A decent primer on feminism, with the goal of explaining why feminism actually benefits everyone. hooks defines feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression." I wish she'd included a statement about equality of opportunity, since we're still working toward that in so many ways.
hooks agrees, I think, with my concern about opportunity, but she states early and often that feminism is not "always and only about women seeking to be equal to men." Of course we're not "equal to" men (in many ways, beyond the obvious, we're superior ;) I just want equal opportunity. However, I witness men and women disregarding the distinction between "equal to" and "equality of opportunity." It's subtle, but meaningful.
hooks says that by naming "sexism" the enemy, she shows how feminists aren't against men. We aren't, not that I'm aware of (my husband never thought so.) She does rail against the patriarchy, and I worry that many men will simply read this as "men." hooks puts these failures of vocabulary and understanding a product of "patriarchal mass media." I'd agree in some ways. Certainly since very early days, there has existed a vision of crazy, nearly hysterically loud women demanding inane "benefits" like the vote. [snipped long diatribe about equal pay, laws and the (still-only-a-dream-in-the-US) ERA.]
hooks has an excellent point that most of the feminists portrayed in mass media are still white, educated and very privileged. Despite the many changes since the 1960s, most of today's world still divides itself down lines enshrined during the tumult of the 60s and 70s. This makes feminism (or any -ism) seem like something bored housewives and students do to find meaning or something. While definitely filtered through the media, it's also a product of reality. Many women of color and women from different socioeconomic stratas simply feel they aren't welcome in the "feminist movement." These are the women who say they "don't have time for" or "can't afford" to be feminists. If you need your job/paycheck/home/whatever, how likely are you to put up a fight about anything? Sadly these are the women who most need the benefits a feminist reality would bring.
This book covers the basics of feminism and goes further, providing a chapter on many facets of the feminist movement. hooks offers prescriptions for how we can structure the mass education of everyone in these important areas. It's a nice dream, but I have zero belief it will actually happen. Again, how many people can afford the luxury of even purchasing this slim but expensive book, let alone taking the time to read it, then to organize, sign up, show up and participate in feminist consciousness raising? How many men would actually do that? Yeah, my thought too. hooks has been living feminism, and all that entails, for many decades. I don't disagree with many of her premises in chapters on everything from violence to class struggle to sexual politics to actual equality in the home (read any number of 2018 news articles on this one.) I might simply have different expectations of what is actually possible. Maybe I'm just a pessimist. Maybe hooks and I just use different words for much of it.
This basic primer on feminism actually may be too advanced for some. It may feel too "radical" or go too far for some. Some chapters may be offensive to some women while the same chapter may be a lifeline to others. I fear that these very minute differences all given equal weight may cause some who otherwise agree with the larger goals to turn and run from feminism as a whole, rather than agree with much and simply disagree with other parts. Surely every woman of every race, creed, nationality, religion, etc cannot agree on every single thing.
So while this is meant to be a welcoming book that explains there is nothing to fear of the F word, more and more I wished for an even more simple book. When I imagined what that might look like, I decided something very akin to an intro chapter and a glossary or dictionary on all of these words that have been loaded and warped through the years. I may find some things more important than hooks does and vice versa. This is to be expected, because while we're all women, all feminists, we're all still human and seeing through our own individual lenses.