Hood feminism is unabashedly angry, a little asshole-like, proactive, and, sometimes, it’s illegal—but in her latest release writer Mikki Kendall argues that hood feminism is necessary for all women to win.
In Hood Feminism (Viking), Kendall, a Chicago native from the south side, asks readers to reconsider what they’ve been taught feminism is and what they’ve done to show up for women—women of color, that is. A collection of essays ranging from personal accounts of the army veteran’s childhood, with peers forced to participate in illegal activities for survival, to analytical pieces about the assumptions made about Black moms suffering from not-so-uncommon poverty in America, Kendall forces so-called feminists to reckon with who their feminism is really for.
Gentrification is a hot-button issue, reaching across cultural conversations as rural and suburban people move to parts of cities that had been long abandoned—but what’s not been as largely discussed is that gentrifiers are often young white women. The book’s chapter “Housing” frames affordable housing issues in a way no “feminist” could deny. A place to live that doesn’t break your bank is the centerpiece of most people’s livelihood, a livelihood that includes having a job, physical safety, and, quite frankly, peace of mind. Given that young white women are the more common gentrifiers, it’s clear many feminists blatantly ignore affordable housing as a feminist issue. Especially with a pay gap that affects women of color to varying degrees more than white women, housing becomes even more of an issue for women of color because they tend to spend more of their income on housing than white men and women.
It’s a reminder that being a “girlboss” and “leaning in” aren’t priorities to all women, for good reason. Some are still trying to find a stable workplace while others are trying to handle more important matters, like feeding their families, without a job at all.
Yet, from police brutality to the stereotypes pitted against women of color—like the Sassy Latina and the Strong Black Woman—to how poverty affects how kids are educated, Kendall does more than just lay out the facts. She puts every issue in perspective, contrasting how the current women’s equality landscape looks with a focus on poor and working-class women, and shows how a strong revamping could create what women of all races, ages, and income need: equity.
Every anecdotal piece in the book reaffirms that despite some folks’ efforts to exclude certain needs and people, hood feminism is real feminism, and Kendall is a real feminist, too. One of the most jarring reveals is when she delves into the backlash from her viral 2011 Salon piece, “Abortion saved my life.” Along with harassment from pro-lifers (many followers of former suburban Oak Lawn nurse Jill Stanek), she was met with demands, rather than support, from mainstream feminists.
“They wanted me to speak at rallies, to testify, to give them copies of my medical records,” Kendall writes. “Amid the lawyers and activists reaching out, no one seemed to care that I was scared, that my family was being threatened, or that I couldn’t expect the same support from the police that they took for granted. I was supported by the hood. By the people who put my safety and sanity above whether I was a candidate to testify before Congress.”
The support she received reminded me of the radical love I feel when friends and peers ask, “How can I support you?” when I express hardships rather than silently shying away or ignoring my distress altogether, because, at the core, feminists should have each other’s backs, and not just when they need something from you. As Kendall said on her recent appearance on The Daily Show, “Bootstraps are stupid. No one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Empathy, if anything, is the bare minimum everyone deserves.
Two years after publishing her piece in Salon, Kendall created the #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen hashtag on Twitter in response to white feminists showing limited support for women of color online, but today, the hashtag is still relevant. It’s easy to tweet, or even say, you stand with “insert group of people.” What’s difficult is self-evaluating how you show up for low-income women of color at work, in educational spaces, and even at your local grocery store, and taking action. We all play a part in lifting the next woman up—Kendall’s Hood Feminism shows us where to begin. v