Thoughts on Feminist Theory from Margin to Center

30Nov09

I got my hands on this book in the nick of time (does anyone else in this group borrow from the Queens library?). While it was published in 1984, there are still many points that are relevant to what’s happening today.

The first part of the book delves into how the second wave of feminism in the 1960s excluded important groups of women, focusing solely on white, upper-class heterosexual cis women. Today too, feminists are infighting to make sure disabled women, lesbian women, and trans women, among others, are included in the national discourse. Just as bell hooks stated to her readers that society has to unlearn racism and classism (as it is still very much doing) so too will they have to unlearn the stereotypes that befall these other groups. And while some of us may become frustrated by the infighting (how can we ever move forward as a movement if we’re bickering with each other?), bell hooks has this to offer: “If women always seek to avoid confrontation…we may never experience any revolutionary change” (66-7). So these discrepancies are actually healthy in order for us to grow internally as a movement and proceed with a unified voice.

The second issue that remains pertinent to today (in fact, more pertinent to Wednesday – the National Lobby Day and Rally Against Stupak) is about revolutionizing parenting. Though much of bell hooks’ argument has to do with transforming fatherhood to be just as important and revered in our culture as motherhood, she does say that we need “to make motherhood neither a compulsory experience for women nor an exploitative or oppressive one” (137). This of course upholds the thinking behind Roe v Wade, but also lends to the idea of shaming single mothers, or simply hating on the mommy culture in today’s mostly white, urban upper-class circles.

bell hooks also leaves us with some encouraging words: The revolution isn’t over. In fact, it may be so gradual that we may not even know it’s happening. Health care is just one step. Paid sick days is yet another. All of these are small steps that act to change the cultural landscape, and all collectively will lead to a changed society. So we may not yet be at the center, but we’re moving there, albeit slowly but surely.
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