February 14, 2011
By Heather Laine Talley
In her book All About Love, bell hooks makes a startling claim. Her parents did not love her. They gave her enough food to eat, books to read, shoes to wear. But they did not love her. She was cared for, but she was not loved.
hooks argues that we think about love as a “good feeling,” and we forget that love rests on justice, equality, and respect. In fact, and this is perhaps the most unsettling of her claims, love is negated by the presence of disdain, shame, and humiliation. Literal violence, and for hooks this ranges from the occasional spanking to brutal assault, and love cannot co-exist. So too, the mundane symbolic violence perpetrated by most families and in many intimate relationships—the subtle criticisms, the passive aggressive slights, the ever-present threat of rejection—undermines the capacity for love to flourish. Ultimately, hooks concludes that there is a world of difference between care and love.