Everyone needs to read this book! Mikki Kendall wrote one of those books that leaves me thinking for days. How do I respond to this? What should I highlight for this review? And, what kind of commentary do I want to provide that will be beneficial to modern feminists? Because, that’s the key to a book like this. Hood Feminism is so important and crucial to the modern state of feminism, but it also opens the door to some very complex issues. Although I first read this book months ago, I let it sit on my shelf while I mulled over a few points in my head.
First, Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism is a book that encompasses the spirit of gender studies. To me, though I’m an advocate of college education, it makes sense why it’s not an academic publication. So many great papers and articles on modern feminism, and other subjects, are not read or widely publicized, so their message is often lost within the classist realm of academia. Hood Feminism is so much more accessible to those that should read it by being available for purchase on book shelves everywhere or being available for rental at a public library. Kendall’s grandmother had the right idea: “As with work, education was something she believed everyone needed to have, and she didn’t much care how you got it, or how far you went, as long as you could take care of you” (x).
I didn’t want this review to be a regurgitation of all the highlights I’ve made in this book. It’s one of those books that you place on your coffee table during a nice dinner gathering with new and old friends because it’s a great conversation starter. Hood Feminism, at the very least, has a lot of statements that prompt the sharing of stories and the comparing of realities of being a female, woman, she/her, etc. Mikki notes, “We rarely talk about basic needs as a feminist issue” (xiii). It’s true, and I think it goes back to feelings of shame, self-consciousness, and embarrassment. So many of us prefer not to get into those details because of these feelings, and we do ourselves a disservice in the end. We revert back to centering the feminist discussion on “those who already have most of their needs met” (xiii).
Something that has been a personal struggle is the need to educate, not just ourselves on the movement’s progression and development but those within our communities. “Women in communities of color must balance fighting external problematic voices with educating those inside our communities who are bad actors, and we expect feminism to do the same work on itself,” Kendall writes (11). I can say from personal experience that those of us that try will often find a lot of push-back from our communities whether in the form of snide comments, ignorant assumptions, gossip and rumors, and a slandered reputation. Women, it seems, are often the biggest obstacles in the name of progress. Kendall highlights this need for education and the exposure of issues, especially in regards to the hyper-sexualization of girls of color and the issues men face within and because of patriarchy.
We need to talk about sexuality openly if we are going to handle the matter of feminism with a growth mindset. In my humble opinion, or not so humble if you review my resume, we need to educate and re-educate everyone on sexuality. Sexual arousal does not entitle anyone to an orgasm. Sexual arousal is not a direct pathway straight to orgasm. Sexual arousal should not be used as a shame function. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The conversation then needs to move to the practicalities of reproductive health and safety. I’m much invested in the BDSM slogan: safe, sane, consensual. Here, a multidisciplinary perspective works. And, then, Kendall moves into the touchy subject of eugenics and its place within the feminist discussion.
It all sounds so straightforward, but Kendall does present some contradictions that should be addressed. Yes, we need to think of real-world models of feminism, in other words, on the ground feminism. She doesn’t believe in leaving behind or disregarding our men of color because toxic patriarchy works against them too, which is a sound judgement. And, simultaneously, “We can’t sacrifice the futures of girls and femmes to preserve the futures of young toxic men or the institutions that made them possible” (84). As someone who’s been actively looking at these issues, through lived-experience and in researcher mode, this is the tricky part. We’ll end up alone and with very few friends and sometimes no family, not to mention a difficult time on the dating market. A very real threat of being an active feminist is marginalization and/or isolation from our community, which is not psychologically beneficial. It’s really difficult to find a happy middle ground in which we continue to remain open to experience and human connection, but I suppose that’s why we have these books and conversations. Kendall says, “Feminism that comes from a place of fear, that prioritizes not being afraid or not being uncomfortable over being effective, is dangerous” (168). Easier said and written than done!
Kendall, Mikki. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. Viking, 2020.
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