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Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,625 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
A groundbreaking work of feminst history and theory analyzing the complex relations between various forms of oppression. Ain't I a Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women's movement, and black women's involvement with feminsim.
Paperback, 205 pages
Published July 1st 1999 by South End Press (first published 1981)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Second Sex by Simone de BeauvoirA Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Best Feminist Books
53rd out of 1,331 books — 1,825 voters
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownThe New Jim Crow by Michelle AlexanderThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootAin't I a Woman by bell hooks
Books White People Need To Read
5th out of 342 books — 643 voters

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Community Reviews

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White male scholars who examined the black family by attempting to see in what ways it resembled the white family structure were confident that their data was not biased by their own personal prejudices against women assuming an active role in family decision-making. But it must be remembered that these white males were educated in an elite institutional world that excluded both black people and many white women, institutions that were both racist and sexist.
Calling myself racist accomplishes
Aug 13, 2015 Lydia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
I am a little fledgling when it comes to intersectional feminism, so this was a great book for me to read. It further explored and clarified certain arguments and points-of-view that I've read/listened about online. It was published in 1987, so it's not completely up-to-date, but it is really an excellent book.

bell hooks discusses black women and the sexism and racism they faced during slavery, and then continues discussing and exploring the sexism and racism that they face in contemporary times
This was a great companion read to Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider. Ain't I A Woman provides a comprehensive historical and social analysis of the ways black women have been marginalized by both white feminist movements and civil rights movements run by black men.

hooks brings forward numerous examples of racist actions and statements by first and second-wave feminists, such as white women suffragettes excluding black women from their organizations and conferences. Most feminists have heard of Sojo
Jul 20, 2012 Miranda rated it it was amazing
A while back I read an article in the Washington Post about the new domesticity among women. But it only identified the lives of white women living in urban cities. After that I read another article about how the sustainable food movement and "bike to work" movement often appeared white and for people of priveledge. Later on a show called Girls made its debut on HBO and there was quite an uproar about class and race because there appeared to be so much left out from a show that was supposed to b ...more
Carolyn Newton
Mar 25, 2014 Carolyn Newton rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
It wasn't until I read this book did I finally start understand as to what it's truly like to exist as a black woman in our society. I had always been a passionate and convicted feminist, as far back as Jr. High really. After outgrowing the boybands of the late 90' & early 00's, I moved on to metal, punk rock and emo music. Riot Grrrl and the principles that came with it with was just the next natural step, so I came of age within the realm of white feminism. Bell Hooks put into words every ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Melody rated it it was amazing
Life-changing, thought provoking, inspiring, and hard to put down--basically everything you could want in a book. A highly recommended read for people of all races, genders, colors, abilities, and creeds. You will learn so much from this book and genuine curiosity and desire for knowledge for the sake of learning will lead you to seek out more knowledge about the topics discussed therein and, eventually, you will be better for it. Let this book teach you some things you might be afraid to know, ...more
Apr 15, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it
This book made me think Alice Paul was not so great. That those iron jawed angels were not so great. Bell Hooks speaks to the idea that all the women are white and all the blacks are men. And that black woman have been consistently devalued, overlooked, omitted. She talks about the feminist movement of the 60's and 70's. How the women's movement was the white women's movement. A desire for white woman to get on even ground with white men. She talks about the problems of movment's that exist with ...more
Sep 06, 2012 Dusty rated it liked it
Bell hooks's primary opponent in this book is the white feminist movement -- what's typically called the "second wave" -- of the 1960s and 70s. Her point is that the white women involved in the movement are racist and sexist and have routinely alienated and antagonized the black women who should be standing at their sides, but in order to develop that point, she retraces the history of black women in the United States since slavery. The book was groundbreaking upon its publication in 1981, and i ...more
Curtis Ackie
Jul 09, 2014 Curtis Ackie rated it really liked it
I love living legend bell hooks, from her cultural critiques to her live-streamed chats (many of which can be found on youtube), and hope to rectify the fact that this is only the second book of hers that I've read to date (the first being the excellent Teaching to Transgress).

The road to unlearning sexism and racism is a long and rough one, and I'd like to think that this collection of brilliant essays has helped me along the way some. That said, it was a challenging read, and not only because
Nov 11, 2013 Nikhil rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory, af-am, american
I cannot stress enough how important this book is; a molotov cocktail into the cultural necropolis that is America. bell hooks wields her pen like a sledgehammer, dismantling the pillars of a sexist, racist, and classist society. She illustrates how these three insidious ideologies oppress and privilege us in myriad ways, poisoning the possibility for genuine human interaction/community and dehumanizing us all. Some reviewers have criticized the book for not having footnotes, or for certain hist ...more
Apr 13, 2008 sydney rated it it was amazing
Inexcusable that it took me so long to read this book. Hooks is amazing and inspirational and everything she says makes sense. These essays are about black women's history in the United States and the historically problematic intersections between race and gender-- notably, that black women have either been asked to choose one of their identities as the "most important" or have felt doubly disempowered. Hooks explores the ways in which black women have been devalued and how feminism has failed t ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Bondama rated it really liked it
There were times while reading the books that bell hooks comes across as writing from such a tremendous store of anger until ones stops to realize that these things, (slavery, etc.) really did happen.

Then the harder part begins, when one is forced to face the fact that white women are not really interested in joining together with their black sisters. Hard, unpleasant, but impossible to hide, because it's true, and I hope it changes.

It's difficult to say that this is a book that one "enjoys" re
Sep 30, 2008 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most enlightened and enlightening books I've ever read. It grounded (and to some extent validated) my own feminist beliefs. bell hooks is a popular intellectual. She speaks to you - not at you, not above you - in a language you, an ordinary person, understand.
Jennie Johnson
Feb 26, 2015 Jennie Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many reasons why this book is fantastic and a must read for all who are invested in true equality. Most of the book addresses the many ways in which the black woman has been oppressed and disenfranchised, whether it be by the racist patriarchal system enforced by white males, the sexist civil rights movements of black males, or the individualistic feminist movements headed by white females. Although bell hooks admits to being disillusioned during her own feminist journey, she offers th ...more
Jul 28, 2013 Bianca rated it it was amazing
I loved it. It is a wonderful perspective on the feminist movement and black women. Some of the information is dated but the sentiments reign true today. bell hooks has gained another fan. I am a baby black feminist and found this easy to understand and thoroughly enjoyable.
Jul 07, 2010 Angela rated it liked it
Shelves: sd-fem-bookclub
Ain't I a Woman is a thorough and intriguing condemnation of sexism in the Civil Rights movement and racism in the second wave feminist movement. bell hooks makes a powerful case for reaching both of these conclusions and describing the issues important to Black feminist women (of 1980 when the book was written, at least, though a depressing amount is still relevant today).

Unfortunately, the book is marred by a lack of footnoting (ironically, the title page requests that readers quoting bits fr
Written at about the same time as Angela Davis's Women, Race and Class, bell hooks' Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism covers much of the same ground (the historical exclusion of black women from the feminist movement and the connections between racism and sexism) but with a couple of major differences.

The first difference can perhaps best be described as one of attitude, or tone. Davis presents her argument, radical and emotionally compelling as it is, in a fairly neutral tone. She is c
Jul 01, 2009 Tina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This should be required reading for all white people.

bell hooks is incredibly intelligent and articulate, and this book is really well researched. It's over 20 years old, so some of the stuff may now be considered Racism 101 for those of you who are intensely involved in anti-racist work, but even still, even if she was describing a situation I already knew about, her examples were often new to me. And there was lots of information in here that I didn't fully know, or hadn't heard articulated qu
Chantal Johnson
Aug 21, 2015 Chantal Johnson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2015
This should honestly be required reading for all people. I went into this excited and felt a sense of pride, but also longing once I finished it. How can we change the conversation? What can we do to keep progressing? bell hooks is accessible but blunt. Everything I know about my history? Mostly some sort of twisted lie. My perspective on feminism has definitely changed thanks to this text. My perspective on being a black woman, has changed. There are many times you'll be angry, but this will de ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Alexa rated it really liked it
Shelves: fab-13
bell hooks presents a powerful analysis here. Although the first half consists of quite painful subject matter, she ends with an amazingly positive analysis indicating that change is indeed possible. While I do wish she had done a better job of citing her sources with footnotes, she is very convincing. I particularly like the way she blames our ills on the way we have been socialized into our society, thus taking the individual blame off of our shoulders, while she simultaneously puts the respon ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Serene rated it it was amazing
Read this slowly and intentionally, make sure your heckles are lowered. bell hooks broke serious ground and opened up ongoing conversations about feminism with this book. Every time I read this, I take away something new. I'm forever grateful that hooks took the time to deconstruct history and experiences and present information in a way that forever changed the course of progressive politics.
Dec 31, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism-race, 2015
INTERSECTIONALITY IS KEY. So well written and on point, as expected of bell hooks.
Jennafer Small
Jan 08, 2016 Jennafer Small rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. It opened my eyes to the intersections of race, gender and class. I was aware of these intersections, but after this book, I felt a veil had been lifted.
Ain't I a Woman is a book ALL should read extremely broadening and thought provoking.

A few topics discussed in the book - Hooks theory on the propagation of miscegenation is extremely interesting. Her opinion was white men held the power thus the law was created to prevent the black woman from marrying the white man, therefore not allowing the black woman to have power. She explains how patriarchal society and power structure lend a hand in this. Ongoing stereotypes and various myths still ex
Jan 29, 2014 Freya rated it it was amazing
For those interested in the implementation of intersectionality, this book makes every feminist book or study by white women utterly invalid and frankly, embarrassing. Bell Hooks explores the complex relationship between feminism and its inherent white supremacy, which still renders the movement racist, sexist, disablist and non inclusive, while at the same time dismantling patriarchal capitalist power structures.
A must read.
AJ Conroy
Oct 15, 2011 AJ Conroy marked it as to-read
No 9 on Ms. Magazine's Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction Countdown: Named after the famous speech by Sojourner Truth, this must-read by bell hooks discusses black women’s struggle with U.S. racism and sexism since the time of slavery and doesn’t shirk from how white middle- and upper-class feminists have at times failed poor and non-white women.
Nov 29, 2014 Maruk rated it really liked it
An excellent introduction to the struggle of Black women within the feminist discourse, highlighting oppressive experiences of Black women whilst also providing important historical background. Considering Hooks wrote this book when she was 19, her analysis is powerful and convincing.
Jan 18, 2016 Melanie rated it really liked it
"The assumption that we can divorce the issue of race from sex, or sex from race, has so clouded the vision of American thinkers and writers on the 'woman' question that most discussions of sexism, sexist oppression, or woman's place in society are distorted, biased, and inaccurate" (p. 12).

"While it does not in any way diminish the importance of women resisting sexist oppression by entering the labor force, work has not been a liberating force for masses of American women" (p. 146).

"Black femin
Tamara Harris
Dec 19, 2011 Tamara Harris rated it it was amazing
When isn't bell hooks amazing? I can't believe it took me so long to read this book! EVERYONE--particularly every black woman and man--should read this.
Jul 17, 2013 Helene rated it it was amazing
Well where the fuck has this been all my life? I've dog-eared every page; a few slaps across the tits in every paragraph; DENSE - ASS - SHIT.
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The F-word: November NON-FICTION Group Read AIN'T I A WOMAN by bell hooks 11 50 Dec 16, 2013 11:28AM  
  • Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment
  • Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism
  • Women, Race, and Class
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
  • Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
  • But Some Of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women's Studies
  • I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism
  • Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
  • Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
  • When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America
  • Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism
  • Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology
  • Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought
  • Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology
  • Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color
  • Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
  • The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities
bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in ...more
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“The process begins with the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labeling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization.” 152 likes
“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism,” to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.” 74 likes
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