Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some thoughts on Feminism Is For Everybody

Feminism is for Everybody
Feminism is For Everybody
bell hooks

This is the February selection for A Year of Feminist Classics. There's a discussion of the book over there that you're welcome to check out, so I'm keeping my thoughts on this rather general, taking the book as a whole. There's certainly enough to talk about that I could write a post about each 5 page chapter, but I shall refrain from doing so.

Hooks states that the purpose of this book is to give people a short, accessible primer on feminism when they ask her what it is. Does she succeed? I have to say no, she didn't.

That's not to say this isn't worth reading. It is. But it's more about a history of feminism and how it relates to various subjects (such as parenting, race, class, love). It's dreadfully short on details and concrete examples, but chocked full of jargon that would easily scare off hooks' supposed audience.

Randomly opening to a page:
Despite the limitations of feminist discourse on sexuality, feminist politics is still the only movement for social justice that offers a vision of mutual well-being as a consequence of its theory and practice. We need an erotics of being that is founded on the principle that we have a right to express sexual desire as the spirit moves us and to find in sexual pleasure a life-affirming ethos.
That's not exactly written in the vernacular.

The book also shows its age in chapters such as Beauty Within and Without and A Feminist Sexual Politic (from which the above quote is taken). Beauty touches on the dangers of eating disorders such as anorexia, but doesn't talk about the broader pressure to be in a certain weight range. Since hooks' writing, there has been the emergence of the Health at Every Size and Enthusiastic Consent movements. Those two ideas have radically opened my eyes to what feminism can do every day to make everyone's live better. Seriously, read THIS. If it doesn't immediately transform your thinking on policing people's bodies, I don't know what will. As far as feminism and fashion, there are people out there having fun with clothes in a way that has nothing to do with attracting the male gaze. It's fashion for fashion's sake. Man repeller, anyone?

On a more positive note, I do love hooks' insistence that feminism take on all modes of oppression, including class, gender, and sexual orientation. Intersectionality is not optional here. Feminism should not be working to place a few (mainly white) women in powerful positions on par with their male counterparts. The movement should be pushing for the end of the current white patriarchal capitalist system that depends on oppressing people without power for its success. 

That's an idea I can support.


Anonymous said...

Great review. I think some of this is relevant for the discussion on Amy's blog. Maybe you could add it?
You are absolutely right about Hook's use of "old left" jargon not being meaningful. But what is?

MJ said...

@mdbrady: Thanks - done!

I've found that reading feminist blogs, especially <a href="http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/>Shakesville</a>, is a much more accessible way to understand today's feminism (at least how I want to practice it). There's the ability to respond to current news with a feminist perspective, showing readers how commitment to equality and anti-oppression looks in practice, not just theory.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I'll check that out.

Heather said...

I have quite a few books by bell hooks on my TBR pile that I really need to get around to reading. I'm so glad you posted about this, because I didn't know about A Year of Feminist Classics and it sounds like a really good blog. Thank you!