Bell hooks | Critical Review by Joyce Pettis

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Bell hooks.
This section contains 539 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Joyce Pettis

SOURCE: A review of Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 11, No. 4, summer, 1986, pp. 788-89.

In the following review, Pettis praises Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center for the balance it brings to feminist theory and the feminist movement.

Bell Hook's second book [Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center] is distinguished from other texts on feminist theory by her Black feminist stance. Hook's perspective, as one who understands not only the meaning of being on the margin but also the workings of the center, informs her merciless dissection of conceptual blunders in the ideology of feminist theory that excludes nonwhite and poor white women or masses of American women.

Chapter by chapter, Hooks points out how the articulators of feminist theory have excluded nonwhite and working-class women primarily by disregarding "white supremacy as a racial politic," and by ignoring "the psychological impact of class, of their political status within a racist, sexist, capitalist state." Through these lenses, Hooks scrutinizes the shaping of feminist theory, the definition of feminism, the meaning of sisterhood, what feminist struggle can mean to men, and power, work, violence, education of women, and revolution as legitimate subjects of feminist theory.

Pointing out successive biases and omissions in a systematic critique of feminist theory accounts only for a portion of Hooks's text. Equally important are her ideas for altering the current direction of feminist theory so that it reflects and includes the lives of masses of nonwhite, poor, and working-class women.

A number of strengths are apparent in the text. Hooks's methodical and straightforward exposure and analysis of basic but ignored problems—capitalism, patriarchy, classism, racism, sexism—in the formulation of feminist theory is commendable. Her explanations of how these systems interact with each other and her discussion of their effects on the formulators of feminist theory are cogent, forceful, and objective. The prose conveys her impassioned convictions. Additionally, the text does not deviate from the thesis explicit in the title: the need to bring women who have existed only marginally in the feminist movement into the center of it. Hooks's text, rather than being antimale, suggests that men should be a part of feminist efforts to end oppression since they, too, will become beneficiaries of the ultimate freedom.

Hooks's argument that the feminist movement, as originally conceived and executed, was for the benefit of middle-class white women is consistent with Paula Giddings's research as revealed in "The Woman's Movement and Black Discontent," in When and Where I Enter and in agreement with Black feminist Gloria Joseph's conclusions in "The Incompatible Menage À Trois: Marxism, Feminism and Racism" in Lydia Sargent, ed., Women and Revolution: The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism. Hooks and Joseph also agree that the ideology of patriarchy, capitalism, and racism is inextricably connected to the sexual oppression of Black women.

In spite of Hooks's unorthodox way of listing references (she lists them by chapter and page number at the end of the text, and neither publication information nor the names of editors for anthology pieces is listed in the notes), her text is a useful one that brings a needed balance to the steady proliferation of books on feminist theory and the feminist movement.

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This section contains 539 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Joyce Pettis
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