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.


  1. heatheraurelia13 says:

    Wow, this is so inspirational I absolutely love your post! Fantastic!!

  2. Thank you!

  3. Love it Melanie. Thanks for recommending Hook's work to me over 5 years ago. It marked the beginning of a major shift for me and the way I relate to women. Also, as a white male from privilege, it opened my eyes to the truth about marginalization and how difficult it is to identify, empathize with and confront when your perspective is formed in a homogenous environment.

    Also, thanks for alluding to an issue that men of the same generation face in relation to dating and trying to love women of the same. Many men have been stupefied by what feels like contradictory emotional and romantic/sexual messages coming from women of your era.

    I think there are plenty of examples of men who exploit this inner conflict of women your age who want love and relationship and yet, somewhere, have the "Third wave Gen -X" mentality that true love and romance somehow compromise their strength, integrity and their desire and strife for social equality.

    As a result of women feeling this inner conflict; the push/pull from within, men may have been able to manipulate women your age more easily, simply verbalizing the right thing at the right time ("fixing and healing") playing on the genetic en-coding… and then, with the help of subtle triggering, ultimately counting on and waiting for the woman to sabotage the relationship herself by allowing her to convince herself she is being compromised, marginalized or held back. In other words, men dating woman your age don't really have to be very big assholes anymore to get women to break up with them; they just have to be slightly insensitive and patient. This begs the question – why would men your age WANT women to break up with them? I'm sure you could answer that more then 10 different ways.

    Interestingly, there seems to be a counter effect in the male children of the same Second Wave feminist mothers. Many young men grew up with more respect for (if not a genuine fear of) women; "mama's boys"?. These sons may have or feel a real desire to please them and "fix or heal" what appeared to them as a deeply rooted disconnect between the mother's desire for love and romance and their feminist agenda imposed NEED to BE masculine, romantically detached, emotionally self-sufficient, cutt-off and hard.

    As mothers, this might have been in direct conflict with the genetically programmed desire or tendency to nurture the same sons. Not consistently receiving the kind of validation and nurturing a young son would need as a child could lead him to mature into a confused, potentially angry and opportunistic and mistrusting young man – men of your general age range.

    It may not be that far fetched to suggest that many woman of your mother's generation socially and emotionally emasculated their own son's incidentally through the berating of the fathers/men these women "freed themselves from" through divorce, emotional abandonment, and through the unilateral misandry and criticism of the men in positions of power at the time… erroneously confusing the relationship dynamics of men and women in society, politics and economics with the relationships in the context of what, in many cases, MAY have been equal, respectful, loving family relationships.

    A couple of interesting accounts of this theory have been recorded and reflected in quasi fictional stories; "Running with Scissors" and the more recent "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men".

    But, back on point – Thanks for the introduction to Hooks years ago and the trail head to a path of a certain kind of awareness….

  4. Cherry Woodburn says:

    I'm a dyed in the wool feminist but did not perceive it the way you or hooks (on this point anyway) did related to love. I never thought I was not supposed to love or that that message was being given. So our experience or perceptions are quite different. (To me the radical fringe of any group – because there were men-bashing feminists – do not represent the essence of the movement)
    Regarding your guest's post, my experience says it is, in fact, far-fetched that my generation of women emasculated their sons by berating their fathers. I do know of incidents where that happened but it had nothing to do with the woman being or not being a feminist. I find that reasoning simplistic and faulty. The mother in Running with Scissors and his brother's book Look at me when I talk to you, depict a sick, troubled woman. I disagree that her actions etc. were because she was a feminist. In fact, I don't remember it saying that she was.
    I am glad that hooks' work helped you open up yourself to love.

  5. Thanks, Cherry. I appreciate your feedback. The idea that love was off-limits to feminists and the hooks quote I included relate specifically to 3rd wave feminists. I've had countless women share that feeling and the frustration that feminism didn't address the place of love, relationships and communion. While the lack of dialogue on this topic relates to feminism directly, the negative and confused relationship to the l-word is not solely a result of feminism. In fact, it is an unintentional byproduct of the circumstances 2nd wave feminists had to contend with- a misinterpretation, perhaps, which I address in the piece. We understood love as binding, unappreciated and something to be avoided because most women did not have a choice about this uniquely "feminine" obligation. I think it left us feeling that it was a potential trap and nobody reminded us that we had the ability to choose love. That and, in general, the mainstream, patriarchal culture has devalued love time and time again.

  6. Awesome, Melanie. Thank you for reminding me to keep writing, fighting, and loving…!

  7. This is the book i keep coming back to everytime I get overwhelmed by the pressures of friends and family and come home tired and wishing I had someone there. I always seem to flip to just the right page for what I need to keep going. A woman makes a very definite choice when she chooses to have a career and an unfortunate indirect one as well-that of having to be patient to meet the man who will love her as ardently as she has learned to love herself. There are so many other relationships with which to focus on in the meantime, that can manifest in as much fulfillment and dispel the modern myth that you are only complete if you have someone special of your own preferred sex.
    Thank you for sharing your own personal insights Mel!

  8. David Merabi says:

    I love this article, I feel that even as a male it is inspirational to me in a way. Makes you want to get up and put your foot down for what you believe in. I always enjoyed reading Hooks book while in your class it truly gives new insight.

  9. Juneyoung Yun says:

    I think bell hook's communion is a fantastic read. As I was reading it, I realized that there were so many things that she was challenging in myself as a male in society. Thank you Professor for sharing your own personal experiences under the patriarchal system. It is inspiring to hear how bell hook's has changed your life and how she has helped you greatly on your journey for love.

  10. Julia Lavian says:

    I loved this article. I believe that many women who have studied feminism also feel this way at first. Hooks’ book, Communion, allows us to understand the concept of feminism more clearly. This article shows many that they’re not alone.

  11. Melani DG says:

    I was never afraid of love, but before taking woman’s studies and reading amazing books such as communion and articles, my definition of love was different. It was the typical notion of how patriarchy view it. The notion of being saved and feeling butterflies, but it isn’t. Love is powerful and it comes from within. It is viewing everyone with compassion and love can’t only be gained from one person. It is all around us though our interest and people we meet. But the love we want with another person is a different story. With that, 2 partners must love themselves and what they bring to the table is equal share as they form a great bond of support that equals love. So they both will grow individually but still in harmony as they cultivate their interest. Having such freedom being with a person, to me is love

  12. It often seems as though love and relationships cave women in, causing many to believe that they must choose between love and feminine power/liberty. Bell Hooks provides insight and allows women to see that it is possible to love and maintain freedom. She gives women validation to love AND keep their independence, both of which seem to be vital to womens’ happiness.

  13. Thank you Melanie,

    This book is very special. I can tell I am letting myself soften into a loving acceptance of the desire for love rather than judging it as weak. It is scary but I feel better knowing other strong women have let down their guard and let themselves experience love for real!

    Best, Carenna

  14. Bridget T. says:

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this book as well! Thank you so much for introducing it to the class. It opened my eyes to a lot of things about love, and we all know that love is already a highly discussed and ambiguous topic in our everyday lives.

  15. Chloe Shenassa (WS10Scholars) says:

    Having to read “Communion” for Women Studies was a great eye opening experience. The book made me question the traditional notions of love we are taught as girls from a young age and break them, by loving ourselves first and foremost.

  16. I think every one gets inspired my Bell Hooks book “Communion”. And if they don’t something is wrong with them. I guess having that family background, where your grandmother was living with “the problem that has no name” It’s scary to think you may fall into that same trap. And making a choice not to love seems like the right thing to do, to avoid that “problem”. I can see where Hooks has inspired you and many others including some men I’m sure. I love to hear stories like yours because I know there is hope for the girls and women who are in the same situation you were in. I can totally see you writing a book one day, about your life and your background. I think it would be a huge it like Bell Hooks.

  17. Mary Henary says:

    After reading Communion, I truly learned a lot. One of the main themes brought up in the book was self love. Bell Hooks taught me to love myself and the environment in which i live in. If I fail to do that, how will anyone ever love me? Before reading this novel, I was never afraid of love, but now my views of it have surely altered. Firstly, love is loving yourself and through that loving someone else. Love is equality. In a relationship, one has to forget the patriarchal world and do what is equal for you and your partner. Love is wanting the best, encouraging, and supporting your partner. Love is being there at all times and showing love through communication and actions. Love is not being afraid to be yourself with your partner. I learned many different aspects of love through Hooks’ book, Communion. I really enjoyed this book because it unquestionably opened up my eyes to the true meaning of love.

  18. Kammira B says:

    L O V E. Those four letters that many people desire. While I was reading Communion I agreed with Hooks when she said that we must love ourselves first to be able to find love from a partner. How can we know the real meaning of love if we can’t even accept and love ourselves. Many people have the error of thinking that the only way to find love is by finding the “perfect” partner. What they don’t realize is that the “perfect” partner is the acceptance of themselves. Communion is a very touching and eye opening book. Both men and women should really try to read this book.

  19. Jonteen R says:

    I loved reading this article. Hooks book, Communion, allows us to grasp the idea of feminism more clearly. this article shows many women that they are on the same page.

  20. Youjung An says:

    I do really love this article. As I become an adult, I started to consider of the relationship with others. Forming the relationship with others is one of the hardest things in life. So I learned to be patient and generous from Hooks book.

  21. Breanna K says:

    A lot of people struggle with this concept–how to love, when to love, who to love, if it’s okay to love, how to handle your feminist ideals in a relationship with a partner, etc. and rightfully so. Feminist movement and the ideology that supports it leaves little room to embrace love, and all the room to condemn it. Finding a happy medium for yourself where you still have the best of both worlds can prove difficult without being the subject of scrutiny from the community in which you felt at home. The way I see it and it may seem farfetched, but it is easily compared to “the problem that has no name” in the sense that it’s a smaller-scale problem spreading throughout the feminist community that no one is talking about because they feel it’s crazy.

  22. Gabriel Y. says:

    Love is a word that is easily tossed around in our society today, yet I believe the only reason its so easy to toss around is because it is also one of the only words that most people have trouble understanding and give meaning to. Bell Hooks statement that we should learn to love ourselves before others is simply perfect. There is no way we can love another person if we do not even love ourselves, because by criticizing ourselves may even push away the people that we ‘love’

  23. Camille Yona says:

    This article was particularly interesting for me as I, too, have just finished Bell Hook’s “Communion.” The book taught me a lot about love and self-love, and I felt that it was very relevant to my life. Hook’s inspirited me to start loving myself as she insists that it is the first, vital step in finding rewarding love and companionship in anyone else. I am grateful that I was born in a day and age where women are given the right to follow their dreams and chase careers, because I know that even 50 years ago this was not the case.

  24. Alexandria Scott says:

    While reading Bell Hooks’ novel, I think about how love is such a powerful word to use yet its not fully defined. People create their own meaning of love and understand it in their own way. Men used to have too much power over women’s hearts that it couldn’t even have been real love, just patriarchy. Women and men both have their stereotypical duties as humans in our society. Men want to work and make all the money in the household while women raise the children. Love is the most interesting topic to learn about because after each relationship is over, you find yourself more infatuated in your new relationship. However, most men in this world are very similar in the way they think. Women who are subordinate to their husbands are insecure and reluctant to the possibilities freedom can bring. We must love ourselves to find love for others. You must love yourself enough to know what kind of relationship with love is best for you.

  25. This book has been one of the only things that I’ve read so far in my life that truly affirms, represents, and connects isolated thoughts that I’ve had throughout my life. My own ideas on love, what it means, how to attain it, etc., were always something that I kept to myself because it never fit with the images that my friends and most of the family seemed to have. Hooks talks about so many important things in the books, and so many of the things that need to be thought about when thinking about love, loving yourself or loving someone else. Reading this book was liberating in a way, because it motivated me to continue to discover the path that I am on by affirming thoughts that I wasn’t able to before.

  26. I feel that women can really be afflicted with the “L” word. It is difficult for a woman who wants to feel independent and and self-sufficient to believe in the word love. A lot of women believe that if one falls in love, then they become dependent to a male counterpart, which is not true. The feeling of love can be mutual and compromising.

  27. This book talked about a lot of things I was feeling. She gives talks about options. You don’t need to have one person fulfilling all your expectations. The extra expectations can be fulfilled by other people around you such as friends, family, and community. She talks about how we don’t have to compromise our strength to love and vice-versa. There’s also self love. She also points out the fallacies of assuming that love comes natural to women when many have hate towards their body. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect it from others.

  28. Willemina v. says:

    I was completely overwhelmed with the insightful and wise words of bell hooks’ in her book Communion. In particular, Chapter 8: grow into a woman’s body and love it, where she says, “Female obsession with thinness, female body hatred, is not something we can blame on men.” I have ALWAYS blamed my desire to be skinny on men and this is the very first time I have ever been called on it. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was doing anything wrong. Whenever any man in my life praised a woman for being skinny I would cringe and then lash out. I never considered or even understood that men have been socialized through the mass media to believe that skinny women should be praised … not to mention the fact that it has been the women in my life who have been the culprits, not the men! More importantly, I have been policing myself based on what I’ve been socialized to believe is ideal. Why didn’t I see this before? I am ready to begin my journey to self-love, one which I didn’t even realize I needed to take until I read Communion. To quote Melanie Klein, “… it turned out to be the most influential, liberating and powerful work by hooks–or anyone–that I would ever read.”

  29. Anallila says:

    I started reading Bell Hooks during the winter and I was not able to put it down. I was so intrigued by the things she was saying. Some of the things that she mentioned were like she was reading my mind. My whole book is highlighted, pretty much. For the reason being that every quote that I liked I would highlighted and then I would show them to my friends. I would even take pictures of the quotes and send them to them; several of my friends are waiting for me to finish reviewing the book so they can read it.
    I think that one of the main reasons I love her book is because I can relate to her stories. I grew up in an extreme patriarchal household. Where my father believed that men needed to work at a young age and girls needed to learn how to be a “good wife” and clean and cook. After, I started reading “Communion” I realized that a lot of things she was saying I had heard before in my household. It helped me realize how patriarchal my household environment was.
    I love the message that Bell Hooks offers. She wants women to learn how to love themselves, also, not to live our life expecting to find prince charming. She expresses the importance of the individual loving themselves. I think that if you do not love your self it is harder to love someone else.

  30. Linda Segura says:

    “Deep dissatisfaction and intense loneliness”. I can’t recall how many times I have felt this way myself and I know my mother has to, when I think about all the years she self sacrificed and should have been more selfish as a woman, is what has made her unhappy in certain areas of her life. Now she is at the point, she is to old to care. Ever since I was young I recognized certain aspects of my parents I didn’t want to be, I didn’t want to find myself like either one of them because I could see how much of the dissatisfaction and loneliness they both suffered with. I didn’t want to be like that, but to some degree I have and I work and struggle with wanting to make it better for myself. Loving myself and wanting satisfaction is an area all of us as people struggle with. I can honestly say I do love myself very much it maybe one reason I just can’t settle with any man as many women do, just avoid being alone. Its hard being alone, but its harder being alone with someone you invest your time and life with, your not completely happy with. My mother walked out on my father just years ago and frankly I didn’t blame her, I just didn’t understand why she came back, but I did see how lost my father was without her. I believe he finally decide to grow up and realize he emotionally relied on her too much instead of doing his part. Men take women for granted and never stop to see how much they absorb from us to keep everything together the home, the work, the kids, the entire structure of the family. One person can not do this all alone and one person shouldn’t have too. Its interesting as I have observed the dynamics of men and women and how many men really need women in their lives especially now as they grow older. The twist is women are not willing to settle growing old, only to have to take care of a man. Women are starting to really love themselves so much more and wanting so much more to not live our lives as women with dissatisfaction.

  31. Salina G says:

    In recent years, I have struggled with forgiving myself for the mistakes I have made and in doing this I have learned to love myself like I have never done before. I have discovered a new me, someone that has always been there, but couldn’t find a way out. I closed that part off and spent many years being someone less of what I am now. Five years ago, I was ready to shake that old, annoying, follower off to become this newer, smarter, more beautiful woman and mother. Since then, I allow others to love me for who I am and to genuinely love back.

  32. Melissa M. says:

    I found this post very interesting, I like how you mentioned that the negative experiences that your grandma endured caused the following generations to swear off love. I totally agree and relate with this saying because I think we all learn our perspectives on love from our parents, for example my mother struggled with love after my father left but she is now in a committed relationship of equality and happiness and I feel that once she was able to find that, it made my perspective on love more positive. One thing that my mom always told me was to make sure I chose to be with someone out of love and not because I was forced or felt trapped. I think that is of great importance.

  33. Elvis Rosales says:

    It seems to me that feminist women are seen, in general, as women who have been hardened by male figures in their lives and therefore are incapable of love. I believe that is the main reason why feminist stereotypes continue to plague the movement. This is a great article that argues otherwise. It demonstrates that one can be a feminist and, contrary to stereotypical believes, still love and be in love.

  34. Erchanik P. says:

    I believe loving someone else is easier than loving yourself because while loving someone else you learn to avoid the things about you that bug you the most. You find reasons to love someone else that you would not necessarily find in yourself. Bell Hooks’ makes great points in her book which allow women to accept who they are and learn to love themselves first before they choose to love someone else. Learning to self-love is risky and takes experiences from past generations and relationships to learn to love yourself. Many women grow up in patriarchal families that self love is furthest from acceptance. Bell Hooks’ in her book gives specific and intriguing quotes and life experiences that make women want to be reborn to live life all over again.

  35. The subject is among the most interesting aspect that has emerged in learning about feminism. The concept of self-love is definitely one of the most important experiences one can participate in, because it’s a difficult process to be able to be comfortable enough to accept ourselves and our flaws in order to appreciate our individual uniqueness. The story of your grandmother adds to the stereotypes of the strong loveless figures that encompass the movement. Bell Hooks is a true visionary of our time, enlisting a universal attribute in order to achieve our goals, because we need a steady base before we can attempt to change the world as we know it.

  36. Gloria T. says:

    As a student reading Hooks book “Communion: The female search for love” has taught me to love myself before loving my partners that come and go in my life. I have enjoyed her advice and her criticism how us women give ourselves up, our illusions, our goals, our bodies, and our minds for men. We also judge men wrong thinking they could not love us the right way, but it was us not loving ourselves whole-heartedly. Personally I was experiencing an emotional rollercoaster while reading this book and it came to me that in order to love peacefully I have to love myself and accept myself first as I am. Therefore, thank you Professor Klein for introducing this book to me. I will certainly recommend this book to frustrated women in my life.

  37. Jennifer says:

    This is the type of article that inspires and speaks to both men and women. You do not have to be a female to be interested in feminism or learning about the topic. Although I have a step father I have grown up mostly without males in my life and have always identified with being a powerful and independent female, this only reiterates those feelings. This article lets me know and verifies that I can be proud of being a female just like the women before me have, so what to stereotypes, I can believe whatever I want. Your articles make me feel so much better about myself, thank you.

  38. Patrina C says:

    I have a very hard time relating to your feelings in this blog because I have come from a background that is so different. I have never had the impression that the “L” word is scary. In fact, my life has been quite the opposite. I have always been taught that Love is the greatest thing on earth and that marriage is simply a part of life that I probably should not ever go without. I have never been the baby loving person that many women are. I have never been the girl that says I can’t wait to be a mother (although I can’t imagine going through life without ever having children) yet I have always known that I want to get married some day. Currently I have been facing a problem that does allow me to sympathize with how many of you feel about the “L” word. I have officially applied to graduate school and I have come across many issues that I never realized I would have to face. Instead of many women in my life being proud of me and embracing the idea that I am trying to achieve many of my goals within the work force and furthering my education, I have been criticized. I am the first person in my family to even attend college let alone go to graduate school. All of the women in my family married before the age of 21 and I am now 22, single, and moving further up the education ladder than they ever even imagined. I have always grown up around very opinionated, strong, women who have always said make your own money so you never have to rely on a man but at the same time I have grown up in a family that highly values love, marriage, and family. They now have criticized me for putting myself and my career before family type goals such as getting married. This was very hurtful to me because I now feel forced to battle between my personal and professional life. Like many of you I have taken on the idea of Bell Hooks and have embraced my own self love and have kept in mind my own goals and knowing that I can be both strong, powerful, and independent, but also loving and nurturing.

  39. Ajalah T. says:

    I have never felt as if love was something that conflicted with my feminist views. Maybe this is due to my being a part of a younger generation of feminism but also maybe because the love and relationships that I have experienced. I found early on that expressing your love for a person was an extremely brave act one that many people never conquer it is not about having a man save you and take care of you; it’s about having a partner an equal that will be there for you through the good and bad. I have also had relationships that we very equal because I knew that I would never be able to be with a person that was not willing to understand strong females and often times my boyfriends had strong independent mothers so they grew up in an environment and household that was more matriarchal that patriarchic. I think that like most things marriage and relationships don’t have to be what everyone else deems they should all they have to do is fulfill your personal needs and requirements. This debate of love vs. feminism reminds of the debate of being a mother and having a career, women like our grandmothers who fought against what they were expected to do and did what they wanted to and have since proven that women can be it all and do it all, we can have all that we want and more.

  40. Jennifer H. says:

    I can relate to this post in many ways, even though I am a Latina woman. For instance, my great- grandmother devoted all her energy to the men in her life and in return she did not pursue her dreams. Since my grandmother and mother witnessed this, both of them have always been reluctant to love. But what is the most saddening is that my grandmother and mother have denied love for themselves, in addition to avoiding loving others. My grandmother and mother always told me that I should “never fall in love with a man because I will lose my freedom” and will have to devote my life to a man’s desires, rather than my own. For example, my mother has been depressed for a long time because she fears love and will not even allow others to love her because she is scared of losing her independence. My mother states she will “rather die alone,” than live under a man’s control and power. Therefore, I have been scared of the “L- word” for a very long time and I am just now learning to accept love should not be my enemy. Through reading bell hooks’ book, “Communion: Search For Love,” I have opened my heart a bit more and felt reassured that I am not the only woman who has felt scared to “love too much.” I have been inspired by both your blog posts and bell hooks book this year and feel this is the reassurance I have been longing for my entire life.

  41. “She encouraged me to expand my girlhood, fairytale definition of love and find love all around me.”
    -Melanie Klein

    Upon finishing this book, I did not realize the de-service that is done toward women. I never realized the pressure that is put on women to love, when in reality, they themselves struggle with that connotation. Society those a good job at mis-interpreting love. All the song we hear, shows we watch and movies are about love. It seems that this society need or want love. Bell Hooks really paint a well picture of what love is. I feel that in order to love, one must love on-self as Hooks points out in the book. It sad that they are expected to love, yet fail to love themselves. I think that this book also gives a healthy outlook to what need to be expected from a man and how/why nurturing a healthy relationship with a friend is important. I strongly believe that women must be respected at all leves. I know that they are worth every thing and dont understand why they are seen less than. Last night I spoke to my sister about this and letting her know that she is worth it and what characteristics she needs in a man (pg. 175). Great read!

  42. Jessica Serrano says:

    I enjoyed hooks book as well. She taught me that in order to love others I must first love myself. I have no trouble loving or caring about others, but loving myself, now that is a different story. hooks taught me that nobody can fully feel your love or love you in return unless you love yourself from the start. After reading this I completely understood that I must work on this issue of loving myself first before I can truly love others. Accepting who I am and what I am is the first step. I only get one body and one life, so why waste my short time bashing myself or trying to be something I’m not? The truth is I still have trouble loving myself completely but I am slowly learning to and I can only hope that I will get better at it so I can truly share love with others.

  43. Teresa H. says:

    After reading communion I found a new way of thinking. It opened a whole new dimension on love. Growing up I saw how my grandmother always did what my grandfather said. She was always trying to fit his needs. Never worrying about herself. She was always preoccupied with her children and husband. Before communion I didn’t think that any other love than this could exist. Through the book I learned that the most important love that you can have is the love towards yourself. Before worrying about whether you are being a good housewife you should worry about setting aside enough time for you. bell’s book encouraged me to find the self-love towards myself.

  44. Bri Davis says:

    Melanie you are a very open minded person. Well, from what i see that is how i feel. I haven’t met you but I would sure love to. I feel that you can give me great advice on a lot of things in my life. I do not like to talk to any one and I know you are not a psychologist or a therapist but, the way you write and the things that you say really makes me interested in speaking with you. With this post it really do not change my thoughts about love so much, but it do give me more knowledge and key facts to bettering my life. Bell Hooks book “Communion” was amazing I can agree. First off the way she wrote the book was totally an eye-opener. She had me engaged from the title to the back cover. She taught me a lot of things about history, life, love, men, society, and education. With love i had something i call “basic self-love” I say basic because before i read the book i thought i loved myself well i knew i loved myself. But after i read the book and learned a lot more of what i did not know I can now say i am beyond the basics. She broke it down in terms that was very understanding to me. Her book was not long drawn out it was straight to the point.

  45. Is there a reason why bell hooks’ name wasn’t capitalized in the article, but it is in the comments? Is the preferred spelling with no caps?

  46. Justine B says:

    I know so many women, especially older women, that feel they need to be the power authority in a relationship. I also know many woman that rather put themselves aside for love. Communion illustrates that a woman should love herself before embarking on loving another person. It also illustrated that love is not about power; however it is about compassion, compromise, and understanding. I was lucky enough to have married parents that demonstrated what bell hooks is discussing in her book. My parents are both successful in their jobs and they both support one another. There is not a dominate or subordinate person in their relationship. They love eachother so much that they would give up their dreams for the other, however the other would not let them do that. It is books like Communion and my parent’s marriage that let me know that love is not about control.

  47. I have become inspired by the experiences and true stories told by real people and this article is an example and so is the writings of Bell Hooks. I believe women feel trapped in relationships believing that what they have is true love. I’ve come across women who put their lives on hold to sacrifice for their man. I never have came across a man who have made the same sacrifices for their women. Some men say they work and provide but to me that’s not sacrifice that’s what a individual should do. Bell Hooks emphasizes on self-love and I believe the majority of unhappy women in relationships have not loved themselves first. Love can come in all different shapes and forms. I believe in the notion that there is a thin line between love and hate especially within a culture of domination. I also believe when Love goes wrong it leaves bitterness within people, they become traumatize by the whole experience that they don’t want to love again. It shouldn’t be that way. Love is a feeling, a thought, and a action that makes a feel a sensation within our mind, soul, and body.

  48. I have become inspired by the experiences and true stories told by real people and this article is an example and so is the writings of Bell Hooks. I believe women feel trapped in relationships believing that what they have is true love. I’ve come across women who put their lives on hold to sacrifice for their man. I never have came across a man who have made the same sacrifices for their women. Some men say they work and provide but to me that’s not sacrifice that’s what a individual should do. Bell Hooks emphasizes on self-love and I believe the majority of unhappy women in relationships have not loved themselves first. Love can come in all different shapes and forms. I believe in the notion that there is a thin line between love and hate especially within a culture of domination. I also believe when Love goes wrong it leaves bitterness within people, they become traumatize by the whole experience that they don’t want to love again. It shouldn’t be that way. Love is a feeling, a thought, and a action that makes a feel a sensation within our mind, soul, and body.

  49. Adrienne S says:

    This post is so true, and I still see it happening to women in my generation . Even though I am younger than the women that you are most likely addressing in the post, I still feel like I can relate. At school, I hear women made fun of and ridiculed for choosing to love. People always say she’s weak and isn’t able to take care of herself or able to be happy without a man, and it’s sad because as hooks writes, this isn’t true. To choose to love is one of the most important things that we as human beings can do and most definitely isn’t a sign of weakness. I understand how women in our society came to believe this after experiencing “the problem that has no name”, but it doesn’t make this the best idea. While it may have been a coping mechanism for dealing with the oppressive 1950’s, it has left us afraid to love both ourselves and others. bell hooks addresses this issue perfectly in her book The Female Search for Love and has introduced me to a new way of thinking as well. So thank you for this post, I can definitely relate.

  50. Angelica Oseguera says:

    Im sure many women can relate to this article. Many women choose to stay with their “true” love because of fear of not being able to find someone else. In reality there is someone for everyone out there it is a matter of having patience and giving it time. Good things are worth the wait…. In the book Communion Hooks expresses how in order to find love we must see in ourselves. To be ale to love is loving yourself first. This is very true because if you love yourself it comes natural to be able to show love towards your significant other. Of course it is a 50/50 situation nobody should ever give more than the other person…

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