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. Heather S. says:

    I really enjoyed reading the Communion: The Female Search for Love. Before reading this book I had a strong passion for wanting to be loved and wanting to find “the one”. But at the same time I am scared out of my mind to love. I think a lot of these feelings come from my mom going through four marriages and now single and dating. Its scary to me to think at age 54 she still hasn’t found the one. She is left with those feeling of “deep dissatisfaction and intense loneliness.” If she has never found him then what makes me think I’m going to find mine. I feel like I have this inner battle of wanting to find a good man and being scared to fall down the same path my mother has gone. I love that my mother is independent and strong willed but at the same time my heart still desires that love from a man. Im not exactly sure I have completely figured it out but what Hooks has open my eyes to is self-love, which I lack a lot of. I think its very important to love yourself. If you cant love yourself how do you expect someone else to? I think that once i start to accept myself and love myself for who I am then I will find it much easier to love.

  2. Tina402 says:

    I like you, have a mother and grandmothers who fell prey to the trap of marriage and children leaving their dreams of becoming teachers, fashion designers and businesswomen behind. I had an abusive father and boyfriends, but thought I was in love in my early 20′s and married. Two children later and several unhappy years I realized I was never in love. I was in love with being in love. The years that followed I too was the “black widow”. Sabotaging relationships, choosing the “bad boy” over the “nice guy” so I would not be bored. I can relate to the need to “expand my girlhood, fairytale definition of love and find love all around” and within me. This is going to be a long, hard road, but it has become increasingly apparent that it is only then that I will know true love.

  3. Kincaidw says:

    To someone who has also read Bell Hooks Communion: the female search for love I can sense the influential patterns that Hooks may have had on many women. Although I most likely read the book for a different reason, as I did not feel self-conscious when reading the title or any part of the book. Hooks had some very interesting and valid points about love and how you cannot truly love someone else until you learn to find love with your-self. Instead of self-loath you must seek ways in which you can become happy with you and your body in order to fully be capable of experiencing love. As mentioned, although she is very influential I hope that you didn’t take all of her advice that she had to offer since some of it (from a man’s perspective) seemed a bit biased and unfair. I do agree with a lot of what Hooks had to say and I do believe that it is great that you took Hooks challenge to seek out love after living the story of your grandmother leaving your grandfather, however, in my opinion everyone’s situations are completely different to the next. Even though there are visible patterns in males that lead to conclusions and support conclusions that Bell Hooks mentions in her books, I still feel that it was kind of one sided. Needless to say, I hope that her advice has helped you and you have completed or at least attempted the challenge of finding love because once you find it there is absolutely nothing like it.

  4. M. R. Salvat says:

    For me, reading “Communion” by bell hooks was both influential and liberating, and such an “eye opener” in many ways. I did not feel alone anymore in my dissatisfaction and rebellion against with the roles men and women play, and the many tricks self-help books teach women to help them access men’s mind and get their attention.
    bell hook’s call to love is powerful and for those of us who long for spiritual connection, it is the road to follow. I dare to say that most women understand this concept better than the majority of men. And this is understandable because of the way both sexes have been socialized and gendered to view themselves as opposites, almost enemies. Before I read “Communion”, I did not consider myself the daughter and granddaughter of choice-less women; at the contrary.
    Now however, it is clear to me that both my mother and grandmother thought they had a choice, which was to sacrifice their freedom and happiness “for the sake of the children and the family.” Unfortunately, that was the only freedom they knew as women and mothers in a patriarchal male-dominated dictatorial Spain.

    I know that my mother still feels very proud of her decision to stay with my father regardless of her unhappiness, constant struggle for communication, and closeness with my father. She often reminds me that she did not want others to see “that she had lost the battle” –whatever that means. How am I supposed to understand that unfairness and struggle, instead of love, respect and harmony is the way to live with a man? Well, that is what they did back then: women accepted to live this way as the natural way.

  5. Yadira DiSiena says:

    I think we all know a women who lived her life asking what if? The problem that has no name occurred to many women in the 1960′s. Until the 1970′s women became more vocal to the problem of inequality between men and women. My mother was an example of that. She always wanted to go to school and become a social worker. However, she got married and became a mother and her plans were put on hold. Now at 48 she is going back to school and hoping to one day accomplish her dreams. I recently read the Bell Hooks book Communion: The Female Search for Love, and it saddens me how women do the impossible to find love. In order to find love one must first love oneself. I think a lot of women can relate to her book. I sure did and after reading it, I asked myself if I were in love with myself? The answer was no. I have now started to do things for me and only me. Trying to find the real me.

  6. Juana Vitela says:

    I as well have read bell hooks Communion: The Female Search for Love and know how empowering it can be. She really talks and explains the many fears that women go through and you almost feel like she is talking directly at you. I feel this is because we as women share a lot of the same fears and have a lot of the same question. We are faced with similar situations, that sometimes hurt us in ways in which we never though we could be hurt. For me learning to love myself has been the hardest. I can be in a relationship and love the person im with give them my everything but after reading Communion I understood that I needed to be happy with myself and love myself first before any one could really love me. Its still a work in progress I know I have a lot of thing I need to work on and Im only glad that I was able to recognize them.

  7. Esmeralda Martinez says:

    Reading about your experience in regards to how love was defined for you. i am experienced the opposite. I come from a broken home and raised by a single parent my mother. Since I was young she was always us to prepare ourselves and not depend on any one to take care of us. She would tell us that there is no such thing as male friends and that we should always approach with caution. I also had the opportunity to read Bell Hook book Communion and It was a very informative. Reading about the importance finding self love and self identify separate from a relationship. I feel more self empowered that much of what my mother taught us was progressive. She has always told us that we come first and to never place a man before ourselves. I suppose it is because of her abusive relationship with my father. He was a functioning alcoholic and both physically and verbally abusive towards. Hooks definitely left me with an impression of what my strengths are as a woman.

  8. Melissa M says:

    I can’t get past this book by bell hooks. Communion was one of the most empowering books I have ever read. No, it is the most empowering thing I have EVER read. As is mentioned in the title of this article, she dared me to love. It’s so true, and in her daring me to love myself, I have shared her book with other friends and family of mine. Though I am young, I always saw I had two choices, to be successful and have some sort or power, or to fall and rid myself of any sort of power to experience of love. I saw love as being “feminine.” Not something I wanted any part of, in fact, I feared the idea of love. But in the past year, I had been searching for this idea of love and what it was. I felt this struggle between power and love and I was questioning whether I could have both. And then I came to this realization of how I did not love myself, I would not allow for it because as hooks mentioned I thought that love was a weakness. But then I realized how powerful it was to have love, and not necessarily for another but for myself. I am not fully self-actualized as hooks, mentions in the book, but I see a different how I see myself and value myself. And when reading hooks’ book I realized it was okay to feel all those things for myself and to then share that with others.

  9. While I think some aspects of “Communion” are universal –the idea of being true to yourself despite patriarchal standards imposed upon you, learning to grow and be comfortable in your own skin– as a 27-year-old, I honestly can’t relate to a lot of the book. hooks’ memories of a stern patriarchal household and the the sort of ‘wild west’ that was second-wave feminism doesn’t really translate well to my life today.

    I’ve never felt that biological sex was destiny. I’ve never felt that I needed a man to take care of me. I’ve never been pushed into marriage and motherhood or warned away from it. I’ve never felt that love automatically meant marriage and children and soccer practice, or that it was somehow weak. And I have always felt that these choices were my own. This is largely my mother’s doing.

    While my mother was not able to fully choose to have my brother and sister, she did choose to finish college, go to nursing school, have her own money, divorce my father, take trips to Europe alone, and buy investment property that would ensure she wouldn’t end up a poor old woman scraping by on cat food. I’d say she’s had plenty of choices and that she’s made some good ones. I would not call my mother a choiceless woman, and she has definitely ensured that her daughters will not be.

  10. I really enjoyed this article. I felt the sentiment and could really understand the story that was being told. Perhaps it is because I was so fascinated with bell hooks’ book Communion, or maybe because I found it very interesting that the grandmother not only divorced her husband, but took the two daughters and left the three sons with the father. During this time, women were expected to not only “get married,” but to stay married. Many women were not in fact happy in their marriages but did not leave their husbands and families in fear of being ostracized by society. I admire the strength that the grandmother had. We can all wish for a marriage that lasts happily ever after. However, we also need to wish that men and women can fink the strength and resources to end a marriage, when necessary.

    I think that the divorce rate is at such a high rate right now, roughly 50%, because it seems like the population of most divorcees, is those whom knew divorce was a fearful option, but never actually “did it.” Many people saw the hardships that their parents’ marriage endured and fear that their marriage will result in the same. In the end, the importance is that everyone is happy and well taken care of. Life is too short to spend time hurting or being hurt by others. Of course marriage, like any relationship, is not easy…but it should feel worth it!

  11. Jasmine M says:

    Like your grandmother, my grandmother grew up in a time where, the notion of a woman being sacrificial for the benefit of her family was the prevailing ideology. My grandmother didn’t have an opportunity to follow her passion as she morphed into the best wife and mother she could be. Fortunately, we live in a time now, where it is socially acceptable for women to choose higher education over immediately starting a family and that’s what I intend to do. I used to worry about how my choice to come to college would affect my life. In my family I’m one of the oddballs because I am not yet in a committed relationship nor do I have children like cousins my age. However I believe my decision to wait, will pay off in the long run. After reading this article, it made me question whether I chose the educational route because I was scared to lose myself in love. I know the answer to that question is yes, and reason being is because I grew up thinking that love meant sacrifice. I was terrified at the thought of having to give up my dreams so someone else could pursue theirs, and I thank Bell Hooks for challenging that assumption. I too realized through reading her book that I can love someone else while maintaining the essence of myself.

  12. Anndrea A says:

    I too loved bell hooks book Communion. For a long time I struggled with loving myself, and cane to the realization even before reading Communion that if I can’t love myself, I couldn’t possibly be able to love anyone else. But hooks made me think of this in the reverse perspective: If I can’t love myself, how will other people love me? This shed a lot of light and gave a lot of clarity to why all my relationships had failed. its unrealistic to think i can have a stable and healthy relationship with another person when I can’t even have one with myself.

  13. brittany Fisher says:

    I was able to take much from reading the Communion: The Female Search for Love as did Melanie. I have always been a strong willed female, I think it started back when I growing up and many times felt that my dad ruled the house and everyone in it, and I of course did not agree. I have always made it a point because of the way my dad was to never have a man in control. Hooks taught me that opening up my heart, does not mean I am letting my guard down. She also taught me that love can be found in many different forms, not just with a man.

  14. Berenice V says:

    To people who have not read bell hooks, Communion, you really should, not only is it enlightening, but it is an eye opener to both men and women. My favorite quote from the book is, “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.” In order to feel, express, and return love one has to first indulge in loving, and accepting themselves. With wisdom as well as self-worth women become liberated and are free to look for love. hook’s critique on feminism is that men who were allies did convert or at least attempted to do so, but some men only did so to either keep existing relationships, or to benefit in sexual experimentation. Men refused to give up any privilege that patriarchy gave them, “their refusal to confront sexist socialization denied them access to emotional growth and feminist saw this as betrayal.” Men supported equal rights for women in every arena except in the sexual realm. Conflicts and problems began when women said, No!!! Hooks calls upon a feminist revolution, wanting far more than equal rights, a “cultural transformation, that requires masculinity and femininity to be altered and reconstructed. Society has put a strain on love as well as in relationships, in which men and women feel they experience it different in accordance to gender scripts. As I finished reading the book I felt intrigued and understood that I needed to be happy with myself and love myself first before any one could really love me. But I now that I am not dependent on anyone’s approval of being love worthy, just myself.

  15. Melissa Avitia says:

    I strongly agree with this article and believe it is still seen happening to women of my own generation . I can relate to this article because I feel I have seen in this generation of mine with comments that are being said of women. For example, women who might be seen in love they are being judge because they are in love and are being consider they need a man in their life and they cant be happy with out one. I have a friend who always brings those types of comments and at times it does bother me. She is constantly asking me about how I am doing with my own boyfriend and then suddenly on her own she says I do not need a man “I am married with school.” Or she says many negative things about men and relationships.At school, I hear women made fun of and ridiculed for choosing to love. People might see those women as being very weak and needed for men. I find it sad and upsetting and as hooks writes, this is not the true. Love is one of the great things one can experience in life and I feel everyone needs the love one way or another,which I mean it does not necessarily need to be through a relationship all the time.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.

  16. Neda D. says:

    I, like you, had a similar awakening while reading Communion: The Female Search for Love. I could tell right away that hooks’ was a story that I would be able to relate to. We came from similar upbringings, with parents and grandparents who were together for the safety marriage ensured, not for love itself. However, I thought for most of my upbringing that this form of relationship was in fact what love looked like, and as a result, I wanted nothing to do with it. I promised myself that I would not become like the women in my family whose talents and thoughts were devalued because there was housework to do. In assuring myself of this though, I began to think of love with a negative connotation, and began to denounce it all together. After reading bell hooks’ work and seeing this concept from her perspective, I was able to gain insight into the notion that love is in fact not what was portrayed in my family for so many years. Love can be so much more than that. Most of all, I think what bell hooks wishes to convey is that women can and should love, but first they must learn to love themselves. I am very glad we studied this book because it taught me things I was astonished to learn and made me see things in ways I had never thought to look.

  17. Melody S. says:

    Reading Communion has allowed me to expand my typical definition of love which is the classic romantic love between a woman and a man. Hooks has taught me that love exists in many forms outside the romantic such as self love, sisterhood love, and erotic non sexual love between members of the same sex. I have learned that it is important to not project the need for love onto one person but onto the different forms of love. Also, I have learned that as a feminist it is ok to crave love and that I am not rendered weak if I voice this need. Love is usually devalued and seen as women’s work in our society. In the future I would like to be with a man who puts in an equal amount of work into the love of the relationship as opposed to me putting in all the effort.

  18. Carmelle C says:

    Communion by Bell Hooks explains the exact correlation between women afraid to love and women trying to gain power. Instead of women seeing loving men as a weakness because loving men makes women voulnerable, women need to seek the men who do not try to over power women. There are good guys out there. And for once it would be nice if a girl would go for a good guy.
    My grandmother too expierienced “the problem that has no name”. She was a head nurse at a Jewish Home for the Aged, and instead she gave it all up the day she found out she was pregnant. My grandfather on the other hand, was pushed to become the best engineer he possibly could be. My grandmother went from the everyday challenging tasks of being a nurse supervisor to the “challenging” tasks of washing diapers. I feel bad for women whom gave up their lives to the problem which had no name, they missed out on something so amazing; LIFE.
    What I can do, is treat every girl im with, with the upmost respect and make sure to split the emotional and physical work with her on a daily basis.

  19. yessica pastor says:

    The story of your grandmother is similar to the stories of a lot of the women in my family. The only difference is that divorce is strictly forbidden. It is frowned upon in my culture. Reading communion helped me understand a lot of the things that I couldn’t understand before. In order to love others we must love ourselves. women cant love themselves because they are not allowed to, by oppressive men. This is why it is important to separate ourselves from hurtful relationships. yet, most women aren’t willing to divorce from hurtful relationships. women marry because of the protection and support marraige brings and not for love. They are willing to live in an abusive household then to divorce and ruin their reputation. One of the most powerful messages from communion was self-love. One cant love others before loving oneself. this has become more and more difficult because of the media. The images in the media tell us that we need to be skinny, tall, beautiful, with perfect skin and nice breasts. Female self-love begins with self-acceptance. We must accept ourselves for who we are if we want to love ourselves. there is nothing more scary for patriarchy than self-love. If women value themselves they will not put up with the non-sense that goes on in patriarchy.

  20. Yasmine T. says:

    The book Communion: The Female Search for Love really did open my eyes to lots of things going on throughout our society but more significantly, things in my own life. Throughout my life, I have been taught to seek for and hold on to love, and that it was a great thing for a woman as she can start her own family and live in happiness “forever after”. However, reading this book really gave me a strong sense of reality about love. I too, came from a background of grandparents who stayed married just for financial security and their reputations; however, reading bell hooks’ thoughts allowed me to understand and criticize this way of life, and really begin to love myself before and look for love in order to prevent this cycle from happening to me.

  21. Sharona M says:

    Wow. All I really have to say is wow. The hardships your grandmother endured to understand her place in society and to live her life are truly inspiring. I can tell that she instilled a sense of motivation and strength in her children and grandchildren (like you) in order to let them live their life the way they want. I love the line you included about “Where the ‘F-word,’ feminism, instilled dread and horror in culture-at-large, the ‘L-word’ instilled dread and horror in the feminist community.” This line applies to my life before I took Women Studies 10 this spring with you. I was worried that if I accepted the idea of feminism, that I would not be able to be in “love.” When reading hooks’ book Communion: The Female Search for Love, hooks opened my mind to how our generation does not love as much as they should; how it is becoming harder to find love because of our patriarchial society. I hope to integrate what I learned in my life to live a more loving life.

  22. Lyndsay A. says:

    Reading your story almost was like reading my family history. My grandmother stayed married to my grandfather for a very long time, barely surviving a sad, loveless marriage to a mysogynistic war veteran and abusive alcoholic. She did, however, find the courage to get a divorce at a time when divorce was taboo, but then put the hunt for a man v.2 before her own children, moving them in and out of the homes of multiple men while my mom was still a teenager. While I am obsessed with history (20th century American history, to be exact) and tend to romanticize the 50s and 60s I am well aware of the struggles felt by women who felt like housewifery was an unavoidable life sentence. To have heard about marriage like this and to have seen my own parents divorce I decided at a young age to swear off marriage, which I viewed as a simple piece of paper forcing you to stay with someone for the rest of your life. Sounds pretty horrible, if you really think about it — especially for me, when I’m always curious, always trying new things, and hate being tied down. This does not mean that I am swearing off love, though, and reading bell hooks’ book made me realize that love is not just the one-sided way society defines it (when I tell people I don’t want to get married they still shake their heads and gasp and ask why). People do not feel like their love is real and valuable until society validates it. bell hooks taught me that self-love is most important and most freeing, and you can love others and have meaningful relationships without putting a label on it. I too have felt that if I speak about wanting a companion, I’m seen as weak. Now, I still want one, but I’m working on myself first.

  23. Bryan A says:

    The large theme in the Communion book of “self love” was great. It reminded me that to love another I must love myself first. To actually speak about love it self is revolutionary and after I read my copy I handed it down to a friend. Living in such a patriarchal male centered society makes it hard to accept ourselves for who we are just because not all of us are “unicorns”. Self-love could be as powerful as world peace.

  24. David A. says:

    self-love—>unconditional self-acceptance—>ability to love others—>
    love—>makes life beautiful

    I think I got the general idea down. I had the exact same revelation as a male of color. Communion inspired me to buy The Will to Change by hooks which is directed towards men. It was such a beautiful moment realizing everything you’ve hidden and repressed can now be set free. I feel like I’ve finally reached the love stage and so far…life has been amazingly beautiful, each and everyday.

  25. Dylan B says:

    I really enjoyed not only reading Hooks’ “Communion” but also hearing your story about your grandmother and how you grew into such an independent woman while realizing and learning how to love at the same time. Although I have always heard “you have to love yourself before you can be in a loving relationship” and what not, as well as making a conscious effort to personally work on loving myself more and more each day, Hooks’ book really opened my eyes on this subject. I now see the different aspects and ways to love, past having just a heterosexual relationship with a man. ‘Communion’ is definitely a book I have taken to heart and will read more than just once or twice!

  26. I love this book too. It reaffirms to me that I need to be self actualized to really love. I think its important to deconstruct patriarchy and figure out what I want without looking in at myself from a patriarchal point of view. Because it is distorted and its not even My Own Perspective. The message I got from Hooks’ is that if I love myself only then can I extend that to other people in my life.
    Absolutely wonderful book. Very deep. I want to get all of hooks books now. And take all of Melanie’s classes.

  27. Richard L says:

    I thought it was inspiring when the story was first told to us in class about your grandmother. It gives hope to many that you could still live your life to the fullest no matter how much time was given up to support your family. It’s funny how a simple book could turn many people’s lives around instantly, like the way Communion changed my outlook on life.

  28. I loved to read communion. I thought it is impossible to be independent but also be loved and love. However, Bell Hooks and Melanie told me it’s possible. There are many women and girls who cannot love themselves and search love outside of them. I usually don’t read books but I already read this book twice. Self-love is very important. When I was eating disorder, I hate myself and look for rove. My ex-boyfriend loves skinny girl. I believed he hates me if I get fat. I learned first thing to be good at love is to love myself.

  29. Brandon Monette says:

    I never considered the concept of self love until I read Communion. I grew up in a house full of women and it never failed that I would watch them cry or curse over a guy and blame themselves for it. I have done the same thing. I know the book is about the feminine point of view but I really can relate to this issue. I think after reading this book it changed my ideas about the definition of love and the different ways that i can love others but also love myself. I think its an important book that should be read by women and men. I only wish i knew about this book growing up. Love has so much to do with our self esteem and how we view ourselves and this Bell Hook really understands that.

  30. Jason A says:

    I recently read Bell Hook’s “Communion” and this article sparks many of my interests. The book introduced me with the idea of self-love and truly loving one-self before moving onto any other priorities. This relates to aspects of my life as before I believed that it would impossible to be independent, but also be loved. I was wrong and after reading Communion I found that this could be possible.

  31. Chulhyun A says:

    I just loved the way that Hook addresses the problem, the low self-esteem especially.
    Although this book’s main target is female, probably, I have to say that this book is not only for women but men too. I was the one who cannot admit myself. who cannot love me my self. and the one who always says to others that “I know I am ugly.”
    I never stand in front of glass in my room when I naked, usually after taking shower because I just see that my shape is out of trend and though so I am not enough charming.
    Now I know that person’s charm is not coming from the appearance, but the inner side that how he/she love him/herself.
    Just want to say, Thank you so much.

  32. Elyzabeth A says:

    Reading Communion gave me inspiration in searching for the real love. I extremely agree on the fact that she mentions that we have to love ourselves and have respect as well if we want real love in our hearts. If we don’t love ourselves then we are not capable of loving back. Well, we can pretend we are lovely and caring but in reality they are chances that we are not because that’s what are the expectations of women are supposed to be. Also, I like the fact that she states that women can be the more capable of loving, but yet, hate ourselves. I haven’t really thought about how true this statement is. Everybody should have the right to love themselves no matter who tells them that they are not worthy.

  33. Ashley-Marie M. says:

    I have just finished reading Communion on of the many books by Bell Hooks and it has opened my eyes to the way i look at love completly. i firmly agree that you have to love yourself before any one else can. by loving yourself your able to give back that love and have healthy interpersonal relationships. not the toxic ones.

  34. Rashidah I says:

    A women’s place is not “the home” as many people have suggested. Women should be able to explore and experience new things for the betterment and sanity of themselves. Education is not a requirement but should be strongly encouraged for many women. A man having a woman sit at home all day caring for their kids while he is out doing various things is selfish and unintelligent. This further goes to show how patriarchy greatly effects our day to day lives. Many women are brainwashed to believe that this is okay and taught to obey their husbands. Male dominance is wrong and should be protested against more frequently and by males also.

  35. Jennifer H. says:

    i really enjoyed reading bell hooks’ Communion. It really opened my eyes and taught me that this kind of stuff does really go on in life. Women are always viewed as less than men. If a woman feels confident about herself and is successful she is seen as a threat, but that is not the case when it comes to men. Women have the right to do anything they want with their bodies and lives. I like how hooks explains how we must love ourselves before being able to love anyone else. We must have self confidence now. Something that most women lack of.

  36. After reading Communion i really do believe that my definition of love changed. This book i realized that you cannot love someone else if you dont love yourself first. Self love is very important. if we develop self love every one of our relationships will grow and prosper. Communion has really opened up my eyes to what love truly is.

  37. Alexander A says:

    This was another amazing article to read. For me since I already the book Communion by Bell Hooks I can now see how the book has touched woman. As a man I never new I woman would take such a book. This book opened my eyes to different topics I never really knew existed. Now I can see how the woman took this. This article also gives me another perspective about this.

  38. I enjoyed reading the book “communion” it showed how hard it was to find love in the world as a women during a hard time in society. Since I am a man I do know how are it is for a women to find love, but at the same time it is not easy for man to love either. I really changed and learned how I feel about love now. I think we all should find our self-love before we try to find someone to love because we cannot love someone when we cannot love ourselves. I am highly recommending this book to all my female family members.

  39. Not only was reading Communion eye opening, but also very influential to my life as well. I have always been the hopeless romantic type. I still am, but the extent of it has changed. I want the type of partnership that Hooks describes, not your typical disney princess fairytale. The insight on your grandmother reminds me a lot of some of my father’s more conservative side of the family who live in Lebanon. They’re all about supporting the men of the house and treating the fathers’ and sons’ like princes. The only job of the women is to get married and have children. When my father moved to the U.S he had brought his old fashioned customs with him. But through the years he has become a lot more open minded and done a full circle opposite the opinions of his siblings in the Middle East. I’d like to think that my hard-headed stubbornness contributed a lot to this. Although some of the beliefs may still exist, he 100% wants me to work to my fullest extent in supporting myself and getting the education I deserve. He tells me that love can wait and my needs come first, whereas my crazy aunts are already discussing my non existent wedding. Yeah right!

  40. I found reading Communion really validated the feelings that I have had on love lately. Both sets of my grandparents stayed married till they passed, and I don’t know how much love had to do with it. I know there was infidelity in one of the relationships, but I never knew how my grandma felt about it. They were from the generation where divorce was not really an option. hook’s book talks about loving yourself first, and it is so true. We women have to understand we are beautiful and worthy of love and respect, and then find a respectable partner. I’m glad that I have more choices than my grandmas did, and I hope the next generation has even more choices.

  41. I to grew up with divorced parents and affected how i saw men and women relationships and had always made me questioned if i was going to be a relationship similar to my parents and many other relationships i saw that were struggling. And as i grew older dating on and off relationships i to had struggled getting along and being together after being with eachother later on in our relationship. Maybe because i wasn’t or we werent ready for a relationship or maybe i just wasn’t confident and sure of myself. But hooks brought up a good point; If you can’t love yourself, how will other people love you? This gave a lot of understanding to why my relationships failed. When i really thought how could i have a stable and healthy relationship with another person when I can’t even love myself.

  42. Communion was a key part of my learning in class. It helped me see that feminism isn’t about hating men. Rather, that some women are/were angry about being limited and repressed, and taken for granted for years and years. Hooks approach felt very honest about all the different feeling that come up for women in their search for happiness and fulfillment. The excerpt from the book that you picked out states this idea perfectly.
    During the first weeks of class, I felt a lot of pressure to say that I was a feminist. I had the idea that if I were to call myself a feminist, that would mean I would act as if I don’t need the love of a man and would carry around an emotionless demeanor. So I was relived to read about Hooks’ insight about the issues around love, feminism and patriarchy.

  43. I too had enjoyed reading bell books’ “Communion.” It really gave me a greater, more broad outlook on what love really means and the many explanations it holds. I had also learned that in order to love someone, you must love yourself first, which is one of the greatest advice I have heard. Although I also have female figures in my family who I look up to, I encourage myself to analyze what I see throughout the relationships within my family and use them as sources in the future when it comes to love. Reading hooks’ novel really gave me a different outlook on what it is to love and has given me clear and meaningful explanations on the different aspects of it. Most importantly, I had learned that by having self love, anyone can give others the same amount of love that he/she has for themselves.

  44. I read Communion and got a lot out of it too. I didn’t realize that a lot of the ways I viewed love and relationships was because I’d been socialized and conditioned to think that way. I hope that maybe things are changing a bit. It’s sad that love is seen as something weak; that it’s gendered – that what are considered to be feminine qualities are considered weak. There shouldn’t be a penalty for showing emotion; for being a loving person. I think it’s sad that some boys are socialized to be cold and unemotional. Maybe things would be a little different if we were all encouraged to embrace and respect human emotion. Love is more than just sex, but sex is all we’re left with when emotion is stripped from loving relationships. Today, it seems more and more that relationships are based on sexual desires. If that works for someone, fine. But maybe it might explain why relationships don’t seem as enduring as some hope for. The good news, I hope, is that as more and more people become aware of these issues, the dialogue will engage greater participation and things will begin to change.

  45. Jasmine B (Women Studies Scholars) says:

    Communion by Bell Hooks has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time. At first glance at the title I was hesitant to begin reading it, “The Female Search For Love” just didn’t seem that appealing to me. I often prided myself in my ability to shut down my emotions, and was patted on the back by others for being able to be “tough”. After reading this book, I realized that it’s okay to want love, and by no means does that mean you are weak. This book was better than any therapist session i’ve ever had in my life, and I was amazed to know that these problems and feelings I was having was almost normative among all girls. What I liked most about this book was Hook’s openness to Love and how she redefined the meaning of love for me. Communion made me see things in a whole new light, and I am so thankful that I was assigned to read this book. I found myself highlighting, underlining, and writing “So true!”, all across the pages while reading this book. This book was comforting in the sense that I know i’m not the only person going through these difficulties.

  46. Being a 21 year old in college, I am most definitely at a time in my life where observation is a part of my everyday life. Being in this Women’s Studies class, I have become acutely aware of my observations on my grandmother, my mom, my aunt and my sister. Such different personalities….all of them. My grandmother was a post World War 2 wife. I have read so many accounts of women of this generation where the women claim that all they ever wanted was a career and to be self-sufficient and they had to stay married and just pretend to be happy, when in fact they were stifled and lonely. My grandma is the complete opposite. She still loves my grandpa, 60 years later. She loved staying home and taking care of my mom and her sister. She baked, provided home cooked meals every night, and is the most content person I know. We just had a surprise 80th birthday party for her, and she was surrounded by people in her synagogue community who love her. They all said she was so special, and she is. My mom was a single mom for a long time, just recently remarried, and happy….but she was happy before that after years of trying to make my dad happy. My aunt searched for love for ten years, dragging man after man through my cousins’ lives. When she finally decided to become happy with her own self, she met someone, and is now where she wants to be. And my sister, who is 25, has a Master’s in Communications with an emphasis in Gender Identity…. And she is dealing with trying to figure out who she is in the world, and how she can be herself without subscribing to patriarchal rules. She lives in San Francisco, so this is all part of that society. But what I have realized after reading Communion in simply this…. All of these women have come to a happier place by loving themselves, and not by finding a man. I also learned through reading Communion that loving myself is the key to being loving, being happy and accepting the relationship that I am in… which is currently with a woman. The book taught me so many things and answered questions that I have struggled with….and has helped me understand why I find sisterhood appealing.

  47. At a glance, I wasn’t interested in reading “Communion” but once I read the first pages (Preface) I found myself really captivated by it. You know the saying “The Truth Hurts” well this was similar to that saying except the truth didn’t hurt, it comforted me. It made me realize that one could be a feminist but also be with someone you love and transcend it into having your own fairy tale like relationship. We already have a lot of pressures as it is, to look beautiful, and to act a certain way and it would be more pressure on top of our daily struggles to have the pressure of being a stereotypical strong feminist who doesn’t love, when in reality we want and need companion of others- including a man we can call ours. Now, This doesn’t mean that we should find only fulfillment in our partner, it means that it’s okay to love and be loved, but it’s also important to find other things you love and not let your primarily fulfillment be your man. Don’t expect your man to fulfill all your needs and desires. Because most of the time women get the message that we must satisfy our mans every need, because if the relationship goes down the toilet the guilt is upon you. And it’s not true. You do what you want, and what feels right, and if something goes wrong then try to repair it. If it can’t be repaired then it’s better to let things go and not blame yourself for it.

    I found this extremely important, because I am in a wonderful relationship, and I think we both are very lucky to have found each-other. But I do sometimes find myself wanting him to be more available. Because every time I am with me I feel happy (not that I don’t when I am not with him) but I do feel a sense of fulfillment around him. And after reading Hooks I realized that that’s absolutely fine, but to also put my energy and focus on other things, and not just being with him.

  48. It was nice to read this article after just finishing Communion and then seeing your story about your grandmother which slightly reminds me of my grandmother. She was a really smart women who had so much potential but she never got the chance. I have always heard “you have to love yourself before you can be in loving relationship” but i never really had a full understanding of what it means . After reading communion i got a more detailed explanation. I see different aspects of love and having a relationship with a man. The book taught me a lot about self love and im happy what im born in a time where women have the ability to be just as successful as a man and chase their dreams.

  49. Jorge M (Scholars) says:

    Communion by Bell Hooks has become a one of the best books I have ever read. As male this book really describe what how my female family members feel. The book describe women who are in there midlife teaches them how to love their bodies and everyone themselves. I have now given this book to my sister, she from all the females in my family has become a successful women. She is, like many other successful women, have chosen to give up family and love for education. She has read almost half of the book, and share with me that the book feels like it’s taking to her. Unfortunately, many women feel the same way about love and loving their bodies. Women like Bell Hooks are changing the world with one reader at time. As male, I believe more women should be able to read this book, but should take women studies. I have learned so much about our patriarchy society.

  50. CourtyanaF says:

    Bell Hooks book, Communion taught me many things. Whats great about this book is that it is good for both women and men If men read this book, they will understand what love and being love means to a women. HEr book was basically a guid on love and what it means. It taught me so much about myself that i didn’t even know existed. Many of the things in the book related to me. BEfore reading the book i had many questions about how to love and reasons why love wasn’t coming to me. I learned about self-love and how if you don’t love yourself first, know one else will. She gave great advice and made it easy to understand. Communion ha given me the courage to love again and i will continue to use the book as a guid in my relationships and everyday life. She focuses on all aspect of love and doesn’t leave a question unanwered.

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