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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex in Media: Books, Magazines, Films, TV & More » All About Love: New Visions

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Author Topic: All About Love: New Visions
-Firefly-
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This is a thread to discuss bell hooks' awesome book All About Love!

I was inspired to start reading it (again) this week because I just started a class on love (from the couple counselling point of view). I have to admit that I've tried reading this book twice before and both times I stopped about halfway through. For both those previous attempts, I was in a really unhealthy relationship, and the book made me question it a lot. At the time, I don't think I was ready to stop being in denial about the relationship, so I stopped reading instead.

This time around, I'm in a much, much better relationship, and I have the extra motivation of my class. So far, it's a fascinating read, and really quite eye-opening. I can't wait to get past the points where I stopped the last two times!

So, has anyone here read it? Any comments? As I'm reading it, I'll come back here and post quotes/thoughts/ideas as well.

To start, here's a definition of love that bell hooks seems to identify strongly with. This is from M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled: "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." He also adds "Love is as love does. Love is an act of will - namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love."

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Jill2000Plus
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I'm happy to take part in this discussion, but I do not believe there is such a thing as a spirit. I think loving someone is not about nurturing something that there is no evidence exists, particularly as I have seen that definition used to justify forcing a child to follow a religion or violating their right to ownership of their body (through medically unnecessary genital cutting for instance) in the name of achieving the goal of their spiritual development. I deeply fear anyone who defines loving me as making me more spiritual, which is something I expressly do not want and I actually find being in places of worship very triggering.

My definition of love is something I've never really thought about, but it means never violating someone's rights (with the right to body ownership as the inviolable right that outweighs all others, followed by the right to life and the right to freedom from torture, followed by the right to food, clean drinking water, shelter, health care which includes access to contraceptives, condoms, lube and abortion services, education that is based on science and logic and includes comprehensive sex positive sex education and accurate information about evolutionary theory as a part of science education and freedom of speech, then there's more stuff after that), it means caring about someone and being there for them when they are suffering, physically or mentally, it means taking care of oneself in the way that one thinks will make one most happy (rather than the standard "eat healthily and exercise and don't sleep too much or too little", because those things do not make everyone happy, they might make them live longer, but that's small solace if you feel miserable all the time).

But that may be not really what you were looking to discuss. I think the statement that we choose to love is an interesting one because I think that the feeling of love is something we often do not choose, but the actions which we would associate with being loving are things we choose to do or not do. Love is an emotion and the feeling of love is one of the reasons we are compelled to act in a loving manner, but knowing someone feels love for you is not all that reassuring when they are your parent who is yelling at you that you are a dirty slut because they have found out you masturbate (and that's just scratching the surface of utterly horrible things people do or say while claiming to love the one they are doing or saying them to).

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Heather
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Just FYI, I think the intent was to talk about this book, specifically, so for anyone who hasn't read it, why not do that first? [Smile]

(Especially with your last couple sentences there, Jill. This piece of work and hooks' work period makes very clear that someone is NOT loving you if they are doing things like name-calling.)

Firefly, I LOVE this book. Really, when it comes to books on love -- of all kinds, not just romantic love, which the book isn't only about -- this may simply be my hands-down favorite.

Now, I should probably qualify that I am a huge bell hooks fangirl, period, and was before I read this one of hers. But I think my bh fandom only influences my appreciation for this so much. Same goes for me Friere fandom, which hooks shares, which is why he's such a big piece of this book.

Off the top of my head, some of the things I appreciate most about this piece of work is how it really doesn't put "kinds" of love in tiny boxes like they were separate, but really unionizes love and loving. The focus on love as action -- in other words, her framing is that we most certainly do choose to love, it's not something outside of us or somehow not about what we intentionally do -- not a thing wins for me, big time. The way she makes clear that people cannot love and act in ways that are not loving, too. Her candor about her own personal journeys with love are great additions too, I think.

[ 09-15-2011, 04:01 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Jill2000Plus
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I will actually read the book before commenting further, but I wanted to say that I wasn't suggesting that bell hooks was saying that someone who calls you bad names loves you/is being loving towards you, I was merely trying to echo the important point made about love being about actions (and also how you speak to someone) rather than just feeling love for someone and that making everything alright no matter how you treat them, in other words I was agreeing. I have some pretty big gaps in my reading on feminism, particularly when it comes to feminist authors from racial minorities, and I would like to do something to correct that.

Will this discussion be going on for a set period of time, or can I join in later on, because at the moment I've set myself a goal of catching up on my manga collection and I really don't want to interrupt that as it is really important to me.

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bump on a log
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I've only read extracts from the book and these boards are clearly not the place to get into long debates, so I'm trying to tread carefully, and probably won't pursue the argument after this post. I'm really not looking for a fight, honest. Ignore me if you would like.

What I have to say isn't massively relevant anyway. It's just that I find the notion of love not being involuntary a complete head-scratcher. Of course love is involuntary, says I to myself. Naturally there is a grey area: you can sort of encourage yourself to fall in love with someone or you can try to cut off those feelings, and you can do things that are likely to kill love, such as separating from somebody for years on end, especially at a time when you are both changing fast, like the late teens say. But basically, everything I know about the world tells me that love is involuntary: one does "simply fall in love without exercising will or choice" (I'm quoting from memory). Likewise, I find the idea that you cannot love someone whom you are mistreating a thorough head-scratcher. But of course you can, is my first reaction, and my second and my fifth, etc.

Of course acting in what might loosely be called a loving way, that is a kind and caring way, is a choice (well, in so far as free will exists) and of course if you are mistreating someone you are not acting towards them in a loving way. But the emotion of love itself is a different kettle of fish in my view.

Elsewhere hooks quotes somebody or other on confusing cathexis with love, and when I read that, the first thing that came into my head was a line from an English-language play I once went to in the South of France, of all places: "The human condition was called co-dependence." I can't now remember the title of the play, but upon hearing that line I felt one of those leaps of delighted recognition you do feel when you hear your own thoughts pithily phrased by somebody else. When I think about love I think about some of the things Orwell said. In one of his book reviews there's something about "the appalling selfishness that exists even in the sincerest love" (I'm sure that quote is not accurate, but that's the gist of it). In his Reflections on Gandhi he says: "It is part of being human that ... one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals." Mind you, he does also say that "love ... whether sexual or non-sexual, is hard work" and hooks says the same thing somewhere. [Wink]

But I think I get why someone would talk about love like that, as a choice and whatnot. The word love is used to cover a multitude of sins. So to get it generally accepted that, for instance, you can't love someone you mistreat is to strip away that particular cover/excuse -- "But I love him so it's all right and all for his own good really" -- from people who beat up their partners and so forth. My politics 'buddies' (read: the people I desperately wish I could be like and can't bring myself to speak to) are always adamant that violence and property damage are not the same thing. The former means whacking sentient beings and is not alright. The latter means smashing windows and suchlike and if done strategically and with all due care it can be a legitimate political tactic -- just ask Emmeline Pankhurst. But by my logic, it doesn't matter if people say that whacking anything, sentient or otherwise, is violence. 'Whacking of anything, sentient or otherwise' is a perfectly legitimate mental category and you may as well slap the label violence on it and subdivide as needed into 'whacking sentient beings' and 'whacking objects'. We'd all know what we meant anyway. You can't be prescriptive about semantics, it doesn't work.

But that's not the whole story, because it is politically necessary to distinguish between violence and property damage, otherwise the narrative goes wonky and people draw the wrong conclusions and it's all very oh-dear. And because violence is such an emotive word, it's dangerous to let it go floating about meaning just what it likes. When you are having a calm reasoned discussion it does not matter if you draw your distinctions by saying 'violence to people' (or 'violence to animals') and 'violence to property'. But it won't do to let a word like violence get on the news if what you mean is violence to property. People react in a visceral way to the word violence, so you have to be sure to apply it only to the Bad things, not to the Good things, or else a bunch of people you have never met will get brain shutdown and you'll lose potential supporters.

So I see this particular bit of semantics-twiddling as analogous to all that. I can see why someone would find it politically necessary (using politically in the broad sense) to apply the word love only to the Good things, and not the Bad things. The notion does give me slight heebie-jeebies, but never mind; we are all a bit irrationally attached to our own personal semantics. Good luck with your redefinitions, anyway.

[ 09-20-2011, 04:33 PM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

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