That feeling of safety that many (not all) individuals feel when coming to a space of familiarity, of comfort — is often the home. Bell Hook’s own idea of homeplace came from a time when segregation was more apparent than it is today — when resistance occurred in spaces that were culturally far from white supremacist oppression. The home became a space where individuals roamed, spoke, and thought in comfort without fear of reprimand from perceived superiors.
Hooks’s essay is a call for women, especially those who identify with the black experience, to remember their agency in constructing homeplaces as sites of resistance.
Homeplaces are spaces in which African-American women, during times of great segregation, constructed a safe place where healing, resistance, and subversion against the inflictions of racial domination and oppression could occur. These spaces were unique because they subverted traditional feminine and sexist roles — those of assigning women to “inside” spaces of the home. Women, rather, expanded their traditional roles to include care and love for their families and children.
Sites of homeplace not only offered refuge from the daily struggles (and refuge from often felt fear and anxiety) that resulted from African-American women working in outside spaces — spaces that would include working long hours as service workers in white households; in spaces that enhanced their “otherness” and that took away agency and any semblance of dignity — they allowed for a community of resistance to be established.
Homeplace allowed for African-American liberation and has long been a point of organization and political solidarity — it has been a political space. This space, however, is in danger of losing its value as a political point of resistance through contemporary perspectives that reinforce patriarchal domination of black women.
In the contemporary situation, as the paradigms for domesticity in black life mirrored white bourgeois norms (where the home is conceptualized as a politically neutral space), black people began to overlook and devalue the importance of black female labor in teaching critical consciousness in domestic space.
Hooks’s solution is one that holds to a feminist dimension: reconceptualize ideas of homeplace as sites of subversion and resistance. In short, bring back the political in the home; address the needs and concerns of black women and “share insights and awareness, share feminist thinking and feminist vision, and build solidarity.”
We can make homeplace that space where we return for renewal and self-recovery, where we can heal our wounds and become whole.
About Bell Hooks // Feminist & Essayist
Bell Hooks is an acclaimed intellectual, feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer. hooks has authored over three dozen books and has published works that span several genres, including cultural criticism, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children’s books. Her writings cover topics of gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture. // The Bell Hooks Institute