Bell Hooks’ Notion and Definition of Feminism

Samuel Okorie 27 October 2010 Philosophy 110 bell hooks’ notion and definition of feminism In this paper, I will examine and expand on the meaning of feminism as put forth by bell hooks in her book “Feminism is for everybody: Passionate Politics” and her argument that the definition of feminism and the primary goal of the feminist movement is one and the same: that feminism is a movement to “end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” of all women.

This is not a critical analysis of the entire book as whole or in sections; instead, it is an argument in support of the meaning of her definition of feminism. Although, she argues that women can be just as sexist as men, however, she asserts that the goal of the feminist movement is to eradicate an institutionalized sexism perpetrated by men against women in our patriarchy society which I fully support.

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I believe hooks’ definition of feminism enhances her overall argument that the feminist movement cannot be just about women seeking equal rights in race, gender, or class but that feminist principles should include the goal to end sexism in general. She asserts that the goal of the movement is to challenge sexism and patriarchy while still allowing women to recruit and convert men to their feminist beliefs and thinking and to the feminist movement at large.

Hooks’ definition of feminism is one that could easily be incorporated into the mainstream teachings of feminist politics because it is focused on issues of domination which goes beyond sex and gender. hooks presents a unique view of all forms of domination stemming from a feminist understanding of gender and sexual inequality that can be incorporated into the teachings of social relations between individuals, social structures, and the state.

Here are three examples she offers in support of her claim that feminism is a movement to “end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” of all women. One example hooks puts forth in support of her claim is for women to challenge sexism and patriarchy by organizing to protect “Our bodies, Ourselves and Reproductive Rights” and protest against the sexual exploitation of their bodies, a common occurrence during the early part of the feminist movement. She cites examples of women burning their bras in protest at a Miss American pageant.

She explains that women’s rights to have a safe contraceptives and legal abortion, the availability of an effective birth control pills and the pain of unwanted pregnancy were front and center at the beginning of the movement and continued throughout its peak years until these goals were achieved. These and other important changes in women’s reproductive rights and health care is part of her goal to redefine feminism as a movement to “end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” of all women.

Another example hooks puts forth in support of her claim is for women to challenge sexism by embracing the idea of “beauty within and without. ” She argues that women reject the sexist thinking that puts too much emphasis on their appearance in having to wear make-up and fashion accessories just to please men. And instead learn to love their body in its natural state by wearing no make-up, and accept and embrace its natural beauty. She cites an example when many feminist in the early part of the movement stopped wearing uncomfortable high-heeled shoes.

These changes led the shoe makers and the industry to adapt and design new low-heeled shoes for women. These and other changes in the fashion industry is part of her goal to redefine feminism as a movement to “end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” of all women. Thirdly, hooks put forth the idea that women can be just as sexist as men. She speaks firsthand about the issues in class privilege, gender and race discrimination as she is a woman of color and experienced this discrimination during the peak years of the feminist movement in the ’70s and ’80s.

For instance, as with class privilege, she views the formation of large women’s organizations, like NOW ( National Organization for Women) as the beginning of a stage where the feminist movement took on the role of empowering white, middle class women at the expense of women of color and working class women. While the early fight for women’s equality in the workplace was a necessity because women were entering the workforce in greater numbers, the “ultimate result was the inclusion of privileged white women into a white supremacist, patriarchal hierarchy. hooks argues that the beneficiaries of the feminist movement have by far been white women co-opted by white supremacist, patriarchal capitalism because it is easier to incorporate them into the mainstream American than women of color. However, this is changing too as more women of color are educated and entering the workforce in increasing numbers, these and other changes is part of her goal to redefine feminism as a movement to “end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” of all women.

Finally, she presents feminist struggle as the struggle against institutionalized sexism and male domination. Whether it is patriarchal violence against women in the home, the imposition of sexual morality upon others, the limitation of women’s ability to control their own bodies, in terms of both general health care and reproductive rights, or the imposition of class, gender and race based exploitation; she presents all of these features of modern society as stemming from sexist notions of domination.

While there are some who would disagree with this analysis of the origins of inequality and domination, it is hard to argue against the notion that these forms of domination do not constitute a serious threat to the freedom of all individuals, especially women. Works Cited hooks, bell. Feminism is for everybody: passionate politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000. Print.

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