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Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

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A groundbreaking work of feminist history and theory analyzing the complex relations between various forms of oppression. Ain't I a Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women's movement, and black women's involvement with feminism. A groundbreaking work of feminist history and theory analyzing the complex relations between various forms of oppression. Ain't I a Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women's movement, and black women's involvement with feminism.


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A groundbreaking work of feminist history and theory analyzing the complex relations between various forms of oppression. Ain't I a Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women's movement, and black women's involvement with feminism. A groundbreaking work of feminist history and theory analyzing the complex relations between various forms of oppression. Ain't I a Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women's movement, and black women's involvement with feminism.

30 review for Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    It wasn't until I read this book did I finally start understand as to what it's truly like to exist as a black woman in our society. I had always been a passionate and convicted feminist, as far back as Jr. High really. After outgrowing the boybands of the late 90' & early 00's, I moved on to metal, punk rock and emo music. Riot Grrrl and the principles that came with it with was just the next natural step, so I came of age within the realm of white feminism. Bell Hooks put into words every feel It wasn't until I read this book did I finally start understand as to what it's truly like to exist as a black woman in our society. I had always been a passionate and convicted feminist, as far back as Jr. High really. After outgrowing the boybands of the late 90' & early 00's, I moved on to metal, punk rock and emo music. Riot Grrrl and the principles that came with it with was just the next natural step, so I came of age within the realm of white feminism. Bell Hooks put into words every feeling I ever had about myself that no song ever could. It was like listening to a knowledgeable Aunt or big sister talk about her experiences. Like I cried mid way through the book that's how powerful Ain't I a Woman is. If you care about black women, feminism or even just humanity you need to read this book because it will change you, and if it doesn't well then you are an asshole.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K

    I sincerely don't know what to rate this book. It was very informative, but also semi-redundant. There were also several points in here where I found myself COMPLETELY disagreeing with bell. For example, in the book she argues that the Black male rapist myth doesn't exist anymore. That is simply untrue, and has been used to fuel most of the anti violence work that we see today? I imagine it was also even more true during the time this book was written in the 80s. She also talked about how white I sincerely don't know what to rate this book. It was very informative, but also semi-redundant. There were also several points in here where I found myself COMPLETELY disagreeing with bell. For example, in the book she argues that the Black male rapist myth doesn't exist anymore. That is simply untrue, and has been used to fuel most of the anti violence work that we see today? I imagine it was also even more true during the time this book was written in the 80s. She also talked about how white men have accepted Black men into police forces and I couldn't tell from the books tone if she was saying this was a positive or a privilege. She also said the sole reason Black men are happy over police being killed was their masculinity? She also went IN on white feminist groups but then said creating Black only groups was reactionary??? She also named Combahee River Collective by name? Why spend a whole chapter about why white feminist organizing sucked then call it racist to start Black only groups? She said Combahee created greater polarization, which again, I totally disagree with. She also argued against using women and white women interchangeably, but then just gives some general advice for "women" at the end of the book and tells them that they ALL need to work on their racism which leads me to believe that this, along with calling Black only groups "racist" makes me think that bell thinks Black people can be racist, which again? Is untrue. I think this is a good book for historical context on the treatment of Black women, and I think its required reading for feminists. It once again proves that Crenshaw wasn't the first and only person thinking of intersectionality, even though it is not always explicitly named that in Black feminist works. But yeah. I love bell but also, what was she saying. Also don't read this if you are expecting her to meaningfully touch on sexuality and yes this book is totally cis-focused (as were most books during this time).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    White male scholars who examined the black family by attempting to see in what ways it resembled the white family structure were confident that their data was not biased by their own personal prejudices against women assuming an active role in family decision-making. But it must be remembered that these white males were educated in an elite institutional world that excluded both black people and many white women, institutions that were both racist and sexist. Calling myself racist accomplishe White male scholars who examined the black family by attempting to see in what ways it resembled the white family structure were confident that their data was not biased by their own personal prejudices against women assuming an active role in family decision-making. But it must be remembered that these white males were educated in an elite institutional world that excluded both black people and many white women, institutions that were both racist and sexist. Calling myself racist accomplishes nothing. Calling society racist accomplishes nothing. Calling the world racist accomplishes nothing, and in fact solipsistically applies the framework of United States oppression theory to a vast spectra of bigotry, each impacting the other but never, ever, the same. In a word, calling out an observation does nothing. Appropriating the patriarchal scientific method for a moment, one hypothesizes, experiments, hypothesizes, experiments, ad infinitum. Call out your observations, wonder why, go forth, call out, wonder, go forth. Never, ever, stop. Historically, white patriarchs rarely referred to the racial identity of white women because they believed that the subject of race was political and therefore would contaminate the sanctified domain of “white” women’s reality. By verbally denying white women racial identity, that is by simply referring to them as women when what they really meant was white women, their status was reduced to that of non-person. White feminists did not challenge the racist-sexist tendency to use the word “woman” to refer solely to white women; they supported it. For them it served two purposes. First, it allowed them to proclaim white men world oppressors while making it appear linguistically that no alliance existed between white women and white men based on shared racial imperialism. Second, it made it possible for white women to act as if alliances did exist between themselves and non-white women in our society, and by doing so they could deflect attention away from their classism and racism. hooks called out both feminists I've read and feminists I'm planning to read, and yet I will continue to use the information I have learned and will seek out more of the same. An answer to the wherefore lies in my inherently valuing the critical process far more than the perfection of the accumulated tidbits, a holistic rejection of the freeze frame, the weighing, the hierarchy of the patriarchy implying white imperialism and androcentrism and so much else. It is far easier to hate everything else than it is to incorporate that everything else into a deconstruction of that hate, but if you proclaim yourself an agent of justice, that is what you must do. We cannot form an accurate picture of woman’s status by simply calling attention to the role assigned females under patriarchy. More specifically, we cannot form an accurate picture of the status of black women by simply focusing on racial hierarchies. Scholars have argued further that by not allowing black men to assume their traditional patriarchal status, white men effectively emasculated them, reducing them to an effeminate state. Implicit in this assertion is the assumption that the worst that can happen to a man is that he be made to assume the social status of woman. I'll rest when a black trans lesbian, a recovering addict who grew up in poverty and was once a sex worker, is the President of the United States. Inconceivable enough to almost everyone as of now, but that list of characteristics will only grow longer during my lifetime of reading, writing, and thinking, for the lack of academic discourse on that particular combination of bigotry does not prevent me from being aware of the existence of individuals who, by sheer coincidence of birth, fit the bill. That coincidence should not choke aspirations of leadership in the highest echelons from the get go. What must change is not the aspirations, but the choking. “I know of more than one colored woman who was openly importuned by white women to become the mistresses of their white husbands, on the grounds that they, the white wives, were afraid that, if their husbands did not associate with colored women, they would certainly do so with outside white women, and the white wives, for reasons which ought to be perfectly obvious, preferred to have their husbands do wrong with the colored women in order to keep their husbands straight.” I interviewed a black woman usually employed as a clerk who was living in near poverty, yet she continually emphasized the fact that black woman was matriarchal, powerful, in control of her life; in fact she was nearly having a nervous breakdown trying to make ends meet. hooks did not touch on queer theory. She did not call out the disrespectful and dehumanizing view of China and its culture in one of her used quotes. She did not cite her sources as explicitly as most, although the very concept of citations evolves from the quick and easy rhetoric of the patriarchy that engulfs its oppression in seeming ethos while in reality making the rules so as to have something to mewl and puke about when the institution is threatened, as if the rules themselves as with racism were anything but conjured out of thin air and as such can be treated accordingly (similar to how Goodreads keeps capitalizing her name aka disrespecting her autonomy in the effort to preserve the fragile sanctity of its holy search function). However, her holistic breakdown of white, black, male, female, without ever playing one off the other, is a lesson of criticizing the complex web of indoctrination oppression that can be applied to any intersectional social justice. The patriarchy is a bloated blight, spanning from its emphasis on capitalism to its compromised inheritance, all in the effort to reduce humanity to ciphers of privilege for this or that or any old reason of difference, difference, difference. Life is politics is life is a multifarious thing, and will not limit its splintered evolution for the sake of your self-help book view of life. Feminism as a political ideology advocating social equality for all women was and is acceptable to many black women. They rejected the women’s movement when it became apparent that middle and upper class college-educated white women who were its majority participants were determined to shape the movement so that it would serve their own opportunistic ends. To those who saw feminism solely as a way to demand entrance into the white male power structure, it simplified matters to make all men oppressors and all women victims. Any idea can be abused. What matters is the willingness to pay heed to the consequences and the neverending effort to push that idea to its ultimate limits of inclusiveness of every being deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And then some. Racism is the barrier that prevents positive communication and it is not eliminated or challenged by separation. White women supported the formation of separate groups because it confirmed their preconceived racist-sexist notion that no connection existed between their experiences and those of black women. It in no way diminishes our concern about racist oppression for us to acknowledge that our human experience is so complex that we cannot understand it if we only understand racism. The Internet enables me to say these words without fear of physical retribution. Words words words, of course, but I am a writer, and once upon a time my words were not so good. Once upon a time, everything I stood for and how I stood for it was not so good. The memory of that, if nothing else, is what keeps me going. A feminism so rooted in envy, fear, and idealization of male power cannot expose the de-humanizing effect of sexism on men and women in American society. Our willingness to assume responsibility for the elimination of racism need not be engendered by feelings of guilt, moral responsibility, victimization, or rage. It can spring from a heartfelt desire for sisterhood and the personal, intellectual realization that racism among women undermines the potential radicalism of feminism. That sisterhood cannot be forged by the mere saying of words. It is the outcome of continued growth and change. It is a goal to be reached, a process of becoming. The process begins with action, with the individual woman’s refusal to accept any set of myths, stereotypes, and false assumptions that deny the shared commonness of her human experience; that deny her capacity to experience the Unity of all life, that deny her capacity to bridge gaps created by racism, sexism, or classism; that deny her ability to change. The process begins the the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist, and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labeling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization. She wrote this at nineteen. Imagine that. Now go forth.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Radical + Accessible, we need more bell hooks! The Good: --I was setting a high bar expecting something similar to Angela Y. Davis’ Women, Race & Class and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, and to my delight bell hooks exceeded these expectations. --bell hooks exemplifies intersectionality at its best: radical, principled critique while still grasping the big picture by maintaining solidarity and giving room for change (thus, not a cynical armchair revolutionary). …This is no easy Radical + Accessible, we need more bell hooks! The Good: --I was setting a high bar expecting something similar to Angela Y. Davis’ Women, Race & Class and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, and to my delight bell hooks exceeded these expectations. --bell hooks exemplifies intersectionality at its best: radical, principled critique while still grasping the big picture by maintaining solidarity and giving room for change (thus, not a cynical armchair revolutionary). …This is no easy feat; there will always be a range of reactions with misinterpretations slipping beyond your control. However, bell hooks eloquently demonstrates that her critiques are meant to build on (by working out contradictions) rather than tear down or diminish movements. --Fallacies are methodically unraveled in an accessible manner (we have enough dry academic tomes that will never see the light of day in social movements), with summaries like this that strike at the core: In all these struggles we must be assertive and challenging, combating the deep-seated tendency in Americans to be liberal, that is, to evade struggling over questions of principle for fear of creating tensions or becoming unpopular. Instead we must live by the fundamental dialectical principle: that progress comes only from struggling to resolve contradictions. --Highlights: 1) Legacies of slavery, especially the additional sexism towards black women in their field and domestic slave labor. 2) 19th century capitalist development transforming the image of white women from sinful temptress to virtuous innocence (in contrast to the image of black women). 3) Conflict and fallacies with white liberal feminism and black male anti-racism (similar to Women, Race & Class). A particular focus is unpacking the myth of black men’s emasculation (difficulties becoming the breadwinner) and corresponding myth of black matriarchy (popularized by the 1965 Moynihan Report) and how they perpetuate capitalist patriarchal worldviews. The Missing: --This book is a crash course social analysis overview; a useful pairing would be Cornel West’s Race Matters: With a New Introduction. Key topical reads include The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. --While bell hooks builds from important frameworks in political economy and historical materialism, a deeper dive into these structures of real-world capitalism will fill out the other half of hook’s analyses such as this: While feminist supporters like to think that feminism has been the motivating force behind changes in woman’s role, in actuality changes in the American capitalist economy have had the greatest impact on the status of women. More women than ever before are in America’s work force not because of feminism but because families can no longer rely on the income of the father. Feminism has been used as a psychological tool to make women think that work they might otherwise see as boring, tedious, and time consuming is liberating. For whether feminism exists or not, women must work.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Toria (some what in hiatus)

    Very informative and I learned a lot. Well narrated and excellent written. Interested to read/listen to more from Bell Hooks

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    I am a little fledgling when it comes to intersectional feminism, so this was a great book for me to read. It further explored and clarified certain arguments and points-of-view that I've read/listened about online. It was published in 1987, so it's not completely up-to-date, but it is really an excellent book. bell hooks discusses black women and the sexism and racism they faced during slavery, and then continues discussing and exploring the sexism and racism that they face in contemporary times I am a little fledgling when it comes to intersectional feminism, so this was a great book for me to read. It further explored and clarified certain arguments and points-of-view that I've read/listened about online. It was published in 1987, so it's not completely up-to-date, but it is really an excellent book. bell hooks discusses black women and the sexism and racism they faced during slavery, and then continues discussing and exploring the sexism and racism that they face in contemporary times. Particularly focusing on white women's feminism and how white feminism has historically excluded black women (and women of colour) from it. I'd really recommend it. Her writing is powerful, unapologetic, and important. (also lots of today's mainstream white feminists could do with reading this tbhhhh)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vartika

    The foundation of the United States was quite literally laid on the backs of oppressed black women. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism provides a comprehensive historical analysis of American society and social movements through this foundational lens, restoring to black women the understanding of a systematic marginalisation that extends as far as back as slavery but isn't restricted to it. bell hooks borrows the title from Sojourner Truth's famous 1851 speech, and herein bares the crux The foundation of the United States was quite literally laid on the backs of oppressed black women. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism provides a comprehensive historical analysis of American society and social movements through this foundational lens, restoring to black women the understanding of a systematic marginalisation that extends as far as back as slavery but isn't restricted to it. bell hooks borrows the title from Sojourner Truth's famous 1851 speech, and herein bares the crux of her argument: Truth is commonly noted for her activism for the rights of "blacks and women," where "black" is read as black men, and "women" implies white women. The devaluation of black womanhood, its invisibility and invisiblising, does not merely exist in this verbal gap: hooks goes on to shed light on how the Civil Rights Movement was sexist-patriarchal, and the Second Wave of the Feminist Movement, spearheaded by middle-class white women, was deeply racist and classist. Thus contextualising the socially constructed image of black women in the complex mesh of a racist, imperialist, sexist, and classist society that America is, hooks then writes about dismantling these oppressive systems through a truly transformative feminist movement, whose goals should be eradicating the ideology of domination permeating within society, so that self development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires. Her ideas for what such a struggle would entail reach their apotheosis in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and other later works, but it is incredible to know that she was writing about engendering such ideas as far back as 1981, several years before the term "intersectionality" was coined, gained currency, and allowed people of colour a foot in the door.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    A while back I read an article in the Washington Post about the new domesticity among women. But it only identified the lives of white women living in urban cities. After that I read another article about how the sustainable food movement and "bike to work" movement often appeared white and for people of priveledge. Later on a show called Girls made its debut on HBO and there was quite an uproar about class and race because there appeared to be so much left out from a show that was supposed to b A while back I read an article in the Washington Post about the new domesticity among women. But it only identified the lives of white women living in urban cities. After that I read another article about how the sustainable food movement and "bike to work" movement often appeared white and for people of priveledge. Later on a show called Girls made its debut on HBO and there was quite an uproar about class and race because there appeared to be so much left out from a show that was supposed to be a great series on the modern woman. On the modern feminist. It reminded me how left out I feel about most feminist work and things in pop culture geared towards women. I want to be interested because media is telling me it's for me. But then I realized how much it isn't and I wondered constantly about the seperation. Because of this I went to Ain't I a Woman, a book I tried to read at 15 but needed now more than ever. The history of the feminist movement shared in this book is incredible. The fact that it didn't want anything to do with black women made me think that we still have quite a long way to go. To look at this body of work in today's light, you can't deny that still women=white women and black=black men. How much are we still left out of the equation? And for that question, I can only say how important this book is for all women over two decades later. There is a sense among most reviewers that AIAW is a good but somewhat jumbled term paper. But to find out that Ms. hooks was an undergraduate when this was written gives one the understanding that this is the beginning of hooks in the movement. This is an incredible work for someone who was not a professor or not yet an expert in this field. And to understand that, it opens the doors for much of her later work and opens the doors for other black feminist writers and historians. I took my time reading AIAW. There was a sense that in some ways she was preaching to the choir but even the choir is shocked by this message. I think her intention was not to rant, to call out, or shame but to teach. To educate ALL women and men in the movement. And for that I am extremely thankful for this book. There's this idea that feminism is a radical thing but when approached in the right way, it's there to open your eyes to the long history of inequality. A history that is often being repeated. Feminism done right is there to radically change your mind about what your role is while walking through this life. This book will make you rethink what it means to be a black woman.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jarrah

    This was a great companion read to Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider. Ain't I A Woman provides a comprehensive historical and social analysis of the ways black women have been marginalized by both white feminist movements and civil rights movements run by black men. hooks brings forward numerous examples of racist actions and statements by first and second-wave feminists, such as white women suffragettes excluding black women from their organizations and conferences. Most feminists have heard of Sojo This was a great companion read to Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider. Ain't I A Woman provides a comprehensive historical and social analysis of the ways black women have been marginalized by both white feminist movements and civil rights movements run by black men. hooks brings forward numerous examples of racist actions and statements by first and second-wave feminists, such as white women suffragettes excluding black women from their organizations and conferences. Most feminists have heard of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech that this book is named after, but most of us didn't hear about the white women at that convention who screamed, "Don't let her speak! Don't let her speak!" as Truth mounted the platform. The examples hooks brought forward made me more fully understand why some black women see the label "feminist" as irredeemable, but hooks herself notes the ways in which black women experience sexist oppression alongside of and intersecting with race and class oppression. She argues against separate feminist groups for women of different races, saying, "All women should experience in racially mixed groups affirmation and support. Racism is the barrier that prevents positive communication and it is not eliminated or challenged by separation." "It is a contradiction that white females have structured a women's liberation movement that is racist and excludes many non-white women," hooks states, "However, the existence of that contradiction should not lead any woman to ignore feminist issues...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." If anyone wants to understand why feminism needs to become more intersectional this will help give the context and teach about the problems in our past. I see this as an essential part of moving forward to a feminism that doesn't leave some women behind.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nella ☾ of Bookland

    Me the entire time reading: YES. YES. YES. Everything in this book is a resounding YES. Ain't I A Woman is absolutely essential to understanding the complex dynamics black women have with racism and feminism. It's an absolute must-read. It analyzes the various circumstances that have structured black womens' relationship with feminism throughout history, highlighting the struggle we face in advocating for both racial and gender equality. Some parts of this book are hard to read, namely the first Me the entire time reading: YES. YES. YES. Everything in this book is a resounding YES. Ain't I A Woman is absolutely essential to understanding the complex dynamics black women have with racism and feminism. It's an absolute must-read. It analyzes the various circumstances that have structured black womens' relationship with feminism throughout history, highlighting the struggle we face in advocating for both racial and gender equality. Some parts of this book are hard to read, namely the first chapter, but the uncomfortability of the historical reality is inescapable. It puts into perspective how deeply engrained racism and sexism is in our society, and how everyone, black men and women and white men and women, have participated in those systems. Every other sentence I was like: Everyon should read this, period.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dusty

    Bell hooks's primary opponent in this book is the white feminist movement -- what's typically called the "second wave" -- of the 1960s and 70s. Her point is that the white women involved in the movement are racist and sexist and have routinely alienated and antagonized the black women who should be standing at their sides, but in order to develop that point, she retraces the history of black women in the United States since slavery. The book was groundbreaking upon its publication in 1981, and i Bell hooks's primary opponent in this book is the white feminist movement -- what's typically called the "second wave" -- of the 1960s and 70s. Her point is that the white women involved in the movement are racist and sexist and have routinely alienated and antagonized the black women who should be standing at their sides, but in order to develop that point, she retraces the history of black women in the United States since slavery. The book was groundbreaking upon its publication in 1981, and it launched the career of one of the most prolific and influential American cultural critics of the last several decades. As a piece of scholarship, it certainly has limitations: It makes too many broad historical generalizations, it doesn't grapple with the fact that the United States is made up of people who are neither white nor black, it's somewhat heteronormative, and many sources are not cited. However, as a piece of rhetoric, it's well-written, insightful, and certainly effective. Three stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    A very informative book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    You know that scene in The Matrix when Neo downloads a bunch of knowledge all at once and then was like "I know Kung Fu."? I kinda felt like that with this book. This was an amazingly in-depth, intense, sometimes brutal historical and modern (at least to when it was written) journey through the history of differences between being a white woman and being a Black woman - in the hierarchical race and gender based caste system - from Colonial times on. This was brilliant and the only disappointing You know that scene in The Matrix when Neo downloads a bunch of knowledge all at once and then was like "I know Kung Fu."? I kinda felt like that with this book. This was an amazingly in-depth, intense, sometimes brutal historical and modern (at least to when it was written) journey through the history of differences between being a white woman and being a Black woman - in the hierarchical race and gender based caste system - from Colonial times on. This was brilliant and the only disappointing thing about it is that I waited so long to read it. RIP bell hooks.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    This is a difficult book to review nowadays. Virtually anyone who watches the news—at least in America—has come across the (rather cumbersome) term “intersectionality.” Yet there was a time, not too long ago, when the interaction of different forms of prejudice was hardly noticed, let alone studied. If this has changed, this is thanks to people like bell hooks (who purposely left her pen name in lower case letters). This, her first book, was groundbreaking for focusing on the mixture of sexism a This is a difficult book to review nowadays. Virtually anyone who watches the news—at least in America—has come across the (rather cumbersome) term “intersectionality.” Yet there was a time, not too long ago, when the interaction of different forms of prejudice was hardly noticed, let alone studied. If this has changed, this is thanks to people like bell hooks (who purposely left her pen name in lower case letters). This, her first book, was groundbreaking for focusing on the mixture of sexism and racism experienced by black women. The difficulty in writing a fair review is due to how completely the book’s message has been absorbed. Nowadays, it seems so obvious that, contending as they do with sexism and racism, black women have different experiences with prejudice than either white women or black men. Thus, it can seem superfluous for hooks to hammer the point home, again and again, during the course of this slight book. This book shows its age in other ways, too, such as the total absence of issues facing the LGBTQ community. But hooks was a pioneer, and can hardly be blamed for these faults. All told, Ain’t I a Woman? remains an accessible and important book about an often overlooked topic.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    This 1980’s book is an eye-opening, no-nonsense study of intersectionality in the United States: women's rights and feminism, the country's slavery past and racism, and economical class structure, with a focus on black feminism. Bell Hooks delivered sharp critiques of American’s structural racisim and sexisim and the different roles played by white men, white women, black men and black women. She criticised not only white patriarchy, but also the feminism movement initalized by upper class and m This 1980’s book is an eye-opening, no-nonsense study of intersectionality in the United States: women's rights and feminism, the country's slavery past and racism, and economical class structure, with a focus on black feminism. Bell Hooks delivered sharp critiques of American’s structural racisim and sexisim and the different roles played by white men, white women, black men and black women. She criticised not only white patriarchy, but also the feminism movement initalized by upper class and middle class white women, as well as sexisim and violence in black communities. She saved no ammunition and missed no one. A lot of interesting topics–the complex entanglement between black abolitionists and white women suffragists in the 19th century; the sexisim in the Black Muslim Movement and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement especially among black militant groups. Bell Hooks debunked the myth of black female matriarch, the immoral black women and rapists black men. She pointed out that white men and black men were separated by racism but united in sexisim. Wow.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

    I loved it. It is a wonderful perspective on the feminist movement and black women. Some of the information is dated but the sentiments reign true today. bell hooks has gained another fan. I am a baby black feminist and found this easy to understand and thoroughly enjoyable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    Really good !!! Necessary read for all people interested in feminism and anti racism.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil

    I cannot stress enough how important this book is; a molotov cocktail into the cultural necropolis that is America. bell hooks wields her pen like a sledgehammer, dismantling the pillars of a sexist, racist, and classist society. She illustrates how these three insidious ideologies oppress and privilege us in myriad ways, poisoning the possibility for genuine human interaction/community and dehumanizing us all. Some reviewers have criticized the book for not having footnotes, or for certain hist I cannot stress enough how important this book is; a molotov cocktail into the cultural necropolis that is America. bell hooks wields her pen like a sledgehammer, dismantling the pillars of a sexist, racist, and classist society. She illustrates how these three insidious ideologies oppress and privilege us in myriad ways, poisoning the possibility for genuine human interaction/community and dehumanizing us all. Some reviewers have criticized the book for not having footnotes, or for certain historical inaccuracies or generalizations. These minor missteps do not change the validity of the conclusions she draws, and, consequently, are just ivory tower quibbling. Her clarion call ending, demanding a radical transformative force in American society to dismantle the institutions that merely perpetuate these oppressions restates Fanon's call for the New Man with a much better understanding of the pitfalls along the way. If only Fanon would have realized that entrusting the revolution to patriarchs does not result in anyone being free, and instead merely reanimates the rotting cadaver of Europe; a monstrous edifice made flesh.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lacey

    I have some very mixed thoughts on this one. On the one hand, bell hooks perfectly sums up the treatment of Black women in American society. Prioritized as neither woman nor Black, the rights and needs of Black women have been ignored and overlooked for decades. Often, they are forced to choose which part of their identities to fight for as White feminists and Black male civil rights leaders fight for political power. On the other hand, the book makes a number of wild and unbelievable arguments. I have some very mixed thoughts on this one. On the one hand, bell hooks perfectly sums up the treatment of Black women in American society. Prioritized as neither woman nor Black, the rights and needs of Black women have been ignored and overlooked for decades. Often, they are forced to choose which part of their identities to fight for as White feminists and Black male civil rights leaders fight for political power. On the other hand, the book makes a number of wild and unbelievable arguments. For example, hooks states that Black enslaved men were never at risk of (or at the very least, never worried about) sexual assault. Maybe it wasn't as frequent nor as obvious as what enslaved women endured, but I can't believe that's true. She also argues that colonial Black people didn't protect or warn young Black women about sexual assault due to Puritan sexual norms. And, she criticizes contemporary (mid-80s, I guess) Black feminism as shallow and less progressive than that of previous generations, while at the same time acknowledging the increased growth and acceptance of Black feminist thought in contemporary society. Granted, I'm not a historian nor a sociologist, but I cannot believe any of that is true. So, I'm split. I'm gonna have to come back and rate this one after I sit with it awhile.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tao

    "White people who observed the African slaves as they departed from the ships on American shores noted that they seemed to be happy and joyful. They thought that the happiness of the African slaves was due to their pleasure at having arrived in a Christian land. But the slaves were only expressing relief. They believed no fate that awaited them in the American colonies could be as horrific as the slave ship experience." "White people who observed the African slaves as they departed from the ships on American shores noted that they seemed to be happy and joyful. They thought that the happiness of the African slaves was due to their pleasure at having arrived in a Christian land. But the slaves were only expressing relief. They believed no fate that awaited them in the American colonies could be as horrific as the slave ship experience."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eglathren

    The most important book I've ever read. The most important book I've ever read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    bookswithmaddi

    literally incredible.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sammy Mylan

    absolutely essential feminist reading, an excellent example of intersectional feminism some outdated views from the 80s, however i still found such points interesting in a historical sense much respect to hooks for casually shredding white feminists whenever she gets the opportunity lmao

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kim Becker (MIDDLE of the Book MARCH)

    Powerful and still timely.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    My book group is reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s books and wanted to balance his voice with that of a black woman. I’ve been reading several books trying to find some for us to consider. As a ‘70s era, second wave (white) feminist, I’m one of those people who was oblivious to the racism in the feminist movement. As someone who has become aware of the concept of “intersectionality” in the last year, I had some idea about the particular challenges of race, gender, and class. But bell hooks upended most My book group is reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s books and wanted to balance his voice with that of a black woman. I’ve been reading several books trying to find some for us to consider. As a ‘70s era, second wave (white) feminist, I’m one of those people who was oblivious to the racism in the feminist movement. As someone who has become aware of the concept of “intersectionality” in the last year, I had some idea about the particular challenges of race, gender, and class. But bell hooks upended most of what I thought I knew about myself, my culture, and my country’s history. This book is stunning in its scope and its use of literature, history, and contemporary interviews to help both white and black women understand the unconscious racism and sexism that resides within and without. I’d heard of bell hooks but never read her work. This book is an essential read for any woman who wants to understand the challenges of building a woman’s movement that is inclusive and able to address the concerns of women in all classes and racial groups. I read a library copy but want to own one so I can read it again and again. I was frustrated that I couldn’t underline and make notes, something that this books compels you to do. The author doesn’t just challenge white women. She takes on patriarchy and all its dysfunctions with the black community as well. While this was originally written when she was in grad school and published in 1981, most of it is very relevant to today. In the face of the election of Donald Trump, the #metoo movement, and the support Roy Moore had in his senate race, women have asked, “how could women vote for or support so many of these people?” This book helps you understand that dynamic. Yes, women are racist and sexist and will undermine feminism if it is in the interest of the patriarchy that they are intimately ensnared in. One criticism made of her work is that she never provides footnotes or detailed references in her work. I didn’t think that was such a big deal. But as I read so many of the excellent historical excerpts she included, I wanted to know where the original source could be found. You’d have to do a lot of research to do that. I have concluded that this is a significant flaw in this book but the content overcomes it enough to award 5 stars. Still, it is something I wish she’d correct in a new edition. Many contemporary black women writing about the challenges of being a black woman in 21st century America are standing on the shoulders of bell hooks. Read this. Now. It’s too important not to.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Chi-Girl

    I love bell hooks. She is a feminist and black woman. This is a must read, or any of her other books, for young and old women, black and white, and every shade in between and beyond. She gives the history of black women oppression, and clearly shows how as black males began to find success, the black woman on the other hand, continued to be oppressed. Sound familiar? Same as white males first and white women second. That is where the similarity stops because racism for any person of color exists I love bell hooks. She is a feminist and black woman. This is a must read, or any of her other books, for young and old women, black and white, and every shade in between and beyond. She gives the history of black women oppression, and clearly shows how as black males began to find success, the black woman on the other hand, continued to be oppressed. Sound familiar? Same as white males first and white women second. That is where the similarity stops because racism for any person of color exists beyond the imagination of the average white personality. This bigotry continues to plague the US and other countries. And still so many decades later. We, as women need to keep empowering ourselves and other women. And especially of color. But read bell hooks instead of hearing me ramble. And think about how women fought for the right to vote and finally succeeded, yet people of color still couldn’t vote decades later. I am grateful to those women in the late 1800’s, and those like Gloria Steinem during the 1970’s, women who spoke up and out and marched for decades.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    I first read Ain't I a Woman in college in the 80's, and it was life changing. It was the first thing I can remember reading that made me realize that there were lenses not my own through which I needed to look at the world in order to understand it, and hopefully to improve it for all people, not just educated white girls from the suburbs. Reading this was also the first time I started to understand how paternalistic had been my view of my role in the quest for racial equality. I was raised wit I first read Ain't I a Woman in college in the 80's, and it was life changing. It was the first thing I can remember reading that made me realize that there were lenses not my own through which I needed to look at the world in order to understand it, and hopefully to improve it for all people, not just educated white girls from the suburbs. Reading this was also the first time I started to understand how paternalistic had been my view of my role in the quest for racial equality. I was raised with a healthy dose of white savior complex. I have not read the book again since, but lately I have been reading a lot of pieces by this new class of black feminists, most of them also anti-capitalist, and that inspired me to go back to some foundational works in intersectional feminism. For the last few months I have been dipping into Audre Lord essays (not in book form so not reviewed here) including an essential piece where she interviews James Baldwin for Essence that is a must read http://theculture.forharriet.com/2014.... A couple weeks back I spent some time with the founders of the Combahee River Collective, and this week I decided to revisit bell hooks. All of this has been time very well spent. With the context afforded by living another 35 years since my first read, I see holes in hooks' commentary that were not obvious to me. This is especially true in her depiction of the ways in which white feminists had acted against the interests of black women, and intentionally created a divide because they were afraid of the sexual power black women had over "their" white men. As troubling is her eager embrace of the opinion that women who enjoy their sexuality are less than. Of course women's sexuality has always been policed by men, and that an instrument of that policing has been to castigate women who did not follow the rules men set. It was absolutely true that white people falsely painted black women as promiscuous and therefore something to be feared and rejected. It was true that in the early part of the 20th century that myth-making was an effective way to lower the societal standing of black women. The issue is that hooks seems to suggest that if a woman is sexually active outside of the bonds of marriage that she really is something to be scorned. That view is very regressive. I know mores have changed, but this was written in the 1970's when free love was a valid choice for men and women. Women owning their sexuality is something I wish hooks had embraced. Back to the main narrative which suggests that white feminists consciously worked to reject and diminish black women. First off, I think history is pretty clear that many of the mothers of feminism were not fighters for the rights of black people and that some were appallingly violently racist (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I am looking at you.) I know those women did not fight for black women (objectively true), but hooks goes an extra step to allege that those early feminists actively erased black women and worked to bar black women from benefiting from the advances in rights for women, I think history shows that is not fully or even mostly true. They accepted a narrative of race distinction as normal. I will go a step further and say that I suspect, but don't know, that many of those women who did see that it was wrong to not bring black women into the fold still chose not to because it was clear that it would hinder the cause of white women's suffrage in a world where ALL the power was in the hands of white men. So yes, these women were pragmatic assimilationists, but there is no evidence at all that those women were consciously working to add to the pile of "reasons" for oppression. I like to think that for some of those women the thought was "one step at a time." When we have the power to change anything rather than just begging for scraps from the men, we will do something about our black sisters. I like to think that, but I realize its probably not true. My point here is that the feminist cause has traditionally been led by white women who did not stop for a moment to think about how the double curse of racism and sexism left black women powerless in the marketplace and in the home. That does not mean that the feminist movement and its accomplishments over the past 100+ years are irrelevant to black women, and it doesn't mean that there cannot be shifts. We do not have to tear down what we have because part of the root system was diseased. We can cut out that rot, use the healthy growth, and make it better. We can make feminism more universally relevant, more universally salubrious. The sins of the mothers do not have to continue to define the daughters and the accomplishments of the mothers do not need to be thrown out like so much bath water. A side note: I also reject hooks insistence that intersectional feminism must embrace socialism. Distinction by economic class is not based on discrete characteristics like distinctions based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or gender expression (though certainly those devalued due to discrete characteristics are often held back from having economic power.). Economic distinction is only a problem if class becomes inescapable caste. If economic advancement is possible it is incentivizing. We have a problem now because economic advancement has been made rare as hen's teeth for those not already part of the 5% and we need to fix the concentration of wealth is the hands of a few (almost uniformly white) people, but socialism is not the only answer. I may have other thoughts later, but I want to mention that hooks wrote most of this as an UNDERGRAD, and I recognize that she is smarter and more effective than I by a factor of about a million. At the same age I was mostly focused on sleeping with musicians and getting out of taking math classes. Changing the world was something I read a lot about, but i am ashamed to say that outside of my work in building an early diversion program for youthful offenders, I was not doing a whole lot to actually make the world better. hooks' work over the years has been transformative and has inspired the important work of many women who came after her, She is amazing and important, and understanding her work is essential to understanding an embracing the work of great minds working now like Tressie McMillan Cottom, Brittney Cooper, Reni Eddo-Lodge and others.

  28. 5 out of 5

    claire | chaoscentralbooks

    oh HECK yeah. bell hooks is an absolute legend and this should be required reading. i’m legitimately outraged that this wasn’t required reading for my women of america history course in college, but that class was also taught by a straight white man, so what are you gonna do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (no hate to my prof, he was cool and did his best. major hate to my university tho lol)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    Life-changing, thought provoking, inspiring, and hard to put down--basically everything you could want in a book. A highly recommended read for people of all races, genders, colors, abilities, and creeds. You will learn so much from this book and genuine curiosity and desire for knowledge for the sake of learning will lead you to seek out more knowledge about the topics discussed therein and, eventually, you will be better for it. Let this book teach you some things you might be afraid to know, Life-changing, thought provoking, inspiring, and hard to put down--basically everything you could want in a book. A highly recommended read for people of all races, genders, colors, abilities, and creeds. You will learn so much from this book and genuine curiosity and desire for knowledge for the sake of learning will lead you to seek out more knowledge about the topics discussed therein and, eventually, you will be better for it. Let this book teach you some things you might be afraid to know, let it enlighten you, let it expose you to a whole new world and shine the light on the existence--past and present--of a large group of underrepresented persons among you. bell hooks' writing is highly readable and the concepts and anecdotes she presents are digestable, though at times she can be a little redundant. Still, if emphasis in order to remember clearly what you read is what you need, you will get it here. There are many times when you will find yourself wanting to "remember that concept" or "remember that sentence and the way she said it" in order to recall it later in discussion: evidence of a great thinker and a likable writer.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Transformative. Essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the world we live in. I only have a tiny complaint: It's ok to criticize a movement for its goals, but when you don't provide an alternative one, it leaves me feeling helpless. That's what I don't like about most critiques of the feminist goal of reaching gender and race equality and about people saying they want to end capitalism. We shouldn't just want the same power to dominate, as white males have, I agree. But, what's the Transformative. Essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the world we live in. I only have a tiny complaint: It's ok to criticize a movement for its goals, but when you don't provide an alternative one, it leaves me feeling helpless. That's what I don't like about most critiques of the feminist goal of reaching gender and race equality and about people saying they want to end capitalism. We shouldn't just want the same power to dominate, as white males have, I agree. But, what's the alternative? What's the alternative to democracy, states, people exchanging products and services for money and vice versa? I just need to know, so I can imagine a different future.

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