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Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory

-Bell Hooks-

The feminist movement that blossomed in America doesnt cater to all Women.
More than the clear manifestation of sexism in a patriarch structured society; it
furthermore undermines class and race. The voice of black women in feminist
movement is important because they are at the bottom of the occupational ladder,
and whose social status is lower than any other group, thus they bear the brunt of
sexist, racist, and classist oppression. Thus from this vantage point, black women
have a unique perspective with which to criticize the dominant hegemony and
create a counter-hegemony.

Important points as highlights:


Feminism in the U.S. did not arise as a result of victimized women who are so
by sexist oppression, standing up. (refers to mentally, physically, spiritually beaten
down, silent). The movement arose from what she will come to call bourgeois white
women (college-educated, middle and upper-class, married white women,
housewives bored with leisure, with home, with children, with buying products, who
wanted more out of life).
Hook criticized Friedans The Feminine Mystique ignoring the plight and
existence of non-white, and poor women. She assumed that her concerns were
congruent with those of all American women.
White women in feminist movement Hooks states rarely question their
privilege, or whether they have the best handle on the collective suffering of
women, racism abounds in the writings of said feminists, which reinforces white
supremacy negating the possibility of a political bond across ethnic and racial
boundaries.
She defines oppression as the absence of choices and is the primary
contact between oppressor and oppressed. Hooks states, importantly, that under
capitalism, patriarchy is structured so that sexism restricts womens behaviors in
some avenues while liberating them in others, this is what makes it so tricky a
prison, in the absence of extreme restrictions many women ignore the areas in
which they are exploited or discriminated against; it may even lead them to imagine
that no women are oppressed.
There has been too high a focus on gender in womens liberation movement
which is not, according to Hooks, a solid basis for constructing feminist theory.
Unfortunately Hooks states, this analysis tends to reflect Western patriarchal
thought and mystifies womens reality by suggesting gender is the sole determinant
of womens fate.

Black women are not in a position to be allowed an institutionalized other,


they can not assume the role of exploiter/oppressor for who could they exploit or
oppress?