bell hooks, real name Gloria Jean Watkins, was a critically acclaimed feminist author and activist. She died at home in Kentucky from kidney failure on December 15th 2021 at age 69. Throughout her life she inspired many a feminist, pushing for kindness and compassion in female revolution. 

hooks’ widely recognised definition of feminism is as follows:

“feminism is the movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression”

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

She believed feminist practice to be an issue for everyone, not only women. In one of her major works ‘Feminism is for Everyone’ she aimed to introduce an accessible introduction to feminist theory designed for those of every gender, race and class. Not only intended for all, but inclusive of all, hooks blurred lines between theory and social practice, illustrating the connection between the personal and the political. She worked from an intersectional perspective often exploring the intricate layering of oppression in racial, gendered and class discourses. Continuing to theorise that all forms of oppression are linked, therefore in her fight against sexual oppression she was also fighting other systems of subjugation.

Starting from the 1970s, hooks produced work now credited with shaping Second Wave Feminism. Describing theory as “liberatory” practice, hooks enabled many women in their understanding of female liberation and its part to play in the late 20th century fight for equal legal and social rights. This feminist stance has saturated both media and personal ideologies up to this day, with many women turning to scholars in search of empowerment. The focus of hooks’ work on the individual and their quest for joy and love in life, sets her aside from other academics, in the recognition that feminism is not, in fact, moral policing but an emotional reaction to the wrongs that stop minorities from being visible in society. She penned her own worlds, that inspired others to make them a reality. She dared to envision an equal world, where those who were disadvantaged were treated with compassion and respect.

Credit: The bell hooks Institute

bell hooks is recognised by the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame, as well as being awarded a multitude of prizes such as the American Book Award and the Best Poetry Award. In many ways, modern day feminism is indebted to her and her work. We can all learn something from her perception: “we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal wellbeing and joy.”

May she rest in power.

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