bell hooks is an outspoken and brilliant academic with a laundry list of accolades, from her undergraduate studies at Stanford University to her professorship at Yale. Though perhaps her most impactful work is her social activism around the marginalization of black women in our patriarchal society as a whole and within the feminist movement itself. hooks name is in the odd lowercase form because she wishes to emphasize “the substance of books, not who I am”. bell hooks’ work is particularly important to this blog because of her work on the intersectionality between racism and sexism.
Intersectionality is the inability to separate discrimination against intersecting identities and is perhaps best explained with a court case. A black woman comes to court because her boss is discriminating against her for being a black woman but at the time the court will only recognize one kind of discrimination so they tell the woman that she must either claim that she is being discriminated against for being a woman or for being black. They compare how her boss is treating woman and how he is treating black men and conclude that he is discriminating against neither white women nor black men so he must not be discriminating against this black women. In fact the black woman faces a different kind of discrimination than a black man or a white woman because she is both a woman and black. Intersectionality can apply to an disadvantaged identity whether it is race, sex, sexual orientation or other.
bell hooks in her 1980s book, Ain’t I a Woman, brings to light the lack of diversity and intersectionality in the feminist movement itself. Hooks challenges the notion that feminism is a movement to make women equal to men, which she sees as impossible because not all men are equal. While racism and other inequalities still exist it is impossible for this definition of feminism to stand without being exclusive. She instead redefines feminism as “ a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression”. This new definition leaves room for the intertwining of social and racial inequality with gender inequality.
bell hooks and her work around intersectionality in the feminist movement is important to all walks of feminism and is something that should be considered by anyone that calls themselves a feminist. Even though Honey & Rouge is titled a sustainable feminist fashion blog, within feminism we also consider the diversity issues within the fashion industry because without taking this into consideration we will not be progressing the feminist movement as a whole.
Fun Fact: Born Gloria Jean Watkins, hooks decided to take her grandmother’s name as a pen name because she admired her grandmother’s ability to openly speak her mind.
Quote: “The process begins with 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.”