Tag Archives: Feminism is for Everybody

Feminism is for Everybody: Threshold Essays

Cover of Feminism is for Everybody

Title: Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

Author: bell hooks

Publication Date: 2000

LC Classification: HQ1190 .H67

There are so many things about this book that I really love. I love that it’s the book we’re using to start off the second Year of Feminist Classics, because it is a very simple, clear, and inclusive description of feminism. It’s great to start out with a work like this that provides a focus for the whole year.  I love the historical perspective that it provides. I love that it was written by bell hooks, who has been very critical of racist and classist elements of mainstream feminism, and continues to be so here.  She doesn’t make any excuses for things that are messed up.  I love that she presents feminism not as a monolith, but as a series of struggles, some internal and some external. I love the introduction, in which hooks explains that she wanted this book to exist, so she wrote it, and in which she explains why she wanted to write the book, and for whom.  I love the way the book is organized—in short, clear chapters with straightforward titles.  I love the way each chapter ends with a sentence that drives the point home in a strong, memorable way, like this:

As long as females take up the banner of feminist politics without addressing and transforming their own sexism, ultimately the movement will be undermined.  (12)

or

Until feminists go back to the beauty industry, go back to fashion, and create an ongoing, sustained revolution, we will not be free. We will not know how to love our bodies as ourselves. (36)

or

The goal of global feminism is to reach out and join global struggles to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. (47)

or

Clearly we need new strategies, new theories, guides that will show us how to create a world where feminist masculinity thrives. (71)

or

To choose feminist politics, then, is a choice to love. (104)

Many of them are calls to action, and many bring us back around to the overarching idea of the book that feminism should be universally embraced because we (all of us) need it.  As I wrote above, I really just want to take it and hand it out to everyone who goes around saying things that betray awful misunderstandings of feminism or internalized sexism and racism.  I can’t believe it isn’t in my library and will fix this problem.

Amy asks whether this book would convince someone who didn’t identify with feminism to do so.  Well… that’s a really complicated question.  For me, identifying with feminism was a very long process; I think I was always feminist really, but there was a long period of education and thinking and reading to really understand what it was all about before I was able to begin thinking of myself as a feminist.  After all, it would be rash and foolish to call myself something without a good idea of what it really means, who else is using this label, how people think of it, and so on. And to me, really understanding something requires a long period of engagement with it. There is, of course, a lot I still don’t know.  I’m a very cautious person, but I don’t know what I would think of someone who had no engagement with feminism or was even antifeminist, and after reading this book suddenly began to identify with it.  That’s a bit too quick and a bit too simple for me, and I think hooks knows that. She describes her mother’s change of heart as a slow process: “Mama has come around to feminist thinking” (x).

But I don’t think the book is meant to be that. Rather, it’s an introduction. It should draw in people who might not have otherwise considered feminism important and relevant to their lives, and if they find it compelling and if they really care, they will read further and find out more, and perhaps eventually become deeply involved in feminism.

So, if I reframe it in those terms, can the book accomplish that? It’s still complicated, because it depends on who the reader is.  It’s very persuasive, very accessible, and very honest, which is a huge part of its persuasive potential.  If it’s found by the right reader at the right moment, I think it can change lives.  In the introduction, hooks gives some idea who the right reader is—the right moment is the moment at which someone is willing to seriously and honestly consider something that person had previously overlooked or avoided.  There’s no way to guarantee that everyone hooks is trying to reach will find themselves in such a moment… but if they do, I would love for this book to be there.

As I was reading, I also wondered what hooks thinks about feminist blogging. She writes throughout the book about the loss of spaces where feminists can get together and talk with each other outside of academia; to me, blogs are that space.  Of course, blogs can present a barrier to those on the wrong side of the digital divide, and it’s really easy for the internet to forget that (surprise!).  On the other hand, it has gone some way toward counteracting the physical distances that separate people, and for many, it can be less intimidating than trying to meet people in person.  Of course, the book was published in 2000, which means it was probably written in 1999, when this internet thing, while certainly a cultural force, was very far from being what it is today.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Literary thoughts

Feminism is for Everybody: Copyright Tangent

Happy 2012!

2011 on this blog was dominated by the Year of Feminist Classics; this makes sense, since it was a big part of my decision to start a blog in the first place. I’ve enjoyed it very much, and this year, I’ll be participating in the second Year of Feminist Classics. I’m really excited about the upcoming reading list, especially Whipping Girl, Borderlands, and also Jane Eyre, which I haven’t read for years and which I really need to revisit for several reasons. So, if you want to know what I think about books on that list, you’re definitely in the right place, especially if you are patient.
Last year, I wasn’t very punctual about getting the entries up; this year, I’ll try to be a little better about it. With any luck, this will let me engage more with the discussions going on around the books!

The February book this year is Feminism is for Everybody, by bell hooks, which takes the reader carefully and gently through the history and the major aims of feminism, never shying away from the controversies within it. It’s kind of odd, I know, but let’s start at the very beginning, with the copyright notice (I promise I am going somewhere with this):

Any properly footnoted quotation of up to 500 sequential words may be used without permission, as long as the total number of words quoted does not exceed 2,000. For longer quotations or a greater number of total words, please write to the South End Press for permission. (iv)

I felt a little troubled when I read this, because I was thinking of the sort of thing I do here: writing about a book and frequently pulling out quotations to illustrate my points. Notices like this one bother me in that context, because I rely on fair use for quoting works here. Fair use does not rely on permission from the copyright holder and is based on an analysis of the four factors*, rather than a strict word count, and I initially read this as a misconception of a type that I find very frustrating, because as a librarian, I’m pretty deeply invested in the notion that we need to vigorously exercise our fair use rights in order to keep them. It’s even worse given the mission of the book, to spread information about feminism to everyone!

 
But then I actually started reading the book, and it suddenly made more sense. It’s a short book, in simple language, which addresses different aspects of feminism in short chapters that can stand almost on their own. They have titles like “Feminist Class Struggle,” “Women at Work,” “Ending Violence” and so on. They are models of clarity and uncompromising at the same time. As I was reading, I just wanted to take them and give them to people. Here, I wanted to say, this explains everything. So I’m hoping that this copyright notice is not intended to place a limit on fair use, and that instead, it’s allowing other uses that wouldn’t necessarily fall under fair use, like, I don’t know, copying a paragraph and leaving it around on a table for people to pick up. (And now I kind of hope someone has done that!) I don’t know if that is really true, but it’s what I hope.

I have more substantial thoughts about this book, which is quite a remarkable one, but I don’t want them to be overshadowed by this technical concern, so another post is on its way.

 
*The amount of the work used, the purpose of the use, the nature of the work, and the economic effects of the use.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literary thoughts, Uncategorized