Our November Pick: Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks

For the month of November, we are kicking off the book club with Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks. Whether you are new to or familiar with feminist theory, Feminism is for Everybody is a great starting point to gender, sexuality, and the patriarchy. hooks' sharp critical analysis provides readers with "an excellent introduction to the idea of interlocking systems of oppression... such as racism, classicism, imperialism, homophobia-systems in which one group dominates over and seeks to control another." 

Follow bell hooks on Twitter.

From Goodreads:
In this engaging and provocative volume, bell hooks introduces a popular theory of feminism rooted in common sense and the wisdom of experience. Hers is a vision of a beloved community that appeals to all those committed to equality, mutual respect, and justice.

hooks applies her critical analysis to the most contentious and challenging issues facing feminists today, including reproductive rights, violence, race, class, and work. With her customary insight and unsparing honesty, hooks calls for a feminism free from divisive barriers but rich with rigorous debate. In language both eye-opening and optimistic, hooks encourages us to demand alternatives to patriarchal, racist, and homophobic culture, and to imagine a different future.

hooks speaks to all those in search of true liberation, asking readers to take look at feminism in a new light, to see that it touches all lives. Issuing an invitation to participate fully in feminist movement and to benefit fully from it, hooks shows that feminism—far from being an outdated concept or one limited to an intellectual elite--is indeed for everybody.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 

1) Reformist vs. Revolutionary/Radical Feminists: bell hooks writes about the difference between reformist feminists (those who want to be equal to men) and revolutionary/radical feminists (those who want to change the whole system) - how would you identify? How does that shape the way you see the pros and cons of each type?

2) The Future of Feminist Movement: This book was written in 2000. Throughout she mentions the future of the feminist movement- what do you think has changed in 15 years? Do you think the changes are what hooks wanted? In your opinion, are they positive or negative?

3) Easy to Read: In the intro hooks writes that she created this book to tell people unfamiliar with feminism what it's all about, that is "fairly easy to read and understand...without being simplistic". Do you think she accomplished that? If not, are there any books that have? What would you do differently?

4) Definition of Feminism: hooks provides as her definition of feminism "Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression" How does that contradict to some of the popular definitions used today? What definition do you prefer, or what would you change or add to make hers better?

5) Men & Feminism: hooks writes "It is urgent that men take up the banner of feminism and challenge patriarchy. The safety and continuation of life on the planet requires feminist conversion of men" (pg 116). Do you agree or disagree? What are some ways that men can be helpful or not helpful to the cause?

6) Class & Work: The chapter on class was quite eye-opening as hooks argued that privileged women entering well-paid careers is *not* a sign of women having more economic power as a whole. How does her discussion of class, poverty, work and feminism shift your perspective or strengthen it?

7) Essential Beliefs: hooks says "one cannot be anti-choice and be feminist". She pushes for feminism to be political rather than a "lifestyle" Do you agree that anti-choicers cannot truly be feminists? What are some other essential beliefs that you think are necessary to call yourself a feminist?

8) Reproductive Rights: hooks talks about access to safe abortion being prioritized due to white, privileged feminists and argues that many other reproductive rights are important and being ignored. Did this change the way you think about reproductive rights? How might the defunding and attacks on Planned Parenthood in the States be an example of how the fight for reproductive rights continues?

9) Sisterhood: hooks believes that sisterhood is still important because of, and not *despite* intersectionality. Do you believe in sisterhood? Do you feel it is possible with all of our differences? Does "sisterhood" hold real meaning to you (if so,what) or does it just seem like an empty or corny term?

10) Sexist Women: The book references often that feminism is not anti-male and instead must be anti-sexism. hooks writes about women who are sexist, patriarchal and violent. Have you experienced this in your own life? How does it feel when you encounter a sexist man versus a sexist woman?

11) Parenting: In the chapter on Feminist Parenting, hooks talks about the ethics of domination ("the powerful have the right to rule over the powerless and can use any means to subordinate them" -pg 74), and how this often leads to violence against children. How did this effect your views on parenting - your own or your parent's, or current practises and theories of parenting? What do you think feminist parenting could/should look like?

12) Mutuality vs. Equality: hooks writes, "In a universe where mutuality is the norm, there may be times when all is not equal, but the consequence of that inequality will not be subordination, colonization and dehumanization" (pg 117)- What do you see as the differences between mutuality and equality? How might those differences play out in real life? What do you think is more important to strive for?

13) Race & Gender: One of the most important themes in this book is intersectionality- particularly the inclusion and feminist work of women of colour in the movement. Depending on how you identify (white vs. woman of colour), share with us some thoughts about hooks' discussion of race in feminism. What did you learn? What (if anything) caused feelings of exclusion, anger or defensiveness? How do women of colour make the movement more powerful for us all? What can we do to be more intersectional and inclusive in our own lives?

14) Feminism & Love: "We should have been spreading the word that feminism would make it possible for women and men to know love" (pg 103). hooks speaks about the importance of including love in our discussions of feminism and including feminism in our discussions of love. How has love/relationships played into your feminism and vice versa? How has feminism helped or hurt relationships with those around you? Do you feel it has made it possible for you and those around you to truly know love?

15) Queer Feminism: In the chapter "Total Bliss", hooks recognizes the important work of lesbians in the movement. Currently, many queer trans and non-binary folks are fighting for inclusion in the movement. What are some ways that the inclusion of LGBTTQQ2SIA+ folks can strengthen the movement? Why is it important to do so, or is it?

16) Masculinity: The chapter on Feminist Masculinity highlights the need to create an alternative to the present, often toxic, version of masculinity. What's your vision for what that alternative would look like? Are there any men in your life (past/present) who have in some way embodied a feminist masculinity? In what ways can we educate and shape masculinity to be more positive and less harmful?

17) Consciousness-raising: At the beginning of the second-wave, consciousness-raising was at the core of the movement. We've talked a bit about its role in riot grrrl culture in the 90's. Do you think it's still necessary today? Are there current versions of consciousness-raising even if they look different? Other than Women's Studies courses, how are people becoming feminists now - are there barriers? How did you come to feminism - what raised your consciousness about sexism?

18) Beauty Standards & Body Image: "Feminist interventions let females know that our flesh [is] worthy of love and adoration in its natural state; nothing had to be added unless a woman chose further adornment" (pg 32) In what ways has feminism affected you personally to let you and your body feel worthy of love? How can we as feminists teach young girls all the way to older women how to love themselves in the face of sexist beauty standards? How is the choice of "further adornment" made in your life - do you wear makeup or care about fashion? Does it always feel like a choice or does it feel feminist- why/why not?

19) Violence: In the chapter "Ending Violence" hooks uses the term "patriarchal violence" instead of "domestic violence". Which term do you prefer, or is there another term she didn't mention? Do you think word choice is important in discussing violence or is it all semantics? Why is it important for violence to be discussed in gendered or patriarchal terms?

20) Sexuality: In "Feminist Sexual Politic" hooks talks about the erasure of sexuality from feminist discourse. The current sex-positive movement has been getting discussion going but perhaps not enough. hooks says "We still need to know what liberatory sexual practise looks like" (pg 90) - do you think we now know what that looks like? If not, does it still seem necessary? What would "liberatory sexual practise" look like to you? Would you say you've experienced it?

21) Spreading Feminism: hooks argues for increased accessibility to education around feminism - feminist elementary schools, children's books, pamphlets, TV & radio shows, etc. (pg. 112) Have any of these become a reality in the past 15 years? Which do you think are most important to realize? Do you have any ideas on how to spread the word?

Discussion Questions for Feminism is for Everybody are written by Alice, of TOFemCo's Underwire Podcast. Feel free to use for your own personal discussions, but please credit us if you re-post or publish them elsewhere.

TOFemCo Book Club
TOFemCo Book Club 14 members
TOFemCo [tee-oh-fem-co], also known as Toronto Feminist Collective, is a group of women and non-binary identified people who are passionate about intersectional feminism. We are rooted in the heart of Toronto. TOFemCo first began in spring 2015 as a book club where feminists who like to read could discuss a variety of books using a feminist lens and a sense of humour. Since then, we have grown into a community that supports each other, shares communal meals at monthly potlucks, plans social gatherings for Toronto feminists, and attends community and activist events. Members of TOFemCo are the hosts of the podcast Underwire: Support for the Girls. In our book club, we read a variety of books by a diverse group of authors. We strive to be a trans-inclusive, queer-positive, anti-racist and anti-oppressive space for all feminists who are interested in good reads, good conversations and good laughs. We do not shy away from controversial issues or debates, as long as the conversation is respectful of others.

Books we've read

Milk and Honey
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait
The Complete Persepolis
The House on Mango Street
The House of the Spirits
Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
My Brilliant Friend
The Round House


View this group on Goodreads »