Friday, February 20, 2009

bell hooks

After starting the book, Black Looks: race and representation, by bell hooks, I decided to do a little research on hooks to learn more about her background and why she writes the way she does. There was a lot of information, and I just took some of the paragraphs that talk a little more about her views and experience with racism, feminism, and “white supremacy.” I really enjoyed finding out a little more about this author. I think the last paragraph really says a lot about her; it's kind of a long post but very interesting.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins, September 25, 1952.
Her pseudonym, her great-grandmother's name, celebrates female legacies and is in lower case because "it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important."
"Politically, our young mother, Rosa Bell, did not allow the white supremacist culture of domination to completely shape and control her psyche and her familial relationships." The author further described how this role applied to mothers in black communities in general: "Black women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty, hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world."…

As a student at segregated public schools such as Booker T. Washington Elementary and Crispus Attucks High, hooks was taught by a dedicated group of teachers, mostly single black women, who helped to shape the self-esteem of children of color. …

The neighborhood where she grew up provided young Gloria with the affirmation that fostered her resistance to racism, but it also provided her with the negative and positive experiences that would shape her feminism, which she discussed in the essay "Ain't I a Woman: Looking Back": "I cannot recall when I first heard the word 'feminist' or understood its meaning. I know that it was early [in my] childhood that I began to wonder about sex roles, that I began to see and feel that the experience of being 'made' female was different from that of being 'made' male; perhaps I was so conscious of this because my brother was my constant companion. I use the word 'made' because it was obvious in our home that sex roles were socially constructed--that everyone could agree that very small children were pretty much alike, only different from one another physiologically; but that everyone enjoyed the process of turning us into little girls and little boys, little men and little women, with socially constructed differences."…

"I eagerly responded to the fervor over the contemporary feminist movement on campus. I took classes, went to meetings, to all-women's parties." But one of the significant weaknesses of that women's movement quickly became apparent to her: "It was in one of my first Women's Studies classes, taught by Tillie Olsen, that I noticed the complete absence of material by or any discussion about black women. I began to feel estranged and alienated from the huge group of white women who were celebrating the power of 'sisterhood.'"

That initial disillusionment would eventually fuel hooks's major contribution to mainstream feminism--her critique of its persistent racism. In "Feminism: a Transformational Politic," she translated that early experience in Women's Studies into broad political insight: "Within the feminist movement in the West, [there exists] the assumption that resisting patriarchal domination is a more legitimate feminist action than resisting racism and other forms of domination." It became hooks's main work to change that assumption. …

"Moving from silence into speech is for the oppressed, the colonized, the exploited, and those who stand and struggle side by side a gesture of defiance that heals, that makes new life and new growth possible. It is that act of speech, of 'talking back,' that is no mere gesture of empty words, that is the expression of our movement from object to subject--the liberated voice."


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