Book Review: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

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Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?
In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. An unforgettable debut, Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and in deed.

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I have been very interested in reading this book since the first time I heard about it because I always want to learn more about intersectional feminism, and this turned out to be such an brilliant read that can’t be forgotten easily.

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It’s nothing new that when we talk about mainstream feminism and see who are represented as feminist icons in the media, the image we are shown mostly is that of a cis white educated woman, and all the women of marginalized groups who are working tirelessly for their communities get sidelined. In this book, the author tries to talk extensively about various issues that disproportionately affect the Black community (mainly women) but never get talked about as important topics in the mainstream feminist circles. These are all issues that we are familiar with but the author does a great job of highlighting why they should be treated as feminist issues and how working to solve them will help women across all communities.

The chapters about hunger, poverty, homelessness, housing crisis and school to prison pipeline are harrowing to read because of the unique ways in which they effect Black women. The author rightly points out that in the wake of dwindling social safety nets and a government that treats poverty as a moral failing and not as a generational policy failure, poor Black women have to fend for themselves  to ensure food and survival for their families. But when the methods they use for survival are unconventional, they are harassed and criminalized and shamed, by so called feminists and everyone else, without ever trying to examine the various factors like race, class and centuries of oppression which have to led to these circumstances. Even when Black women develop ways to cope and support themselves and their communities, they are not considered good enough because they don’t fit into the box that mainstream feminism has decided.

There are also many other issues that the author talks about which uniquely affect the Black community, and are largely ignored by white feminists because they don’t want to understand the intersectionality of issues – like how Black women are considered tougher and hence not considered worthy of emotional and mental support, how health issues like eating disorders go unnoticed because the bodies of Black women don’t fit into some mythical white supremacist body image, how Black children are forced to grow up and never given the chance to be innocent or worthy of second chances which wildly changes the kind of parenting decisions Black women have to make, how maternal mortality and general healthcare outcomes are worse for Black women even when they advocate for themselves – these are issues that need solutions and solidarity that are specific to the Black community and mainstream white feminists have to work within the communities, be allies, form alliances, forget about respectability politics and politeness, and have to amplify the work & the voices of the activists and feminists who have been working from within the communities for long periods of time because they understand the intricacies of the issues.

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To conclude, I’m sure I have missed talking about many other things that the author compellingly discusses, giving both statistics and personal anecdotes and it was such an important and eye opening read. We don’t talk enough about intersectional feminism when talking about women’s issues and the author rightfully points out that sometimes, feminism has to be about solving the basic needs of women and not just lofty homogeneous ideals of equality which don’t actually work on the ground. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about feminism or anyone who wants to know more about the work that is being/needs to be done in marginalized communities to solve systemic issues. What a book and I can’t wait to read more by the author.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

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  1. Yes!! I can totally understand the PoV the author tries to bring to the table. Western and white centric feminism has always been about women’s role in the family while literally every other intersectional feminism has bigger and more global issues.

    Liked by 1 person

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