Published in 2000, Bell Hooks discusses the nature of love and how America’s society and culture prevents many from learning how to love others or receive love in return.
Whilst supposedly a discussion on love and how to achieve it, I constantly found this book to be repeating the many ways in which love has become unavailable to us due to the way that we live. Men and women are treated differently by Hooks, with women being the main carriers of the beacon that is love, whilst men are clueless and are waiting to be taught how to love others. Hooks continuously refers to men being more likely to lie and therefore they have a limited capacity to love as they see relationships as a way to feel powerful. To continue feeling this sensation of power they will lie to and manipulate their partners.
Allegiance to male domination requires men who embrace this thinking (and many, if not most, do) that they maintain dominance over women by any means necessary.
Hooks establishes herself as a moral authority who knows how others should behave to love or be loved. And because of this fills her book with anecdotes that lead to sweeping denunciations of patriarchy and the limited view that only a bad upbringing and childhood will lead someone (typically a man to hurt another whilst calling it love. However later in her book she also puts this abusive nature down to “job misery” and the male desire for dominance.
Even as a moral authority she doesn’t shine that bright. In her book, Hooks talks of how she threatened to tell a friend’s family secret as she felt that it was disloyal to her relationship and would ruin her love if she didn’t tell her partner. This, in my opinion greatly reduces her credibility in being anybody’s moral compass. She would rather cause pain to many people then keep a secret that wasn’t her information to give away. She would rather betray the trust given in her and therefore be disloyal to that friendship.
This book relies on the reader agreeing that women are the carriers of the rightful way to love others. And also that they are the only ones capable of showing men how to love, as if men can’t figure this out themselves. She purportedly backs this with analysis of “many” men claiming allegiance to male dominance but no evidence to back these wide spread claims.
The first two chapters are well thought out and provide meaningful insight through her search for a way to define love, but it soon descends into a self-help book that relies on other self-help love books to provide evidence to these ideas and theories. With the continues tone of a “perfect survivor” of the abuse of love, Hooks brings some of these good ideas to the forefront but negates any impact of these words by her glaring oversight of being unwilling to criticize and analyse her own mistakes. Instead she focuses on the mistakes made by family and friends that have affected her in a negative way.
Hooks constantly refers to her life and how she has been victimised in ways by her friends and family and remarks on how she is often the only one who can see that they are creating a loveless environment. Whilst doing this, she makes no mention of her own personal flaws in sustaining or creating a loveless relationship. Although we all know there is no such things as a perfect human being, Hooks appears to be trying to give her readers this image of her doing no wrong.
She alludes to consumerism and the media as being the cause for lying saying that “lovelessness is a boon to consumerism” and “in our public life there would be nothing for tabloid journalism to expose if we lived out lives out in the open.” As the chapters evolve and progress, Hooks seems to mention all the ways we live that makes love attainable for the general population. Capitalism and consumerism seems to be part of this. She calls on others to share their wealth and learn to criticise their choices but neglects to show how she shares her wealth which has been predetermined by her mention of owning two houses.
If we listened to all the ways we lived that prevent us from living according to Hooks, it is surprising that anybody in the world has had the chance to experience a fulfilling relationship where both participants experience real love.
She puts Bill Clinton’s affair down to low self-esteem and males claims that:
He created the context for a public shaming that no doubt mirrors moments of childhood shaming when some authority figure in hi life made him feel he was worthless.
However, Monica Lewinsky was given no such excuse and instead is portrayed by Hooks as a loveless person who knowingly went into the affair and then was pushed by her greed for fame and wealth to sell her story by claiming it was a loving relationship.
Whilst some of her theories are sound and insightful, her lack of evidence to justify the sweeping claims she makes reduces her credibility as a serious and reliable voice on the subject. Her vagueness on how many and exactly how things will affect the way we love further decreases the impact and strength of her voice on these matters. In order for her piece to achieve it’s high potential, statistical evidence and analysis is necessary to provide a more justified data backed pkatform for some otherwise poignant ideas.