COMMUNION: The Female Search for Love
bell hooks, . . Morrow, $24.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621442-9
While feminism may have changed boardrooms, it didn't make much headway in bedrooms, argues philosopher/writer hooks. Women have made progress in regard to social empowerment, but the quest for emotional density—for love—has remained elusive. Why are men still so emotionally unsatisfying? Because, hooks argues, "patriarchal thinking has socialized males to believe that their manhood is affirmed when they are emotionally withholding." Patriarchy valorizes power and assigns it to men, and devalues nurturing and labels it feminine. Thus, young postfeminist women find themselves with "nothing to show" from their newly won equality but a double shift of work: first the paid job, then the physical and emotional homework of their relationship with their man. Still, as feminists of hooks's generation reach midlife, they may find it easier to rethink these terms of engagement, to risk changing things. The first step, she says, is self-love—accepting one's body and soul just the way it is. Without such acceptance, women cannot escape the domination-submission dynamic. Even then, in this patriarchal universe finding love with another person may require some creativity. Hooks explores romantic friendships, lesbian loves and "circles of love" (which allow for committed bonds that extend beyond one partnership). A life with no coupling, but "a more authentic relationship between self and world," may also be satisfying. Twenty-something women who've embraced the highly problematic "bitch persona" Elizabeth Wurtzel has written of may sneer at hooks's affirming style, but older women, particularly those raising girls themselves, will find much to ponder here.
Reviewed on: 12/03/2001