Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall – Here are my Five Lessons and Takeaways

Hood FeminismBut to paraphrase James Baldwin, to be aware of what is happening in this world is to be in an almost perpetual state of rage. Everyone should be angry about injustice, not just those experiencing it.  And we can’t afford to shy away from anger. 

What I do have is a deep desire to move the conversation about solidarity and the feminist movement in a direction that recognizes that an intersectional approach to feminism is key to improving relationships between communities of women, so that some measure of true solidarity can happen. Erasure is not equality, least of all in a movement that draws much of its strength from the claim that it represents over half of the world’s population.  

Sometimes being a good ally is about opening the door for someone instead of insisting that your voice is the only one that matters.  

Hunger is painful even in the short term. And yet we rarely speak of it as something for feminism to combat, much less as something that is uniquely devastating for women.

Poverty can mean turning to everything from sex work to selling drugs in order to survive, because you can’t “lean in” when you can’t earn a legal living wage and you still need to feed yourself and those who depend on you.  

We could stop acting like food insecurity is a sin or a shame for any individual and treat it rightfully like an indictment of our society.  

To quote Gwendolyn Brooks, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” But if we believe that only some people deserve safety, that the right to your own body has to be earned through adhering to arbitrary rules, then are we really seeing each other as equals? As human beings at all?

There’s nothing feminist about having so many resources at your fingertips and choosing to be ignorant. Nothing empowering or enlightening in deciding that intent trumps impact. Especially when the consequences aren’t going to be experienced by you, but will instead be experienced by someone from a marginalized community.

Feminism is the work that you do, and the people you do it for who matter more than anything else.  

No problem like racism, misogynoir, or homophobia ever went away because everyone ignored it.

Mikki Kendall, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot


I am a no-longer-young white guy.  I was raised in my earliest years in the segregated, Jim Crow world of Jacksonville, Florida.  This book was…eye-opening.

I presented my synopsis of Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall at the March Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare.  This book club focuses on books dealing with issues of social justice:  poverty, problems facing the unhoused, racism, education issues…  This book was quite a fit!

Before I launch into this, let me comment that Hood Feminism is readable; engaging. And it is definitely worth reading!

I begin my synopses by asking What is the point? of this book.  Here is the point of this book: Black women may deal with different issues than white women deal with; but their real-world struggles are the struggles of real women. And all feminists must join up.  The hood needs feminists and accomplices…

And I ask Why is this book worth our time? – Why does this book matter?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book is an eye-opening reality check about the lives of Black women; especially poor Black women.

#2 – This book helps all understand that the anger, and rage, are…justified. And understandable.

#3 – This book absolutely reveals that the struggle is not going to be over anytime soon.

I always include Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Her eare a number of the bist of the best ofm rhtis book:

Being skeptical of those who promise they care but do nothing to help those who are marginalized is a life skill that can serve you well when your identity makes you a target. There’s no magic shield in being middle class that can completely insulate you from the consequences of being in a body that’s already been criminalized for existing. 

My feminism doesn’t center on those who are comfortable with the status quo because ultimately that road can never lead to equity for girls like me. 

We all have to engage with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be, and that makes the idealized feminism that focuses on the concerns of those with the most the province of the privileged.  

Feminism in the hood is for everyone, because everyone needs it.  …For example, when we talk about rape culture the focus is often on potential date rape of suburban teens, not the higher rates of sexual assault and abuse faced by Indigenous American and Alaskan women.   

While white feminism can lean in, can prioritize the CEO level at work, it fails to show up when Black women are not being hired because of their names or fired for hairstyles. 

Respectability narratives discourage us from addressing the needs of sex workers, incarcerated women, or anyone else who has had to face hard life choices. No woman has to be respectable to be valuable. 

Affirmative action complaints (including those filed by white women) hinge on the idea that people of color are getting the most benefit when the reality is that white women benefit the most from affirmative action policies. The sad reality is that while white women are an oppressed group, they still wield more power than any other group of women—including the power to oppress both men and women of color. 

When white feminism ignores history, ignores that the tears of white women have the power to get Black people killed while insisting that all women are on the same side, it doesn’t solve anything. Look at Carolyn Bryant, who lied about Emmett Till whistling at her in 1955.

When building solidarity, there is no room for savior myths.

Although the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen rose out of a particular problem within the online feminist community at that moment, it addresses the much larger problem of what it means to stand in solidarity as a movement meant to encompass all women when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others. It’s rhetorical shorthand for the reality that white women can oppress women of color, straight women can oppress lesbian women, cis women can oppress trans women, and so on.   

The anger now bubbling up in hashtags, blog posts, and meetings is shorthand for women of color declaring to white women, “I’m not here to clean up your mess, carry your spear, hold your hand, or cheer you on while I suffer in silence. I’m not here to raise your children, assuage your guilt, build your platforms, or fight your battles. I’m here for my community because no one else will stand up for us but us.” 

Untold numbers of women of color were and are still fighting to get paid at all. 

What compounds the problem of violence in the hood is the long history of isolated Black communities in America not being able to trust law enforcement as, over time, they have proven themselves to be largely indifferent to violence against marginalized people.   

We’ve taken war weapons to the streets and homes of civilians with no idea what harm these weapons can do, or that escalation is never a solution.   

Hypervigilance and anxiety are part of how you stay alive in communities where gun violence is a constant, and it took a long time for me to recognize that these traits were my response to trauma.   

In 2016, the Violence Policy Center documented that Black women experience the highest rates of gun homicide out of any group of women, and much of that can be attributed to instances of intimate partner violence.   

When annoying a new neighbor carries the risk of being shot, the question isn’t whether gun violence is a feminist issue; the question is why mainstream feminism isn’t doing more to address the problem. 

It’s time to treat domestic violence and hate speech as the neon red flags that they are and take the necessary steps to reduce the risks instead of hoping that they’ll go away. 

It’s time to treat domestic violence and hate speech as the neon red flags that they are and take the necessary steps to reduce the risks instead of hoping that they’ll go away.  

We point to the suits and ties and dresses worn during the civil rights movement and ignore that the people in them were still beaten, still arrested, still lynched. 

We need to let go of respectability politics and understand that whiteness as a construct will never approve of us, and that the approval of white supremacy is nothing that we or any community should be seeking.   

This is not an argument that white women don’t care about others so much as it is that in many cases, they simply don’t care enough. The problem is that while they can see the danger in voting in support of building walls, discriminating against Muslims, and candidates accused of sexual assault, as long as they don’t feel directly threatened, they are less likely to confront or bring about any social consequences for the family members who do. They don’t realize how much their decisions will harm others… …for those who will definitely be negatively impacted by white supremacy, they can’t afford to coddle the feelings of white women who are invested in not being held accountable. …So white feminism is going to have to get comfortable with the idea that until they challenge their racist aunts, parents, cousins, and so on, it is definitely all white women who are responsible. 

Feminism that encompasses all the issues that impact women, from poverty to criminal justice reform to living wages to better protections for immigrants to LGBTQIA issues, is feminism that ensures voting rights for all as a foundational issue.   

But what gets obscured is that consistent access to quality health care is something everyone needs at every stage of their life. And that for many, when things go awry, the first step isn’t a lawsuit; it is survival.  

Persistent racist beliefs in medicine and otherwise are at the root of ongoing racial disparities in treatment and patient outcomes; this represents a challenge not only for twenty-first-century medical providers, but for those who fight for the access of marginalized communities to quality health care.

Reproductive justice means not just fighting to defend Planned Parenthood or the Title X family planning program. It also means protecting nutrition programs such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  

It is never the privileged outsider who gets to decide when they’re a good ally. …A common problem is that when allies are challenged, they often insist that there is no way they could be part of the problem. …Identifying yourself as an ally is a convenient way to give yourself a pass for dismissing the words or experiences of people with less privilege and power than you.

My rage is sometimes eloquent and often effective, and it occasionally feels eviscerating in its intensity. I believe in rage, believe in aiming it when I unleash it because I know it can be so powerful.

And then, in my synopses, I include key points, and principles, and my own lessons and takeawasy from the book.  Here is much of what I included in my synopsis.  (Portions in italics are direct excerpts from the book):

  • About the author:
  • grew up poor, Black, under multiple “threats” — Army veteran
  • two college degrees; Masters in Writing and Publishing, DePaul University
  • The hood is my home, and always will be, but I am deeply aware of the way that my privilege in being able to code-switch and to see and mimic middle-class manners has given me access.
  • This veneer of respectability that came from getting more education and being able to write professionally is nice. I like knowing that people will listen to what I have to say, but I’m always aware that people don’t usually listen to the Black girls like me, and that even now some will carve out a space for me that is separate from the other people like me.
  • I’m a feminist. Mostly. I’m an asshole. Mostly. …the fact that I am not nice is often brought up. And it’s true: I’m not really a nice person. I am (at times) a kind person. But nice? Nope. … But niceness is more than helping; it is stopping to listen, to connect, to be gentle with your words. …I reserve nice for people who are nice to me or for those who I know need it because of their circumstances. …But my lane is different. I’m the feminist people call when being sweet isn’t enough, when saying things kindly, repeatedly, is not working. I’m the feminist who walks into a meeting and says, “Hey, you’re fucking up and here’s how,” and nice feminists feign shock at my harsh words.

{• Let’s start with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, and how white feminists and Black feminists might be at different places on the hierarchy…

  • Self-actualization
  • Self-esteem
  • Love/Belonging
  • Safety
  • Physiological}
  • Instead of a framework that focuses on helping women get basic needs met, all too often the focus is not on survival but on increasing privilege. For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met.
  • This book will explain how poor women struggling to put food on the table, people in inner cities fighting to keep schools open, and rural populations fighting for the most basic of choices about their bodies are feminist concerns…
  • While the problems facing marginalized women have only increased in intensity, somehow food insecurity, education, and health care—beyond the most basic of reproductive needs—are rarely touted as feminist issues. It is past time to make the conversation a nuanced, inclusive, and intersectional one that reflects the concerns of all women, not just a privileged few.
  • The most vulnerable:
  • Black women
  • Black LGBTQ people; especially women; especially trans women…
  • Trans women are often derided or erased, while prominent feminist voices parrot the words of conservative bigots, framing womanhood as biological and determined at birth instead of as a fluid and often arbitrary social construct. …Trans women of color, who are among the most likely targets of violence, see statistics that reflect their reality co-opted to bolster the idea that all women are facing the same level of danger. …support from mainstream white feminists for the issues that directly impact trans women has been at best minimal, and often nonexistent.
  • Some of the “problems”
  • food; physical safety; sexual safety; mental health safety; shelter; discrimination; bullying by white people; by teachers); police “brutality”
  • Food insecurity and access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues.
  • The angry Black woman; angry for legitimate reasons…
  • Gun Violence:
  • many women, especially those from lower-income communities, face gun violence every day. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. Women get killed by these guns because they are available, because their partners are violent, because an accident with a gun is more likely to be fatal, because of a dozen mundane reasons made worse by the availability of weapons.
  • Girls drop out of school at nearly the same rate as boys in an effort to avoid having to pass through places where shootings are common—that is, in an effort to survive.
  • A twelve-year-old girl was shot on her porch a few blocks from my house while I was writing this chapter.
  • It’s a public epidemic that we ignore. Every state, every city, and every income level has been impacted by gun violence.
  • Gun-related deaths are now the second-leading cause of death for American children, who are fourteen times more likely to be killed with guns before age fifteen than children in other high-income countries.
  • Impossible demands…
  • Code-switching elders teach us to make calls with our best “white girl” voice, but for those who can’t manage to mimic that speech pattern, or who can’t maintain it, that accent means the loss of opportunities.
  • The emotional labor required to be respectable, to never ruffle anyone’s feathers, to not get angry enough to challenge much less confront those who might have harmed you, is incredibly onerous precisely because it is so dehumanizing. 
  • The intersectional approach to feminism:
  • Intersectionality isn’t a convenient buzzword that can be co-opted into erasing Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, who coined the term to describe the way race and gender impact Black women in the justice system. An intersectional approach to feminism requires understanding that too often mainstream feminism ignores that Black women and other women of color are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine of hate. 
  • Be a feminist. And…Be an accomplice.
  • Being an accomplice means that white feminism will devote its platforms and resources to supporting those in marginalized communities doing feminist work.

And here are my Five Lessons and Takeaways:

#1 – Real world worries, about safety, and hunger, and poverty, are concerns for every feminist to adopt.

#2 – Black women are the ones who should determine what Black women feminists should be concerned about and focused on.  Only Black women!

#3 – White supremacy and white nationalism are real, and dangerous, to Black people; especially Black women.

#4 – Black women, at times, have to make “unacceptable” choices, out of necessity.  Have more empathy, and a lot more understanding.

#5 – A reminder:  read more books that teach you in new ways, while taking you outside your comfort zone.

I have a strong opinion:  I think we should all read books from people coming at life from places different from our own.  I think we need to expand our understandings; we need to stretch in our own thinking.

This book did all that, and more, for me.  I highly recommend it for your reading stack.


Note:  these book club sessions are always on the Third Thursday, each month, at 12:30 PM, Central Time, on Zoom.  (We also meet in person; a hybrid meeting).  Join us! Click here for all details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *