Last year, I wrote a piece about black female writers. While doing my research, I remember finding the name of Bell hooks in many occasions. However, I don’t know why I didn’t include her name in the written lists. The other occasion when I heard her name, it was at a two panel discussion about black women which I attended. Her name was constantly repeated among the panellists, saying how she was a great influence for their development as a writes, poets, activists, and feminists.
After hearing so much about her, I decided that is was time that I learn more about who she is and what she has done for the black community. So, I invite you as well to join this learning journey with me.
Bell hooks is the pseudonym of Gloria Jean Watkins, who was born on the 25th of September, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, United States of America, where she experienced segregation. She is a writer, scholar, and activist who has studied and critiqued topics such as race, gender, class, and identity of black women. She studied at three universities where she obtained her degrees, master’s and doctoral.
The first time I saw her last name spelt in lowercase letter, I thought it was a mistake. It drew my attention. According to the reading from Britannica, her intention is that individuals will focus on her message and not on her. Hooks was her great-grandmother’s last name which she adopted to honour the legacy of her female ancestors.
Bell hooks has developed the Elbell hooks Institute where she hosts discussion with other scholars, orators, and activists about topics such as patriarchy, feminists, racism, violence, spirituality, and so on. For example, she has guest speakers as Gloria Steinem, Berttina Love, Damon Young, and others. This institute has become an international reference to discussions on these topics.
During the years hooks has centralized her thoughts and critiques on the following points:
- Feminism is not only equality. It goes beyond this, is to finish sexism and oppression. Men are not our enemy, it’s the patriarchal system. We need to change it, not to adapt it.
- She animates that it’s important to dig in more to feminism, not to stay with what is heard on the media. Go beyond to understand that is not about women that want to be equal to men or create an anti-men movement.
- It’s important to confront and transform our inter-enemy that has been instilled in us as a child before facing the sexism system. For example, to judge one and another and be hassled among ourselves.
- She argues that it’s important to establish a feminist-gender equality education policy at school, so future generation of women and men can grow up without sexism. I recall that in 2017, in Finland, each student from ninth-grade was given a free copy (translated) of the book We should all be Feminists writtenbyChimamanda Ngozi.
- Sisterhood is a significant tool to combat and transform the system.
In an interview conducted by David Remnick for The New Yorker Radio Hour in November, 2017, she stresses that males who commit violence against women mostly had a violence background in their childhood as well as in the way they we grew up.
Another highlight of the interview is that “patriarchy doesn’t have a gender”. Parenting plays a fundamental role to fight the patriarchal system, it is necessary to raise boys and girls the same way. This last point made me recall a friend who is mother of twin boys. One day while we were conversing, she said that she didn’t want to teach her boys not to be sentimental. For example, to tell them, “Boys don’t cry”. On the contrary, she wants them to learn to have feeling. I think this is an essential tool for all parents and the society.
“If we don’t try to understand the male psyche, we cannot solve the problem”.Bell hooks
Photo taken from Ebell hooks Institute Facebook page.