Hood Feminism Summary
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot is a 2020 essay collection by American writer and activist Mikki Kendall.
- Kendall explains how mainstream, white, middle-class feminism often fails to consider the needs or experiences of marginalized women and upholds white supremacy.
- Each essay explores an issue that mainstream feminists often ignore or misunderstand, including hunger, housing, education, gun violence, and the politics of respectability.
- The author supports her points by sharing her own experiences and concludes her book by explaining how white feminists can become better allies to marginalized women.
Last Updated on January 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 874
In the introduction, Kendall writes about her grandmother, who would not have identified herself as a feminist. This is because feminism has historically focused on the liberation of white, middle-class women, often at the expense of Black, working-class women, who provide the childcare and domestic labor that have allowed white women more freedom. The author also writes about her own style of feminism and her refusal to be “nice” or tactful in confronting social injustice. This book, she says, will focus on the experiences of the marginalized, since these must be addressed in order to gain equality for all women.
In the first essay, “Solidarity is Still for White Women,” Kendall discusses the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen, which she started in 2013. She has been criticized for divisiveness but says that the divisions are already there and that she merely points them out. The interests of middle- and upper-class white feminists are very different from those of marginalized women, and the former group should not expect the latter to accept a subordinate role in furthering their aims.
The author then goes on to provide a series of specific examples based on the general principles established in the first essay. In “Gun Violence,” she explores why this topic is seldom addressed from a feminist perspective when women are so often the victims. She uses her own experience to illustrate how even women who are not shot or even directly threatened have their lives shaped by the fear of gun violence. In “Hunger,” she talks about how food insecurity disproportionately affects women, and single mothers in particular, addressing the way in which mainstream feminism and government policy frequently link the provision of basic necessities to the conventional respectability of the recipient.
The fourth essay, “Of #FastTailedGirls and Freedom,” picks up the theme of perceived respectability from “Hunger,” pointing out that Black and Indigenous women have been subjected to sexual abuse throughout American history. These women have been fetishized and objectified by mainstream white society, and this distorted view has been used as a circular justification for their abuse.
“It’s Raining Patriarchy” and “How to Write about Black Women” both focus on the politics of respectability, pointing out the lengths to which Black people have gone in order to conform to the expectations of mainstream white society. These efforts, however, are not only futile but destructive, since these notions of respectability are shaped by white supremacy. The author goes on to explore how white supremacy insidiously underlies conventional ideas of beauty in “Pretty for a…” and expands this theme into the domain of health in “Black Girls Don’t Have Eating Disorders.” These essays draw particularly heavily on the author’s own experiences, using her as an example of a relatively privileged and fortunate member of an oppressed group, able to explain to white readers both the trauma of her own experiences and how much deeper the problem goes.
“The Fetishization of Fierce” examines the way in which even supposedly positive stereotypes emphasizing the strength and resilience of Black women can be counterproductive, since they suggest that those who have experienced trauma do not really need help. “The Hood Doesn’t Hate Smart People” addresses another stereotype, the idea that intelligent people must use their education to escape from the anti-intellectual atmosphere of the hood. Instead, Kendall argues, amenities in marginalized neighborhoods should be improved, while the people who live in them should be recognized as the equals of those in more privileged locations.
In “Missing and Murdered,” Kendall turns to the media’s focus on white women when reporting cases of people who go missing, or are murdered, despite the fact that these issues disproportionately affect Black Americans. “Fear and Feminism” examines the factors that prevent white feminists from feeling and demonstrating solidarity with marginalized women, even as they criticize Black women for failing to challenge misogyny within the Black community. The next essay, “Race, Poverty, and Politics” continues this theme of hypocrisy, as the author contrasts the voting patterns of white and Black women. She comments on the historical connections between mainstream feminism and white supremacy, and on the responsibility of Black women for making politics more progressive.
The essays on “Education” and “Housing” are companion pieces, both of which look at the circular relationship between vital resources and poverty. Marginalized people have less access to both educational opportunities and decent housing, and this lack of access makes it more difficult for them to gain employment and lead stable, productive lives.
“Reproductive Justice, Eugenics, and Maternal Mortality” is one of the most personal of the essays, in which the author discusses her experience of having an emergency abortion and the lack of support she received from mainstream feminists in the face of “pro-life” hostility. “Parenting While Marginalized” depicts a similar relationship between feminism and the author’s experience of parenthood. Again, feminists have generally been eager to dictate to women of color what they ought to be doing rather than supporting them in their decisions. Finally, “Allies, Anger, and Accomplices” sets out how white feminists can be better allies, even graduating to the level of “accomplices” of marginalized women, by removing themselves and their narratives from center stage and reinforcing the voices of those who are oppressed.
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