By Max Sheffield-Baird
Max has started a book club! Every month they’re reviewing one book that educates on intersectionality. Next month, Max is reading Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. Feel free to join in!
I chose Feminism is for Everybody to start off this feminist book series because it’s a short read. Author Bell Hooks states the purpose of her book is to make feminism accessible and to dispel the notions that feminism is inherently anti-men—which the patriarchy has drummed into popular consciousness for decades now.
I’m not sure how well she succeeded.
The tone feels academic and dry. I would consider it a good primer for those looking to do a serious study on gender, race, class, and other aspects to kyriarchy (Psst, kyriarchy encompasses all social systems of oppression we face). But it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for the masses. People who are just looking to get a quick FAQ on intersectional feminism might want to look elsewhere.
I’ll start off with what I liked about it.
The term “lifestyle feminism” instantly captured my imagination. It brought up so much of how I was feeling about those who claim that all women are feminists. Lifestyle feminists are typically class-privileged reformists who focused their attention on working outside of the home only. They cherry pick a few things instead of seeing patriarchy as an entire structure that needs to come down for women to be liberated. They cape for the patriarchy, but in their pantsuit. I’d love to see an entire book about how internalized misogyny and patriarchal conditioning have shaped the movement.
I liked how Bell Hooks broke down how we got here today and how patriarchy co-opted the movement, which is why it has stalled out the way it has. She touched on issues that you don’t often see: How the nature of hierarchal parenting comes from kyriarchy and the link between domestic abuse to child abuse and they can be perpetrated by women as well. There were mentions of class and patriarchal religion, and I feel it gave people many portals of entry if you want to learn more about a specific subject within gender studies.
Though it was only published twenty years ago, it feels a bit dated. There’s an entire chapter about lesbians but not even a mention in passing of trans women and non-binary people. It discusses sex in a couple of chapters, but no mentions that some people/women don’t experience sexual or romantic attraction. I also feel like this book talks about what needs to happen to make feminism accessible, but again, this feels weird for a book that was supposedly meant to be an introduction to feminism for the masses.
I’d recommend this to folx who want to get serious about learning about the history of intersectionality, feminism, class, and how feminism impacts intimate relationships. There are newer and probably easier readings for people who don’t have that intention and still want to learn. Maybe someone can create an online collection of social media posts, articles, talks, and other things online for folx who want that education, but not from an academic point of view. I’ll let you know if I find one.
Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
By Bell Hooks
What is feminism? In this short, accessible primer, bell hooks explores the nature of feminism and its positive promise to eliminate sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. With her characteristic clarity and directness, hooks encourages readers to see how feminism can touch and change their lives–to see that feminism is for everybody.
Next month I’m planning to read Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. Feel free to join me.
Max Sheffield-Baird (they/them) is a writer and marketing strategist who’s passionate about racial and economic justice. Max is a parent of a rambunctious infant and is a student at Colorado State University and is expected to graduate in July 2021. In their dwindling free time (hello parenthood!), they enjoy podcasts, reading fantasy and non-fiction, and educating people on kyriarchy on the internet.