Festschrift 2.0: Ms. Magazine Blog Celebrates bell hooks

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 The Ms. Magazine blog is in the middle of bell hooks week, “a series of essays celebrating the life and works of the extraordinary bell hooks. hooks has made a significant impact on feminism, race theory, education, class politics, the mass media and many, many people’s lives.”  Most of the essays are good.  Some of them are great.  Here are two that really made me think:

From Melanie Klein, “The Other L-Word: How bell hooks Dared Me to Love“:

Born in 1972, an early third-wave, Gen-X feminist, I consciously rejected the one-dimensional portrayal of love as culminating in heterosexual marriage + children + suburbs. In the process, I rejected love all together. I felt that in order to be a feminist, I could not show any desire or longing for love in my life. Being heterosexual, I dated men, but became the proverbial “black widow”: I could be with you, but afterward I’d have to kill you. By the time I reached my late twenties in the late 90′s, I felt lonely, unsatisfied and afraid to admit that something was missing. 

I was a long-time fan of hooks’ work on white supremacist patriarchy and representations in the mainstream media, but when I picked up Communion: The Female Search for Love, one of her series of books on the subject of love, the title itself made me self-conscious, lest anyone think it was similar to “how-to-find-a-man” books like Women Who Love Too Much.

 

Yet, from the moment I opened the book, I knew it was more radical than her other work. As hooks says in the book, to talk about a love in a culture of domination is radical in itself. And it turned out to be the most influential, liberating and powerful work by hooks–or anyone–that I would ever read.
I felt she was speaking directly to me, addressing my fears and my unspoken, secret desires. * * * 

hooks dared me to love, to view love as revolutionary and courageous. She encouraged me to expand my girlhood, fairytale definition of love and find love all around me. As hooks states, “The communion in love our soul seeks is the most heroic and divine quest any human can take.” Given permission and validation, I opened my heart and found love within myself, for myself and my community. Of all the gifts hooks has given me, this has been the most profound.

Read Klein’s full post here.

From Jewel Woods, “bell hooks’ Love for Black Men“:

Even if her academic record and political legacy were not proof enough, there is another reason why I know that bell hooks loves men–especially black men. 

You see, back in the day, I was a student at Oberlin College when people like bell hooks and Chandra Mohanty were teaching there. In fact, I was the student leader of the “brotherhood”–an organization for black men students–when bell hooks was the advisor to the black women’s student organization, Sisters of the Yam. 

I remember the “epic” conversations we had about gender and power in the black community. I used to sit outside of Gloria’s office (we all called her Gloria, her given name, and not bell hooks) and on the days when I had enough courage I would walk down to her house to have her answer all the questions I had about feminism and men.

bell hooks was the first person to encourage me to write about my experiences as a black man, and she has been a tremendous influence in my life.

Today, I write a lot about the intersection–some would say collision– of race, class, and gender. By far, the most controversial piece that I have written is “The Black Male Privileges Checklist .” I wrote it for two personal reasons: 1) I love and care about black men and boys, and 2) I am unashamedly and unapologetically committed to the safety and welfare of black women and girls. 

I also wanted to create a tool that every black man could use to open up areas of his life that are often hidden or concealed. A tool that could be used in a variety of spaces–from the classroom to the barbershop–that would encourage anyone that interacts with black men and boys to engage in critical conversations about their lives, and the lives of black women and girls. 

I wrote the Black Male Privileges Checklist because bell hooks was correct when she said that one of the fundamental genocidal threats to black men’s lives is being “plantation patriarch,” or what I refer to as Black Male Privileges. 

Even a cursory review of bell hook’s life and legacy demonstrates her profound love for black men, and I want it to be apart of the public record that we love bell hooks too!

Read Woods’ full post here.

-Bridget Crawford

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