Read by Mikki Kendall
Published February 2020 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library
Publisher’s Summary: Today's feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord, and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others? In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminismdelivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. An unforgettable debut, Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and in deed.
My Thoughts: Almost four years ago, I marched in the first Women’s March. Almost immediately, there was an outcry that the movement didn’t represent women of color. “What are they talking about,” I wondered. “Aren’t all of the things feminism has been fighting for thing all women want?” The answer, as it turns out, is yes…and no. Yes, all women should be fighting against sexual harassment and assault; but white women need to recognize that women of color suffer from this issue in far greater numbers. Sure, all women may want to see the glass ceiling broken; but white women need to acknowledge that they are in a far better position to benefit from that than women of color. And do you remember when being a feminist meant you didn’t shave your legs? It seems silly now (and, honestly, it was probably a silly gesture 40+ years ago), especially when you consider that women of color are far more concerned about basic survival than whether or not they can stop shaving their armpits.
Some years ago, I decided to try to read more diversely. I picked up books by Asian authors, books set in Africa, books about minorities here. But it really wasn’t until this year that I’ve really started waking up to the fact that reading diversely sometimes means reading books that make me uncomfortable, that challenge what I have believed or wake me up to things that I had no idea were happening in this country. This is one of those books. I tend to get defensive when I start reading (I’m working on that), so it can take a bit before I stop defending and start listening. But it’s hard to argue with the idea that white women have been so myopic in their fight for equal rights that they’ve ignored the fact that millions of women don’t know how they are going to feed their families, receive subpar educations, don’t earn a living wage because of our minimum wage, live with violence daily, and watch their men being criminalized in disproportionate numbers.
Kendall is, understandably, angry about what she feels like is a betrayal. And, let’s be honest, it’s not the first time that white women have left women of color behind to further themselves. White women wouldn’t have earned the right to vote when they did had it not been for the work of black women; but when push came to shove, white women saved themselves. Perhaps they promised to circle back and bring up their sisters; they never did. It’s easy to imagine that women of color feel like the same thing has happened to them again. Not only have white women not worked to pull up their sisters, a majority of middle-aged white women voted for a man who has done everything in his power to keep people of color down.
Perhaps the best way to make change is to be in positions of leadership where doing that is possible but Kendall wants us to remember that too many women continue to suffer while white women try to climb their way up to those positions. Almost four years ago, millions of women captured the world’s attention by rising up and demanding change. We weren’t waiting then for our chance to be on top (although we were angry that we had just lost that) and we need to stop waiting now.