2021 saw the death of many important public figures, such as feminist, activist and author bell hooks. On December 15, 2021, a few weeks after discussing her in my English class, bell hooks passed away at age 69. But who was bell hooks, and why was she important?
First off, I’d like to mention that I did not make a typo in her name. bell hooks wanted her pen name to be written as it is because she refused to have her pen name with capital letters, suggesting ego. Her real name is Gloria Jean Watkins, but she decided to be known to the public as bell hooks based on her maternal great-grandmother’s name. She was born on September 25, 1952, in the town of Hopkinsville in the US state of Kentucky.
Her many works included Ain’t I a woman?: Black Women and Feminism (1981), Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice (2012), and Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (1989). hook’s feminism sought to redefine feminism one that continues to be broader. What about racism? What about diversity? Are people genuinely addressing these issues correctly and concretely? Not really, believed hooks. Her definition of feminism aimed at recognizing the little voice black women had in feminism, giving people at the time of first-wave suffrage and women’s movements, in the early 1800s to 1900s, a reason to believe that black women didn’t care about feminism. White women and other white people realized the incoherence of what feminism is vs. how it is represented in society. Is feminism only for white women? Early feminist movements demonstrate the disconnect of fighting for equal rights between all men and all women in a prejudiced society.
bell hooks wasn’t the first black feminist to urge black feminism and a call to redefine feminism, but she stands as a reminder that if we, as a society, are not collectively on the same page, then change will never come. We have to repeat things. Throughout my education, I only learned about one black feminist before hooks, Angela Davis, which can give students the idea that black feminists and black feminism as a whole do not exist or that it is unimportant.
Continue to educate yourselves.
By Talia Atallah