bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) has always been a leader for justice against prejudice and has challenged oppression in her literature and her activist work. She has addressed race, class, gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism. No stone has gone unturned. 

Arica L. Coleman, a writer for Time states in a piece published in 2019 that feminism was in dire need of diversity, as it was based on the cultural and historical experiences of middle- and upper-class heterosexual white women. Consequently, issues of race, class, sexuality and ableism were ignored.” And so, in the ’70s a group of black feminist scholar activists decided to develop theoretical frameworks to serve as a model for other women of color, to broaden feminism’s definition and scope… In doing so, they exposed the interlocking systems that define women’s lives. These frameworks grew to be known by the mainstream as intersectionality, which was a term popularized by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw.

hooks has continued to pave the way for justice and inclusion. She describes her book Ain’t I A Woman, as “a love letter from me to black women” – and documents what it means to be a black woman pursuing equality in a time where black women were catagorised as a lower class. The effects of intersectionality in regard to race and sexism never drew parallel – until hooks made it clear that yes it is hard to be a woman in society, but have you ever thought about how hard it must be to be a woman and be black?  By focusing on the overall pursuit or equality and understanding, hooks was able to bring the intersectionality of feminism and race together – making the feminism world more inclusive and diverse. “[hooks] asked us to consider seeing black women as leaders, as beautiful,” says Dr. Soyica Colbert, a Professor of African American Studies and Performance Studies at Georgetown University. By doing so, women have been able to come together and fight for change and justice for the masses.

Activities to try with your team

  • In your next team meeting or all hands. Open the floor up for suggestions on reading materials, podcasts or series your team like to watch to broaden their perspectives. This will encourage your team to step outside their comfort zones in terms of literature/media and discover author/creators that they may not have come across on their own.
  • Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. Try and challenge your own affinity bias as much as possible. Check yourself next time you use it as a default. How do you respond to people of different identities’? How does that differ from folks who share your identity and lived experience?
  • Think about your last 1:1. Do you feel there is a good understanding and shared empathy between you and your manager? If you were to go to them will an issue that may be challenging, do you think you would get the support you needed from them or the understanding?

New habits to make a difference

  1. Pick up a copy of bell hooks All About Love, The Will to Change or Feminism is for Everybody (to name but a few!)
  2. Find a good podcast that focuses on intersectionality such as Intersectionality Matters!
  3. Discover some feminist powerhouses such as Angela Davis, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde – read their stories and educate yourself on what they have done for women everywhere.

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