One cornerstone of bell hooks’s work was that patriarchal ideals harm both men and women. In her 2004 book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love, hooks points out how societal expectations regarding masculinity can have distressing effects on boys: “To indoctrinate boys into the rules of patriarchy, we force them to feel pain and to deny their feelings.” To fulfill the ideals of sexism, hooks noted that boys are rewarded for “acts of soul murder.”
Speaking more directly to the Black plight three years later in We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, hooks examines how racism helped to form societal expectations for Black men: “Within neo-colonial white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the black male body continues to be perceived as an embodiment of bestial, violent, penis-as-weapon hypermasculine assertion.” She lamented that as Black people in a white supremacist society, we were taught to shun vulnerability as a means to survive — namely because that keeps us from love.
bell hooks was long a champion of Black men’s ability to be tender and free. I’ve personally witnessed them be validated by her acknowledgement of their pain and preciousness. As we continue to honor her life and work, I thought it would be fitting for Black men to lay roses at her feet.
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