Feminist Theory from Margin to Center

Feminist Theory from Margin to CenterA Sweeping Examination Of The Core Issues Of Sexual Politics, Bell Hooks New Book Feminist Theory From Margin To Center Argues That The Contemporary Feminist Movement Must Establish A New Direction For The 1980s Continuing The Debates Surrounding Her Controversial First Book, Ain T I A Woman, Bell Hooks Suggests That Feminists Have Not Succeeded In Creating A Mass Movement Against Sexist Oppression Because The Very Foundation Of Women S Liberation Has, Until Now, Not Accounted For The Complexity And Diversity Of Female Experience In Order To Fulfill Its Revolutionary Potential, Feminist Theory Must Begin By Consciously Transforming Its Own Definition To Encompass The Lives And Ideas Of Women On The Margin Hooks Work Is A Challenge To The Women S Movement And Will Have Profound Impact On All Whose Lives Have Been Touched By Feminism And Its Insights. Reading this book immediately following hooks first book, Ain t I a Woman Black Women and Feminism reveals how much a writer and theorist can develop in just a few years Where Ain t I a Woman suffered because of underdeveloped points and undertheorized intersections of class with race and gender, Feminist Theory from Margin to Center shines Hooks here works to re define feminism in a way that opens up the movement to women and men of all race and class backgrounds and allows feminism to work for than the bourgeois white women who had previously been perceived as the face of the movement In developing this stance, hooks takes on several key myths about feminism and about gender, including the idea that women are naturally superior, caring, and nurturing than men She argues that this idea is counterproductive and simply untrue, stating instead that w e who are concerned about feminism and militarism must insist that women even those who are bearers of children are not inherently non violent or life affirming Many women who mother either as single parents or in camaraderie with husbands have taught male children to see fighting and other forms of violent aggression as acceptable modes of communication, modes that are valued than loving or caring interaction 128 Further, since these gender roles are not fully cemented by nature, she calls into question the glorification of motherhood as well, providing two distinct alternatives Rather than denigrating motherhood the easy alternative for some to glorifying it , she proposes that we do not praise motherhood as the only true way to parent children Instead, she says, we should teach men ideally from childhood on, that fatherhood has the same meaning and significance as motherhood 137 She continues, saying, Women and men must define the work of fathering and mothering in the same way if males and females are to accept equal responsibility in parenting 137 She goes beyond the nuclear family structure, however, to consider the benefits of communal parenting, for both the children, the parents, and the rest of the community involved in raising the children As interesting as I find these points, they are not the the most compelling part of this book For me, that is found in hooks two central points the first is her clear distinction between identity politics and praxis and the second is her focus on struggle as a fundamental part of feminist political action Hooks repeatedly insists that one s identity as a feminist is not at all the same thing as engaging in feminist action, writing that o ften emphasis on identity and lifestyle is appealing because it creates a false sense that one is engaged in praxis 28 To counter this false sense, she proposes a new way of conceiving one s position in the feminist movement that is based on action rather than identity To emphasize that engagement with feminist struggle as political commitment we could avoid using the phrase I am a feminist a linguistic structure designed to refer to some personal aspect of identity and self definition and could state I advocate feminism 29.While I see potential problems with this linguistic shift although it does emphasize action instead of personal identity, it also risks feeling as if one is distancing oneself from the movement I don t belong to it, but I support it , this is a fascinating idea that is worth considering Even valuable than her suggestions regarding description and linguistic affiliation are her comments and suggestions regarding concrete action One concrete action that she suggests is a focus on literacy In order to make sure that feminist literature and ideas are able to reach those in need of them, the feminist movement must make sure that those people are able to read them She advocates support of literacy programs as well as a reconsideration of the way that feminist theory is written Many feminist theorists do not even intend their ideas to reach a mass public, and consequently we must take some responsibility for the superficial and perverted versions of feminist ideas that end up in the public imagination, via tv for example 108.This is an idea that I wish feminist theorists would take to heart Hooks goes on to acknowledge the pressures of the field and the publishing industry on academics who write feminist theory, but does not allow that acknowledgement to undermine her argument, writing that t he ability to translate ideas to an audience that varies in age, sex, ethnicity, degree of literacy is a skill feminist educators need to develop 111 Although I d rather see all feminist theory written in a way that is understandable to than a handful of experts, at the very least those ideas should be translatable to laypersons If the ideas aren t translatable, perhaps they are not worth the effort perhaps the effort would be better spent making a real difference in the real world On a selfish note, I have to say that I can t help but think that if feminist theorists had taken up hooks challenge, my feminist theory reading list would be a helluva lot easier to get through Hooks conclusion alone is worth the price of admission She concludes by re affirming the focus of feminism and establishing the necessity of struggle Our emphasis must be on cultural transformation destroying dualism, eradicating systems of domination Our feminist revolution here can be aided by the example of liberation struggles led by oppressed peoples globally who resist formidable powers The formation of an oppositional world view is necessary for feminist struggle This means that the world we have most intimately known, the world in which we feel safe, even if such feelings are based on illusions must be radically changed Perhaps it is the knowledge that everyone must change, not just those we label enemies or oppressors, that has so far served to check our revolutionary impulses Those revolutionary impulses must freely inform our theory and practice if feminist movement to end oppression is to progress, if we are to transform our present reality 163.This is a view of feminism that not everyone will agree with, but those who truly do want to see men and women of all races, classes, and ages able to be the best humans they can be will find this a satisfying vision of the world to work toward and a challenge worth taking up. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in feminism or anyone who currently identifies as a feminist but hasn t yet read this hooks has a very accessible writing style and does an impeccable job of pointing out the flaws in the feminist movement and putting forth ideas of what feminism as a movement should be if it has any hope of success. Incredible book Examines the issues around women liberation through the lens of race, class, and gender, and shows in amazing detail how ignoring just one of these would diminish the possibilities of the entire movement One thing that I am absolutely reveling in is the way how bell hooks advocates for wholeness, how its not men who are the enemy but the whole capitalistic ethos that puts aggressive competition as its ultimate ideal How even women can be oppressors, in family, at work, and on various other levels if they are immersed deep enough in such an ideology The need to see the entire picture seems to be her theme throughout and this emphasis on inclusion, as opposed to division, is very stimulating to read.Basically I am in love with bell hooks right now and the beautifully cogent way she puts forward her arguments in this book There is no academic jargon, or things that make reading such texts an excruciating process, nor could I detect any dumbing down Reading it, and processing the arguments it makes, it feels like I can be whole again With an understanding of my own oppressive circumstances And the oppressive hierarchies I myself am involved in perpetuating Still have 60 pages to go, this book might just change my life. I just finished this book, and I found it challenging in the sense that it challenges some generally accepted notions and very thoughtful and well written She argues that mainstream feminism, which has been dominated by middle and upper class white women, has not opened its doors adequately to non white and working class women she argues that part of the reason the movement has failed is because there has been an internalization of the sexist oppression paradigm by the leaders of the feminist movement which manifests itself in the failure to recognize or address racism and classism in the movement She says the movement definitely needs to be democratic rather than focus on advancing careers of white middle and upper class women, the focus needs to be on the poorer non white women whose position in society has become worse lower she also argues that its absolutely essential to find ways to involve progressive men to advocate for feminism with other men who benefit from the patriachal hierarchy As long as men are seen as the enemy it will be impossible for the movement to grow. Iako razumem svrhu postojanja one teorije koja ide ispred iskustva, mislim da nam je ovakva teorija iz iskustva vi estruko dragocenija Pomalo je obeshrabruju a spoznaja da se od objavljivanja ove knjige do danas malo toga promenilo, ako govorimo o aktivnostima Pokreta S druge strane, autorka nas na samom kraju podse a da je feministi ka revolucija proces, i da joj to ipak ne oduzima na revolucionarnosti. This is a difficult book to read if you are a white feminist because it requires you to do one of three things.1 Condemn bell hooks and stop reading no, don t do this 2 Rationalize yes, bell hooks is right about this, but that s the other white feminists, that s not me I am an ally In fact, I am Saint Ally and nobody could ever say that I really fit into this stereotype of white feminists she is describing slightly less bad, because it has potential for growth, but don t do this either 3 Admit to bell and to yourself that by doing things you thought were totally innocent, you have been fucking up and justifying it to yourself, and it is your job, not anybody else s, to alter your behavior and reprogram Racism does not need to be conscious or intentional or thoughtful to be racism Forgetting can be racism too Not noticing, that can be racism I ve never read Betty Friedan, but I was taken aback by hooks intense criticism of her she refers to her as a case study of narcissism, insensitivity, sentimentality, and self indulgence because she Friedan apparently draws comparisons between the effect of isolation on implicitly, white housewives and isolated prisoners in Nazi concentration camps Wait a minute, I found myself thinking indignantly Drawing comparisons doesn t mean she s saying it s comparable She s just saying it s hold up oh yeah, no, I guess she is kind of saying they re comparable. Noticing how quickly I came to her defense was a good stage to set the rest of the book on It was a good reminder to ease me into doing the work required of the subsequent pages So many important but subtle distinctions made here The difference between oppression absolute lack of choices e.g poor black women versus discrimination or exploitation e.g middle class white woman The difference between a bourgeois white feminism that supports its own class interests and wants to make women like men and achieve equality by erasing the feminine affirming ever the dominance and desirability and rightness and centrality of the male, and radical feminism on the other There is just one thing I would disagree with in this book That is the erasure of sexuality hooks notes that while white women and black men are similarly able to both be oppressed and to oppress in different situations white women can oppress POC, black men can exploit women , black women esp poor can only ever be the oppressed, there is no institutionalized inferior I think this narrowing of the areas of institutionality to class, race, and gender alone is short sighted, and does to the gay rights movement precisely what hooks argues white feminism has done to the struggle against racism by ignoring it, it enforces it as socially invalid Plus, hooks thinks that the desire of some lesbians to use the term feminism to mean an alternative lifestyle, women centered communities, is bad and alienates lesbian from the feminist movement, because they can have those kinds of woman oriented communities in churches, kitchens, etc But the thing is, they can t Lesbians often can t find a community in churches many religions do not welcome them, particularly the ones they were raised in feel comfortable worshiping in Many of their families likewise reject them Churches, kitchens, etc are not comfortable, fulfilling places for them Gems By projecting onto black women a mythical power and strength, white women both promote a false image of themselves as powerless, passive victims and deflect attention away from their aggressiveness, their power however limited in a white supremacist, male dominated state , their willingness to dominate and control others Male supremacist ideology encourages women to believe we are valueless and obtain value only by relating to or bonding with men We are taught that our relationships with one another diminish rather than enrich our experience We are taught that women are natural enemies, that solidarity will never exist between us because we cannot, should not, and do not bond with one another We have learned these lessons well We must unlearn them Like women, men have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for eliminating it Men are not exploited or oppressed by sexism, but there are ways in which they suffer as a result of it This suffering should not be ignored While it in no way diminishes the seriousness of male abuse and oppression of women, or negates male responsibility for exploitative actions, the pain men experience can serve as a catalyst calling attention to the need for change There is the perspective that men oppress women And there is the perspective that people are people, and we are all hurt by rigid sex roles Both perspectives are true These two realities co exist As long as a a poor or working class man is attacking women, he is an enemy to women He is also an enemy to himself He is also oppressed His abuse of women is not justifiable He chooses to remain both oppressor and oppressed If feminist movement ignores his predicament, dismisses his hurt, or writes him off as just another male enemy, then we are passively condoning his actions Terminei a leitura sonhando com uma forma de me dar esse livro de presente quando entrei para a faculdade Teria sido uma revela o, porque talvez ent o eu tivesse conseguido elaborar toda a minha raiva que era muito difusa naquela poca bel hooks mete a real sem recorte de ra a e classe o feminismo s uma bandeira para mulheres bem nascidas e se o foco n o estiver na elimina o de injusti as sociais para al m das de g nero , a gente n o vai sair do lugar Eu conseguia no m ximo intuir algumas das desvantagens que eu tinha em rela o aos meus pares, mas imaginava que eram falhas minhas, incapaz de ver como a pobreza geracional da minha fam lia e do lugar em que cresci influenciou minha vida Embora hoje isso me pare a muito claro, eu n o tinha como articular meu descompasso h 15 anos atr s, porque n o me passava pela cabe a no es b sicas de centro e margem. the shift in expression from i am a feminist to i advocate feminism could serve as a useful strategy for eliminating the focus on identity and lifestyle It could serve as a way in which women who are concerned about feminism as well as other political movements could express their support while avoiding linguistic structures that give primacy to one particular group it would also encourage greater explorations in feminist theory women will know that white feminist activists have begun to confront racism in a serious and revolutionary manner when they are not simply acknowledging racism in feminist movement or calling attention to personal prejudice, but are actively struggling to resist racist oppression in our society Women will know they have made a political commitment to eliminating racism when they help change the direction of feminist movement, when they work to unlearn racist socialization prior to assuming positions of leadership or shaping theory or making contact with women of color so that they will not perpetuate and maintain racial oppression or unconsciously or consciously, abuse and hurt non white women These are the truly radical gestures that create a foundation for the experience of political solidarity between white women and women of color We discovered that we had a greater feeling of unity when people focused truthfully on their own experiences without comparing them with those of others in a competitive way women s legacy of women hating, which includes fierce, brutal, verbal tearing apart of one another, has to be eliminated if women are to make critiques and engage in disagreements and arguments that are constructive and caring, with the intention of enriching rather than diminishing Woman to woman negative, aggressive behavior is not unlearned when all critical judgement is suspended it is unlearned when women accept that we are different, that we will necessarily disagree, but that we can disagree and argue with one another without acting as if we are fighting for our lives, without feeling that we stand to lose all self esteem by verbally trashing someone else Verbal disagreements are often the setting where women can demonstrate their engagement with the win or lose competitiveness that is most often associated with male interactions, especially in the arena of sports Rule suggests women can disagree without trashing if they realize they do not stand to lose value or self worth if they are criticized no one can discredit my life if it is in my own hands, and therefore i do not have to make anyone carry the false burden of my frightened hostility. bell hooks kicked open the door, and said that feminism was pretty much available in only one flavor, making it difficult, if not impossible, for women of other races and classes to join in Feminism lacked diversity barring lip service because it didn t accommodate all women It did not hear or see women whose lives did not mirror those of middle or upper class, college educated Caucasian women Then she broke down the next door and declared that no one even knew what Feminism was It s not being man haters, not about lesbianism It s not even about equal pay for women, although that is a positive change facilitated by the movement The main message was lost, if it ever was clearly defined in the first place Many who agree with the idea of the movement still won t admit to advocating feminism, because they don t know what it means bell hooks she adopted her grandmother s name as a pen name, using lowercase to differentiate herself made this necessary point If you don t define the thing, no one will want be associated with it, nor will they feel compelled to try to understand it If Feminism means everything, then it means nothing, hooks said Her definition Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression So Feminism has a definition, thanks to hooks, but it still has some heavy lifting to do If feminists won t address and fight racism and class injustice for worry of getting sidetracked from movement goals, then it is the same as putting a Keep Out sign on the door Exclusionary behavior narrows the thinking, putting people in a Lesser Evil state of mind, making it so much easier to gloss over the pain of other human beings and look the other way Today it seems as if feminism risks becoming assimilated by mainstream culture in its most generic, clone like form Sexism is as prevalent as ever, for both women and men This book was written in the mid eighties, but nearly thirty years later the issues she addressed remain Luckily, she is still writing books, delivering social commentary with a snappy and bold tongue, like the grandmother whose name she cribbed. bell hooks brilliance as usual written in 84, this one criticizes the white dominated feminist movement of the time, and provides another important stepping stone from the Second Wave to the Third Wave of Feminism.also includes brilliant sections like this passage from page 121 Patriarchal male rule took on an entirely different character in the context of advanced capitalist society As workers, most men in our culture like working women are controlled, dominated Unlike working women, working men are fed daily a fantasy diet of male supremacy and power In actuality, they have very little power, and they know it Yet they do not rebel against the economic order or make revolution They are socialized by ruling powers to accept their dehumanization and exploitation in the public world of work, and they are taught to expect that the private world, the world of home and intimate relationships, will restore to them their sense of power, which they equate with masculinity By condoning and perpetuating male domination of women to prevent rebellion on the job, ruling male capitalists ensure that male violence will be expressed in the home and not in the work force.

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  • Paperback
  • 174 pages
  • Feminist Theory from Margin to Center
  • bell hooks
  • English
  • 22 August 2019
  • 9780896082212