Gloria Jean Watkins popularly known as Bell Hooks (born 25 September 1952) is an American author, academician and a most successful social activist of late-twentieth-century whose work reflects varied perceptions of black women in the contemporary world and the recognition of black women in the development of various feminist identities.
She grew up in Southern America in a nuclear family and started writing at the mere age of 19 and published her first book, Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism which was published in 1981. She studied from the University of Wisconsin, Stanford University and the University of California.
Watkins, assumed her pen name after the name of her great-grandmother to honor female legacies and all letters in a small format to focus attention on the message rather than herself. During her college years, she studied English literature, Afro-African studies, and women studies. By this time, she realized the prejudices and the hardships women (particularly black women) face on a day to day basis and how important it is to know about them.
Throughout her life, she explored the hard relationship between sexism, racism and economic disparity. In an interview with Bomb Magazine, she said, “To think of certain ways of writing as activism is crucial. What does it matter if we write eloquently about decolonization if it’s just white privileged kids reading our eloquent theory about it? Mass of black people suffer from internalized racism, our intellectual work will never impact on their lives if we do not move it out of the academy. That’s why I think mass media is so important.”
In 1980, she established a support group for black women which was known as the Sisters of the Yam which she used as the title of her book thus celebrating black sisterhood. She has written more than 30 books. Her book, Ain’t I a woman: Black women and feminism are attributed as one of the top 20 most influential books published in 20 years by Publisher’s Weekly. Other than that, she is the winner of many literary awards and is regarded as one of the most influential activists and leaders of Black feminism.
She lives in Kentucky and has taught at the city college of New York, University of Yale, Oberlin College, USC, and The Berea College.
Hooks is shifting with the world, giving us a road map to analyze how black feminism is changing and the questions around sexuality, gender and also race transition.
Respect Women’s team is truly inspired by her and we believe in her belief that feminism is for everybody.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article is written by Prashant Kumar, our intern.