Daily Archives: May 5, 2021

Bell Hooks Talking Back

Morgain McGovern  

May 5th, 2021  

Talking Back  

Discourse, Vol. 8 


PG. 123-128  

Wayne State University Press  

Talking Back  

Bell Hooks told me that you can own your story if you talk back. But she warned me, it comes with a price.  

I wish I had read Bell Hooks 35 years ago. I don’t know if I would’ve believed her then. I was raised on media after school specials that spewed false truths that it was okay to trust the cops now, they were listening, they were there for the victims. But I learned the truth about the patriarchy that controls the world when I reported my child sex crimes to the LAPD and reported my criminal mother to law enforcement eleven years ago. Bell Hooks warned me, but I read her 35 years too late.  

 But I knew something was amiss, growing up. One of the men who tried to sexually assault me when I was in the 7th grade was in movies, commercials and a pundit on serious news channels. He was celebrated, yet there was a small article in a magazine about his sick behavior towards children in 1988, a whisper of who he was at his core. But then a few years later he had his own game show for a decade after that, so the whisper of this pervert was swept under the rug, the applause lights came on, and he was a star again.  

I had told my school when it was happening, when he was calling my house trying to get me to meet him in the city to have sex with him when I was in the 7th grade and he was in his forties, but we moved three days later. Speaking truth comes with a price, Bell Hooks told me in her writings, but I didn’t know about her 35 years ago, I turned to heavy metal instead. They spoke of the anger I felt, conveyed in heavy guitar riffs and power chords that thumped to the angry pounding in my chest when I saw the pervert on TV.  

They will do anything to annihilate the woman who speaks her truth to power, who threatens their system, Bell Hooks warns me, but I read her too late. I intuitively knew this at the police station, the cop’s smirks and eye rolling was the clue, but the after-school specials had told me they were the good guys.  Shut up and take it, the cops said with their refusal to press charges against the powerful pervert on TV.  Shut up and don’t disrupt our narrative. We’re the good guys.  

They’ll annihilate you if you rip their masks off. They’ll discredit you, gaslight you and call you crazy. They know your only power is your truth, your voice, and speaking the truth, so they’ll try to silence you too.  

“ That was crazy talk, crazy speech, the kind that would lead you to end up in a mental institution. ‘Little girl,’ I would be told, ‘ if you don’t stop all this crazy talk and crazy acting you are going to end up right out there at Western State.’  Madness too, not just physical abuse, was the punishment for too much talk if you were female.”

Hooks writes about the threat of being silenced and suppressed speech as more of a terror then of being considered mad and locked up.  

All of these valid threats, because women dared to speak the truth, to talk back, to question the machine.