Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

More wisdom from the master, so powerful that it must be locked up behind the Page Desk at the library. Again, I truly appreciate the way hooks serves you notice of your own privilege, tearing apart those/us bourgeoisie white women for the dumb things done along the way during feminist revolution, like the asinine demand to be allowed to work which ignored the millions of poor women who’d been in the workforce for years out of necessity. These lower class women know that men in their social strata lack social/political/economic power, so why would they want to strive for equality with these poor saps? Other mistakes made – to paint a picture of male domination that made feminism a declaration of war between the sexes rather than “a political struggle to end sexist oppression, a struggle that would imply change on the part of women and men.” And to ignore the evils of racism and classism, calling sexism “the oldest oppression” suggests a hierarchy of oppression with sexism more important than racism and classism. She argues that sexist oppression is of primary importance because it’s the domination most people experience, either as exploiter or exploited. “It’s the practice of domination most people are socialized to accept before they even know that other forms of group oppression exist.” And men are victims, too; like women, men “have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology.” More mistakes – the thought that getting women into “power” would actually change anything; you’ve got to change the culture/society to get real change. Otherwise women are just gaining power and privilege within the existing social structure and will continue to oppress other people (women/men). Domination of one person by another is what must be eradicated, capitalism torn apart, communities striving to exist for the benefit of the whole.
Let me start with her final rallying cry:

(The) basis for feminist revolution in this society… must be cultural transformation: destroying dualism, eradicating systems of domination. Our struggle will be gradual and protracted… 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 challenged. 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 existing opposition is to progress, if we are to transform our present reality.

hooks quotes from Powers of the Weak, by Elizabeth Janeway, to describe forms of power held by those considered weak, primarily “the refusal to accept the definition of oneself that is put forward by the powerful…. the ordered use of the power to disbelieve.” More:

It is true that one may not have a coherent self-definition to set against the status assigned by the established social mythology, and that is not necessary for dissent. By disbelieving, one will be led toward doubting prescribed codes of behavior, and as one begins to act in ways that can deviate from the norm in any degree, it becomes clear that in fact there is not just one right way to handle or understand events.

Benjamin Barber’s Liberating Feminism looks worth reading, critiquing the women’s movement and tearing apart the myth that work is the end goal:

When large numbers of relatively well-educated women enter a rigid labor market in which large numbers of relatively unskilled workers are already unemployed, their employment will probably spell joblessness for many at the bottom… Sexism exists with and not in the place of racism and economic exploitation. Liberationists cannot expect the poor to look appreciatively on what appears to be a middle class campaign to wrest still more jobs away from them.

Other books to consider, based on hooks’ referencing them:
* Paying Your Own Way – Vivian Gornick’s essay that is collected in Essays in Feminism
* Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Freire – I’m due for a re-read.