Friday, February 22, 2008

bell hooks

bell hooks

by Aaron Ashba

bell hooks, the African-American, feminist and author was born on September 25th, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Her birth name is Gloria Jean Watkins under her parents Veodis and Rosa Bell Watkins. As a young girl, she knew she wanted to be a writer and set a goal to become one. After high school in 1973, hooks enrolled at Stanford University and obtained a B.A. in English. In 1976, she earned her master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Later, she became a teacher and served as an English professor and as a senior lecturer in ethnic studies at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles until 1979. She is still alive and well today. After several years of teaching and writing, she completed her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1983. She is alive and well today.

In her eventful and productive life, her thoughts and written words have touched the lives of many women, especially in the Black community. Her books and articles have focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce overcome oppression and domination. In her career, hooks has published over thirty books and several articles. She has also appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures with topics ranging from postmodern feminism, race, class and gender in education, art, history, sexuality and mass media. The name “bell hooks” was actually her pen name she took in the late 70s. While teaching at the University of Southern California, Golemics of Los Angeles released her first published work titled "And There We Wept" in 1978. Basically, the name was a combination of her mother and grandmother. She uses it only in lowercase. According to her, the name's unconventional lowercasing signifies what is most important in her works: the "substance of books, not who I am." Hooks has held positions as Professor of African and Afro-American Studies and English at Yale University, Distinguished Lecturer of English Literature at the City College of New York and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and American Literature at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.

Along with teaching a several colleges and universities in the early 80s while in California, South End Press (Boston) published her first major work, “Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism in 1981”. Decades after its publication, it has gained widespread recognition as an influential contribution to postmodern feminist thought. Ain’t I a Woman? opened the door to recurring topics she would discuss in her later work, such as the historical impact of sexism and racism on black women, devaluation of black womanhood, media roles and portrayal, the education system, the "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy", the marginalization of black women; and the disregard for issues of race and class within feminism. Since the publication of Ain’t I a Woman?, she became a strong liberal, postmodern political thinker and one of women's most cultural critic. Her voice attracts to many different topics and was able to use many various media outlets to spread her word. Besides her book publications and articles, she has provide many lectures and appears in various documentaries and news productions such as CSPAN. Hooks gave a controversial commencement speech in 2002 at Southwestern University. Rather than taking the congratulatory mode to the students, she spoke of government-sanctioned violence and oppression, causing a ruckus amongst students and parents, such to the tune of parents refusing to donate money to the university. Her work has been an example of not only her life experiences and personal views on the societal views or race, gender, culture and total harmony of its mutual existence, she has provided inspiration and a voice to all women to open their eyes to reality and also how to embrace the fact of womanly traits and intelligence. She has stood and faced patriarchy and overcome the challenges of those issues in her own life to inspire other women and people alike to do the same in a responsible way.

As part of our reading assignments this semester, we had to read "Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics" (2000), as this was my first introduction to bell hooks. Not knowing her prior to the reading gave me a , but now after her book and this assignment, I have enjoyed learning about her life and can respect her views and opinions she has so passionately expressed in many different outlets. As I move on toward obtaining another degree and facing challenges in life, I can appreciate everything hooks has accomplished with the utmost respect outside of her views on feminism.


Aaron Ashba


Women's Studies 200 Class said...

It was interesting to see a picture of bell hooks. For some unknown reason that is not what I pictured her to look like. What did I imagine her looking like? Perhaps a bit less polished...not as refined as she seems to be from her picture. They say a 'picture tells a thousand words' however in this case, it does not. She seems so soft and not someone to use some of the language and strong sentiment that she shows in her book. But, am I just contributing to the myth about women and what and how they should look and act? I think so. We have been conditiioned for many years as young girls, white women, and middle class ladies growing up in the 70's, that I have been succumbed to myself. I feel a bit shameful.

Women's Studies 200 Class said...

Oh, that previous comment was made by me, Kim Seder. Sorry.

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Anitra Harrison said...

Hi, there I'm currently taking a Women and Art graduate course and I was wondering if there was a way to subscribe to your blog for research purposes. I am currently reading Wagner, Anne. "Kara Walker: The Black-White Relations"

The Blck-White Relations." Narratives of a Negress.
race and gender from Bell Hooks "feminism is for everybody"

Hobson, Janell. “The "Batty" Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body.

I saw you already had a blog on Bell Hooks, but I was wondering if you had anymore insight that you have shared on any of the topics I mentioned. and again I would love to subscribe. i also have academic blogs on Blogger so feel free to check me out

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