminist movement is confined to the upper-class, white women with lesser regard to the needs and struggle of the poor and non-white women.

In her book, ‘Ain’t I a Woman’, hooks wrote, “It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term ‘feminism’, to focus on the fact that to be ‘feminist’ in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.”

hooks was always vocal about the representation of the Black culture in music,  films and the field of art. She also held strong views on rap music and its roots, which majorly stems from the control exerted on Black people inside their homes and on the streets.

hooks views on patriarchy and masculinity were also deemed controversial. However, with her ferocious commitments and beliefs, she had once said, “I want my work to be about healing”.

In her book, ‘The Will To Change: Men, masculinity and love’, a rather controversial book during its time of publication, hooks argued that masculinity is a hole and a regime that presses everyone including men.

In a conversation with the New Yorker, hooks had said, “I still think that, if we really want patriarchy to change, we are in trouble if we turn our backs on men and not really want to examine, Why are men so violent? (The author and educator) John Bradshaw used to say that the primary form of child abuse is really shaming. And I think that if we look at all of these men and their behavior—it’s such shaming behavior.”