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- American author, feminist, and social activist
A trailblazer within the intersectional feminism movement, hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins, adopting her grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks,’s name for writing. The decision to use all lowercase letters grew from a desire to encourage attention on her message rather than her individual self.
This self-styling, issue-focused attitude, categorised hooks’ work. The author of 40 books and numerous articles, hooks was born in 1952 to a working-class African-American family in segregated town Hopkinsville, Kentucky, going on to be educated at Stanford and the University of California, where she obtained her doctorate. In 2014 she founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College, Kentucky, where she began work as Distinguished Professor in Residence in 2004.
hooks’ first work Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism (1981), launched the intersectional feminism that characterises the movement today, calling for a greater focus on the ways race, capitalism and gender interact to produce social relationships. She would go on to develop this in works such as Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre (1984), All About Love: New Visions (2000) and Feminism Is for Everybody (2000), and was listed as one of TIME’s 100 Women of the Year for her groundbreaking approach to politics, literature and academia.
Among her key ideas was the notion of the ‘oppositional gaze’, a rebellious way of looking intended to fracture the oppressive gaze imposed by racial or gendered power relations. She was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame in 2018 and died, according to a statement released by her niece, ‘with family and friends by her side’.
Ten of bell hooks best quotes
‘To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal wellbeing and joy.’ (The Guardian, review of Beyonce’s Lemonade, 2016).
‘One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others’ (All About Love, 2000)
‘No Black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much.’ Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’... No woman has ever written enough.” (Remembered Rapture, 1999)
‘I want there to be a place in the world where people can engage in one another’s differences in a way that is redemptive, full of hope and possibility. Not this “In order to love you, I must make you something else”’ (Reel to Real: Race, Sex and Class at the Movies, 2008)
‘To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients - care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” (All About Love, 2000).
‘If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining.’ (Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, 2000)
‘ââThe one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love our female selves is where our search for love must begin.’ (Communion: The Search for Female Love, 2002)
‘The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.’ (Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, 2012)
‘The first act of violence that the patriarchy demands of males is [...] that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.’ (The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, 2004)
‘[our] struggle for liberation has significance only if it takes place within a feminist movement that has at its fundamental goal the liberation of all people.’ (Ain’t I a Woman, 1981)