bell hooks is one of the first feminists whose work I’ve had the honor of reading. Her most famous book is perhaps “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,” in which she takes to task Betty Friedan’s “The Feminist Mystique” for being blind to the problems of women who weren’t white and well-off. hooks says:
“(Friedan) made her plight and the plight of white women like herself synonymous with a condition affecting all American women. In so doing, she deflected attention away from her classism, her racism, her sexist attitudes towards the masses of American women. In the context of her book, Friedan makes clear that the women she saw as victimized by sexism were college-educated white women who were compelled by sexist conditioning to remain in the home.”
hooks helped open my eyes to the privilege I enjoy as a white woman who grew up in comfortable surroundings. She also urges the feminist movement to remember there is no one representative “woman’s experience.” My concerns as a middle-class white American feminist are not the same concerns of a poor Latina Cuban feminist.
hooks’ “Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics” is one of my favorite arguments for the struggle to reclaim what “feminist” means from the radical right who smear us by saying we hate men. hooks talks about encountering people who don’t know what real feminism is like, and wanting to have something to give them that explains what her personal politics are like:
“…I want to have in my hand a little book so that I can say, read this book, and it will tell you what feminism is, what the movement is about. 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.”
So if you are still wavering on whether to call yourself a feminist, give bell hooks a try. I have a feeling you will find her work very accessible and appealing.