F is for fuck yeah, feminist reading group!
I want to be holding in my hand a concise, fairly easy to read and understand book; not a long book, not a book thick with hard to understand jargon and academic language, but a straightforward, clear book – easy to read without being simplistic. From the moment feminist thinking, politics, and practice changed my life, I have wanted this book. I have wanted to give it to the folk I love so that they can understand better this cause, this feminist politics I believe in so deeply, that is the foundation of my political life. (…) I have written this short handbook, the book I have spent more than 20 years longing for. I had to write it because I kept waiting for it to appear, and it did not (hooks, 2000).
Since you’ve read that quote now, I don’t need to tell you that bell hooks is awesome.
What I do need to tell you is that F is reading her handbook, which she called Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics.
For quite a while at F’s batcave, various people had been saying “let’s hold a reading group”. It never quite made it to the top of the priority list, until one day, when Bip and I were having coffee. And we realised we wanted to read some feminist basics. One feminist basic, even. Even though hooks wrote this book for the totally uninitiated, sometimes we all want to go back to feminist training wheels.
Where better to start? bell hooks is a founding mother of feminist and anti-racist academia and activism, from the USA. She has a long Wikipedia entry here.
Have you come across intersectionality theory? It’s a popular staple of feminism, from the academy to the blogosphere, and hooks, along with other feminists of colour, originated it. She started out by writing a book called Ain’t I a Woman? about black women and feminism.
Then she wrote Feminist Theory: From margin to centre, arguing that feminism should centre the experiences of those on the margins in order to be an anti-oppressive movement. This is especially important for those experiencing multiple, intersecting oppressions, as often for them a double-bind will play out.
For example, hooks wants feminism to be open to including men in the movement. One reason she gives is that excluding men can mean excluding some disadvantaged women, as they might be more economically bound to families that included men.
So, now that I’ve butchered hooks’ nuanced works in a 500 word post (ah, the internet), you really should see what she has to say for yourself. A PDF of Feminism is for Everybody is available here.
And now you’ve downloaded it, why not come discuss it with other folks who want feminism? Victoria Park near Broadway, 26 May, 1-3pm, or Toby’s Estate cafe on City Road if the weather is unruly. Read the intro and at least one other chapter, or even better the whole thing (she tells the truth – it’s actually very short).
See you there? Let us know in the comments!