Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot
Book review reflections from a white woman
Mikki Kendall coined the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, which she expands on in her new book, “Hood Feminism”. The book challenges mainstream (white) feminism which tends to focus on white and privileged women. In the book Kendall views feminism through a Black perspective with each chapter of the book broken up into a different intersectional focus: hunger, housing, gun violence, respectability politics, pretty privilege, education systems, etc.
This is a book all white feminists should read, as it reminds mainstream feminism to sit back, and look around at everything it is missing (namely, listening to women from marginalized perspectives). Even when mainstream feminism seems to challenge norms, it is still upholding many other harmful societal norms:
“…when white women help to maintain the status quo in a society that is dripping with white supremacy, they give themselves more power….white women have historically centered their own concerns in every movement.”
But many white feminists aren’t intentionally racist, right?
If you are a “well meaning” white woman reading this book, you might be tempted to think, that’s not me! I don’t want to be grouped in with those racist white women! First off, no white ally is ever going to be perfect, it’s continual work to be actively anti-racist. Second, intentions don’t matter at all, it’s the impact that matters. Third, if you are offended by broad generalizations about white feminism, Kendall challenges you to take it personally then and make change:
“There’s work to do, and the patriarchy won’t break itself. So white feminism is going to have to get comfortable with the idea that until they challenge their racist aunts, parents, cousins, and so on, it is definitely all white women who are responsible.”
But why are white feminists generally more “outspoken” about feminism?
Kenall makes the argument that because Black women are battling many different intersecting issues (including race and gender, constantly), it is a privilege to be able to focus solely on gender. It is also a privilege for white women to be able to call out the white men in their life… it is more complicated for Black women to call out the Black men in their lives, because of the ongoing racist history project called “America”.
“Yet white women see women of color conflicted about the behaviors of men in their own communities, when they observe women of color not publicly hashing out every single feeling in the way that white women think they should, they are often quick to critique women of color…
Does this mean that women in the hood don’t have to challenge patriarchal ideas? Absolutely not. It does mean a curious balancing act that often requires solutions outside the carceral state. When you know that oppression comes not from one direction but from many, then you have to develop a framework that allows for not finding safety or solidarity with those who oppress people who look like you.”
Kendall expands on the idea that not only are Black men disproportionately impacted by the prison industrial complex in America, but Black women are also impacted when they speak out:
“We know that carceral feminism (a reliance on policing, prosecution, and imprisonment to resolve gendered or sexual violence) is most likely to be used against women who fight back. Particularly women of color.”
And when Black women do speak out…
Below is a satirical piece by Kendall about the way that the world writes about Black women:
How To Write About Black Women
First, state your credentials. It’s okay to be a woman, but not a black woman. Their lived experiences are immaterial…
In regards to the upcoming election
Kendall speaks about the problematic behavior of “Bernie Bros” in the past election, who “felt comfortable calling Black and Brown voters ‘low information’ for not supporting their preferred candidate.”
She also makes clear that the assumption that low voter turnout is about “laziness” or “lack of information or motivation” is offensive.
“It almost never comes up in political discourse during an election cycle that for those living in decaying neighborhoods, the years of neglect have left the impression that the party doesn’t matter, that no politician cares enough to try to stem the tide.
Nor do we address the way that having a front-row seat to the brutality of poverty and neglect can impact a person emotionally.”
Perhaps white feminists, for every person we enthusiastically encourage to vote this election with our pink “pussy hats”, we also encourage ourselves to be actively anti-racist and make time regularly to listen to the voices that the movement has failed and forgotten.