Political engagement and the feminist movement
Bell Hooks, arguably the most influential mind of contemporary times, is a not-so-familiar name in India, but in the feminist world of wrestling and academia she is considered the one who gave a trope innovative to feminist discourse. She passed away on December 15, 2021 at the age of 69, leaving behind works that would certainly enrich and clarify the political nuances present in feminist theory and practice. She spoke forcefully in public, which had hitherto been said in private, of the conditions of black women and their visible inequalities – a sort of entanglement of racial and class categories – and envisioned a good society with dignity for all.
She resisted the title of “public intellectual”, although she did become one, and followed a fluid, jargon-free writing style.
READ: Bell hooks: A radical black feminist whose ideology has had a huge impact
hooks began his studies at Christian County Separate Schools, completed his masters at the University of Wisconsin, and his doctorate in literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has worked as a professor at Yale, Oberlin, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has published nearly 40 books covering a wide range of subjects such as literary criticism, children’s fiction, memoirs, poetry, education, capitalism, American history and, in between, has written with passion on love and friendship. She created the Bell Hooks Institute at Berea College to focus on what she described as “imperialist-supremacist-white-capitalist-patriarchy” power structures. The multi-trait term, for her, represented the intersectionality that needs to be understood while also explaining the much more complex category called nested oppressions. However, it remains essentially focused on the shift from racial identity to class identity. The shift of the signifier and the signified between “black woman” and “poor black woman” continues in the spirit of the times of his opuses. Ain’t I a Woman ?: Black Women and Feminism, written as her first major work in 1981, raised several questions about the marginalization and subjugation of black women and intervened, to include the experiences of black women and the working class, in civil society. women’s rights and liberation movements. She embarked on the feminist debate as an insider, from within, and refined existing fault lines for contemporary feminists to take political positions.
Debates â€œinsideâ€ and â€œaboutâ€ feminism.
The second wave of feminism, unlike the first which largely dealt with “what is feminism and feminist theory?” Has paid attention to debates “internal” to feminism, so to speak, to debates “within” and “to” feminism. Feminists in the 1980s and 1990s deepened claims that all women are victims of oppression and should be equal to men to bring together crucial differences within – race / caste / ethnicity / class – and to challenge the simple stereotypical notion of a set of shared ideas and values. hooks was uncomfortable with the botched account of feminist content – the shared meaning of feminism as a “generalized collectivist agenda” – rather, building her thesis on difference and equality, she asked to reject â€œThe approach of anything is allowedâ€ and to concentrate on â€œsets of ideasâ€. For the hooks, feminism is not for all women who, whatever their political position, want the same rights as men. In fact, she is picky about the term feminism because it implies political engagement.
READ: Gender casting at the polls
In Feminist Theory: From the Margin to the Center, she says, â€œâ€¦ I say the minute you start to oppose patriarchy, you are progressive. If our real agenda is to change patriarchy and sexist oppression, we are talking about a revolutionary movement. For the hooks, therefore, feminism is a distinct political perspective, with a shared political agenda distinct from mere ecumenical politics. She was deeply opposed to the capitalist economy and played a lot with the idea of â€‹â€‹sexual oppression before or after class power which is based on the subversions of the capitalist patriarchy.
White-feminism: a reassessment
the brackets have resolutely raised the issue of the invisibilization of the marginalized black woman, especially black workers. Her efforts have led to the recognition of differences related to marginalized racial / ethnic communities and to the rejection of the presumption that women share a common identity based on a shared experience of oppression. Western middle-class white women as a “custodian of feminism” and as the norm of what constitutes a “woman,” came under severe criticism when the Hooks expressed alarm at the complicity of white feminists in the escalation. racism and ethnocentrism. In Black Looks: Race and Representation, the brackets denigrate white feminism for their perception of pop icon Madonna as subversive and suggests that “Madonna’s projection of the sex agency is of little use to the black woman of the United States. United who may wish to refuse their representation as being sexually available. However, Hooks was one of those writers who envisioned the conception of feminism as a coalition – one that is based on the principle of solidarity, on ideas of political community, and generally on specific issues in a long-term sense. In an essay “Sisterhood: political solidarity between women”, she writes:
â€¦ ..Letting go of the idea of â€‹â€‹brotherhood as an expression of political solidarity weakens and diminishes the feminist movementâ€¦ ..There can be no mass feminist movement to end sexist oppression without a united front â€¦ .Women get rich when we unite with one anotherâ€¦ .We can bond based on our political commitment to a feminist movement.
To enrich the feminist movement everywhere, including India, there is much to be learned from the hooks of monumental works.
(Tanvir Aeijaz The author teaches public policy and politics at the University of Delhi and is an extraordinary honorary professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not not necessarily reflect those of Outlook Magazine)