Remembering bell hooks

cover of The Will to ChangeI keep bell hooks’ The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love close by my desk and repeatedly return to its dog-eared pages. Years ago, I gave a copy to my son Eric. Last December I was on the way to an appointment when Eric called me to say he had just learned that bell had died. I never met bell, but I know from her writings, presentations and discussions— many available on YouTube—that she could hold passionate anger at the social and cultural structures of oppression and domination and still fiercely love those who are compromised by those structures. Bless her heart for that capacity. We so need more of that ability to love people and hate the social/ economic structures that destroy love. Despite her suffering in the patriarchy, bell hooks had the extraordinarily generous empathy to argue that “patriarchal culture does not care if men are unhappy” and that a “failure of love” also aggrieves men. Thank you so very much, bell. If you have not read The Will to Change get yourself a copy, and maybe a couple of more for men in your life.

Charles Knight
Cambridge, Mass.


Putin and Masculinity

Many articles [about Putin and masculinity] recycle orientalist stereotypes about the “democratic West” and “despotic others” under the guise of problematizing masculinities (see page 24). I do not, by any means, admire or endorse Putin and what he may represent, but am also deeply troubled by Eurocentric (and US-centric) views on geo-politics in the name of feminism (or some other form of emancipatory politics). This is a more complex issue than is being suggested in these articles. The warmongering that we see is a joint project between US foreign policy and all others (including the Russians) who would put national interest above human ones. If we genuinely seek to understand what is happening in Ukraine, then to purely focus on Putin’s masculinity is to largely ignore the hypocrisies of geopolitics that afflicts all sides. This also tells us little about how we got to the current situation. And, it undermines what feminism has to teach us about power relations and the human condition.

Sanjay Srivastava
via email



“TO CREATE LOVING MEN, WE MUST LOVE MALES. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply being. When we love maleness, we extend our love whether males are performing or not. Performance is different from simply being. In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an anti-patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved”.

—bell hooks