bell hooks

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A Look At Black Feminism Through The Eyes of bell hooks:

A Look At Black Feminism Through The Eyes of bell hooks Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and Bone Black Sherril English University of North Texas Current Readings in Early Childhood Education

“I gather together the dreams, fantasies, experiences that preoccupied me as a girl, that stay with me and appear and reappear in different shapes and forms in all my work. Without telling everything that happened, they document all that remains most vivid.”:

“I gather together the dreams, fantasies, experiences that preoccupied me as a girl, that stay with me and appear and reappear in different shapes and forms in all my work. Without telling everything that happened, they document all that remains most vivid.”

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In the preface to the second edition (2000), bell hooks describes how the initial attitude toward her work has changed over time. Feminists who originally rejected her focus on race and class as well as gender, now recognize the importance of her ideas.

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Both prefaces state that feminism needs to be a mass movement that includes everyone: center and margin, men and women, and people of all ages and persuasions .

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Because women's status is in constant jeopardy (poverty, reproductive rights, lack of aid and health care) it is important that the movement continue and not be relegated to elite circles in universities.

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Initially, bell hooks expands on her theory about the initial racist and classist bias in feminism . She uses feminist writer, Betty Friedan, and her work as an example of the white, middle class bias; college-educated white women Friedan saw as victimized by sexism and compelled by sexist conditioning to remain in the home.

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Bell hooks cites personal experiences to underline how black women's concerns have been dismissed by white feminists . Black women can help make feminist theory and the feminist movement deeper and more inclusive.

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My white peers didn’t attempt to understand my experiences “The understanding I had by age 13 of patriarchal politics created in me expectations of the feminist movement that were quite different from those of young, middle-class white women. I did not feel sympathetic to white peers who maintained that I could not expect them to have knowledge of or understand the life experiences of black women. Despite my background (living in racially segregated communities) I knew about the lives of white women, and certainly no white women lived in our neighborhood, attended our school, or worked in hour homes.

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Bell hooks rejects the brand of feminism that seeks the advancement of women through imitating white men .

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Saru Says: “You go to school to learn the white man’s ways; to learn to deny parts of ourselves!

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Attempting to advance women through imitating men does NOT challenge patriarchy, but strives for false equality in a system based on hierarchy and domination. She notes that black women have a unique perspective to share since they have occupied the margins while observing the center .

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The Dominant Boy “Strangely enough, it was a toy that separated them, that forced upon them different roles, different identities. She remembered the toy—a bright red wagon.” Papa said she must ride, not pull the boy. Out of papa’s sight, the boy never wanted to pull her in the wagon. She learned to assert her “girl” rights. She told the boy that he should pull her because he was the boy. When papa and the great-grandfather found out that the boy rarely pulled the girl, they yelled at him explaining that “he was the boy and he should do this.”

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Bell hooks writes about the problems in defining feminism and offers a general definition of the term . the struggle to end sexist oppression" in all its forms: economic, political, social, sexual. She proposes a change in language as well; the statement "I am a feminist" would be replaced by "I advocate feminism.".

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Talking Back – A form of Social Oppression? “She wants to express herself—to speak her mind. To them it is just talking back. Each time she opens her mouth she risks punishment. They punish her so often she feels they persecute her. When she learns the word scapegoat in vocabulary lesson, she is sure it accurately describes her lot in life.”

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She believes that the new feminism should be pro-family , contrary to the previous stereotype that feminists are anti-family . Feminism that is pro-family sees the family as a nurturing source of community and rejects the traditionally patriarchal, authoritarian model. She claims that all forms of prejudice (sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, etc.) are oppressive to humanity and destructive to society as a whole, and therefore must be given equal weight.

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Pro-family –nurturing--rejects patriarchal , authoritarian model “They have heard him be harsh, complain that the house should be cleaner. They are afraid of him when he gets mad. They go upstairs to get out of his way. He does not come upstairs. Taking care of children is not a man’s work. She remembers being loved by him when she was a baby girl. He took his affection away from her abruptly. He mainly ignored her. She mainly tried to stay out of his way. In her own way she grew to hate wanting his love and not being able to get it. She hated that part of herself that kept wanting his love or even just his approval long after she could see that he was never, never going to give it.”

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In discussing sisterhood, bell hooks notes “Women’s legacy of woman-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.”

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Funny Women “When grown-ups talk about women who are funny, they are not accepting. Their voices are harsh and unforgiving. They do not see them as kind, respected, good women. They talk about them as unnatural, strange, going against god. Women who do not want to be with men must be made to feel bad, ashamed, must be excluded from all community of feeling so that they will come to do what is expected of them—if not, they will be punished, they will be alone—they will not be loved.”

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bell hooks believes that the feminist movement can and does benefit both genders and all age groups, more specifically , men.

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Seeing all men as "the enemy" does not take into account the role of race and class . Not all men have the same level of privilege and power and not all men are afraid of strong women or seek to oppress them . Ultimately , she believes that women and men of all backgrounds must recognize that sexual oppression hurts everyone if the feminist movement is to be successful .

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Daddy Gus “From her, I know that he has always been gentle, that he has never been a man of harsh words. I need his presence in my life to learn that all men are not terrible, are not to be feared.”

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In bell hooks’ discussions regarding ambivalence towards power in the feminist movement, she contrasts traditional notions of power (control, domination) with alternative models (creativity, life affirmation ). She notes that while traditional feminism claimed that women wield power differently from men, many feminists have perpetrated male definitions of power and success . M any women from the lower economic classes are examples of the alternative model of power based on creativity and life affirmation because they have had to struggle and be self-reliant . She believes that one way that women can manifest power is by resisting consumerism.

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Bell hooks discusses our need to transform the way we think about work . White bourgeois feminists demeaned domestic labor and saw work outside the home as a resistance to male oppression . Work was equated with money and power . Lower class white women and women of color were already working outside the home and felt alienated by these feminists . Bell hooks proposes that perspectives about work have to change: housework can be characterized as creative and life-affirming rather than demeaning , and work outside the home can be enriching; rather simply about making money.

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Regarding feminism and education, bell hooks notes that feminist ideas have been spread predominantly through the written word, inadvertently excluding women who cannot read . She also contends that feminist writing is often intellectual and academic and, again, excludes women who do not possess formal educations . She proposes the solution to promote literacy and formal education among women so that feminism can reach a broader cross section of women; this may help to alleviate tensions and dispel stereotypes .

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Writing is my destiny! “I read poems. I write. That is my destiny. I am not alone. Through my writing, I have the power to keep myself alive. I want to belong. It hurts to be always on the outside.

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bell hooks suggests that violence is a manifestation of imperialism, power, and control-from the family to the government-and should be opposed. The practice of violence against women manifests some of the traditional patriarchal gender stereotypes which see women as submissive and nurturing and men as powerful and aggressive . Gender stereotypes associated with violence are also held by women. For example, women condone war and encourage their menfolk to participate in war . She believes that western men and women are desensitized to violence due to its prevalence in the media and its association with sex and even love.

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That Night “All that she does not understand about marriage, about men and women, is explained in one night. She sees that the man has a gun. She hears him tell the woman that he will kill her.” “He is still screaming, muttering.” “When the mother’s brother comes, she cannot believe the calm way he lifts the suitcase, box, and sack and carries them to the car without question. She cannot bear his silent agreement that the man is right, that he has done what men are able to do.”

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As it relates to feminism and parenting, bell hooks believes that early feminists felt trapped by parenthood. She contends that traditional views of motherhood are sexist . She discusses how attitudes about parenting need to shift in order to address systemic sexism . b ell hooks proposes some key changes to parenting: men need to practice parenting and believe that they can do it well; parenting needs to take place outside the home, not just in the home.

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bell hooks believes that women and men must work proactively to change the attitudes that perpetuate sexism and that they must conduct a rigorous analysis of socio-political systems and how they create and perpetuate sexist attitudes . She suggests that the familiar world in which we live must end and be rebuilt by questioning long-held beliefs that are sexist , capitalist, and imperialist.. “Working long and hard to achieve a goal may be difficult for a society that is unaccustomed to waiting .”

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Bell hooks contrasts early feminist sexual liberty with the struggle to end female sexual oppression. Early female sexual liberty has to do with women adopting male models that idealize unrestricted sexual relations; female sexual oppression proposes the liberation of women and men from heterosexist, male models of sexuality . She also examines the belief held by some women that engaging in sexual activity with men is a betrayal of the movement . She concludes that sexual oppression will end only when people are not forced to adhere to narrow definitions of what is an appropriate expression of sexuality.

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