bell hooks on Feminist Revolution


This is a guest post by Madama Ambi, who originally posted this at the Feminist Advisory Board for Obama blog.


I belong to a feminist book club and we’re reading Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks. This was written in 1984 and is considered a classic feminist text. Last night I read the final chapter on Feminist Revolution.

Although I think I read this book 20 years ago as part of my curriculum in feminist psychotherapy, this books feels fresh and relevant to me. I jumped into her last chapter on Feminist Revolution because I’ve felt very frustrated by where women’s movement is these days. I’ve been saying that we have developed into fiefdoms of feminisms, where women are now busy running their own non-profits, holding conferences, writing books, appearing on TV, etc. This is all good, but it ain’t revolution and it isn’t going to change the power structure. OK, this is what I’ve been saying before jumping into bell hooks’ chapter on Feminist Revolution. These are the conclusions I’ve come to as a result of living online and spending every day roaming the femisphere to find out what people are doing, who they are, what their thoughts are about women’s movement now.

Then I land in language that so speaks to me it is like water to my thirsty throat. Here is the paragraph that sums up, for me, what is missing in feminist/womanist movement:

“Feminist consciousness-raising has not significantly pushed women in the direction of revolutionary politics. For the most part, it has not helped women understand capitalism–how it works as a system that exploits female labor and its interconnections with sexist oppression. It has not urged women to learn about different political systems like socialism or encouraged women to invent and envision new political systems. It has not attacked materialism and our society’s addiction to overconsumption. It has not shown women how we benefit from the exploitation and oppression of women and men globally or shown us ways to oppose imperialism. Most importantly, it has not continually confronted women with the understanding that feminist movement to end sexist oppression can be successful only if we are committed to revolution, to the establishment of a new social order.”

That’s what I’m working on! It sounds daunting, almost grandiose, to say that feminists/womanists should take this on, and yet that’s where my evolving analysis has led me.

And here’s another idea from bell hooks that I had to highlight in yellow:

“Women must begin the work of feminist reorganization with the understanding that we have all (irrespective of our race, sex, or class) acted in complicity with the existing oppressive system. We all need to make a conscious break with the system.”

Pretty mindblowing statements…and I think I know what she’s talking about…in fact, I think I’m starting to organize around these ideas.


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