This chapter describes hooks’ experience with feminism in university. Being exposed to feminism as a academic discipline was important to hooks’ understanding and her growth as a feminist. It was there that she was “awakened politically.”
I had come to feminist thinking by challenging male domination in our patriarchal household. But simply being the victim of an exploitative or oppressive system and even resisting it does not mean we understand why it’s in place or how to change it.
In the classroom, and through support for the creation and recognition of feminist literature, feminist thinking grew and expanded. As well, the professors and students of women’s studies departments were able to call into question the biases surrounding academic and artistic works by men and women.
Once hooks has established the importance of feminist thinking in academia and the role it had in bringing so many into feminism, she then criticizes it for becoming elitist. It soon developed its own language and the debate became inaccessible to those outside academia. This, hooks explains, led to a separation between feminist theory and the feminist movement. It soon became a depoliticized academic discipline.
hooks calls for feminist literature that can reach the masses.
Imagine a mass-based feminist movement where folks go door to door passing out literature, taking the time (as religious groups do) to explain to people what feminism is all about.
According to hooks, without an educational movement, people are left to learn about feminism through “mainstream patriarchal mass media” where “most of what they learn is negative.”
She points out how many people are not aware of the ways feminism has improved society. That these contributions “are often appropriated by the dominant culture which then projects negative representations of feminism.”
She wants to see feminism being shared and spread through “a range of styles and formats.” And wants work that is focused on youth.
I have to agree with the main argument of this chapter. It can be difficult to wade into feminism. It isn’t long before you’re getting a little lost in terminology. But my sense is that it’s changing. I think a lot of the feminist blogs out there do a great job of talking about these issues in everyday language (check out the blogroll to the right – and make suggestions in the comments). Take Lindy West at Jezebel as an example (warning there be cusses).
What do you think is needed to get the word on feminism out there? What is needed to help people detect and counter sexism?
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Series Guide: Feminism Is For Everybody