Hood Feminism

by Mikki Kendall

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Housing Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 26, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 792

In 2002, the author had personal experience of the housing crisis when she was unable to afford to keep her apartment. She was able to move into public housing, but the development in which she lived is now gone. This is a familiar story. Housing developments have been closed, new ones have not been built, and subsidies have not kept pace with inflation. These factors have exacerbated the housing crisis, a problem that falls disproportionately on marginalized groups and households headed by women.

The housing crisis puts women in danger, causing insecurity and forcing them to stay in abusive relationships. This crisis is the result of a series of deliberate policy decisions, taken by people who are well aware of the effects they will have. The only housing available may be unfit for habitation, but in such situations, the occupants have few opportunities for recourse against their landlords, who may retaliate by evicting them, leaving them homeless.

The Eviction Lab, a database that tracks evictions across America, shows how many people are losing their homes: about four per minute in 2016. However, it does not differentiate between men and women who are evicted. Lack of access to housing is the cause as well as the result of poverty, making it impossible for those affected to go to work or school. Although the author has been relatively fortunate, living in a dual-income household in which both she and her husband are college graduates, she was faced with homelessness a few years ago when her apartment became uninhabitable due to mold. She had the financial resources to stay in a hotel and find a new place to live quickly, but if she had not, this would have been a crisis instead of an inconvenience. Homelessness is easy to slip into and difficult to escape.

Although the housing crisis primarily affects women, it has not generally been regarded as a feminist issue. Young white women are often involved in gentrification, particularly when they open upscale businesses in low-income neighborhoods, and some see this as a solution to the housing crisis. However, the author sees gentrification as bringing “opportunity for some and criminalization for others.” Long-term residents are generally excluded from the new economic opportunities and are regarded with suspicion by newcomers who do not understand neighborhood norms. These newcomers have different ideas about what constitutes an orderly neighborhood and the role of the police in providing it. A high police presence in a street might signal safety to a white woman but danger to a woman of color.

As a neighborhood becomes more affluent, the people most in need of low-cost housing feel less welcome there. Even more seriously, those who rent their homes may see the rents rise out of their reach. Homelessness threatens a wide range of people, from the young who cannot afford their first home to the elderly priced out of the market, and disproportionately affects the disabled and the mentally ill. Feminists who run for public office must not simply pursue policies of gentrification that will be popular with the middle class but commit to low-cost development and rent control to provide decent housing for those who cannot achieve a middle-class income.


“Housing” is a companion piece to “Education” and makes the same point about another vital resource: that the connection between inadequate housing and poverty is both deep and circular. The link between housing and poverty is even more elementary than the link between education and poverty. While some people may not wish to be educated, no one lives in cramped, inadequate, or insanitary housing if...

(This entire section contains 792 words.)

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they can afford not to do so. Using her recurrent strategy of positioning herself midway between the middle-class reader and those who remain oppressed by poverty, the author describes a recent experience in which her home was infested with mold. She did what any middle-class person would do: moved out and stayed in a hotel while looking for another permanent home.

The author matter-of-factly states that she lost many possessions due to the mold in her house, and the experience appears an upsetting one by middle-class standards. However, for marginalized people, such experiences are often only the prelude to a permanent slide into homelessness or, at least, into a lifetime of insanitary and inadequate housing. This creates a situation in which they are unable to secure a job for themselves or an education for their children, condemning them to poverty, which includes housing insecurity. The author juxtaposes this desperation with the glib solutions of gentrifiers (often young white women), who open fashionable businesses in low-income areas. Her illustration of the ways in which gentrification often exacerbates the problem also shows the ineffective and unserious nature of middle-class solutions to the problems of the marginalized.


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