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Book Review of Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, unabashedly produced a thought-provoking analysis that forces mainstream feminism [read: white middle class women] to “pull their heads out of the sand”[1] and realize that “they have wronged someone, that they have not been as good, as helpful, as generous as they needed to think they were all along.”[2] Reminiscent of bell hooks’ political solidarity and feminist sisterhood, Kendall deeply desires a true solidarity among all communities of women for a genuine intersectional feminist movement, where erasure is no longer tolerated. This book addresses the issues “faced by most women, instead of the issues that only concern a few—as has been the common practice of feminists to date—because tackling those larger issues is key to equality for all women.”[3] Hood Feminism highlights the oppressive issues experienced by marginalized women such as gun and sexual violence, housing, education, hunger, mental health, reproductive justice, toxic masculinity and beauty standards by delving into Kendall’s own positionality; mainstream feminism’s failures and hood feminism’s solutions for true solidarity.

Kendall proudly discusses her grandmother as a feminist inspiration who created her own feminism aligning with womanist views since feminists from her time practiced racism and classism. The hood taught Kendall that “feminism isn’t just academic theory. It isn’t a matter of saying the right words at the right time. Feminism is the work you do, and the people you do it for who matter more than anything else.”[4] The focus on Kendall’s upbringing amplifies the impact of black women’s standpoint on feminist work. Through this unique lens, she unapologetically confronts the failures of white mainstream feminism with her hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen.

White mainstream feminism conveniently ignores a devastating history where their powerful tears result in the lynching of our black men yet simultaneously insists that women are all on the same side. Besides the habitual erasure of women of color and trans women, the exclusion of all men in mainstream feminism’s equality efforts is problematic for women of color. Kendall infuses Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality to effectively analyze mainstream feminism’s ignorance of women of color’s painful intersection. From relying on our men as partners against racism to silently battling with these same men against intra-racial toxic masculinity, mainstream feminism’s negligence of black women’s struggle with white supremacist patriarchy exudes modern misogynoir.

Furthermore, black women’s intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality expose us to negative tropes including Mammy, Jezebel, Sapphire and Welfare Queen. Unsurprisingly, the Strong Black Woman myth fuels white mainstream feminism’s blasphemous ideology that black women somehow do not need saving from these oppressive intersections. Kendall argues that “since its inception, mainstream feminism has been insisting that some women have to wait longer for equality, that once one group (usually white women) achieves equality then that opens the way for all other women.”[5] White women abuse this trope to convince themselves that black women are allegedly tougher and better equipped to handle abuse and ignorance, thus labeling our needs as less pressing. Unfortunately, history has condoned white mainstream feminism’s continuous failure to show up for women of color.

Hood Feminism’s persistently blatant rejection of respectability politics acknowledges an epic failure committed by women of all backgrounds. Black women’s well-meaning interpretation of respectability was an internal response to avoid the inevitable life-threatening #fasttailedgirl stereotype and sexual violence. According to Kendall, this plan backfires because while reducing the perpetuation of harmful sexual stereotypes, respectability politics prevents young black women from developing healthy sexual identities. Mainstream feminism utilizes this same controversial approach but with the damaging claim that only respectable women deserve representation in the movement. For example, respectability politics discourages the inclusion of sex workers, incarcerated women, stay-at-home women, and disabled women who are unable to work due to its “good girl” standards of employment. Kendall explains that hood feminism respects the fact that some solutions to unemployment can be unconventional and illegal including sex work and selling drugs for survival.

Aside from rejecting respectability politics in feminist work, Kendall proposes a few other solutions toward true solidarity. One solution is for all women to vocalize our concerns with feminists who claim to be our allies and those same would-be allies must listen and respect those concerns without channeling white savior feminism or whining for easier activism. Additionally, she challenges mainstream feminists to not only pass over the microphone but to remove themselves completely off stage because some places are not for them. Kendall also admits that since solidarity cannot realistically include us all, we should strive for common goals and partnerships. Ultimately, she offers a solution for true solidarity that requires a shift from white mainstream feminism to an accomplice feminism that will “devote its platforms and resources to supporting those in marginalized communities doing feminist work.”[6]

All in all, Hood Feminism reminds us that solidarity is still for white women. Similar to the Crunk Feminist Collective and Joan Morgan’s hip hop feminism, Kendall’s hood feminism calls out the failures of mainstream feminism with an intersectional lens that prioritizes the real-life struggles of women of color. Bottomline, “feminism in the hood is for everyone, because everyone needs it.”[7]

1. Mikki Kendall, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, (New York: Viking, 2020), xv.

2. Kendall, Hood Feminism, xv.

3. Kendall, Hood Feminism, xviii.

4. Kendal, Hood Feminism, xiii

5. Kendall, Hood Feminism, 2.

6. Kendall, Hood Feminism, 258.

7. Kendall, Hood Feminism, xviii.

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