The Other L-Word: How bell hooks Dared Me to Love

My paternal grandmother should have never had children. Instead, she had five well before leaving her twenties.

On the surface, my grandmother was emblematic of the post-World War II American dream. She married my grandfather, a young, first-generation Polish American who fought his way out of poverty by enlisting in the Army and moving swiftly through the ranks. He benefited from the GI Bill by earning two prestigious degrees and making a name for himself as an engineer.

Together, my well-coiffed grandmother and ambitious grandfather were a picture-perfect couple. They had a newly built tract home where there were once orange groves, complete with five well-scrubbed children, a family car and a gleaming television.

The truth, as with many such families, was that the portrait obscured the reality. My grandmother, an avid reader and intellectual, never realized her own dream of obtaining a degree in anthropology. Instead, she took on clerical work to help support her husband’s ambitions, while simultaneously maintaining the home and the family. Like so many women of her generation, she suffered in silence from the “problem that has no name“: deep dissatisfaction and intense loneliness. By the time Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and blew the doors of the 50′s fairytale wide open to expose a much darker and more complicated reality, my grandmother had divorced my grandfather. She packed up the two girls, leaving the three boys in the care of their militant father, to join the growing class of divorcees in search of broader pastures, self-actualization and the freedom of choice.

Such stories–of white, middle-class women in nuclear families afflicted by the “problem that has no name”–prompted subsequent generations of women to denounce love. Women like me, the daughters and granddaughters of choice-less, stifled women like my grandmother, didn’t want any part of something that took away their power and freedom. Love became a coded word that conjured endless self-sacrifice and nurturing of others. Love betokened women’s work, which was devalued labor. Love was gendered feminine. Love called up white, heterosexual nuclear families with 2.2 kids and a dog. Where the “F-word,” feminism, instilled dread and horror in culture-at-large, the “L-word” instilled dread and horror in the feminist community.

Born in 1972, an early third-wave, Gen-X feminist, I consciously rejected the one-dimensional portrayal of love as culminating in heterosexual marriage + children + suburbs. In the process, I rejected love all together. I felt that in order to be a feminist, I could not show any desire or longing for love in my life. Being heterosexual, I dated men, but became the proverbial “black widow”: I could be with you, but afterward I’d have to kill you. By the time I reached my late twenties in the late 90′s, I felt lonely, unsatisfied and afraid to admit that something was missing.

I was a long-time fan of bell hooks’ work on white supremacist patriarchy and representations in the mainstream media, but when I picked up Communion: The Female Search for Love, one of her series of books on the subject of love, the title itself made me self-conscious, lest anyone think it was similar to “how-to-find-a-man” books like Women Who Love Too Much.

Yet, from the moment I opened the book, I knew it was more radical than her other work. As hooks says in the book, to talk about a love in a culture of domination is radical in itself. And it turned out to be the most influential, liberating and powerful work by hooks–or anyone–that I would ever read.

I felt she was speaking directly to me, addressing my fears and my unspoken, secret desires.

Feminism offered us the promise that a culture would be created where we cold be free and know love. But that promise has not been fulfilled. Many females are still confused, wondering about the place of love in our lives. Many of us have been afraid to acknowledge that “love matters,” for fear we will be despised and shamed by women who have come to power within patriarchy by closing off emotions, by becoming like the patriarchal men we once critiqued as cold and hard-hearted. Power feminism is just another scam in which women get to play patriarchs and pretend that the power we seek and gain liberates us. Because we did not create a grand body of work that taught girls and women new and visionary ways to think about love, we witness the rise of a generation of females in our late twenties and early thirties who see any longing for love as weakness, who focus solely on gaining power.

hooks dared me to love, to view love as revolutionary and courageous. She encouraged me to expand my girlhood, fairytale definition of love and  find love all around me. As hooks states, “The communion in love our soul seeks is the most heroic and divine quest any human can take.” Given permission and validation, I opened my heart and found love within myself, for myself and my community. Of all the gifts hooks has given me, this has been the most profound.

Photo from Flickr user luis de bethencourt under Creative Commons 2.0.

Comments

  1. Bell Hooks opened my eyes in many ways with her novel Communion. I agree that when I read the passage the author of this article describes I too was touched. Women cannot expect for men to fulfill everything they want in a person because it is simply asking too much of anyone. It is much easier to spread those needs around in a community of loving people instead of overwhelming one person. Also it is easy to seek approval and love from others but that means nothing if you do not love yourself. If you do not have love for yourself or your body then there is no way you can share your love for others. Self-love is truly the most brave thing a woman can do in the patriarchal society we live in.

  2. Michelle G. says:

    One of the most important things I learned from Communion was that it was 100% possible to be a feminist and find love at the same time. She even gave us an answer of how to make it easier to do so; if the world finally starts to truly equalize genders, then true love will definitely be possible. After reading the book, I was able to see the many flaws that had infiltrated my past relationships, the most common one being the power struggle. If my partner had been able to accept me as equal to him, then perhaps it would have been easier for us to work out. The number one message I got from the book however, was that true love could only occur when you learn to open up and love yourself fully. It takes a lot to be perfectly content with yourself, and if you’re not, how can you expect your partner to do so as well? Your grandmother realized that her place was not with her husband because she had not done enough to find her own place in the world. It is first important to be able to do what you need for yourself before seeking to fulfill needs for someone else, or seeking someone to fulfill needs for you.

  3. Carolyne A says:

    Bell Hooks novel really opened my eyes to see love in a different light. She taught me that love doesn’t have to be what I see in movies, and it does not have to be something controlled by the man. She taught me that love is love. Although many women fear to love, and are afraid of getting hurt, Hooks explains that love is a part of life and that everyone must experience this sensation we call love. Although she doesn’t make it out to be as magestic as the media does, she appeals me to love by looking at it as a two way street, that each partner is not the boy or girl, but just the partner.

  4. I am a male and i learned a lot from communion. The book itself tackles a big spot in people life that they forget to worry about, and thats self love which is very important through out. It can help boost your self esteem and even help you in your relationships. After finding your self love , finding love with a partner becomes so much more natural and a lot easier to deal with and not so much of a dream it eventually becomes reality throughout growth. I believe that to be totally healthy and happy you need true self love and many should join the journey and find love for themselves before expecting someone else to love you before you even love yourself.

  5. Jasmine Gh says:

    The only way to love another person is to love yourself first. It is so unfortunate that Professor Klein’s grandmother never got the satisfaction she deserved of studying anthropology, and feeling self love and independence before she had her children. The quest to finding love is not something we could search for, but it comes from sharing our own love with others. We need to be happy with ourselves and love will eventually find us. As women, we should not rely on another person for happiness, we should be happy with ourselves and find a person to share it with.

  6. Jasmin H says:

    2) Bell hooks really stood out to me and made me realize and ask myself how can I find love if I cannot love myself? In order for someone to love us we need to love ourselves. It’s like the quote that says, “how do you expect people to respect you if you cannot even respect yourself?”, so the way one loves us is by seeing how much that person loves themselves. It’s really upsetting how Professor Klein’s grandmother wasn’t able to get the satisfaction of studying anthropology, and feeling love for herself before she got married and having kids. As a reader and a young lady, I realized that I should not rely on men for happiness; because once they are gone I lost the only thing that made me happy. Loving our self is the best thing we can do in a patriarchy world.

  7. Chandler L. says:

    Communion was a truly wonderful book with a very powerful message: self-love is a tool of liberation and empowerment, and is a form of resistance in a patriarchal power system. There is a strange dichotomy when it comes to love in our society: we’re told as women that our only value is in loving men (albeit in a superficial, subordinate way), only to also be told that loving is weak and we are weak. When we learn to love ourselves in authentic and meaningful ways, we are able to love others in authentic and meaningful ways outside of the power over paradigm; we view others as equals, and learn to look outside of our cultural roles in loving as men and women.
    hooks covers all the bases when it comes to love, including the feminist backlash of love in power feminism (where successful women replicated the patriarchal men), the socialization of men to love in different ways, finding love outside of intimate, romantic partners, and most importantly, finding love within ourselves. I have long struggled to reconcile my feminist beliefs with the ideas of romantic love with men, for fear that I would betray my ideals and also he may turn out to be the patriarchal man I am trying to avoid. But hooks taught me that love takes strength, courage, and vulnerability, and that although we should open our hearts and love others, we need to stay true to ourselves, and recognize when a situation is unhealthy to us. We must also see the cultural influences that may force us to stay in a relationship with someone unhealthy to us. Through self-love, we learn to respect ourselves and know what’s best for us, taking control of ourselves and our bodies, and that is so powerful when we live in a system that seeks to control women.

  8. Jacklynn M says:

    As soon as I read the title, “Communion: The Female Search for Love,” I doubted the profound and empowering feelings and thoughts Bell Hooks transcribes to her audience. Not only has this book allowed me to view love differently from personal experience, but also enabled me to view and critique our society regarding love. I always knew that if one cannot love oneself, than no one else will, or should, be able to either. Living in a patriarchal society gives many conflicting ideas and emotions for women. We are told, from an extremely young age, that there is a soulmate out there waiting for us. And we are also encouraged to fantasize about our big, dream weddings and being able to be with the one we love for the rest of our lives. However, we are not taught that ourselves should truly be the ones we cherish, spoil, and love. Women are encouraged to idealize relationships, and that if one is not dating, casually hooking up, or in a relationship, that something is actually wrong with them. Our society does not advocate for single women to be happy, let alone to praise some who find love within themselves, as well as in other forms, other than a man. Not only is it brave and inspiring for women to be able to be happy with themselves, with developed self-love, but it is truly remarkable. Hooks puts love in a different perspective: that it does not have to be a weak, feminine, life-long career.

  9. Kayla K says:

    Although it would be hard for me to admit before, but love is in fact one of the most powerful things on earth. Before, in my attempts to be a strong, independent feminist, I believed love and romance to be something for children and fairytales. Although I secretly desired such romantic fantasies, I would never admit it. I saw love and emotions as weak, and therefore disassociated myself from them. However, Bell Hooks has allowed me to see how foolish that is. Rather than accepting love, as something human and beautiful, I cast it off as something weak as it was feminine. Rather than embracing equality as a feminist, I was trying to become part of the oppressive patriarchy, or what is referred to as power feminism. To love and accept love, not only in a romantic sense, is an extremely radical human emotion and quality. By humanizing love, it is allowing all people to love. Love is not meager or insignificant that we do not need it in our lives. Most people, although fulfilled in other aspects of their life, will feel something missing, if their human need for love is not met. Therefore, by embracing love, we are being radical deviants of patriarchy, and become more fulfilled human beings.

  10. Bryan S says:

    I think it’s really messed up how the misogynistic and patriarchal world we live in forces women like the author to struggle with love. I find it also really unfortunate that the author’s grandmother never got to fulfill her potential because of society’s expectations of her. What’s messed up is that for a lot of women, those limited and restricted gender roles are still in place. I know that, especially in Asian cultures, women are still very restricted and are shamed for venturing out of them. I think its especially hard for Asian-American women, who have parents and older family members who have certain expectations for them, and yet are surrounded by American values of self-realization that conflict with what their family members believe. Thankfully there are writers like the author and Bell Hooks to illuminate and empower women.

  11. Jacqueline A. says:

    This article really made me think about how women in the past did not have a choice of what they want to do with their lives. It saddens me to know that so many dreams and goals of young women have been lost at such an early age, mainly because they were forced to get married and have children. For example, the woman (grandmother) in this article was practically forced to marry her husband and have five children, all before the age of twenty. Personally, I cannot even imagine myself getting married for another seven years and I am eighteen. It is very hard for me to try to imagine myself having children or even getting married at this age. I am still so confused with what I want to be when I grow up. There are so many different options in my life that I have yet to explore for my future. I want to intern at different companies, get a job, experience life as a teenager… hanging out with friends and spending time with my family. I feel lucky that I am not forced into getting married and having children right now. However, I also feel sad because no woman should feel forced into doing anything. It should be her choice when she wants to get married and who she wants to love. I also realized that in order to find true love, we cannot be emotionless and act like we do not have feelings in order to gain power. Moreover, I feel that men often have the power in relationships in this patriarchal society because they show fewer emotions and act like they do not care. However, in order to have a relationship consisting of equality and happiness, it is important for both partners in the relationship to show an equal amount of care, support, love, and emotion.

  12. Zury C. says:

    I loved bell hook’s book, Communion: The Female Search for Love!As Melanie pointed out, it really gets into the importance of self-love and self-actualization. Because we are told at such a young age that our worth and value is based on our appearance, we let others determine this for us and we learn to devalue ourselves along the way. During this process we also learn to self-hate, which gives us a skewed vision (if any) of love.

    Our society, being based on patriarchy and sexist thinking, places love in the context of domination. It is also associated with weakness and is exactly why we are so afraid to admit that it’s important to us, it is especially the case for men. These beliefs won’t allow us to view each other as equals but instead will only create power struggles within our relationships. Someone will always want to be in control when looked at in this manner. Instead hook’s says love needs to be about empowering one another in a way for both parties to be truly happy and loving.

  13. Brenda S. says:

    Reading this article, I realized I how fortunate I am to have choices in my life. I could not imagine being forced to get married at this age, let alone have kids. It is also so unfortunate that so many women suffered from the “problem that has no name”. Patriarchy has created this socially constructed image of how women should act and their roles in society, but women need to learn to break free from these expectations. However, feminism has posed as a threat because it has caused women to believe that love is a trap. Hooks has made me realize that it is ok to love, as long as I have “love within myself” and understand that I do not need to conform to societies norms in order to live a “picture perfect” life, but live and love according to my own personal needs.

  14. Reading Communion was exactly what I needed. It was much more interesting than I ever imagined it to be and opened my eyes and encouraged me to improve myself. Society has taught us to be subordinate to the dominant men and that we are not fulfilled without a man. bell hooks has taught me that I cannot be completely fulfilled until I learn to love myself, all of myself. When I was younger, I hated myself for being so painfully shy. I constantly told myself to speak up and although I wish I was still a bit more outspoken, I have come a long way. I am happy with myself when I think about all the ways I have improved. And although there are things I love and appreciate about myseld, I admit that I do not love myself the way I should. By reading Communion, I took it as a learning opportunity to focus on loving myself first before seeking that fulfillment in longing to be loved by a man.

  15. Shahien Hendizadeh says:

    As a guy, Communion was one of the most interesting yet peculiar books i have ever read. The way she described love was very profound and great. She championed her way throughout the book by adequately describing love and its characteristics. It also ties in very well with many feminist ideology’s. This book was very well written and i really enjoyed the the way she wrote the book. She used personal experiences as example’s to make us understand better. Overall the book was very well written full of facts, and ideas which make us greatly understand love and everything about it.

  16. My grandmother is the opposite of Melanie Klein’s grandmother. She told me to put my man first in everything that I do, and obey him. I told my mom and dad what she told me, and they were both out raged. I’ve had these two different points of view given to me: one is old school patriarchal and the other is feminist. I agree with my parents. But even so it is hard to know when a love relationship is really real. Bell Hooks says that love is a powerful and important experience. Nevertheless, you have to be true to yourself when you have it. I feel that I was never really afraid to love but right now, I feel that my love relationship is not that equal. He expects me to obey him and want what he wants. I try and defend myself and fight back for what I want. It’s really had to find the right balance of power.

  17. Julian G. says:

    A particular sentence stood out for me while I was reading the article. According to the author, when speaking about her grandmother’s divorce she mentions that her grandma left, “to join the growing class of divorcees in search of broader pastures, self-actualization and the freedom of choice”. This sentence ties directly with Bell Hooks’ message in “Communion”. Hooks continuously mentions how as women age and realize of the danger of a patriarchal society, they gain a new sense of thought that enables them to go against patriarchal thinking, and even allows them to become self-actualized. This new quality most commonly earned in midlife, opens new paths to a women’s life, it gives them opportunities and the chance to attain self-love. Moreover, being male and reading “Communion” was both a challenge and eye opening. Not because I disagreed against Bell Hooks claims, but because at times I felt disconnected with the reading. Although I fully understood her message and embraced her writing, I didn’t have the female experience of participating in a patriarchal society, therefore I felt, as I could not relate to some specific parts of her book. On that note, reading this radical feminist book made me challenge my own way of thinking towards women, and more specifically made me realize what it actually means to be in a relationship with a women. Therefore, although “Communion” mainly focuses on women’s search for love, it is a great reading for the male audience because it focuses on men’s place in a patriarchal society, and gives eye opening ideas of how to challenge our own thoughts.

  18. Tina F. says:

    After reading this, I’ve come to realize that there is a conflicting issue between being a feminist and being open to love. As feminism is the negation of the claim that women need approval from men in order to know that they are good people, most people view love as quite the opposite. To most, love is searching for approval from your partner, caretaking and nurturing them, and depending on them in order to live a fulfilling life. Because of this idea of love, I was also afraid to open myself to love, because I viewed it as a loss of power and freedom.

    But this idea of love is way off — it is a learned behavior. As hooks states in her book, Communion: The Female Search for Love, ‘Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. Socialized in the art of caring, it is easier for women who desire love to learn the necessary skills to practice love. And yet women have not chosen to give themselves wholeheartedly over to the art of loving.’ In order to be open love, one has to love oneself first. It is these women who practice self-love, who do not tolerate disrespect, and who are concerned for their own well-being above all others that, hooks states, ‘represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo.’

  19. CurielL says:

    I am so thankful that women like bell hooks write books like Communion. Hook talks a lot about how important it is to be able to love yourself. Once you do, there will be liberation and have more choices on how to live your life. This book exposed to me what self love really is. It explained to me the difference between romantic love and self love. Self love matters. It is something that someone can not give to us. In this culture we are constantly being told that finding true love will make us happy, that man will make us happy. Then together, we will live happily ever after. It is important to recognize this is not true at all. Self love is so important to any women, to older, to growing to any women. This book has helped me challenge this idea of true love. It is a journey to self love that can be more exciting and more powerful than any relationship. It also exposed me to how important it is for women to have women in our lives. WE need a sisterhood. We must stop being so catty with each other. It is really not work it.

  20. Ashley A says:

    Reading this article just enforces the way I felt when I began reading Communion by Bell Hooks. Females today to not understand that women did not have a choice to fall in love with who they wanted or to be single because they felt like it. I think if females took some time to actually examine wheere women have been and accomplish they would definitely learn to appreciate themselves more. Bell Hooks makes a good point in preface of the book that girls think they know love from when their a little girls and depending on how their fathers treat them, that’s how they grow up looking for love or just saying they will never fall in love. I was in shock when Hooks said she didn’t want to marry, but just to have a partner and when she said she didn’t mean to fall in love. I believe falling in love is something that just happens even when we don’t mean to. I’ve always wanted to get married because I looked up to my grandparents relationships because no one else around me had that type of love. But, I am not depress in finding someone to love and marrying because it is the image that women must uphold today. I believe every women she be happy and love themselves before they try loving anyone else.

  21. Like many women the impact Bell Hooks has had is tremendous. I wish women would realize that they must learn to love themselves above all. Love is all around them they must first take matters into their own hands and do what makes them happy. Of coarse, like the author’s grandmother, sacrifice themselves to give their children a good life–ultimately giving up their freedom. This reminds me in a way of my mother, she has a similar story. She tells me that I am naive in thinking that a women with children can just leave to gain their freedom back. I however, acknowledge were she might think that, however, it is like Hooks states there is love all around us, we just have to love ourselves first in order to see it. I think in order for one to accomplish self love, in a similar situation in particular, must get up and release themselves from the shackles of society!

  22. I agree that Bell Hooks has great imact on view of love. Women have to know that self-loving should be based. After I read her book, I also acknowledged that I have to love my self first in order to love others. Loving oneself can be started by a really basic thing like doing what one really wants. As one makes effort to get better appearance, that can be self-loving either. Rater being socialized, one can think of what really fits him or her and what can make one happier. Do not hide what you think and what you really want and be true to yourself. All these methods are actually for me to follow. I am the one who need self-loving and I am the one who learned alot from Bell Hooks. I think as one loves oneself more, one becomes more charming and lovely. Even when one is not good at something, one would make better outscome if one has confidence on what he or she does.

  23. I have just completed Communion by Bell Hooks and it was one of the most powerful books I have ever read. As a relatively new feminist, I too wondered about the crossover between being a feminist and love. Hooks connects the two and changed my entire perspective on love. Growing up in a patriarchal household always made me hostile toward the idea of love, especially because I did not really believe in it. I would watch my mother slave away in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, and tending to the house which left her tired, worn out, and essentially unfulfilled. Of course my parents did love each other, but it was the exact model of what Betty Friedan revealed in her book, The Feminine Mystique. Bell Hooks’ Communion really resonated with me because it taught me about true love and self love, allowing me to realize that feminism and love are not separate entities, but rather closely related, each one enhancing and supplementing the other.

  24. Benjamin E says:

    I personally can relate to this article in terms of my mother. My Father told me that my mother stayed home and took care of my sister while he was going to college to get his degree even though my mother wanted to go to college and become a teacher; instead she went to a community college and became a pharmacy technician since it took much less time. When my dad actually realized what it meant to my mom to become a teacher it was basically impossible for her to go back to college, and since then both my parents especially my father tell myself and especially my sister’s don’t let anyone stop you from achieving what you want and they tell us that your spouse should not bring you down but instead always support your dreams even though it might affect his or her happiness because my parents believe that a relationship is that about you but should be about the other person and that is what they have instilled in myself and my sisters.

  25. I can identify with so much of this article. Coming from a conservative family, I’ve always been told that the sooner I marry, the better off I’ll be. Family gatherings consist of my uncles and aunts discussing how soon my sisters and I will be married off, because the way they see it, anyone who remains single beyond the age of 22 must have something fundamentally unmarriageable about them. In their culture, marriage is a transaction and an indicator of stability, not a commitment you make to love another human being. That’s why I find myself relating to how life-altering “Communion” can be. For those of us who were consistently told growing up that love and subordination are part of the same package, bell hooks is the first to prove that they’re two separate things. She challenges the connotations we’re all unconsciously taught to associate with the idea of love, and she asserts that love doesn’t have to imply loss of independence at all. That realized knowledge is an incredibly empowering thing.

  26. Caroline F-H says:

    Bell Hooks Communion was such an eye opener. Not only did I relate to many issues that bell too had experienced I had the same sort of feeling resulting from them. Coming from a line of many “broken” women who had a self respect to call off their terrible marriages, still suffered from deep rooted insecurities of never finding love. I too have suffered from similar insecurities, while still have a sort of self respect.

    Society had continuously told me through all each source of media that I would only find love if I fit a certain ideal and that I will only remained to be loved if I kept up that certain ideal. Communion is a great book for anyone and everyone to read, because both sexes can learn from it and embrace its’ message of what Love truly is, and why we need it in our lives.

  27. Gabriella F says:

    Communion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks was something I found so fun and interesting to read. It made me realize a lot about self-love and self-actualization, something I haven’t ever really taken any time to consider or think about. My whole life I have always thought that our value and worth is first based on appearance and maybe after on other things but what others think of me can actually make me feel as if I am less than what I am, ultimately devaluating myself. Then, with that comes realizing that I have that ability to hate myself and maybe even hate love, which I wouldn’t ever want. In my opinion, love can ultimately be associated with fear and weakness so I always think that women begin to feel vulnerable with love and that’s what scares me the most. We are now afraid to admit that love and loving someone is actually something we want and feel is important just because then we are not strong independent women.

  28. Tatiana Kohanzad says:

    After reading Communion, I had realized that it was possible for someone to be a feminist and find love as well. Bell Hooks even tells us a way to do so by stating that if the world finally starts to truly equalize genders, then true love will be possible. Women today need to become more grateful and realize that we have a choice though. In the article your grand mother realized after she married and had children that this wasn’t the life she wanted for herself, but us women have more of a choice where we are able to take the time to truly love ourselves before stepping into a relationship.It is important to fulfill your wants and needs for yourself before you seek to fulfill someone else’s wants and needs.

  29. Hasti Nowrozi says:

    Either people can make their own choices in their life or they don’t. After reading this article I realized how thankful i am to be able to make my own choice and decisions. I know so many people that are forced to get married at a very young age. On the other hand, feminism made women believe that love is a trap, but after reading the article, Hook opened my eyes that it’s okay to love because being in love is normal, as long as you love yourself first.

  30. Michelle Omidi says:

    As I read the book Communion, it brings my attention to the point of this book that Hooks is trying to get at. It is that before one can love others they must truly love themselves. Self-love comes before loving someone else. Hooks wrote this book because she wants to expand her readers’ ideas of what love truly is and what love can look like. We as a society have been socialized to have such a one-dimensional definition of what love really is and Hooks’ books tries to expand this definition. Hooks guides women on how to love the right way while addressing the issues that come with such narrow definition of love and its gendered expectations. One of the most important ideas that Hooks shares in her book is the notion that if you don’t love yourself, you will allow others to abuse you and treat you badly. In the past, I found that I did not believe in myself, or the things that I was capable of. I had acne and facial hair in unnecessary parts of my body. I would even look at myself in the mirror and just tell myself that I needed to lose weight. I allowed myself to be hurt. Hooks’ message iis for girls like me.

  31. Pnina O says:

    I too really identified with a lot of what bell hooks writes about in her book Communion. I found that she was clear and helpful in giving advice and insight on how to deal with the changes that I am going through in my life right now. I am slowly becoming a young adult, transitioning from teenager hood to adulthood and finding it increasingly difficult to get situated and comfortable in a place where I know that I won’t be hurt. The ideas of feminism had always appealed to me from a young age, but I fell into the same rabbit hole as did the author of this article – I found that I like to be “hard” and “macho” and rejected love. I had my flings and my boyfriends and, though I’m still very young I am so happy that I was able to take this Women’s Studies class and realize from a young age the work that I need to do in order to achieve that self-love that many women now, in midlife, are only beginning to realize that they need to search for. It is so nice to see that there is something or someone that I can turn to when I have these questions about growing up and love and how I’m supposed to fit or mold to by “bitch” persona. What I have learned, in fact, that I need to be careful with these feelings of wanting to mold to everyone’s expectations because then I will be molding back into the patriarchy that I am so desperately trying to escape. I need to do a lot of introspection and see that, just like Professor Klein, and all other women out there, I have those secret desires within myself – that I do want to love and that I should not be ashamed of that but embrace it and try to figure out how best to do so.

  32. Elena V. says:

    I’ve always been absolutely head over heels in love with the idea of love. I wanted that fairy tale love. I wanted a man to come and rescue me from the anxiety and depression I experienced. I didn’t love myself, and still struggle with that, but I thought I would love myself when I knew someone else could love me. I felt like if someone else could love me, and want to be with me, then I would feel more valuable and love myself. Little did I know, I had it all wrong. Hooks explains in her book that you need to love yourself to experience real love . This idea is still so scary for me. I don’t know how to love myself, but I want love so badly. Trying to have a relationship, while struggling with self-love is dangerous and painful. I am constantly afraid of abandonment, being cheated on, and not being pretty enough for my boyfriend because I do not love myself enough to convince myself that I am worth more than that. I am even more convinced now that in order to receive the real love that I want. I need to start loving and respecting myself. Hooks is teaching me a lot about love, and I feel like reading her book is getting me one step closer to finding self-love.

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