The “year with bell hooks” Project Letter #009
All About Love: Mutuality - The Heart of Love
Hello and a special welcome to our new readers! It’s beginning to seem like my favorite phrase as of late, but, let’s get into this week’s letter, shall we?
It’s 2011, and I’m in the hallway walking with my friends over to our Biology class. A heavy backpack in tow, a newly acquired cellphone filled with cryptic texts, and trying to get a word on the latest gossip. Wholesome things for a 14-year-old.
If you asked me today what my teacher’s name was, I couldn’t tell you ( :/ ), but I remember that I especially loved that class. Biology just clicked for me from our projects to the readings and experiments and seemed full of possibility and wonder.
Fast forward, 11 years later (now having absolutely nothing to do with Biology or science, lol), and I’m reading chapter 9 of All About Love when the memory of that particular class comes back to my mind. Perhaps a biology class or two was in your cards for school, which may also jog some of your memories. You know, the chapter(s) that focused on ecosystems, animal kingdoms, and strata? I remember my teacher one day explaining and giving examples about parasitic, commensalism, and mutualistic dynamics between different animals & organisms.
A parasitic relationship is when one organism benefits and the other is harmed.
A commensalism relationship is when one organism benefits but the other isn’t benefitted or harmed by the relationship.
A mutualistic relationship is when both organisms benefit from each other.
*I think my Biology teacher would be proud that I still remembered this.*
So, for what bell hooks wrote in chapter 9, it reminded me of that Biology lesson and about the many dynamics that appear “mutualistic” for the common good/culture but are instead parasitic in nature – especially in our understanding of love and relationships.
In the Mars-and-Venus-gendered universe, men want power, and women want emotional attachment and connection. On this planet, nobody really has the opportunity to know love since it is power and not love that is the order of the day. The privilege of power is at the heart of patriarchal thinking.
All About Love - p.152
The privileging of power cancels the possibility for love. I think about how the rigidity of binaries (gender/gender expression, who/what is considered beautiful, who is deemed worthy of rights/goods/protection, what is sacred or not, who is given the benefit of the doubt or not, who is afforded the time and space to be or not, and more) constricts what could be.
Who and what is silenced as a result of these rigid binaries?
How can we expect the transformative love that hooks lays out to occur if the desire remains to gain the “benefits” into what is dominant, what is considered “natural,” or what is the norm in our socialized thinking and operating?
And for us, Black women, femmes, non-binary people, and children, who have been rendered invisible in our relationships, spaces of worship, places of living, working, and beyond - does our desire to love and be loved not matter?
Is love and the quest towards “it” only about maintaining access into present power(s) instead of critiquing why those dominations exist in the first place?
To know love we must surrender our attachment to sexist thinking in whatever form it takes in our lives. That attachment will always return us to gender conflict, a way of thinking about sex roles that diminishes females and males.
All About Love - p.155
Nuance and multi-expression (of thought, action, and presence) – not in a performative sense but with commitment and love to decenter what is normative or who has been holding the physical (or metaphorical) mic the longest, is one of many ways I believe in practicing the mutualistic form of love that hooks teaches.
It’s why I also believe that queerness (not limited to sexuality but in livelihood) enables us to unveil the beauty of mystery, de-confinement, exploration, trust, ethical vulnerability, multi-consciousness, community, and mutualism to dismantle the attachment(s) that thrives off sexism, patriarchy, racism, homo/transphobia, classism, and all forms of oppression.
So what does this look like?
To practice the art of loving we have first to choose to love – admit to ourselves that we want to know love and be loving even if we do not know what that means. The deeply cynical, who have lost all belief in love’s power, have to step blindly out on faith.
Choosing to be honest is the first step in the process of love. The next step on love’s path is communication.
Getting in touch with the lovelessness within and letting that lovelessness speak its pain is one way to begin again on love’s journey.
Generous sharing of all resources is one concrete way to express love. These resources can be time, attention, material abjects, skills, money, etc… Once we embark on love’s path we see how easy it is to give.
In patriarchal society, men who want to break with domination can best benign the practice of love by being giving, by being generous. Through giving to each other we learn how to experience mutuality.
All About Love - p. 155, 157, 157, 163, 164
We are often taught to love what kills us, forcing us to believe our deaths for love is good. But we don’t have to subscribe to that. To love and be loved is a beautifully equally beneficial endeavor as we give and receive in pure and honest form. In holy commitment to self and all.
Until next week, and with love,