Book Review: Ain’t I a Women:Black Women and Feminism-bell hooks


Racism is the barrier that prevents positive communication and it is not eliminated or challenged by separation.

Labeling oneself as a feminist has its demands and repercussions. People constantly challenge your ideas, your stance on feminism, picking and preening you until you become “their” idea of what a feminist is and should do. But part of being  a feminist is being able to open your dialogue to be inclusive, to challenge yourself, and the world’s ideology. While taking on the term feminist, I’ve known that many a times there is a clear distinction between white feminist ideology and black feminist ideology. Although there has been significant changes to the “feminist doctrine,” white feminism still is clinging to much of its sexist and racist paradigms. It raises the question if  you can still be a feminist if you strive to acquire white patriarchal privilege, or if you mold your feminist dogma to fit just one race, while leaving out the other voices and races. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism breaks down the underlying problems in the feminist movement and discusses the brief history of the African American woman’s role in society. We get to see the eye opening view of how America and the rest of the world truly view black women, and we get to stand in awe of the progress they have made on behalf of the black community and for feminism itself.

Sexist-racist attitudes are not merely present in the consciousness of men in American society; they surface in all our ways of thinking and being.

bell hooks is a genius for creating this piece of work. Ain’t I a Woman is everything you need to know about how black women have evolved in American society and how the feminist movement purposely excluded them from the changes made in society. The book is broken into five parts: 1. Sexism and the black female slave experience, 2. Continued devaluation of black womanhood, 3. The imperialism of patriarchy 4. Racism and feminism 5.Black women and feminism. Each section hooks compiles all of her research and writes about the plight of the black woman. She addresses sexism, racism, appropriation, stereotypes, social injustice, and economic welfare. It’s interesting to see how the “feminist movement” didn’t really include everyone. Instead it focused on how white women should progress in America. “Unfortunately , despite all the rhetoric about sisterhood and bonding, white women were not sincerely committed to bonding with black women and other groups of women to fight sexism,” hooks writes. She puts into perspective every feminist theory that surfaced and really calls on women, specifically white women to look at their feminism, to examine their goals of their cause. The book is not a light read , and will have you questioning and researching more into what being a true feminist means.

Change occurs only when there is action, movement, revolution.

This book definitely shook me, and even though I consider myself abreast on black feminist theory, it dove deeper into things I myself was unaware. This was not an easy read, as it is extremely academic and very analytical. I literally held a highlighter in one hand and took in each and every word bell hooks wrote. It’s educational and such an important book not only for black women but for all women everywhere. It will make your head swim with answers to your unanswered questions. I challenge everyone to give it a try; your outlook will definitely change as did mine. This particular body of work really allows me to see that I’m not the only one that thinks many feminist arguments leave out the black and other minority groups’ voice. hooks wrote this while she was just an undergraduate, and to see how “woke” she was at such an early age, gives me hope for the kind of work I intend to do. She pushes black women to continue being pioneers for womanhood. If you’re interested in feminist critique and theory, I urge you to read this book. It’s for everyone and every voice.

… 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.





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