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If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Feminist Internet, you will have come across the name bell hooks. Even if you’ve never heard the name, you will have heard of slogans, terms and phrases from the mouth of bell hooks.
So who is bell hooks? Born Gloria Watkins, bell hooks (much like e e cummings, she doesn’t capitalize her name) is a feminist author and scholar who is considered the essential source on intersectional feminism. She is adored by feminists like Anita Sarkeesian, who use her jargon liberally. When Sarkeesian talks about the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, she is quoting hooks verbatim, who uses the term as if it is about to go out of fashion. Sarkeesian’s definition of feminism is even ripped straight from hooks, and not the dictionary definition, unless she believes hooks wrote the dictionary. You see verified checkmarks on Twitter saying “y’all” and “folks”, despite being born and raised in New York and California? Well, they’re simply talking like their idol, bell hooks.
bell hooks is an author whose works are assigned to Gender Studies 101 students. She checks almost all the marks for intersectional feminism: she is nonwhite, a woman, and was raised working class. She is an example of the almost-perfect feminist, even though her spiritual and “sexuality is a choice” beliefs keep her from ascending Godlike status. Her most successful Gender Studies approved textbook is Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, however most of her textbooks are considered unreadable to the general population, due to their overload of feminist jargon. hooks decided to solve this problem.
Feminism is for everybody, the “inspiring and accessible” pamphlet, is a condensed version of her other works, and is intended to indoctrinate folks into the feminist religion. In order to understand feminism, you have to understand bell hooks, and what better book to start with than Feminism is for everybody, considering the book claims to be for everybody?
“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” I love this definition, which I first offered more than 10 years ago…it makes it clear the problem is sexism [not men] (p. xii)
bell hooks advocates for feminism as a religion. She tells people they should not have an opinion on feminism unless they attend feminist talks, read feminist books and zines, and know feminist activists. There should be billboards, ads everywhere, thousands of books just like this one advertising the goods of feminism. She wants her family members, and you, to read her book because it will help us better understand the cause. She wants us to come closer. Come and see the truth. Come. Come closer.
I would often say that we needed to go door to door to share feminist thinking (that never happened) (p. ix)
Feminist Politics: Where We Stand
Feminism is a beautiful, wonderful thing, which intends to destroy patriarchy, and all feminist advocates know most people don’t understand sexism, because of course feminists know better than the silly sheeple. So begins hooks’s arrogance, and her belief that because you are a feminist, you are a better person, because nobody else cares about ending sexist exploitation and exploitation in general. Replace “feminism” with “Christianity”, and you’ll see just how absurd the thinking is. She believes folks are only anti-feminist because of a patriarchal mass media and a Christian-dominated culture that spreads lies about feminism only being about equality and white feminist issues like abortion and the gender pay gap.
She claims the current movement is not anti-male, and anti feminists have spread that false image, but first- and second-wavers were anti-male, because “[they] were responding to male domination with anger” (p. 2). Despite her introduction saying she wants this book free of jargon, jargon has already overtaken this book: terms like “consciousness-raising” are pure gibberish to regular people. This leads to a quick history of second-wave feminism, where the movement split off into two factions: reformist feminists, the ones who wanted equality within the current system, and revolutionary feminists like bell hooks, who wanted to destroy the system and start over. hooks chose to become an anarchofeminist because she didn’t believe black women could become equal in the WSCP (there’s that term again). And hooks really, really hates reformist feminists. They get all the attention and the press. They’re far, far worse than men, because she believes they actively partake in their own oppression and support White Supremacy. See. There’s that arrogance. If a woman doesn’t do something I think is right for her, then she’s the Literal Devil.
Most women, especially privileged white women, ceased even to consider revolutionary feminist visions, once they began to gain economic power within the existing social structure (p. 4)
Hey, this isn’t a primer! This is just bell hooks ranting about those evil white women who voted for Trump. Remember: fifty three percent! The ranting continues, and hooks is especially unhappy conservative and wrongthinking women even have the audacity to claim they are feminists, because you can’t be a feminist and supportive of oppression. In the words of Gretchen Wieners:
Consciousness-Raising: A Constant Change of Heart
Consciousness-raising is politspeak for women talking in safe spaces, free from men and reformist feminists, about revolutionary feminism. They talk about patriarchy, male domination and other buzzwords. She sounds like Hermione Granger, talking about how women learned “of the ways we were victimized, exploited, and, in worse case scenarios, oppressed” (p. 7)
The foundation of this work began with women examining sexist thinking and creating strategies where we would change our attitudes and belief via a conversion to feminist thinking and commitment to feminist politics. Fundamentally, the consciousness-raising (CR) group was a site for conversion (p. 8)
It’s a church. Just call it Confession and be done with it. hooks doesn’t even dumb it down: a CR session is a place, originally someone’s home but now the Gender Studies classroom, where feminists recruit new converts. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it may very well be a duck. hooks complains the Gender Studies classroom is full of too many privileged, typically white students, and needs to be more diverse to truly create radical change. Universities are also typically conservative corporate structures, according to hooks, so real change can’t occur there, so here she is dissing the very students who admire her work. Here she criticizes most of modern feminism, especially how most feminists stopped rooting for overall change in the structure because they were succeeding under the current system. To her: “The dismantling of consciousness-raising groups all but erased the notion that one had to learn about feminism and make an informed choice about embracing feminist politics to become a feminist advocate,” (p.10) which is in stark contrast with a lot of modern intersectionalists, who believe you’re either a feminist or the sexist Other.
Females of all ages acted as though concern for or rage at male domination or gender equality was all that was needed to make one a “feminist.” Without confronting internalized sexism women who picked up the feminist banner often betrayed the cause in their interactions with other women. (p10-11)
Oh, look, she’s talking about Buzzfeed-tier feminism. There’s not much to criticize, but it does sound like she’s tearing other women down under the banner of trying to make them see sense. You’re not going to change anyone by screeching at them: “You’re wrong! Wrong!”
She believes consciousness-raising is the solution to lifestyle and white feminism. It will be similar to AA meetings, and function simply as a safe space for everyone, irrespective of who they are, to talk, but there will be distinct safe spaces for gender, class, and race, after the overall CR has become the norm. She believes this would have stopped the Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) in their tracks, because they would have just vented in the men’s safe space at the Church of Feminism. She makes the grave error of saying, “Future feminist movement will not make this mistake”, which, almost twenty years after this book was released, we know future feminist movement has made this mistake. Just read any feminist critique of “incels” and you’ll know they haven’t learned a single thing. Don’t worry though, we can just blame reformist feminists. Perhaps they’re the ones hooks accuses of being the bigger threat to feminism than male allies.
Sisterhood is Still Powerful
“Sisterhood is powerful” is a slogan bell hooks first heard when she was fully indoctrinated into the feminist hivemind in her sophomore year of college, where she alternates between calling women “we” and “I”. She compares her time at an all-women’s college to Stanford, in which she was treated much better at her women’s college: “Our intellectual worth and value was constantly affirmed” (p. 13), whereas men spoke too much at Stanford. She would have given up her beliefs entirely if not for the feminist movement which rocked the campus. She keeps describing things as “awesome”.
It was at Stanford she learned about “internalized sexism”, and believes women only get along today because of feminism. Without feminism, and the collective efforts of all feminists helping all women, women would be nothing. The only reason women fight at all is because those privileged white women with internalized sexism refuse to “divest of their privilege” for the greater good. Those selfish bitches! Oh, wait…
bell hooks really, really hates privileged white feminist women.
When women of color critiqued the racism within the society as a whole and called attention to the ways that racism has shaped and informed feminist theory and practice, many white women simply turned their backs on the vision of the sisterhood, closing their minds and their hearts (p. 16)
Because those silly privileged feminists don’t want to put in the hard yards, the solidarity of feminism has been muffled, according to hooks. She also criticizes masses of young women who she assumes are ill-informed and know so little about feminism they don’t think sexism is a problem. And thanks to the helpful guidance and manipulation of revolutionary feminists like hooks, these women will know better.
Feminist Education for Critical Consciousness
In this chapter, bell hooks gives the reader a Wikipedia-esque history of Gender Studies in classrooms, and how it was the perfect place to convert women and men into feminism. Yes, she says that. However, thanks to white feminists, the Gender Studies classroom has depoliticized feminism, and the only way to reclaim this is to bring feminism to the regular person. She wants feminism to be geared towards “youth culture”, especially with children’s books. She goes on about how feminists should go door-knocking (much like a religious group) to tell people about the goods of feminism. This book dates itself when hooks says feminism needs its own television network, to dominate the patriarchal television industry. It is here I assume Anita Sarkeesian was inspired to start Feminist Frequency. hooks says a feminist television network would be the perfect way to “help us spread feminist thinking globally”, and naturally, YouTube is the millennial’s television.
Basically: Indoctrination is the key to feminism’s success. If only people were bombarded with the myriad ways feminism has helped them today, then everyone would be feminists. In her words, “Sharing feminist thought and practice sustains feminist movement.”
Our Bodies, Ourselves: Reproductive Rights
In this chapter, bell hooks talks about second-wave feminism and abortion rights. The horrible white privileged feminists wanted to talk about abortion rights, mainly because it affected them personally, and didn’t care at all about the struggles of every other woman. This muddled the public’s perception of second-wavers. However, in their attempts to sexually liberate women, with the invention of the contraceptive pill (by male scientists) and safe access to abortions, they hindered all other women, specifically good feminist women like hooks. Abortions and contraceptives can actually hurt women if used constantly, but those white privileged feminists *insert obligatory bell hooks rant here*.
It wasn’t just evil white feminists who made abortion the forefront of the second-wave movement. Abortion rights directly challenged the Christian church that held/holds so much control in the United States. They freaked out and focused on abortion rights supposedly because it made the patriarchal church realize women were not just baby machines anymore. In hooks’s words, it was a “direct challenge”. Instead of focusing on legitimate feminist struggles like the cons of birth control created by the “capitalist patriarchal male-dominated medical system” (p. 27) and solutions for it, the mass media focused on white women issues.
Even though abortions are now legal and relatively safe in the U.S, bell hooks says feminists have quit fighting, even though conservative anti-feminists are still fighting to ban abortions. If abortions are harder to get, it means only those evil rich white women will be able to get abortions, and this directly affects all of us. She’s all about women having choice, and about teaching women safe sexual practices, and I am all for that, but to think only feminism can help fight conservative anti-abortion activists is completely naive. She also criticizes the current generation, because they don’t have firsthand experience of the negative affects of unsafe, illegal abortions, so that’s why we have to keep educating them about feminism.
Beauty Within and Without
Feminism is responsible for women discovering we are beautiful without makeup, high heels, bras, and dresses, according to bell hooks. The capitalist investors tried to make it seem like feminists were all ugly witches who wanted to destroy the fashion industry, but hooks and her folks prevailed, and it was awesome. For some reason, hooks says “For the first time in our nation’s history…” (p. 32). What nation? America? The world? How Americentric of her. However, by the 1980s, women were ignoring hooks, doing what wasn’t best for them! Why aren’t they exactly the same as me!?
While all females reaped the benefits of feminist interventions, more and more females were embracing anew sexist-defined notions of beauty (p. 33)
She blames the WSCP fashion and cosmetic fashion industry. Naturally. Those evil corporations have undone all the hard work of hooks and co. Less women are writing articles in magazines. Less of those women are feminists! Oh, how happy hooks would be at the modern turn of Teen Vogue.
Because of patriarchy, more women than ever suffer from anorexia. hooks recounts her own middle-age, and how she wishes to lose weight without giving in to patriarchal ways of thinking. Is this really evidence for an academic theorist’s textbook? So what’s her solution? To create alternatives. To take control of these magazines and teach adolescent females the truth. Ah. So Teen Vogue was inspired by this chapter.
Feminist Class Struggle
This chapter in a nutshell: Feminists who are not exactly like me are what is wrong with feminism.
Reformist upper class white women and revolutionary working class white women allegedly have always been at each other’s throats, struggling to make each other see the true and correct way of thinking. The privileged white reformists forgot about everyone else the moment they started achieving power. Unfortunately, they were the ones getting all the attention from the mainstream mass media, and the patriarchal mass media latched right onto it!
She redefines “working class” and “privileged” to mean more than material wealth, but instead behaviors, feelings, and assumptions about the world, which is utterly absurd, but explains a lot in this rant-fest of a manifesto. It’s here she accuses white reformist feminists of being aligned with white power, and purposely punishing nonwhite people. hooks and her good revolutionary comrades were the only ones who “expressed outrage at this cooptation of feminist movement” (p.41).
As many black women/women of color saw white women from privileged classes benefiting economically more than other groups from reformist feminist gains…it simply reaffirmed their fear that feminism was really about increasing white power (p. 42)
Holy crap. bell hooks believes white supremacy and non-radical feminism are one and the same, despite being ten thousand leagues under the sea apart from each other. She sees all the reformist feminist gains used to help women (no-fault divorce, racial affirmative action) as examples of white supremacy’s influence on feminism that benefits only evil white women. On the other hand, her annoyance at feminists who seemingly do not care about helping single mothers and the welfare system does make sense, but that’s not because of white power either, just out of touch politicians.
She ends with her solution: to give more voice to feminists who haven’t betrayed solidarity. We should become economically self-sufficient and assist other women in their efforts to better themselves. She believes it is proof you can be successful without colluding within the existing structure, which is jargon for “We’re not like those other feminists.” We must also act against conservative policies, which she believes will lead to a new era of indentured slavery. She calls for a new movement that takes the positive elements from both types of feminism (despite previously criticizing “cooptation”) to educate the masses and “interrogate wrongminded” (“wrongthink”) feminist theory of the past. Gender Studies in the past wasn’t inclusive enough! Rewrite! Rewrite! Also, give free houses to women because feminist struggle.
Privileged women who are not on our side are not just subordinating and punishing all other women, they are betraying feminism, and betraying themselves. Only with solidarity can this communist-sounding utopia occur.
“Individual female freedom fighters all over the world have single-handedly struggled against patriarchy and male domination.” (p. 44). Now that’s an absurd chapter opening!
Finally, bell hooks talks about the rest of the world, when she’s just been ranting about “our country”, assuming her readers are all from the United States. It’s only a four page chapter. hooks continues her rants about privileged white women and their neocolonialist, white supremacist takeover of modern feminism.
Radical feminists were dismayed to witness so many women (of all races) appropriating feminist jargon while sustaining their commitment to Western imperialism and transnational capitalism (p. 45)
Wow. Speaking of “feminist jargon”. Here, hooks is angry white feminist women believe they can be saviors of third-world women, projecting “imperialist fantasies” onto these oppressed women. She is annoyed American feminists believe they are the most free and thus believe they can be leaders for the global movement, and it merely mimics the racist, sexist men of the past. The proof? Most women in the U.S do not know or use the words “colonialism” and “neocolonialism”. Yep. She actually says that. Because they don’t know these words, they can’t “decolonize” their thinking. If you don’t decolonize your thinking, she’ll accuse you of being “unenlightened”. Talk about classism. Most people would only know these words from university/college, and to assume the general population should know these words is ridiculous. She makes it sound like everyone should be analyzing Joseph Conrad in their spare time…or else!
The rest of this chapter is just more ranting about white American women being in collusion with the imperialist WSCP. Decolonized feminists like hooks know how to correctly deal with global feminist issues, and that is by realizing Western eating disorders and third-world brutal FGM are inextricably linked. What. The. Fuck. To her, the West is just as bad as these third-world nations; it’s “groups of women posing as feminists” who think they have it better. Viewing issues through this lens is apparently the only way to have global solidarity.
She quotes feminist Zillah Eisenstein, and I tried to read it, I honestly did, but the paragraph made no sense. The feminist jargon employed by Eisenstein is like reading another language. It’s laughable hooks claims her book is for everybody.
Women at Work
Back to the United States, and hooks is angrier than ever at the white feminists who believe work liberates women. How does bell hooks know? Her own book, of course! Sounds a little bit egotistical, huh? To hooks, entering the workforce (something created by those damn capitalists, and not feminists like everyone believes) has hindered feminist improvement of women’s lives. Reformist feminists only care about getting cushy, CEO positions, and this affects everyone else.
She offers some solutions, which all sound well and good, but where does the money come from? It would be nice to pay stay-at-home parents regular wages, decrease America’s military budget, destigmatize welfare, and bring peace on earth, but what sort of fantasy universe is hooks living on where she thinks this is feasible? If she believes her feminist theory and educational indoctrination will lead to this utopia, then that naivete helps nobody. Her overall end goal is economic self-sufficiency, which she believes past movement failed at.
Race and Gender
All American white women know they are different from nonwhite women, and all women choose to remain ignorant of this. Yes, all. I’m not sure how bell hooks found every single white woman in the United States and interviewed them on race, but here we are. Evidence? Who needs that? No group of white women were more aware of their own implicit racism than those throughout the Civil Rights Movement:
Just because they participated in anti-racist struggle did not mean that they had divested of white supremacy (p. 55)
Oh no, we’re back to the ranting about the Bad Reformist Feminists again. Boring.
She also knows better than black women allies who were alive pre-Civil Right Movement, because she grew up around white people, so she’s better suited to critique white people. Wow… But, back to those white women. bell hooks knew what was better for the feminist movement than them, but they didn’t want to divest of white supremacy. Why doesn’t everyone realize she knows what’s best for them? They just need to divest of their “wrong beliefs and assumptions” (p. 58) As long as all women speak together, freely divested of their privilege, then real change can occur. Divest. Oh, how she loves that word. Her solution? We need people to hang out with others who don’t share their skin color. Seems reasonable. But she ruins it. Despite white supremacy still reigning supreme, we must celebrate the awesome changes that have occurred.
One of feminism’s greatest achievements is creating a greater awareness of domestic violence, which hooks prefers to call “patriarchal violence”, because it shows the damaging nature of violence in the home, and how it is “connected to sexism and sexist thinking” (p. 62). She’s annoyed most people can’t logically connect sexism to domestic violence, even though it is so obvious. It is nice to hear she isn’t just against ending male violence against women, but all violence, as Those Other Feminists imply male violence against women is more violent than anything else, which is absurd. Abuse is abuse. Unfortunately, she ruins this by saying it’s only those Evil Reformist Feminists who believe women are the only victims of abuse. By ignoring children and other abuse victims, she asserts this is why feminists are portrayed as having an anti-male agenda.
The fact women may not commit violent acts as often as men does not negate the reality of female violence. We must see both men and women in this society as groups who support the use of violence if we are to eliminate it (p. 63)
It’s here she assumes (remember: no sources in this manifesto) working-class and unemployed men are more likely to assert their dominance in the house, since they cannot assert it in the workplace. She’s offended early feminists didn’t liken male violence against women to imperialist militarism, which is incredibly random to be offended about. Those silly feminists didn’t realize men are socialized into being killers. Her solution: We all need to realize our role in normalizing violence. Parents should teach their children nonviolence.
Early contemporary feminists couldn’t face the reality that the problem wasn’t men, but instead patriarchy, sexism and male domination. It didn’t matter if individual men divested of privilege, the system would still be inherently evil. Combine that with the mass media, who discredited feminists by saying they were all man-haters, and feminists became man-haters. These anti-male feminists had a huge problem with male allies, who were supportive and crucial “comrades in struggle”, because it showed #NotAllMen were sexist oppressors. Of course she blames reformist feminists again: those class-privileged women wanted to “polarize men and women by putting us in neat categories of oppressor/oppressed” (p. 68), seemingly unaware her revolutionary buddies are just as guilty of this narrative. Unless that’s who she’s talking about, because there are a lot of modern bell hooks fans who do believe the oppressor/oppressed narrative, and who have the same class privilege hooks berates, such as Clementine Ford, Anita Sarkeesian and most feminist journalists. Unless “reformist feminist” just means “feminist I don’t 100 percent agree with”? These reformists are to blame for MRAs:
In many ways the men’s movement mirrored the most negative aspects of the women’s movement. (p. 69)
She’s not wrong there. Allegedly, feminism’s biggest mistake was not showing men how they are affected by patriarchy, right from the onset. Her solution? Teach everyone about love and self-esteem, and men don’t need to dominate to be men. Men must also critique everything: male domination of the planet, of less powerful men, of women and children. But the problem lies in that men must have a clear image of what feminist masculinity is, which theorists like hooks haven’t worked out a solution yet. Uh-oh. Better hurry up. She wants men to come into the loving embrace of feminism, but feminism doesn’t have the solutions. So why is she surprised men are joining MRA groups? Well, she knows men intuit patriarchy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so with a little tender loving indoctrination, they’ll all come running into her loving arms. Just give her a couple of decades of theorizing to come up with the solution. Soon…
Patriarchy apparently teaches all parents—whether single mothers or more traditional families—to raise boys to be dominant and aggressive, and girls to be passive, and only feminists are here to save the day! Feminism helped society (oops—patriarchy) realize children are human beings. Those silly reformist feminists don’t understand that women can abuse as much as men, simply because they tend to be primary caregivers of children. While this is true, hooks’s arrogance is back in full force, because we can’t have a page in this book where she doesn’t blame Those Other Feminists for all the ills of feminism. She reiterates her perfect branch of feminism doesn’t have a solution, but feminist thinkers like herself are working on theoretical solutions.
It is nice to hear hooks talk about how bad parenting affects children, and how abusive parents can cause their children to become abusive parents, even though she naturally blames WSCP for these problems.
We have all been socialized to embrace patriarchal thinking, to embrace an ethics of domination which says the powerful have the right to rule over the powerless and can use any means to subordinate them (p. 74)
M’dear, that’s how human beings have functioned for millennia, by ruling over the less powerful with sheer brute force. If bell hooks thinks feminist theory and education will change this deeply rooted human behavior, then she must be incredibly naive. We must find ways to show people men and women abusing children—whether emotional, physical or sexual—is widespread and unacceptable, but feminism does not hold all the answers. She’s annoyed because people don’t realize The Truth: male domination and patriarchy is to blame. Naturally.
Her solution is to raise children in an anti-sexist manner. Uh-huh. But what about the sexist parents? Do you expect them to just magically change their thinking? Do you think their children will magically learn their parents are abusive? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Many abused children are raised to believe their parents aren’t that abusive. She believes we must also stop dismissing parenthood (mother- and fatherhood) and claiming careerism is more beneficial to feminism, as well as to stop pretending single-mother families are any less loving that “traditional patriarchal” families. All reasonable claims, but naturally she has to blame them all on feminist boogeymen.
Liberating Marriage and Partnership
Early feminists considered marriage as “sexual slavery”, and were pessimistic about men changing, deciding to become incels or political lesbians as protest.
We chose non-monogamous relationships and often refused to marry. We believed living with a male partner without state-sanctioned marriage within patriarchal society helped men maintain a healthy respect for female autonomy. (p. 79)
We. We. We. Every single feminist apparently chose this. She references second-wave feminism’s many achievements in regards to marriage, such as calling for an end to martial rape, championing sexual desire, and ending “sexual slavery”. Many male allies were grateful for this apparently because they were sick of women who were virtuous and virginal, and wanted equal sex with the ladies. She claims feminists were denigrated only because they “threatened to expose male sexual shortcomings” (p. 79), and that’s why these men accused feminists of being lesbians, even though hooks admitted herself to a lot of feminists being lesbians. How dare these patriarchal men think exactly like me!? However, she does mention the ridiculous phrase that feminist women need “a good fuck”, a term which ignores many insane radical feminists do have sex.
She believes men and women need to parent equally, and launches into a rant about how men still aren’t equal to women in regards to housework. She blames male dominance and patriarchy again, when talking about how it should be more acceptable for men to be stay-at-home dads. This is inherent society, not patriarchy. These sexist ways of thinking have been around since the beginning of time. We have been socialized this way because it’s the only way humans have survived so long. While it may be wrong, and stay-at-home should be seen as the norm like stay-at-home mothers, unfortunately you can’t just change millennia of human thinking. hooks is annoyed feminist thinkers won’t relinquish the domain of mothering and women as nurturers, but yet again: it’s almost impossible to change age-old human behavior.
She ends by saying divorces are only prevalent because of sexist marriages, and wouldn’t happen with feminist-approved marriage. She mentions “recent studies”, but doesn’t tell us which studies. Who needs references? Her solution is educating people about the value of peer relationships.
A Feminist Sexual Politic: An Ethics of Mutual Freedom
Before feminism, women could only either be madonna or whores, and had no sexual agency. Luckily (her words) feminist movement swooped in and saved the day, coinciding with the advent of contraceptives. Those silly early feminists were so busy focusing on making women freely sexual that they didn’t care about “liberatory sex” and respecting their bodies in an anti-sexist way. Political lesbians were furious at these sexual women, and told them to be political lesbians as well. hooks isn’t critical of these political lesbians, the ones who think you can choose your sexuality, instead saying “their interrogation was useful for the movement” (p. 87). She does believe they are misinformed, because they think lesbian partnership can’t be patriarchal, and hooks knows better because everything is patriarchal. She seems glad both lesbians and straight feminists considered being with men “sleeping with the enemy” and were “utterly disillusioned with men” (p. 88). Anyone who doesn’t choose to become bisexual or lesbian is implied to have “simply turned away from feminist thinking”. If you don’t choose to have sex her way, then you’re embracing sexist notions of sexual pleasure. Sigh.
She goes on to criticize women who enjoy BDSM, and prostitutes, because they are not truly liberated and still rely on patriarchal sex to survive. She accuses sex workers of soliciting “their free exchange of pussy for good and services” and says they “refuse to acknowledge” their sexual integrity (p. 91). And she wonders why people view feminism as anti-sex? Her solution? Heterosexual women must believe same-sex encounters, masturbation and celibacy should be seen just as important as sex with men. She especially calls out to older feminists who she believes have fallen off the holier-than-thou bandwagon. Feminism is the only way to show women they have agency and self-respect.
Total Bliss: Lesbianism and Feminism
Not every lesbian, nonwhite, or other woman is immediately a feminist simply because they are a minority, asserts bell hooks. Instead:
Experience coupled with awareness and choice are the factors that usually lead women into leftist politics (p. 93)
After helping out other movements such as sexual liberation and Civil Rights, many of these second-wavers “were ready to get justice for themselves” (p. 94). hooks recites her experiences of growing up, and how gay men were more accepted than gay women, because the lesbians were closeted and only showed themselves at secret events. hooks was supportive of LGBT rights because of her mother, and her family were concerned she would be a lesbian. She made enemies after she’d been indoctrinated because she didn’t reference lesbianism in her novels, and was accused of homophobia, even though she claims to not be. She is just a woman who never wants to be intimate with men, and believes any woman who wishes to have a connection with a man is limiting self-agency and denying their own existence.
Without lesbian thinkers, bell hooks wouldn’t have been so smug to be her own woman and proud of it. Straight women weren’t as influential because they didn’t have the lived experience. These “male-identified” women had the gall to call themselves feminists while simultaneously having romantic relationships with men. They could see things from men’s perspectives. Grr! As long as you’re a woman-identified woman, you’re all good and “down with the cause” (p. 96). hooks applauds political lesbians, because they were more willing than those Big Bad reformists to support hooks’s feminist utopia, and to divest of white supremacy. Mainstream media supports them instead of us, and the more attractive the better, because they hate us and our perfect utopian feminism.
She’s unhappy most modern lesbians are not radical feminists, and thus accuses them of betraying women and colluding with the WSCP. She then accuses them of what she’s doing—judging women for not being sexually free the correct way—and says that’s feminism’s failure, because they’re inherently homophobic. Her solution is to idolize and remember these radical lesbian feminists.
To Love Again: The Heart of Feminism
The only way for women and men to love is to become feminists. And feminist love means letting go of an attachment to romantic love, because romance is patriarchal. bell hooks understands because she had a controlling father, and so she wanted a man who was committed to feminism. Silly older feminists thought it would be better to denounce love entirely, and patriarchal mass media latched onto that, but hooks and her pals know better.
Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politic. The soul of our politics is the commitment to ending domination (p. 103)
Her solution? Only with feminist thinking can we remove the domination that controls relationships and love.
Despite the inherent sexism in religion, feminists seek solace in spirituality and religion, because it gives them a safe space from men and patriarchy. Early feminists were there to expose the bad parts of Judaeo-Christianity, and that’s where new age spirituality came into play, where there was less of evil patriarchy. She quotes another theorist who talks in pure gibberish, and this one is talking about how we can only become liberated if we are at one with the cosmos.
Fundamentalist patriarchal religion has been and remains a barrier preventing the spread of feminist thought and practice (p. 107)
hooks believes one can be feminist and Christian, but has no solutions, instead putting it on Christian and other religious feminists to do the hard yards. She says feminism is not anti-religion, and that’s the patriarchal mass media’s fault, because many feminists are spiritual. Only feminist therapy (safe spaces) helped these women. Her solution is for future feminists to tell people of these safe spaces, so people know feminists care about spirituality. She devolves into complete academic jargon, where she uses the word “spiritual” far too many times for one sentence. The gist: She wants people to be spiritual in a feminist sense and constantly critique major religion. It’s the only way. Ho-hum.
A visionary feminist can imagine the future. They must work within the existing WSCP world, while also working on their perfect utopia behind the scenes. Those bad reformist feminists didn’t want to start the world all over again, so they’ve ruined everything, and made it harder for radical feminists. Because of these non-radicals, the movement has been taken over by the bad guys. These reformists/non-radicals tend to be white and straight and middle class, and don’t care about helping all women. Her reasoning? There are no feminists institutions or colleges, and these Bad Feminists refuse to spend money on them. Academia is full of feminist jargon regular folk cannot read (hmm, just like this manifesto), and we need books on feminism for everybody (so not this manifesto). Feminists need TV shows, radio programs, children’s books, audiobooks, to teach in schools, sustain a powerful lobby to control what is taught in schools, knock door to door. She calls it “mass-based feminist education for critical consciousness” (p. 113). Feminism needs to be radical to succeed, she asserts, and she blames the reformists again. Not everyone can be a feminist, especially not those silly reformists and anti-abortionist types.
Today many women want civil rights without feminism (p. 114)
These women are colluding with patriarchy, and their attempts at equality will fail. Those women who think we have it better are wrong, because anti-feminist women still exist. These women blame feminism when the issue is actually patriarchy, and why are they so stupid to not know THE TRUTH? However, they do write more accessibly than us, so they have that…
She wants men to be feminists, and for female feminists to accept it, because changing the system will not happen without men. She wants us to educate ourselves and others, automatically assuming anyone who is reading this is a dye-in-the-wool radfem and not just everyone. Anti-feminism only exists because feminism has done such a great job, she boldly asserts, because patriarchy is feeling threatened. She blames the mass media again, and she sounds like Donald Trump screeching about fake news.
She wishes for the renewal of the mass feminist movement before feminism can redo society. It needs to be constantly redone, to match the present. She dreams of a future where feminism will “undergird every aspect of our public and private lives” (p. 118). Feminism will create peace on earth, and be for everyone. Wishful thinking.
bell hooks is all theory and no action. This manifesto should be labeled Feminism is for everybody, except for those stupid rich white bitches and anyone else who refuses to think one hundred percent like me fuck them i know better than everyone else. It could be condensed to a third of its size, and still have the same meaning.
I was expecting a short, easy to read book with the definition and history of feminism, as well as clear, concise reasons to be a feminist. Instead, it was a ranting manifesto full of academic jargon that repeated itself constantly. While there were some gems, for the most part, Feminism is for everybody is definitely NOT for everybody. Best suited to first year Gender Studies majors—who the book critiques relentlessly—because it is not designed for regular folks.
hooks blames the mass media and reformist (non-radical) feminists for absolutely everything. She rarely ever uses citations, and if she does, she quotes her own books. Everything good in the world is thanks to feminism, and everything negative about feminism is the fault of reformist feminists. So many phrases are repeated so often they’re drilled into your mind, yet they’re never fully defined.
While it was an interesting manifesto about a feminist academic ranting on how evil other feminists are, it simply is not a book for beginners. If you want Feminism 101, this book is not it.
Buzzwords (a drinking game): Awesome, divesting of white supremacy, folks, a feminist politic, consciousness-raising (CR), white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (WSCP), patriarchy, male domination, privileged white women, feminist struggle, socialized/s, allies in struggle, heal from intimate wounds, benefit in the existing structure