FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYBODY – Passionate Politics
by bell hooks
Come Closer to Feminism
Everywhere I go I proudly tell folks who want to know who I am and what I do that I am a writer, a feminist theorist, a cultural critic. I tell them I write about movies and popular culture, analyzing the
message in the medium. Most people find this exciting and want to know more. Everyone goes to movies, watches television, glances through magazines, and everyone has thoughts about the messages
they receive, about the images they look at. It is easy for the diverse public I encounter to understand what I do as a cultural critic, to understand my passion for writing (lots of folks want to write, and do).
But feminist theory – that’s the place where the questions stop. Instead I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists:
- how "they" hate men;
When I ask these same folks about the feminist books or magazines they read, when I ask them about the feminist talks they have heard, about the feminist activists they know, they respond by letting me know that everything they know about feminism has come
into their lives third hand, that they really have not come close enough to feminist movement to know what really happens, what it’s really about. Mostly they think feminism is a bunch of angry women who want to be like men. They do not even think about
feminism as being about rights – about women gaining equal rights. When I talk about the feminism I know – up close and personal- they willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like the "real" feminists
who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as a real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it.
Each time I leave one of these encounters, 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.
I have wanted them to have an answer to the question "what is feminism?" that is rooted neither in fear or fantasy. I have wanted them to have this simple definition to read again and again so they know: "Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation,
and oppression." I love this definition, which I first offered more than 10 years ago in my book Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. I love it because it so clearly states that the movement is not about being anti-male. It makes it clear that the problem is sexism. And that
clarity helps us remember that all of us, female and male, have been socialized from birth on to accept sexist thought and action. As a consequence, females can be just as sexist as men. And while that
does not excuse or justify male domination, it does mean that it would be naive and wrong minded for feminist thinkers to see the movement as simplistically being for women against men. To end patriarchy (another way of naming the institutionalized sexism) we
need to be clear that we are all participants in perpetuating sexism until we change our minds and hearts, until we let go of sexist thought and action and replace it with feminist thought and action.