Explain how bell hooks defines what "talking back" means to her. 

1 Answer

durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Gloria Watkins uses the name "bell hooks" (no capitalization) as more than a pseudonym. She finds it important that people identify with what she writes rather than who is writing. The concept of "talking back," as Hooks identifies it, relates to the first of many incidents, starting in her childhood, where she actually did "talk back" to an adult. In Talking back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, she relates how she found it empowering to have shocked the adults in the sweet shop where she was buying bubblegum, to the point of her being compared to the original Bell Hooks - "a sharp-tongued woman...who was not afraid to talk back." This allows her to be more outspoken than she would otherwise have been. Hooks recognizes the benefits of not talking back as, she learnt from her mother and grandmother that it is possible to be assertive and to deliver meaningful communications without being so forthright but the image in her mind of this indomitable woman is what has allowed for her powerful deliveries and created a more direct route to her desired audience. "Talking back, for hooks, reveals "the liberated voice."

In an effort to reveal her "voice," and her rightful place, Hooks stresses that it "was not an action to exclude others" but rather her way of making others change their mindset and see writers like herself for themselves ("the subject") "and not as underprivileged other." The belief that "free speech" does not necessarily mean what it says has assisted Hooks in developing her "true" voice and guided her towards the realization that she cannot "talk back" and expect others to be accept what she says willingly because the very nature of speaking out may cause discomfort and surprise.