Feminism is for Everybody

This is exactly the type of book to hand someone and try to awaken their cultural consciousness, to try to convert more people to feminism. hooks calls out the need for male allies (amen!) and imagines a world where we go “door to door passing out literature and taking the time (as do religious groups) to explain to people what feminism is all about.” I love her dream of having a feminist television network (this book is circa 2000) to spread feminism globally. She helps you confront your privilege (instead of shoving it in your face), and makes it clear that, historically, well-educated white women deemed the feminist class struggle unimportant once we began to achieve equal access to class power. This is something difficult to see unless pointed out explicitly. Confronting my own privilege is something I’ve become aware of over the last year, but was completely blind to prior to studying feminism. I also appreciate hooks’ calling out one of the major hurdles feminist movement has yet to overcome, the fact that “masses of heterosexual women remain unable to let go the sexist assumption that their sexuality must always be sought after by men to have meaning and value” (p 91).
hook’s battle cry for feminism to be open to everyone:

If we do not work to create a mass-based movement which offers feminist education to everyone, female and males, feminist theory and practice will always be undermined by the negative information produced in most mainstream media. The citizens of this nation cannot know the positive contributions feminist movement has made to all our lives if we do not highlight these gains. Constructive feminist contributions to the well-being of our communities and society are often appropriated by the dominant culture which then projects negative representations of feminism. Most people have no understanding of the myriad ways feminism has positively changed all our lives. Sharing feminist thought and practice sustains feminist movement. Feminist knowledge is for everybody. (p 24)

Calling for women with power to help those more powerless:

Given the changing realities of class in our nation, widening gaps between the rich and poor, and the continued feminization of poverty, we desperately need a mass-based radical feminist movement that can build on the strength of the past, including the positive gains generated by reforms… A visionary movement would ground its work in the concrete conditions of working-class and poor women… creating a movement that begins education for critical consciousness where women, feminist women with class power, need to put in place low-income housing women can own. The creation of housing co-ops with feminist principles would show the ways feminist struggle is relevant to all women’s lives. (p 43)

Women, work, and money (emphasis, mine):

While much feminist scholarship tells us about the role of women in the workforce today and how it changes their sense of self and their role in the home, we do not have many studies which tell us whether more women working has positively changed male domination. Many men blame women working for unemployment, for their loss of the stable identity being seen as patriarchal providers gave them, even if it was or is only a fiction. An important feminist agenda for the future has to be to realistically inform men about the nature of women and work so that they can see that women in the workforce are not their enemies. Women have been in the workforce for a long time now. Whether we are paid well or receive low wages many women have not found work to be as meaningful as feminist utopian visions suggested. When women work to make money to consume more rather than to enhance the quality of our lives on all levels, work does not lead to economic self-sufficiency. More money does not mean more freedom if our finances are not used to facilitate well-being. (p 53)

On realizing that men were not the problem:

As the movement progressed, as feminist thinking advanced, enlightened feminist activists saw that men were not the problem, that the problem was patriarchy, sexism, and male domination. It was difficult to face the reality that the problem did not just lie with men. Facing that reality required more complex theorizing; it required acknowledging the role women play in maintaining and perpetuating sexism… It became evident that even if individual men divested of patriarchal privilege the system of patriarchy, sexism, and male domination would still remain intact, and women would still be exploited and/or oppressed. (p 67)

In a world without birth control (shudder):

We have not amassed enough testimony to let the world know the sexual pathologies and horrors women endured prior to the existence of dependable birth control. It evokes fear within me just to imagine a world where every time a female is sexual she risks being impregnated, to imagine a world where men want sex and women fear it. (p 85)