bell hooks (Sept. 1952-Present) born Gloria Jean Watkins, is an author, professor, feminist and social activist. Her pen name bell hooks comes from her maternal great-grandmother. hooks chose the name because of her grandmother’s bold and snappy tongue. hooks has published more than 30 books that tackle race, capitalism, and gender. She gained widespread recognition with her book “Ain’t I a Woman?”, influenced by feminist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s famous speech of the same name.
Her work made her a postmodern cultural critic and political thinker. Her writings touch on feminist thought and the impact of sexism and racism on Black women, the media’s role and betrayal and the devaluation of Black womanhood, and the education system. What is feminism? hooks answers “(it’s) rooted in neither fear or fantasy…. ‘Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression,” according to Wikipedia. She lays out her point in her book “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” (1984). She argues how can feminism seek to make women equal to men in Western Society when all men are not equal. She also argued men must do their part for change to occur. She addresses some of those topics in “We Real Cool: Black Meen and Masculinity” (2004).
As a college professor she stresses that communication and literacy, the ability to read, write and think critically, helps to develop healthy relationships and communities plagued by the many inequalities.
In her book, “Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom” challenges educators to teach students to “transgress” against racial, sexual and class boundaries to achieve freedom. hooks argues that teachers use power and control within an approach of assembly-line learning that dulls the students’ enthusiasm and teaches obedience to authority. She advocates collaborative learning and offers a space for change and invention.
hooks also addresses the role of movies and media in her book “Reel to Reel”. She states, “Representation is the ‘hot’ issue right now because it’s a major realm of power for any system of domination. We keep coming back to the question of representation because identity is always about representation,” according to Wikipedia. hooks stresses the importance of Black female filmmakers because Hollywood’s conventional representation of Black women amounts to the objectification of Black women and their experiences.
hooks received her BA from Stanford University in English (1973), her MA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1976) and her Ph.D from the University of California, Santa Cruz, (1983). In 2014, she founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in her home state of Kentucky.