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In Praise of bell hooks (nytimes.com)
111 points by kwindla 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

"The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love" is the most revelatory book I've read, I think ever. It discusses the ways power- and domination-based roles for men negatively affect both men and women, starting in boyhood. It felt like every page held a connection to my experiences.

Coincidentally, I was recently watching a Sapolsky interview where he went into detail about how the Beta male primates with many grooming partners were healthier and happier than the Alphas.

So then, where does the desire to be an Alpha originate if it is so stressful and destructive?

Healthier, happier, and have more offspring[1], which invalidates some sibling comments.

[1]: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/10/male-gorillas-who-bab...

>where does the desire to be an Alpha originate if it is so stressful and destructive?

The same origin as every other drive of every living thing: reproductive success. Evolution doesn't care about stress and destruction. The only thing that matters from an evolutionary point of view is replication of genes.

> So then, where does the desire to be an Alpha originate if it is so stressful and destructive?

That's just it, it isn't a desire its a drive.

That drive serves the troupe, not the individual.

Give the prospective alphas testosterone blockers and you'll see them happily enjoy their lives as betas (or lower).

Who has more children?

If happiness is the goal, we already have the answer -- cocaine.

Agreed! Bell Hooks was the first writer who made feminism accessible and relevant to my (male) experiences. I was gifted a copy of The Will To Change a few years ago and it's among the best gifts ive ever received.

jsonne 52 days ago [flagged]


Books telling women how to behave have always been written. I'm not judging their intentions or consequences, but your conjecture isn't a remote possibility.

Men wrote the foundational texts for many religions. Many revered books are rife with discussions of the ideal woman or some such.

Some books written by women for women are also essentially written on behalf of men and their expectations.

(Disclaimer: I'm not acquainted with bell hooks' work.)

Comments like that reflect more badly on you than on anything else. For one thing, the book doesn't tell men how to behave, and your knee-jerk reaction demonstrating that you don't know what you're talking about just comes across as arrogant and infantile at the same time.

If this topic doesn't interest you, go elsewhere. Don't drag down the level of conversation for everyone else.

bell hooks is not "telling men how to behave." It is a book that seeks to empower men by understanding the structural ways in which masculinity can be harmful to men. This is a positive, affirmative message, not one that seeks censure or exclusion.

Besides, plenty of men have written books about feminism and gender. The reception is fine.

Probably would be received about as well as dudes whining about feminism in public forums.

Well, women aren't the ones who've held onto power over men for millennia.

I really love bell hook's work. Feminism is for Everybody was a clear and concise discussion of the issues of race, class, sex, and gender and I truly wish more critical theory books were up to that standard.

Yeah, Feminism is for Everybody is really fantastic and accessible. I think the online anti-feminist/MRA set would be surprised with how much they agree with hooks.

Carl Benjamin, an "anti sjw" YouTuber actually read and reviewed one of her books[1], and liked her unpretentious and communicative writing style, even if he disagreed with some of her ideas.

I for one like her too, but I find that when some media critics try to apply her methodology to pop culture, it can be problematic and clumsy.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePCMMFJIolo

for any sociology fans, I've always loved hook's idea of living on the margin as a site of resistance


I really like what I've read of bell hooks' work. I'm interested to see what the hackernews crowd makes of it.

Great read. Somewhat of an off-topic question, but here goes:

> Watkins wanted her pen name to be spelled in lowercase to shift the attention from her identity to her ideas.

I’m sure what I’m about to say has been discussed before — but wouldn’t this accomplish the opposite effect? I feel her “unconventional” name makes me focus more on it, not less (especially when her name is used at the beginning of a sentence, where we are trained to expect a capital letter no matter what). Do other people with lowercase names have similar justifications?

I just don’t think that third parties like newspapers should use these kinds of stylings any more than they should allow someone to specify that their name must always be printed in Times New Roman. The headline is super confusing because of this affectation — it seems like you know, a hook that you hang a bell from.

I used to think this way. I've stopped.

Now I call people whatever they want me to call them. They've surely thought about it more than I have and with so many problems in the world why would I get bent out of shape over saying "they" instead of "she" for someone that I think looks like a woman. Why bother worrying about bell hooks or Kim Dotcom, it's just a waste of energy. People are different and that's that. Some people think I'm weird for studying weapon systems and arms control.

It takes all types and hooks's book "all about love" changed my life. How can I begrudge her choice?

And they apply it inconsistently. "bell hooks" and "iPhone" get their desired capitalization, but "reddit" always came out as "Reddit" (or, sometimes, "Reddit, stylized as 'reddit'"), despite any wishes/requests to just use "reddit."

As far as I'm aware, the proper name of the site was always "Reddit". The logo graphic stylizes it as "reddit", and e.g. Wikipedia points that out for clarity, but official communications use the capital letter.

I think https://www.reddit.com/user/kemitche might be a bit more familiar with the official rEDDit style, to be fair.

PhasmaFelis appears to be correct, though. Wikipedia says it’s officially Reddit, and Paul Graham always refers to it as Reddit in old writing. Were you thinking of another source? I understand that you’ve linked to a former staff member’s reddit account, but it just looks like staff members wanted Reddit to be referred to as “reddit” even though that wasn’t the official capitalization of the name.

I do think that people have the right to decide how their name is spelled. If they choose a name that you think is silly or confusing, you have every right to say so, but don't blame the publication for respecting their wishes.

Capitalization isn’t spelling, but if the spelling is preserved, then the headline should be: In Praise of the writer “bell hooks”

> The headline is super confusing because of this affectation — it seems like you know, a hook that you hang a bell from.

Quite the opposite. Nouns are capitalized in newspaper headlines, so if this were a headline about hooks that you hang bells from, every word in the headline except "of" would be capitalized. As it stands, it's completely unambiguous to anyone familiar with hooks's work.

That is, unless you're taking issue with the fact that her nom de guerre happens to be "bell hooks" in the first place, which was her great-grandmother's name.

>completely unambiguous to anyone familiar with hooks's work.

That's a shamefully low bar for clarity in newspaper copy editing.

> wouldn’t this accomplish the opposite effect?

Yes. It's an affectation. To suggest that it's "to shift the attention from her identity to her ideas" is either incredibly naïve or simply dishonest. Deliberately breaking the established conventions of English writing in such a visible way is sure to draw attention to the name/identity, not shift it away.

I’m confused by the downvotes here. I tend to agree with the above point, and while I’m open to having my mind changed, I have yet to see a convincing rebuttal to it.

At the very least, it stands to reason that discussions and threads like this one would not exist if she capitalized her pen name. So the most charitable statement I can think of is that she genuinely did believe her actions would deflect attention from herself, but that they actually had the opposite effect. A more cynical statement is that she felt that a) her ideas wouldn’t attract enough attention on their own, and b) she needed a gimmick of some sort in order to stand out from the crowd.

Few things annoy me more than people who try to stand out for the sake of attention, so I’m choosing to believe the more charitable scenario.

It's a clickbait name. I opened the article because I thought it was something about telephones. Just a person's name, with no information about their accomplishments, isn't enough to make me click. If it said "In praise of writer Bell Hooks" I might have read the article, but now I'm mostly annoyed at being tricked.

"Bell Hooks" was literally her great-grandmother's name. It's really what someone was called. No one set out to deceive you.

If the title was "In Praise of Bell Hooks" then I would still have mistakenly thought it was something about telephones, but it would have been 100% my mistake, and I would not have been annoyed. It's specifically the non-standard lowercase that is misleading and annoying. Proper nouns are conventionally capitalized, so if one is not capitalized then it's suggesting it's not a proper noun. Non-standard capitalization causes confusion, and I don't think it should be used. This isn't specific to people, e.g. I don't think you should call Adidas "adidas", or Sony "SONY", even if they claim that's the correct way to write it.

That's fair, but calling it "clickbait" and claiming you've been "tricked" implies that there's someone baiting the trap – some trickster.

Also, sincerely: consider why this provoked so much irritation. I completely sympathize with the feeling of annoyance; as someone who has historically overreacted to trivial annoyances, it's been healthy for me to dig into that habit and to find a different path. I imagine and hope you'll be happier doing the same.

The irritation was minor and fleeting. I consider it a healthy reaction, because it's a feeling that drives improvement. In software it's often called "paper cuts".

Do you have the same opinion about e. e. cummings?

Yes. Even somebody I respect as much as RMS I won't call "rms". The only exception I would make is for accounts/usernames, which are IMO primarily intended to be machine readable. If I say "rms" I mean "the person currently posting from the relevant rms account", not "the person called Richard Stallman".

If you reject the conventions of English, then you are writing in your own private language, and you should expect people to transliterate it into English. This is standard practice for non-English writing systems.

E.g. The Prime Minister of Japan is Shinzo Abe. This is making three changes from 安倍 晋三. The writing system is changed to English. The personal name and the family name are swapped. The long vowel of 三 is ignored (if you are willing to use diacritics you could write it as ō, but this is not a standard English letter, so there is nothing wrong with omitting it). This is far bigger change than just using English capitalization.

I can empathize with your viewpoint, but I feel that your interpretation is too strict. It's good for you but not for me.

I’m not aware of any use of Cummings other than as a proper noun.

When I saw bell hooks I thought it was something about webhooks and notifications or telephony.

I tend to agree with you.

The sardonic me would say that it's dumb of her.

The cynical me would say that it's a marketing gimmick.

The trusting me would say that what she meant was that she wanted to show that what's important is the idea rather than the identity

To me it's a small pattern breaking annoyance, like a linter warning I can't turn off that triggers every time I see it.

Interesting you bring this up because even as someone who has passively read bell hooks and been familiar with her work (not intimately so but by proxy), it was through this article that I learned for the first time that the de-capitalization of her pen-name was a conscious choice, and even thought both titles-here and on the NYT-site had committed an interesting grammatical mistake not capitalizing a proper noun.

> an interesting grammatical mistake not capitalizing

Previously done: e e cummings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._E._Cummings

I have felt the same way so was interested to see that in the article. Thanks for pointing it out.

So, naivety or narcissism?

Sounds like it worked as intended?

Isn't it the exact opposite actually? (Sorry if I'm missing sarcasm)

Here I am discussing how her name is spelled, instead of her actual ideas in the field...

No sarcasm. You're wondering why she spelled her name like this, right? That was her intention, wasn't it?

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