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Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism
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Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  9,562 ratings  ·  577 reviews
A groundbreaking work of feminist 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 feminism. ...more
Paperback, 205 pages
Published July 1st 1999 by South End Press (first published 1981)
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Wadney Julien Yes. This was one of the very few books that helped me understand black feminism when I started college. I initially started with Patricia Hill Collin…moreYes. This was one of the very few books that helped me understand black feminism when I started college. I initially started with Patricia Hill Collins' "Black Feminist Thought", to help me understand feminism however it was too "academic" for me and hard for me to grasp it. Ain't I a Woman is perfect for those who are beginners.(less)
BMFontela Hi! I've just finished it. I'm a non native English speaker, I read it in English. This has been my first book covering racism and feminism (I had rea…moreHi! I've just finished it. I'm a non native English speaker, I read it in English. This has been my first book covering racism and feminism (I had read a lot about feminism, some things on racism, but never with this specific perspective).
I can't recommend it enought!! bell hooks focuses on the US experience and cover a historical evolution of the socially constructed image of black women by a racist and patriarchal society. The book has helped me understand many of my own biases and where they come from.

I guess the book might be difficult to read without some previous knowledge of politics or feminism. Despite the age of the book (40+) it's very relevant. Give it a try, and then just leave it if it's not a match.

Hope this helps!(less)

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Carolyn Newton
Mar 25, 2014 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 feel ...more
I sincerely don't know what to rate this book. It was very informative, but also semi-redundant. There were also several points in here where I found myself COMPLETELY disagreeing with bell. For example, in the book she argues that the Black male rapist myth doesn't exist anymore. That is simply untrue, and has been used to fuel most of the anti violence work that we see today? I imagine it was also even more true during the time this book was written in the 80s. She also talked about how white ...more
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 accomplishe
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
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
Radical + Accessible, we need more bell hooks!

The Good:
--I was setting a high bar expecting something similar to Angela Y. DavisWomen, Race & Class and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, and to my delight bell hooks exceeded these expectations.
--bell hooks exemplifies intersectionality at its best: radical, principled critique while still grasping the big picture by maintaining solidarity and giving room for change (thus, not a cynical armchair revolutionary).
…This is no easy
Mar 26, 2010 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
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, feminism
A very informative book!
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
Nov 09, 2013 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
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really good !!! Necessary read for all people interested in feminism and anti racism.
The most important book I've ever read. ...more
My book group is reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s books and wanted to balance his voice with that of a black woman. I’ve been reading several books trying to find some for us to consider.

As a ‘70s era, second wave (white) feminist, I’m one of those people who was oblivious to the racism in the feminist movement. As someone who has become aware of the concept of “intersectionality” in the last year, I had some idea about the particular challenges of race, gender, and class. But bell hooks upended most
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Jul 11, 2013 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.
Jan 12, 2015 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
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Transformative. Essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the world we live in.

I only have a tiny complaint: It's ok to criticize a movement for its goals, but when you don't provide an alternative one, it leaves me feeling helpless. That's what I don't like about most critiques of the feminist goal of reaching gender and race equality and about people saying they want to end capitalism. We shouldn't just want the same power to dominate, as white males have, I agree. But, what's the
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
So good. Should be required reading.
Carrie Kellenberger
“Women, all women, are accountable for racism continuing to divide us. Our willingness to assume responsibility for the elimination of racism need not be engendered by feelings of guilt, moral responsibility, victimization, or rage. It can spring from a heartfelt desire for sisterhood and the personal, intellectual realization that racism among women undermines the potential radicalism of feminism. It can spring from our knowledge that racism is an obstacle in our path that must be removed. More ...more
Erin Crane
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Something I am thinking about after reading this book - white women should have shown solidarity with black women in their fight to get the vote, even if that meant setbacks and maybe not getting the vote as soon. That should probably not feel revelatory.
Colleen Chi-Girl
I love bell hooks. She is a feminist and black woman. This is a must read, or any of her other books, for young and old women, black and white, and every shade in between and beyond.

She gives the history of black women oppression, and clearly shows how as black males began to find success, the black woman on the other hand, continued to be oppressed. Sound familiar? Same as white males first and white women second.

That is where the similarity stops because racism for any person of color exists
This was a fiery, thought provoking look at the intersection of racism, classism, capitalism and imperialism, how the toxic patriarchy has deliberately created an imperialistic racist political system and plays groups of people against each other. hooks debunks the idea that slavery was harder on Black men or that it emasculated them by going into the horrors and inequalities Black women faced during and after slavery. She reveals the racist, white supremacist underpinnings of the white feminism ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've encountered so much bullshit intersectional feminist theory / philosophy / history that I must confess to being completely amazed by how good this book was. It was surreal to read something subtitled "Black Women and Feminism" that was (1) jargon-free, (2) actually well-written, (3) historically accurate, (4) coherently argued, and so on. Sure, Ain't I a Woman has the standard shortcomings of late second-wave / early third-wave academic feminism (i.e., "let's just mention the madonna/whore ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
To me feminism is not simply a struggle to end male chauvinism or a movement to ensure that women will have equal rights with men; it is a commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels - sex, race, and class, to name a few - and a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desire.
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for anyone who considers themselves a feminist. Really, required reading for anyone who considers themselves a human being.
JJ ONeal
As I’m getting older, I appreciate how much of my education was biased by patriarchy and whiteness in general. No one pointed out the Civil Rights Movement was primarily a movement led by and for black men. No one mentioned the feminist movement was primarily a movement for white women. I was never taught about slavery from the perspective of female slaves or how stereotypes about black women would lead to years of oppression and terrorism.

To be honest, my heart feels heavy and disheartened. I g
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic. I have always felt reluctant to identify with mainstream feminism, due to many of the problems that hooks discusses in this book. She gives a clear, precise voice to things that were only vague feelings in my mind, and she discusses issues of racism in feminism that I knew close to nothing about as a white person. She does not forget class or material conditions, the book is built on these lived realities. The prose is unemcumbered, easy to understand, efficient. The ide ...more
Somehow this is the first bell hooks book I've actually read. It was one of only two of her books available as audiobook in my primary library system (via the Libby app). And it was released in just the last two years! Why aren't they making more bell hooks audiobooks?!

This book should seriously be required reading for late middle school or high school students as part of American History.
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Some day, I'll learn about an aspect of history that is actually really cool and uplifting. This was not that day. However, it's a very important part of our nation's history (and, sadly, present), and we need to know about it in order to try to fix it. ...more
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ll write more tomorrow but that last chapter healed my soul.
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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.” 250 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.” 120 likes
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