The Politics of Love, A Feminist’s Perspective (Book Review)

I have just read bell hooks’ book entitled Communion, The Female Search For Love.  It was a very interesting and illuminating read for me, because I have never read anything by her or any other women who call themselves feminists.  (I’ve read Alice Walker, but she calls herself a womanist)  Interestingly, I have known about bell hooks for decades,  but I just never read any of her books.   I’m realizing that I missed out all these years on a very intelligent, honest, and brave sister!  She writes from a place of personal integrity.   Having worked all my life with books, I’ve seen most of hers here and there.  I definitely remember her book trilogy on love, “All About Love, New Visions”, “Salvation, Black People and Love”, and “Communion, The Female Search for Love”.   I started with the last one, which fits my backward style anyway.

I’m trying to remember why I didn’t at least pick up Salvation back then because I remember it clearly.   Maybe part of the reason has to do with being a bit reactionary in my understanding of the feminist movement.  I generally thought these “feminists” were just a bunch of man haters,  overburdened with penis envy and bitterness.  The little that I knew, I gained from readings that  showed the women in their most negative light, and for that reason I all but dismissed them as too prejudiced to take seriously.  I felt that they just didn’t want to put in the work necessary to meet men half way, and instead just wanted to bitch and moan about “patriarchy” and to have “power” handed over to them.  I won’t say that it’s not still that way for some.  But it now occurs to me that I hadn’t bothered to study any writings by feminists, nor seek a balanced perspective about them and their movement. 

So, as God would have it, I have started seeking a balanced perspective with bell hooks, book, Communion and was pleasantly surprised in finding that balanced perspective.   In the book, I have been reminded that we women definitely owe a debt to the feminist movement.  They certainly did open doors that I, myself, have walked through!   bell hooks  eloquently reminds us of that.  She also reminds us that the women of the movement made mistakes as well.   It’s her honesty about the feminist movement’s struggle–the good, the bad and the ugly, that I respect so much in her writing.   Mind you, I have only read one book, and she has 15 or so!   I look forward to that same honesty as I seek her opinion on women’s history from a uniquely feminist perspective. 

In her book Communion bell breaks down what she feels is one of the major mistakes of the feminist movement–namely, relegating love to the backburner of their lives, in the pursuit of power and equality.   With great erudition and passion, she talks openly about what many feminists of her day considered a dirty word, love,  and its importance in the lives of women.   We are loving beings, needing to give and receive love, and we are not expressing our full humanity and spirituality when we suppress our feminine desires regarding love.   

What I also appreciate so much is that Sister bell hooks is describing the expressions of love from another place than that of the fairy tale come save me prince so that I can live happily ever after that many women have been brought up on since girlhood.  She talks of how many lesbians in the feminist movement felt that a woman could not be self actualized with a man as a partner,  she speaks of women who wanted relationships with men, and those who didn’t.  She talks about what she calls long-term platonic “Romantic Friendships” between women (I’m thinking Gayle and Oprah), about learning to love our bodies, about finding the right kind of men–meaning men who are not socialized in the patriarchal way of relating to women.  Feminist men.  She talks about sisterhood, and a whole lot more!  The book is full of insights from an obviously beautiful brain.  What I take away is that bell hooks is a great lover! She loves from a place of freedom and intelligence and control. She loves purposefully and passionately.  Not in the way of a foolish woman who throws the gift of her love to the ground to be trampled by uncaring people, but as someone who understands the importance of love and the value of it.

There were a few things that irked me: bell’s tendency to put so much importance, more than I thought it deserved, on the power of this malevolent patriarchy that, from the tone of her writings, seems to lurk menacingly over every woman, poised to slam down its hammer over her every dream.   She seems to see patriarchy as all encompassing concerning every aspect of a woman’s life and development and no women is able to escape its omnipotence and omnipresence.  I don’t see it that way.  I also didn’t like how she saw the answer to every woman struggling psychologically by patriarchy’s despotisms as simply getting psychoanalysis somewhere to be able to work it all out.  I don’t believe psychoanalysis to be that effective, furthermore, it’s the patriarchy that’s in control of  the psychologist’s couch too, for the most part.   As for how exactly black women truly fit in all of this in bell’s opinion, I got hints from this book that she has argued that piece very well in other books she has written.  I certainly look forward to reading more of her works.   I have just started reading Wounds of Passion, a Writing Life.  I hope to get a better perspective of this wonderfully brave writing woman!



One Comment Add yours

  1. Mark says:

    I am not a reader of bell hooks. But I have always been ‘aware’ of the women’s movement. As a young boy, I would read whatever my Mom left around the house and then when I finally got to college, it was a strident feminist, Andrea Dworkin, whose book was like a ‘punch in the nose’. Changed the way I behaved women, as I always saw them as equals.

    Cool to read your review and your counter points! Be well.!!

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