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Feminist Theory from Margin to Center: This is gonna be a fun one

The wind chill is currently -21, and for the first time in memory, work is shut down because it is too cold to go outside. So let's discuss feminist theory!

In 1984, bell hooks wrote a book called Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, which is what you name something when you really want it to GRAB the reader, y'know? But Anita Sarkeesian said to read it, and I do what that girl tells me.

*runs to library*

Feminist Theory is split up into 12 essays, the majority of which explain why bourgeois white women (see: me and pretty much everyone who reads this blog) co-opted the feminist movement and aren't addressing needs beyond their own. WHICH WAS A LITTLE HARD TO HEAR, but true nonetheless.

She kicks it off right at the beginning by addressing Betty Friedan's groundbreaking work, The Feminine Mystique, and calling it bullshit because 

In the context of her book, Friedan makes clear that the women she saw as victimized by sexism were college-educated, white women who were compelled by sexist conditioning to remain in the home.
Oops. Because, as bell hooks (ms. hooks? sure) points out, a large number of the country's women were already working. Because they had to. The "From Margin to Center" part of the title addresses the idea that those who have been at the margins of the movement have a different perspective on it, and their voices should be heard. Also, hey, maybe poor/working class/non-white women shouldn't be on the margins of the movement.


She makes the argument that the women who headed the feminist movement seemed primarily concerned not with actual equality between the sexes, but with class equality. One of my favorite questions she poses is:
Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?
Followed by the idea that bourgeois white women "were ultimately more concerned with obtaining an equal share in class privilege than with the struggle to eliminate sexism and sexist oppression."

Zing, ms. hooks. Zing. She counters so many of the prevailing (in 1984) trends — should we be hating men? NO. We should be telling men they need to stop being sexist assholes, but we shouldn't hate them. We should acknowledge they have problems too, but that doesn't mean they can be shitty to us.

how we can deal with this problem

Should we be telling women they can be free of having to be at home and should go to work to gain a sense of self? NOT AS MUCH, because working women who have to work at menial jobs can see the home and their family as where they CAN be themselves. By ignoring the realities of lower class conditions, the movement was being astonishingly blinkered.

Should women be forced to talk about how they are victims? NO. Because women who are hit the worst there need to emphasize their strengths.

She also makes the excellent point that while white women and black men are both oppressed, white women have power over black people and black men have power over black women, so the only people left without anyone to have power over are black women.
Black women with no institutionalized 'other' that we may discriminate against, exploit, or oppress often have a lived experience that directly challenges the prevailing classist, sexist, racist social structure and its concomitant ideology.
 Oh, you mean they have a special vantage point FROM THE MARGINS TO THE CENTER. 

At the heart of everything, bell hooks seems to be saying we need to examine things outside our own immediate experience and look to a feminist movement that does not solely serve our interests. If people are truly interested in equality between the sexes, they need to try for true equality, and not equality within class/race.

And also maybe we could try to listen to other people sometimes kthx the end.


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