Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Posted May 30, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

by bell hooks

Publisher: South End Press on March 1, 1981
Genre: Feminism, History, Non-Fiction, Race
Target Age Group: Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Black, Own Voices Author
Content Warnings: Misogyny, Racism, Rape, Sexism, Sexual Assault, Slavery, Torture, Violence

Rating: ★★★★½

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A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain't I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on black woman during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the feminist movement, and the black woman's involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar's bookshelf.


Ain’t I a Woman is fantastic.  I hope it is already, but if it’s not, this book needs to be part of every conversation about feminism, every Women’s Studies class.  In Ain’t I a Woman, hooks discusses the history of Black women in America.  From objectification to dehumanization to cultural and gender divisions… hooks shares a side of history that gets buried beneath racism, sexism, and self-interest.

This book is not written for white women.  Ain’t I a Woman can be enlightening for white women, but it is a call for Black women to keep fighting for what they believe in and keep their hope.  The ending paragraphs say it best – those who are racist, sexist, or elitist aren’t truly feminist.  Much of the feminist agenda has been driven in selfishness rather than the desire to dismantle the system and rebuild something new and better.  Ain’t I a Woman was first published in 1981 – but 40 years later, it is still disappointingly relevant.

This book is an absolute must read for anyone who wants to call themself a feminist.  It challenges the movement as it has been known and calls for true solidarity, welcoming, discourse, and definitive change.  These days, we call it “intersectional feminism” but even that is not enough.  Conversations about sexism need to include conversations about racism, elitism, ableism, antisemitism, ageism... all of it.  Every prejudice, ever seed of hate.  Between intricately crafted essays about Black women’s experience during slavery to the constant betrayals of both Black men and white women of Black women.

I can’t say it better than bell hooks.  She doesn’t care about hurting anyone’s feelings because change is too important for that.  I hope folks read this one, and after they read it, they analyze their own activism and motivation. It’s a powerful work, well-researched and well-spoken.

Ratings Breakdown

Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Sources: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★
Delivery: ★★★★
Subject: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

4.5 stars overall rating


What books about feminism have you read?  I confess I’ve only read a handful – it’s far too easy to get information and inspiration from social media and biased news sources.  I want to be better about that.  Let me know your must-reads in the comments!

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