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The pioneering feminist scholar, who died this week, has written about women, race, love, healing, pop culture and more, always with a focus on women of color.
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News that Bell Hooks had died at the age of 69 spread quickly on social media Wednesday, sparking a flurry of posts featuring favorite quotes about love, justice, men, women, community and healing. , and testimonials of how these pioneering black feminist authors transformed dead lives. or saved.
If the tributes to the deceased scholars were more intense than usual, her fans say, they only reflected the extraordinary way she blended the emotional with the intellectual in her quest to make the experiences of black women not just visible, but central. for a comprehensive reinterpretation of making society.
“I don't think we can stress his influence enough,” said Imani Perry, a professor of African American studies at Princeton. "For many people, Bell Hooks was his first introduction to social theory, critique of patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism."
But even more, he said, writing Hooks, and its impact, was personal.
"She came from this really sophisticated world of cultural theory, but she combined that with her very special background growing up in Jim Crow, Kentucky," Perry said. "She had all the chops to write in this more traditional, dry academic style, but she chose a different path because she wanted to connect with everyday people."
Perry met Hooks in the early 1990s. She worked as an intern at South End Press, which published Ain't I a Woman, Hook's seminal 1981 book on the impact of racism and sexism on black women.
It was a book about intersectionality before there was a word for it: just one example of how the 30+ books he's written anticipate discussions and concepts, from self-care tocultural appropriationThese are the pillars of support today.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, the legal scholar who coined the term "intersectionality."1989He said that Hooks' work lent theoretical baggage to political organizing on the ground. He helped criticize both white-led feminism and the male-dominated anti-racism movement "without feeling like a traitor."
"Sometimes people say or write things that capture their experience in such a way that you never forget not knowing or not thinking," Crenshaw said. "Bell is one of those people."
Ain't I a Woman, which Hook began writing when she was 19, was part of a wave of black women in the 1970s, including Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Toni Cade Bambara's anthology The Black Woman (both 1970), Walker's Alice Seminal 1975rehearsal"In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" and Angela Davis's 1981 "Women, Race and Class" to change himself for her ideas).
In her next book, Feminist Theory: From the Margin to the Center, Hooks clearly defined feminism as "the struggle against sexist oppression." While she criticized the "white, bourgeois, hegemonic dominance of feminist movements," she also warned against using such criticism to "destroy, reject, or dismiss" feminism itself.
In the late 1980s, Hooks rose to prominence at the height of a new generation of black college intellectuals, and she was the odd woman in a circle seemingly defined by male academics like Henry Louis Gates Jr., Michael Eric Dyson, and others. she became Cornel West (with whom she wrote Breaking Bread in 1991).
But while Hooks spent his entire career in academia, teaching at Yale, Oberlin, Berea College in Kentucky, and other institutions, he wasn't just a part of it. For them, theory was not an abstract exercise, but a tool for self-understanding and survival.
"I arrived at the theory because I was in pain," he wrote in his 1991 essay.Theory as liberating practice."I came to theory desperately, wanting to understand, to understand what was happening around me and within me."
She saw the university environment, dismissed by some as an elitist space, instead as a site of revolutionary opportunity. But she also dabbled in popular culture, in essays that could be both rhetorically forceful and intellectually complex.
em"Madonna: Plantation Owner or Soul Sister?",In her 1992 book, Black Looks: Race and Representation, she unraveled the singer's appropriation of "phallic black masculinity," which she used to "taunt" white men with what they lack. (“Madonna may hate the phallus, but she wants to own the power of it,” Hooks wrote.)
In another chapter, youcriticizedthe 1991 documentary Paris Is Burning for not "questioning whiteness" and instead glorifying and sanitizing a drag culture based on "the fantasy that ruling-class white culture is the epitome of unbridled joy, is freedom, power and pleasure". But his critique of black culture was more complicated than the brief quotes in the media interviews suggested. in a1993 articlein the New York Times on the controversy surrounding gangsta rap, he compared it to crack. “It's like we've consumed the worst stereotypes that whites have about blacks,” he said.
But later he complained that aInterview 1993she didwith ice bucketin Spin magazine he was "murdered" as part of a "media organization" all too familiar to black thinkers.
"For the white-dominated media, the gangsta rap controversy is a great spectacle," he says.he wrote. Journalists and producers looking for "the tough trash of 'feminist' gangsta rap" often lose interest when they instead find "the tough feminist critique of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy."
She had her critics, including other black feminists. In a 1995 article in The Village Voice, Michele Wallace (whose1979Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman came out two years before Ain't I a Woman, which satirized her repetitive and dogmatic style.
“Without the ugly P.C. Code phrases, 'white supremacy,' 'patriarchal rule,' and 'self-recovery,' Hooks couldn't write a sentence," Wallace wrote.
And in 2016, Hooks' criticism of Beyoncé's Lemonade visual album, which he described as "money-making capitalist at its finest," caused a stir.a revoltamong other black feminist scholars and writers.
"It's about the body and the body as merchandise," he says.he wrotein the guardian “He is certainly not a radical or a revolutionary. From slavery to the present day, the bodies of black women, dressed and undressed, have been bought and sold.
For some, the hooks "fell from the hearts and minds of black women," as one writer for Ebony put it. but like herprevious reviewsof Beyoncé as complicit in "the visual construction of herself as a slave," Hook's assessment was more nuanced than that.quotes for headlinesrecommended.
And if her critiques seemed out of step with the evolving black feminist thought in pop culture that she supported at birth, they also illuminated its depth.
"We learned that we can't agree with her," said historian Anthea Butler, who at the time was critical of Hooks.wrote this weekon msnbc. with. "Looking back, Hooks' critique of Beyoncé was a moment to come to terms with how feminists, especially black feminists, are embracing other paradigms of feminist power."
Hooks found intellectual fame mainly the old-fashioned way: by writing. He rarely appeared on television (and only briefly).sin twitter), but her work has resonated with younger feminists and much online. This was said by the feminist website Jezebel in 2015"Saved by Bell Hooks",Tumblr account of the year was the Tumblr account of the year who added quotes from her books (with rigorous footnotes) to screenshots of the white bread TV show "Saved by the Bell."
Perry, the Princeton professor, said the students she knew were just as likely to arrive at Hook's work from personal reading as they were from class work. This is perhaps especially true of her books on love, a theme she explored in several books in the early 2000s, including All About Love, Communion, and The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. (Feminist writing, Hooks notes in the book, "often doesn't tell us about the deep inner misery of men.")
Today, these titles are often placed on the shelves of self-help bookstores. And online, Hooks seems to share the canonization of one of his childhood muses, Emily Dickinson, another radical writer.whose words are appropriatedecontextualizeposterfertig #inspo.
But if human relationships seemed like a frivolous topic to some, Hooks wasn't fazed. Love, he said insidea 2017 job interviewWith Shondaland's website, "Integrity requires consistency between what we think, say, and do."
Love, he said, "consists chiefly of knowledge."
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