Hood Feminism (2020) by Mikki Kendall, published in the UK by Bloomsbury Publishing
In her 2020 book titled Hood Feminism "Notes from the Womem that a Movement Forgot", secondly titled also as Hood Feminism "Notes from the Women that White Feminists Forgot", Mikki Kendall argues that in order for feminism to achieve its stated aim of equality, it must expand its scope beyond a focus on issues affecting economically elite, thin, predominantly white women, to include issues of the “hood”. Meaning, feminism must expand to include issues affecting marginalised Black women forgotten by the mainstream feminist movement. Kendall shows that feminism without a focus on issues such as food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighbourhoods, a living wage, and medical care, is inherently limited. This is because such feminism excludes the majority of women from the conversation, thereby foreclosing its capacity to achieve solidarity. In other words, Kendall argues that “feminism in the hood is for everyone, because everyone needs it”.
In order to achieve her argument, Kendall employs two main methods. First, she uses an inductive, or bottom-up, approach to gather evidence to support her arguments. Kendall uses her personal experiences, such as her experience growing up in a low-income family in Chicago, dealing with an eating disorder, and facing discrimination in academia, as a starting point of inquiry into issues such as housing and food insecurity, beauty and body-image ideals, and education. In doing so, Kendall achieves consistency between (i) her stated aim of making feminism more accessible, practical, and embodied, and (ii) the methodology she uses to achieve this aim. This means that not only does Kendall argue that feminism must move beyond elitist academic theories, but her methodology itself moves feminism beyond the Ivory Tower by using the lived experiences and stories of marginalized women to support its arguments.
Specifically, she details how discursive tropes, such as “Strong Black Woman”, “Black Girl Magic”, and “Fierce”, do not offer the seemingly liberating identities and associations they appear a priori to provide.
In addition to using inductive reasoning to gather evidence for her arguments regarding the issues affecting marginalized women, Kendall engages in language analysis to support her arguments regarding the discourse affecting marginalized women. Specifically, she details how discursive tropes, such as “Strong Black Woman”, “Black Girl Magic”, and “Fierce”, do not offer the seemingly liberating identities and associations they appear a priori to provide. Instead, Kendall critically evaluates the impact of these terms in creating a stereotype of the Black woman that limits and reduces the range and complexity of Black women’s subjectivities (i.e., their conscious understandings of their identities, interests, and desires). By critically evaluating and denaturalising seemingly positive tropic linguistic constructions of Black women, Kendall illuminates the way in which discourse fixes Black women as “objects of the conversation and not full participants”. Specifically, Kendall states that the tropic representation of Black women causes such women to be “expected to manage their identities and sexual reputations in order to fix into a mixture of virgin and vixen constructs”. Kendall shows that this constructs Black women as objects of sexual desire and limits the capacity for Black women to frame their own identities and subjectivities. Moreover, in her critique of the way in which discourse constructs Black women through limiting tropes, Kendall implicitly encourages Black women to reject such tropes, opening up the possibility for Black women to reconstruct more liberating self-understandings.
Kendall’s methodological use of language and bottom-up reasoning skillfully engages the reader in political mobilisation. It does so by encouraging the reader to reject her previous understandings of (i) what feminism looks like in practice beyond the Ivory Tower, and (ii) what it means to be a Black woman with a complex, embodied identity. Simply put, the consistency between Kendall’s methodology and argument allows her book itself to create a space and language necessary for the very form of embodied, intersectional, and genuinely inclusive feminism it advocates for.
Hood Feminism is an important read. Not only does this book inspire interest and understanding in the importance of intersectional, embodied feminism, it serves itself as a critical and powerfully political act of feminist solidarity.
Purchase a copy of Hood Feminism:
Kendall, Mikki. Hood Feminism. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020.
Hannah Bennison is a current Masters student at the London School of Economics & Political Science studying Political Theory. She holds a BA in Political Science from The University of British Columbia and has an interest in feminist political theory.