Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism is a book that was written in 1982 by Bell Hooks and was titled after the Sojourners Truth’s speech, Ain’t I a Woman. The writer is a feminist theorist, a cultural critic as well as a writer. Her work is a groundbreaking story of the history of the feminist movement, its impacts on women, how black women were affected by racism and sexism, and how this led them to have a low status in the American society.
The author tries to show how women were and are still highly affected with stereotypes that were set during the slavery era in the 17th century. In her book, Hooks differentiates between black feminism and white feminism and talks about how black women are at the bottom of the ladder thus movements for change within the system cannot be successful. The book also talks about the problems that existed between the imperialists, patriarchal and the capitalist systems. Hooks analyzes the past position of black women in America as slaves and how they faced double oppression and deep racism and sexism in the society.
Going through the book, one of the points that strikes the reader is the way the writer expresses the huge role played by white men are the reason behind racism within feminism. Furthermore, she argues that the black power group was sexist while the feminist movement was racist, therefore black women had a hard time choosing between the two. Hooks insists that the feminist movement was a middle and upper class affair that did not express the needs of the poor and black women therefore resulting into racism, sexism, and classism.
The writer implies that this was the reason why the turnout of black women in the feminist movement in the 1970s was very low. She discusses the matriarch myth whereby women are always to blame for all predicaments happening to black families: the women are always called the matriarchs yet society gives them very little power (Hooks 89). The society puts blame on black women yet they have been kept out of power. The author describes in detail how black women were oppressed by the whites without mercy.
To further show oppression against black women, Hooks writes that the word man only refers to white men while the word woman refers to white women, again, Negroes or blacks refers to males only. Black women are totally ignored. Black women were raped during the movement and this has continued to this day. The women were also forced into slavery and were discriminated against because they were devalued and overlooked upon. One remarkable thing about this book, however, is the extent that the author goes through to expose the predicaments that black women underwent under the control of whites. She does this in detail without fear or hiding anything. Altogether, she does not favor any group and equally attacks black women and this helps her audience comprehend every group’s role in the feminist movement. The book helps the readers to avoid racist ensnares in the future and to question their assumptions on racism.
One aspect that is weakly represented is how the writer tells her story. It sometimes makes the reader think that she was writing it for herself, or writing her feelings. Many readers think she must have written out of emotions because she speaks in her own voice with rage while writing the book. In addition, there are lots of rhetoric questions and it might be hard to separate facts from emotions. While reading the book, the reader feels that the book was written out of anger. The author herself being an African American raises a lot of questions about her work and it might seem that she is generally expressing her anger at the whites. Another weakness of the book is that Hooks makes generalizations that may not bind all parties involved. Some of the generalizations include the notion that all white feminists are racists (Hooks, pp. 116).
The book almost entirely talks about white women’s life or the history of black women in the United States, conflicts between race and gender, and the oppression of black women. I feel the title is somehow misleading because it does not give the reader a clue on what to expect in the book. The author could have used a different title, for example, The Life Of Black Women In America. Using such a title, anyone reading the book will always have an idea of the book’s contents and maybe could have increased its sales figures.
Hooks explains the history and oppressions that black women went through in the hands of the whites. These oppressions were in the form of sexism and racism directed towards black women in America. It deals with racism within the feminist movement and its main argument is that the struggle to end sexism and racism are naturally entwined. The author explores means by which black women were devalued and how feminism has failed to address the lives of these women. However, the author contends that feminism can be used as a tool by black women if they all work together and build a movement that works for them.
Hooks, Bell. Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, London: Pluto Press, 1982. Print.