All about love… or How bell hooks broke my heart.

I love bell hooks. Let’s just start there. “Ain’t I a Woman” has been one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. It opened my eyes and changed me. So, I had great expectations for “All about love”, bell hooks exploration on love and feminism. It started pretty well, but slowly deteriorated up to the point that I thought about just not finishing it.

What I thought it was worthy:

  1. We need to re-examine how we approach ‘love’ in all our relations, with trust and honesty. We shouldn’t assume “someone cannot handle the truth”, since even the smallest lies can erode trust.
  2. Men and women are not biologically different, but socialized to be different. The media focus on “men are from Mars and women from Venus” is just the old sexist theory with a cosmetic re-make to make it sound liberal.
  3. If we do not build good self-esteem, we may grow to make terrible choices, even when in a position of wealth and power. Because no money or power can undo psychological damage unless we consciously work on it.
  4. Self-esteem is not a balancing game; if we believe “I am not that beautiful but I’m funny or smart”, it won’t really help your self-esteem. One has to love oneself as a whole not only parts.
  5. Greed is contributing to lack of self-esteem, loneliness and disenchantment with true love.

What I didn’t like:

  1. The style is not very engaging. It feels like your grandma giving you a very long lecture. bell hooks is other-ing the reader and making assumptions on younger generations which do not hold. That is reinforced by the constant reminder that “people born or raised in the fifties” believed this or did that.
  2. It feels like a self-help book, while I was expecting something more like a scholarly essay. Plus, we get the feel that to write this book, bell hooks did not conduct any study, but basically read some self-help books (only a few are referenced at the end, is that all she read?)
  3. It is not inclusive. I liked how in the first chapters she constantly referred to “heterosexual women” rather than “women”. At one point that stops. The whole book is focused on heterosexual relations to the exclusion of LGBTQ. For an inter-sectional feminist, that is a big failure.
  4. Rather than stressing that Western culture has socialized men or women to believe their roles are X or Y, she constantly says “Men are X” (ie Men are liars). That plays to the tune that sexists love to hear, on feminazis and men-haters. It makes it sound just like her accusers, like if men or women have some intrinsic characteristics, which clearly she does not believe.
  5. She is hypocritical when it comes to victim-blaming. I understand her point that we must see a situation objectively, and rather than positioning ourselves merely as victims, we should assess our behaviour. But she harshly criticizes Nicole Simpson for staying with OJ (on her assumption that she was addicted to money and a luxurious lifestyle) and thus endangering her children; she is much more lenient with herself when she states that:

when it became destructive, I found it difficult to leave. I found myself accepting behavior (verbal and physical abuse) that I would not have tolerated in friendship.

Plus, her comments on Monica Lewinsky are very judgy and full of prejudice. She is making assumptions on issues she could basically not know.

After reading “All about love” I feel disappointed, and cheated. I still love her work on feminism, so I am willing to excuse this as a rant of an otherwise great academic. If you love “Ain’t I a Woman”, don’t read this book. Save yourself the heartbreak.



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