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Non-fiction // Bell Hooks
A sweeping examination of the core issues of sexual politics, bell hooks’ new book Feminist Theory: from margin to center argues that the contemporary feminist movement must establish a new direction for the 1980s. Continuing the debates surrounding her controversial first book, Ain’t I A Woman, bell hooks suggests that feminists have not succeeded in creating a mass movement against sexist oppression because the very foundation of women’s liberation has, until now, not accounted for the complexity and diversity of female experience. In order to fulfill its revolutionary potential, feminist theory must begin by consciously transforming its own definition to encompass the lives and ideas of women on the margin. Hooks’ work is a challenge to the women’s movement and will have profound impact on all whose lives have been touched by feminism and its insights.
Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, originally published in 1984, is a critical book for anyone who is interested in Black feminist theory and liberation. It is an academic and theoretical piece, but tries to be much more personal in its style. Bell hooks certainly quotes other scholars and provides definitions of key concepts. But she also interjects certain personal experiences from her academic journey along with personal opinions on the subject throughout. Therefore, the text almost comes across as a long-form journal which is rooted in educating but also serves as a guidebook for how to approach feminism from the perspective of a Black womxn. She seeks to minimize barriers before you even open the text by choosing to maintain an alias with uncapitalized letters, bell hooks, so that the pomp and egotism associated with doctoral work and scholarship are diminished.
Because the text is academic, there are no characters in the traditional sense of the word. However, I feel that it is important to note that the marginalized are centered throughout the book. Often, feminist scholarship is traditionally generalized and these generalizations tend to only apply to white, upper-class womxn and/or feminists. Therefore, the fact that the basis of hooks’ work is to quite literally bring the experiences of poor women of color from margin to center is quite admirable. She unapologetically uses her platform to create the space for a discussion surrounding why and how marginalized womxn are pushed out of mainstream feminism. Thus, the main characters of the book are ourselves as it invites us to consider how we may experience and uphold the oppressions that we face.
“As a black woman interested in feminist movement, I am often asked whether being black is more important than being a woman; whether feminist struggle to end sexist oppression is more important than the struggle to end racism or vice versa. All such questions are rooted in competitive either/or thinking, the belief that the self is formed in opposition to an other. Therefore one is a feminist because one is not something else. Most people are socialized to think in terms of opposition rather than compatibility.”
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