The last time I wrote about making sense of the world, I thought things were pretty bad. Somehow things have gotten worse or remained the same in some fractions. We are in the middle of one of the worst surges of COVID since the start of the pandemic. Closing on yet another year of tumultuous waves of neverending destructive new cycles, I turned on my phone to Instagram and scrolled endlessly this morning. I come across a startling video from a flight around the holidays. It was a slightly blurred video of a woman lambasting another passenger for not wearing a mask when her mask was around her chin. The irony of it all was not lost on me. At one point, two flight attendants are holding her back from trying to sucker punch the guy. The comments are not all that different from pre-covid comments on YouTube videos. It was shocking to see someone get that physically violent over something that small. The ones I felt for the most were the airline workers and the other passengers just trying to get to their next destination. It feels like everyone is on edge, myself included.
On top of the aggression that keeps simmering, there is this endless sense of hopelessness in this world. Do we know in six months if we can go to that concert? Should I not book that trip if flights get canceled due to staff shortages on the airlines? When will I be able to see family again? Does love even exist anymore? Do people even care about one another?
Last month on December 15th, bell hooks passed away at the age of 69. hooks was a pioneer black feminist and cultural critic that wrote some of the most influential feminist works, such as Ain't I A Woman and Feminism Is for Everybody. She wrote about intersectional feminism through the lens of gender, class, and race. A term that got recognized in the last decade, with many people referencing bell hooks. There even is this fantastic Instagram account called Saved By The bell hooks (@savedbythebellhooks), where extracted quotes are paired with freeze shots of episodes of the TV show Saved By The Bell. I find myself saving random quotes from it as they provide grounded, radical, and meaningful insight into this world. It is the perfect vehicle to introduce a new audience to intersectional feminism that might have otherwise not thought about it.
My first introduction to bell hooks was during my freshman year of college. I had a massive chip on my shoulder from not going to my first choice school. Due to financial reasons, I had to stay home and go to college in my hometown. I was one angsty 18 year old student. One day my English 101 professor, Dr. Jennifer Molidor, handed us an essay by hooks for us to read. The title is lost to me since it was over 10 years ago. I remember hooks wrote about being a black woman in academia and navigating the privileged world of academia inaccessible to many. It was the first time I had ever read anything radical of sorts. I grew up in a household with progressive political views in a relatively conservative town. However, this was my first foray into intersectional feminism.
A few months ago, I was in the depths of a depressive state. I was at the end of my rope after getting my heart shredded yet again. The pain of getting hurt again made me want to put up shields around me. One day in a therapy session, I talked about busying myself with volunteering and planning solo trips. I was trying to find an emotional tourniquet for a bleeding wound and was grasping for anything that could make it stop. The looks I was given by friends and family members alone sent me into a tailspin to get me "back" on my feet. I so badly crave a feeling of control. My therapist suggested I read some of bell hooks' work. My ears perked up since I had been meaning to read more of her writings.
I came across a title of hooks called All About Love. hooks wrote about one universal topic that affects everyone – love.
Unlike other self-help books about love, hooks took on the topic of love and wrote it from an intellectual yet emotional point of view. Blending in her own experiences, quotes from psychologists and writers, she writes about all aspects of love with critical cultural analysis. hooks wrote about love from romantic relationships, to friendships, to family, and relationships to oneself. There are so many passages that inspired me personally and intellectually that I want to touch on. One recurring theme is that love is a practice. Love is an action, not just a feeling portrayed in romantic comedies and cringy Tik Toks.
Reading "All About Love" made me realize how liberating love can be. More than ever, love is needed in our relationships with strangers, friends, lovers, family, and ourselves. In a world where cynicism and narcissistic tendencies are noticeable, hooks asks the reader to put love into everyday practice. She never said it is easy or without pain, but she believed and shared with us that it leads to a more connected and loving world.
-Margaret Burke is a Technology Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.