Chapter Eight – Feminism is for Everybody

Notes on bell hooks

bell hooks 1952-Present


bell hooks face mid-speech. She is wearing glasses, an orange scarf and braids.
“bell hooks at the New School discussing transgressive sexual practice” by Alex Lozupone (Tduk)

Early Life

bell hooks as a younger person, pictured resting her head in her hand with a slight smile on her face.
young bell hooks
  • Born to a working class family in Hopkinsville, Kentucky
  • Attended first racially segregated schools and later integrated. Wrote about difficulties to adapt to integrated schools: a “white” environment

Adult Life

  • 1976 English professor and senior lecturer in Ethnic Studies at the University of Southern California
  • Writes her name in lower keys to honor her grandmother (Bell Hooks) and emphasize importance of what is written, not the writer
  • Taught at Yale, Oberlin, Berea and other universities
  • PhD in 1983

What is Feminism?

  • Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression

What is Sexism?

  • Sexism is both discrimination based on gender and the attitudes, stereotypes, and cultural elements that promote this discrimination
  • “…all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult.” bell hooks

What is Patriarchy?

  • Patriarchy is one form of social stratification via a power/dominance hierarchy- an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a ranking of inferiorities) and its privileges 
  • Women-only households are not necessarily free of patriarchal values

Feminism is Not Against… 

Men. It is against male-dominated processes.

A World of Equals

  • A feminist revolution alone will not create such a world; we need to end racism, class elitism, and imperialism
  • (also ableism, transphobia, body shaming, ageism, and other instances of oppression)

“Christian Values” Keep Women at Home, Consciousness- Raising Groups Did the Opposite

  • Even as women are part of the working population, they are still envisioned as mothers and house-wives
    Four black women holding up a colorful banner that read "respect the work that makes all other work possible" with images of different domestic work elements. Pictured at the Women's March, 2017.
    People at the 2017 Women’s March demanding respect for paid and unpaid care work disproportionately done by femme people.
  • Consciousness Raising Groups (CRG) served as spaces for reflection, mobilization, and coordination of feminist actions
  • Anti-hierarchal spaces: all women’s voices needed to be heard, and planted the seeds for Women Studies programs
  • As CRGs disappeared, feminism became increasingly liberal and white. Corporate feminism.

Power is a Relation That Traverses All Human Relations

  • Hooks calls to overcome master/slave relations even within groups that live in a situation of brutal oppression

Evolution of Feminism

  • From anger at men, feminism moved to understand that male dominated process can be upheld by women as well. Focus on “gender justice”
  • “Sisterhood” had to acknowledge that there were class and racial differences amongst women, and that some women oppressed other women
  • White liberal women (almost) won gender equality in the workforce in a white supremacist environment: many women of color and revolutionary women think that women will not achieve equality under present white supremacist capitalist patriarchy
  • Gradually, feminism lost its revolutionary edge: conservative and liberal feminists were content with their acquired freedoms, as their higher income allowed them to exploit other women to do “women’s” jobs

A Call for Alliances

  • Sisterhood, acknowledging differences
  • Intersectionality (not mentioned by name, but presented as implicit methodology)
  • Men, White Women, everybody needs to be involved in raising all women’s status
  • Move away from victimization to struggle with all and for all (Nietzsche)
  • Against binary identity politics



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