A&E: Melina’s Booket List: Hood Feminism

Feminism is a tricky term. In its over 100-year history, the word has been redefined many times. Mikki Kendall’s 2020 book, “Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot” establishes an updated term for those who feel all genders should be equal. Kendall illustrates the tendency of mainstream white feminism to gain privilege for white women at the expense of non-white cisgender, able-bodied women.

“Hood Feminism” uses anecdotes of Kendall’s own experiences and those of her friends and acquaintances to offer striking examples of the overarching harms of exclusionary feminism. Kendall defines the title of her book early on, stating “Feminism in the hood is for everyone, because everyone needs it.” Rather than undermining one group in order to advocate for the rights of another, Kendall’s “hood feminism” is a way for all people – trans or cis, white or non-white, straight or LGBTQ, abled or disabled – to lift up one another toward a brighter future.

Kendall weaves in her call for intersectionality in feminism by presenting topics commonly regarded as racial or social issues – like poverty, gun violence and unequal access to education – through a feminist lens.

Reading about the gender disparities in these various situations was staggering. I had previously learned in my AP US History class how many advances for white women were – and still are – at the cost of the social and political status of women of color. For example, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women exalted as feminist heroes, campaigned under the slogan “Woman First and Negro Last.” Yet beyond this knowlegde, Kendall’s book opened my eyes to a myriad of present-day issues that I had assumed were better suited for racial justice agendas rather than feminist ones.

For example, Kendall recenters police brutality around the fact that women of color and transgender women are more likely to be the victims of sexual police harrasment rather than outright violence. Through similar examples, Kendall explains that in preserving the racial status quo, mainstream white feminists also maintain the patriarchy and therefore limit their own progress. Intersectionality in feminism is necessary, Kendall argues, and benefits everyone involved.

While a powerful read, “Hood Feminism” did feel somewhat repetitive to me. I had personally read many other texts that discuss similar ideas prior to reading Kendall’s work. However, for a reader looking to become acquainted with intersectional feminism, “Hood Feminism” is the perfect blend of simple language and easy-to-digest lines of reasoning.