Hood Feminism Themes
The main themes in Hood Feminism are intersectionality and solidarity, respectability and respect, and acknowledging privilege.
- Intersectionality and solidarity: Kendall argues that feminists need to embrace intersectionality by fighting on behalf of marginalized people who have historically been ignored or exploited by the movement.
- Respectability and respect: Mainstream feminism upholds white supremacy by valuing conventional respectability above the lived realities of the marginalized.
- Acknowledging privilege: Feminists who wish to become not only good allies but true accomplices must examine their privilege and learn to listen without becoming defensive.
Last Updated on January 26, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 836
Intersectionality and Solidarity
Mikki Kendall is a proponent of the plain style of English prose and dislikes the jargon of feminist theory. She refers to intersectionality only briefly, noting that the term is too often treated as “a convenient buzzword” that is used to erase the Black feminist who coined it, Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. However, despite her reluctance to use the term, intersectionality is at the heart of the approach Kendall takes to feminism, the vital ingredient she believes is missing from the mainstream movement. The grassroots activism of marginalized people supplies this element of intersectionality through its emphasis on solidarity and justice for all.
Kendall points out that many feminist campaigners at the beginning of the twentieth century were also white supremacists. This is something mainstream feminists tend to ignore, but the legacy of white supremacy lives on in a style of feminism that expects people of color to supply the cheap labor and support that allows already privileged white women to achieve their goals. Rather than seeking to replace white men as the primary oppressors at the top of a corrupt hierarchy, mainstream white feminists should show solidarity with groups who are more marginalized than they are by seeking to replace this hierarchy with a more equitable system. The author points out that people of color have often organized themselves to promote more liberal and progressive policies for all marginalized groups, not only themselves, campaigning and voting to move America toward social justice. White feminists should reciprocate this solidarity and see all forms of oppression as feminist issues. This is what they have to learn from the hood.
Respectability and Respect
Kendall makes the case that because mainstream feminism has its roots in privilege and white supremacy, feminists tend to place a high value on conventional respectability. This becomes a particularly serious problem when they make such respectability a precondition for receiving help or being treated with dignity. Marginalized people are, by definition, placed in situations in which there are no good choices. Becoming a sex worker or a drug trafficker may be the least dangerous option open to them. This means that those feminists who make their respect and support conditional on the conventional respectability of their recipients are not really supporting the marginalized at all.
While she asserts that marginalized people should not be penalized for the lack of options open to them, Kendall makes it clear that the demands of respectability go far beyond the limits of the law. Black women are routinely condemned for everything from being loud and angry to their perceived promiscuity. Even when they are clearly the victims of crime, they are not regarded as innocent victims. In this sense, respectability is a gift the white rulers of mainstream society bestow upon themselves but withhold from the marginalized, creating an excuse for their marginalization. Intersectional feminists should recognize in this a clear analogy with the attempt to justify predatory male behavior with the excuse that the woman in question was dressed inappropriately or had been drinking too much and was therefore unworthy of respectful treatment. White society's denial of respectability to people of color is a similar attempt to blame the victim.
Throughout Hood Feminism , Kendall presents herself as both a relatively privileged member of an oppressed group and as one who necessarily is privileged in ways that are not related to race. Even her lighter skin tone gives her the relative privilege of colorism within the Black community. She points out that the person who enjoys no privilege at all in any area of life can...
(This entire section contains 836 words.)
scarcely be imagined. When attempting to be an ally for trans people, or for any other group of which she is not a member, her role is to listen and to center their needs and concerns rather than her own.
Kendall models this behavior to show white feminists that they need to acknowledge their own privilege and stop being defensive about it as the first step toward being allies and eventually accomplices for people of color and other marginalized groups. Acknowledging one’s own privilege is by no means a sufficient condition for being an ally, but it is a necessary one, since without this acknowledgment, all the work that feminists do “on behalf of” marginalized communities is apt to be misdirected and unhelpful.
The author focuses on the need to acknowledge privilege in the final essay, “Allies, Anger, and Accomplices.” However, the theme runs through the book and is at least implicit in every essay. Often, it takes the form of white feminists attempting to use people of color to further their own agenda, as when the author had to undergo an emergency abortion and received death threats from (ironically) people calling themselves “pro-life.” Feminist groups were not interested in supporting the author but only in using her as a mascot for the pro-choice cause. This insensitivity and dehumanizing behavior springs directly from the failure to acknowledge and examine privilege on the part of mainstream feminists.