1. Explain why the author (hooks) states that it’s hard to achieve sisterhood? List some of the challenges to achieve sisterhood.
-Bell Hooks states that it’s hard to achieve sisterhood because “male supremacist ideology” encourages women to believe that they are useless and are only valuable when relating to or bonding with men. Women are taught that their “natural enemies” are themselves, and that “solidarity” will not exist because they cannot and should not bond with one another. Therefore relationships between other women are seen as less valuable and “diminish” rather than “enrich” their own experiences. Women are divided by sexist attitudes, racism, class privilege, and many other prejudices that seek to divide women and turn them against each other. As such, there can be no “mass-based movement” to end sexist oppression without women demonstrating that they are willing to work together and bond in order to achieve their cause. “Some feminists now feel that unity among women is impossible given our differences” (Hooks 44). The fact that many women (like the bourgeois white women) are “exploiting and oppressing other women” for their own gains is only hurting their cause and is giving men more power to control them. “According to Bourgeois women, the basis for bonding was shared victimization, hence the emphasis on common oppression” (Hooks 45). This meant that women had to be represented as “victims” in order to feel that the feminist movement was relevant to their lives. Bonding as “victims” created a situation in which “self-affirming women” (like black women) were often seen as having no place in the feminist movement. It was this logic that led many white women activists to abandon the feminist movement when they no longer embraced the “victim” identity. They cannot afford to see themselves solely as “victims” because it would be psychologically demoralizing for these women to bond with other women on the basis of “shared victimization” and under male patriarchy they would continue to devalue women who were outside of their group and continue to exercise their influence and power over their “allies”. For women to be able to make any kind of impact, on any social or political platform, they have to be able to bond and connect with each other on the basis of shared strengths and resources. It is this type of bonding that is the essence of Sisterhood.
2. Explain how the feminist movement has been shaped since 1960 (provide details in chronological order).
-During the 1960s, influenced and inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, women of all ages began to fight to secure a stronger role in American society. As members of groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) asserted their rights and strove for equality for themselves and others, they upended many accepted norms and set groundbreaking social and legal changes in motion. Title VII is the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of gender. Just as the abolitionist movement made nineteenth-century women more aware of their lack of power and encouraged them to form the first women’s rights movement–sometimes called first-wave feminism–the protest movements of the 1960s inspired many white and middle-class women to create their own organized movement for greater rights–known as second-wave feminism. Many were older, married women who found the traditional roles of housewife and mother unfulfilling. In 1963, writer and feminist Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, a nonfiction book in which she contested the post-World War II belief that it was women’s destiny to marry and bear children. Friedan’s book was a best-seller and began to raise the consciousness of many women who agreed that homemaking in the suburbs sapped them of their individualism and left them unsatisfied. Women filled significant roles in organizations fighting for civil rights like the Student National Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). However, women often found that those organizations—enlightened as they might have been about racial issues or the war in Vietnam—could still be influenced by patriarchal ideas of male superiority. In 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW), formed and proceeded to set an agenda for the feminist movement. Framed by a statement of purpose written by Friedan, the agenda began by proclaiming NOW’s goal to make possible women’s participation in all aspects of American life and to gain for them all the rights enjoyed by men. Among the specific goals set was the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women. First introduced in Congress in 1923, the ERA was passed in 1972 but failed to receive the 38 state ratifications necessary to become part of the Constitution. It has yet to be adopted today. A series of landmark Supreme Court cases through the ’60s and ’70s gave married and unmarried women the right to use birth control; Title IX gave women the right to educational equality; and in 1973, Roe v. Wade guaranteed women’s reproductive freedom. More radical feminists, like their colleagues in other movements, were dissatisfied with merely redressing economic issues. They devised their own brand of consciousness-raising events and symbolic attacks on women’s oppression. Earning the right to work outside the home was not a major concern for black women, many of whom had to work outside the home anyway. And while black women and white women both advocated for reproductive freedom, black women wanted to fight not just for the right to contraception and abortions but also to stop the forced sterilization of people of color and people with disabilities, which was not a priority for the mainstream women’s movement. In response, some black feminists decamped from feminism to create womanism. The beginning of the third wave is pegged to two things: the Anita Hill case in 1991, and the emergence of the riot grrrl groups in the music scene of the early 1990s. In 1991, Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her at work. Thomas made his way to the Supreme Court anyway, but Hill’s testimony sparked an avalanche of sexual harassment complaints, in much the same way that last fall’s Harvey Weinstein accusations were followed by a litany of sexual misconduct accusations against other powerful men. Early third-wave activism tended to involve fighting against workplace sexual harassment and working to increase the number of women in positions of power. Intellectually, it was rooted in the work of theorists of the ’80s: Kimberlé Crenshaw, a scholar of gender and critical race theory who coined the term intersectionality to describe the ways in which different forms of oppression intersect; and Judith Butler, who argued that gender and sex are separate and that gender is performative. Crenshaw and Butler’s combined influence would become foundational to the third wave’s embrace of the fight for trans rights as a fundamental part of intersectional feminism. Depending on how you count the waves, that might be changing now, as the #MeToo moment develops with no signs of stopping — or we might be kicking off an entirely new wave. The Fourth Wave, movement within feminism that, although debated by some, began about 2012. Its focus was on sexual harassment, body shaming, and rape culture, among other issues. A key component was the use of social media to highlight and address these concerns. The new wave arose amid a number of high-profile incidents. Victims of sexual harassment or assault around the world—and of all ethnicities—began sharing their experiences on social media, using the hashtag #MeToo. The movement grew over the coming months to bring condemnation to dozens of powerful men in politics, business, entertainment, and the news media.
3. Explain some of the different points/beliefs between Radical feminism, Socialist Marxist Feminists, and liberal feminist ideology [for the answer use bell for Radical feminists and Han & Heldman for Socialist Marxist feminist chapter 3].
-Liberal feminism works within the structure of mainstream society to integrate women into that structure. As is often the case with liberals, they slog along inside the system, getting little done amongst the compromises until some radical movement shows up and pulls those compromises left of center. This is how it operated in the days of the suffragist movement and again with the emergence of the radical feminists. This term refers to the feminist movement that sprung out of the civil rights and peace movements in 1967-1968. The reason this group gets the “radical” label is that they view the oppression of women as the most fundamental form of oppression, one that cuts across boundaries of race, culture, and economic class. This is a movement intent on social change, change of rather revolutionary proportions, in fact. Marxism recognizes that women are oppressed, and attributes the oppression to the capitalist/private property system. Thus they insist that the only way to end the oppression of women is to overthrow the capitalist system.
4. Define what bell hooks means by sexist ideology and what does sexist ideology teaches women?
-Sexism means discrimination based on sex or gender, or the belief that because men are superior to women, discrimination is justified. Such a belief can be conscious or unconscious. In sexism, as in racism, the differences between two (or more) groups are viewed as indications that one group is superior or inferior. Sexist discrimination against girls and women is a means of maintaining male domination and power. The oppression or discrimination can be economic, political, social, or cultural. In regards to the concept of a “common oppression”, bell hooks claims that: “The idea of common oppression was a false and corrupt platform disguising and mystifying the true nature of women’s varied and complex social reality. Women’s liberationists made shared victimization the basis for woman bonding but this participates in sexist ideology that teaches women that being a female is to be a victim”. Bell Hooks states that “Bonding between a chosen circle of women who strengthen their ties by excluding and devaluing women outside their group closely resembles the type of personal bonding between women that has always occurred under patriarchy”. Sisterhood involves shared sentiment against sexism, and in order to share the true value of Sisterhood, women-to-women relationships must stop being influenced by male supremacist values. Sexist ideology brainwashes men to believe that their violent abuse of women is beneficial when it is not. Yet feminist activists affirm this logic when we should be constantly naming these acts as expressions of per verted power relations, general lack of control over one’s actions, emotional powerlessness, extreme irrationality, and in many cases, outright insanity. Passive male absorption of sexist ideology enables them to interpret this disturbed behavior positively. As long as men are brainwashed to equate violent abuse of women with privilege, they will have no understanding of the damage done to themselves, or the damage they do to others, and no motivation to change.
5. Bell hooks claims that Racism is fundamentally a feminist issue. Do you agree or disagree with this access? [Why did 53 percent of white women vote for Donald Trump? Romney instead of Obama and McCain instead of Obama (Han & Helman chapter 5-page 106).
-I agree that racism is fundamentally a feminist issue because Racism along with class differences are factors that keep women from establishing a true Sisterhood, as “Sisterhood” taught by women’s liberationists only includes white bourgeois women. hooks claims that because black women were seen as strong, they could not be part of a Sisterhood and were excluded from the “feminist” agenda. Instead Sisterhood became “yet another shield against reality, another support system” for white feminists. To prevent the exclusion of women with different skin colors and cultures, it is important to acknowledge the existence of racial discrimination and the exploitation of multi-ethnic women by white women. Likewise, women of color must work to understand each other since women of different races have different backgrounds. bell hooks claims it would be impossible for women of different cultures to truly share the same concerns, and so a bond should be formed between women on the basis of shared strengths versus that of a “common oppression”.
6. On Chapter 5– bell hooks states, Liberal feminism believes that “Men … were all-powerful, misogynist, oppressor—the enemy. Women were the oppressed—the victims,”.. “all men are the enemy” and “all men hate women.” Explain the meaning of these statements and what are the adverse effects of the above believe for women of color?
-Women’s liberationists called upon all women to join feminist movement but they did not continually stress that men should assume responsibility for actively struggling to end sexist oppression. Men, they argued, were all-powerful, misogynist, oppressor the enemy. Women were the oppressed-the victims. Such rhetoric reinforced sexist ideology by positing in an inverted form the notion of a basic conflict between the sexes, the implication being that the empowerment of women would necessarily be at the expense of men. Anti-male sentiments alienated many poor and working class women, particularly non-white women, from feminist movement. As with other issues, the insistence on a “woman only” feminist movement and a virulent anti-male stance reflected the race and class background of participants. Bourgeois white women, especially radical feminists, were envious and angry birds at privileged white men for denying them an equal share in class privilege. In part, feminism provided them with a public forum for the expression of their anger as well as a political platform they could use to call attention to issues of social equality, demand change, and promote specific reforms. They were not eager to call attention to the fact that men do not share a common social status; that patriarchy does not negate the existence of class and race privilege or exploitation; that all men do not benefit equally from sexism. They did not want to acknowledge that bourgeois white women, though often victimized by sexism, have more power and privilege, are less likely to be exploited or oppressed, than poor, uneducated, non white males. At the time, many white women’s liberationists did not care about the fate of oppressed groups of men. In keeping with the exercise of race and/ or class privilege, they deemed the life experiences of these men unworthy of their attention, dismissed them, and simultaneously deflected attention away from their support of continued exploitation and oppression. Assertions like “all men are the enemy,” “all men hate women” lumped all groups of men in one category, thereby suggesting that they share equally in all forms of male privilege. We identify the agents of our oppression as men. Male supremacy is the oldest, most basic form of domination. All other forms of exploitation and oppression (racism, capitalism, imperialism, etc.) are extensions of male supremacy: men dominate women, a few men dominate the rest. The ruling class male power structure that promotes his sexist abuse of women reaps the real material benefits and privileges from his actions. As long as he is attacking women and not sexism or capitalism, he helps to maintain a system that allows him few, if any, benefits or privileges. He is an oppressor. He is an enemy to women. He is also an enemy to himself. He is also oppressed. His abuse of women is not justifiable. Even though he has been socialized to act as he does, there are existing social movements that would enable him to struggle for self-recovery and liberation. By ignoring these movements, he chooses to remain both oppressor and oppressed. If feminist movement ignores his predicament, dismisses his hurt, or writes him off as just another male enemy, then we are passively condoning his actions. Women in black communities have been reluctant to publicly discuss sexist oppression, but they have always known it exists. We too have been socialized to accept sexist ideology and many black women feel that black male abuse of women is a reflection of frustrated masculinity-such thoughts lead them to see that abuse is understandable, even justified. The vast majority of black women think that just publicly stating that these men are the enemy or identifying them as oppressors would do little to change the situation; they fear it could simply lead to greater victimization. Naming oppressive realities, in and of itself, has not brought about the kinds of changes for oppressed groups that it can for more privileged groups, who command a different quality of attention. The public naming of sexism has generally not resulted in the institutionalized violence that characterized, for example, the response to black civil rights struggles. So far, feminist rhetoric identifying men as the enemy has had few positive implications. Had feminist activists called attention to the relationship between ruling class men and the vast majority of men, who are socialized to perpetuate and maintain sexism and sexist oppression even as they reap no life-affirming benefits, these men might have been motivated to examine the impact of sexism in their lives. Often feminist activists talk about male abuse of women as if it is an exercise of privilege rather than an expression of moral bankruptcy, insanity, and dehumanization. Implicit in this statement is the assumption that the act of committing violent crimes against women is either a gesture or an affirmation of privilege. Sexist ideology brainwashes men to believe that their violent abuse of women is beneficial when it is not. Yet feminist activists affirm this logic when we should be constantly naming these acts as expressions of per verted power relations, general lack of control over one’s actions, emotional powerlessness, extreme irrationality, and in many cases, outright insanity. Passive male absorption of sexist ideology enables them to interpret this disturbed behavior positively. As long as men are brainwashed to equate violent abuse of women with privilege, they will have no understanding of the damage done to themselves, or the damage they do to others, and no motivation to change. it is evident that the emphasis on “man as enemy” deflected attention away from focus on improving relationships between women and men, ways for men and women to work together to unlearn sexism. Bourgeois women active in feminist movement exploited the notion of a natural polarization between the sexes to draw attention to equal rights effort. They had an enormous investment in depicting the male as enemy and the female as victim. They were a group of women who could dismiss their ties with men once they had an equal share in class privilege. They were ultimately more concerned with obtaining an equal share in class privilege than with the struggle to eliminate sexism and sexist oppression. Their insistence on separating from men heightened the sense that they, as women without men, needed to be equal. Most women do not have the freedom to separate from men because of economic interdependence. The separatist notion that women could resist sexism by withdrawing from contact with men reflected a bourgeois class perspective. It seems to me that for this reason alone, criticizing women who associate with men not only tends to be counterproductive; it borders on blaming the victim. Particularly if the women taking it upon themselves to set the standards are white and upper or middle class (as has often been the case in my experience) and those to whom they apply these rules are not.
7. Chapter 5 –Why it is important to have men as part of the feminist movement? In other words why Separatist ideology is bad for the movement?
-Men who actively struggle against sexism have a place in feminist movement. They are our comrades. Feminists have recognized and supported the work of men who take responsibility for sexist oppression-men’s work with batterers, for example. Those women’s liberationists who see no value in this participation must rethink and re-examine the process by which revolutionary struggle is advanced. Individual men tend to become involved in feminist movement because of the pain generated in relationships with women. Usually a woman friend or companion has called attention to their support of male supremacy. Men who advocate feminism as a movement to end sexist oppression must become more vocal and public in their opposition to sexism and sexist oppression. Until men share equal responsibility for struggling to end sexism, feminist movement will reflect the very sexist contradictions we wish to eradicate. Separatist ideology encourages us to believe that women alone can make feminist revolution-we cannot. Since men are the primary agents maintaining and supporting sexism and sexist oppression, they can only be successfully eradicated if men are compelled to assume responsibility for transforming their consciousness and the consciousness of society as a whole. In particular, men have a tremendous contribution to make to feminist struggle in the area of exposing, confronting, opposing, and transforming the sexism of their male peers. When men show a willingness to assume equal responsibility in feminist struggle, performing whatever tasks are necessary, women should affirm their revolutionary work by acknowledging them as comrades in struggle. Separatist ideology encourages women to ignore the negative impact of sexism on male personhood. It stresses polarization between the sexes. According to Joy Justice, separatists believe that there are “two basic perspectives” on the issue of naming the victims of sexism: “There is the perspective that men oppress women. And there is the perspective that people are people, and we are all hurt by rigid sex roles.” Many separatists feel that the latter perspective is a sign of co-optation, representing women’s refusal to confront the fact that men are the enemy-they insist on the primacy of the first perspective. Both perspectives accurately describe our predicament. Men do oppress women. Women active in feminist movement have not wanted to focus in any way on male pain so as not to deflect attention away form the focus on male privilege. Separatist feminist rhetoric suggested that all men shared equally in male privilege, that all men reap positive benefits from sexism. Yet the poor or working class man who has been socialized via sexist ideology to believe that there are privileges and powers he should possess solely because he is male often finds that few if any of these benefits are automatically bestowed him in life. More than any other male group in the United States, he is constantly concerned about the contradiction between the notion of masculinity he was taught and his inability to live up to that notion. He is usually “hurt,” emotionally scarred because he does not have the privilege or power society has taught him “real men” should possess. Alienated, frustrated, pissed off, he may attack, abuse, and oppress an individual woman or women, but he is not reaping positive benefits from his support and perpetuation of sexist ideology. Like women, men have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology. While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for eliminating it. It angers women activists who push separatism as a goal of feminist movement to hear emphasis placed on men being victimized by sexism; they cling to the “all men are the enemy” version of reality. Men are not exploited or oppressed by sexism, but there are ways in which they suffer as a result of it. This suffering should not be ignored. While it in no way diminishes the seriousness of male abuse and oppression of women, or negates male responsibility for exploitative actions, the pain men experience can serve as a catalyst calling attention to the need for change. Recognition of the painful consequences of sexism in their lives led some men to establish consciousness-raising groups to examine this. Most are experiencing emotional pain as a result of their male sex role and are dissatisfied with it. Some have had confrontations with radical feminists in public or private encounters and have been repeatedly criticized for being sexist. Some come as a result of their commitment to social change and their recognition that sexism and patriarchy are elements of an intolerable social system that needs to be altered. women can no longer allow feminism to be another arena for the continued expression of antagonism between the sexes. The time has come for women active in feminist movement to develop new strategies for including men in the struggle against sexism. All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another. It is crucial that feminist activists not get bogged down in intensifying our awareness of this fact to the extent that we do not stress the more unemphasized point which is that men can lead life affirming, meaningful lives without exploiting and oppressing women.
8. Hooks argued that black men’s oppression is different than ruling-class men’s oppression. What does she mean?
-So far, feminist rhetoric identifying men as the enemy has had few positive implications. The process by which men act as oppressors and are oppressed is particularly visible in black communities, where men are working class and poor. Had feminist activists called attention to the relationship between ruling class men and the vast majority of men, who are socialized to perpetuate and maintain sexism and sexist oppression even as they reap no life-affirming benefits, these men might have been motivated to examine the impact of sexism in their lives. Often feminist activists talk about male abuse of women as if it is an exercise of privilege rather than an expression of moral bankruptcy, insanity, and dehumanization. Women in black communities have been reluctant to publicly discuss sexist oppression, but they have always known it exists. We too have been socialized to accept sexist ideology and many black women feel that black male abuse of women is a reflection of frustrated masculinity-such thoughts lead them to see that abuse is understandable, even justified. The vast majority of black women think that just publicly stating that these men are the enemy or identifying them as oppressors would do little to change the situation; they fear it could simply lead to greater victimization. Women active in feminist movement have not wanted to focus in any way on male pain so as not to deflect attention away form the focus on male privilege. Separatist feminist rhetoric suggested that all men shared equally in male privilege, that all men reap positive benefits from sexism. Yet the poor or working class man who has been socialized via sexist ideology to believe that there are privileges and powers he should possess solely because he is male often finds that few if any of these benefits are automatically bestowed him in life. More than any other male group in the United States, he is constantly concerned about the contradiction between the notion of masculinity he was taught and his inability to live up to that notion. He is usually “hurt,” emotionally scarred because he does not have the privilege or power society has taught him “real men” should possess. Alienated, frustrated, pissed off, he may attack, abuse, and oppress an individual woman or women, but he is not reaping positive benefits from his support and perpetuation of sexist ideology. When he beats or rapes women, he is not exercising privilege or reaping positive rewards; he may feel satisfied in exercising the only form of domination allowed him. The ruling class male power structure that promotes his sexist abuse of women reaps the real material benefits and privileges from his actions. As long as he is attacking women and not sexism or capitalism, he helps to maintain a system that allows him few, if any, benefits or privileges. He is an oppressor. He is an enemy to women. He is also an enemy to himself. He is also oppressed. His abuse of women is not justifiable. Even though he has been socialized to act as he does, there are existing social movements that would enable him to struggle for self-recovery and liberation. By ignoring these movements, he chooses to remain both oppressor and oppressed. If feminist movement ignores his predicament, dismisses his hurt, or writes him off as just another male enemy, then we are passively condoning his actions.
9. Chapter 6–Explain why radical feminists challenged the prevailing notion of power.
-“In this society, power is commonly equated with domination and control over people or things” (Hooks 84). Radical feminists argued that the domination of one human being by another is the basic evil in society. Dominance in human relationships is the target of their opposition and they attempted to transform its meaning. Yet their attempts were not successful. As the feminist movement progressed, critiques of the notion of power as domination and control were submerged as bourgeois activists began to focus on women overcoming their fear of power (the implication being that if they wanted social equality with men, they would need to participate equally in exercising domination and control over others). Differing perspectives on power within the feminist movement reflected individual class biases and political perspecitives. Women were interested in reforms that would lead to social equality with men and they wanted to obtain greater power in the existing system. Women interested in revolutionary change were quick to label the exercise of power as a negative trait, without distinguishing between power as domination and control over others and power that is creative and life-affirming.
10. what are feminist activists understanding of women’s relationship to power?
-Like most men, most women are taught from childhood on that dominating and controlling others is the basic expression of power. Women rising to relative or absolute power within the existing structure might just imitate men, and in the process become the oppressors of other people, including other women. “Books like Phyllis Chesler and Emily Goodman’s Women, money, and power emphasize women’s powerlessness and argue in favor of women working to obtain power within the existing social structure” and whether women’s exercise of power would be any less corrupt or destructive than men’s (Bell Hooks 85). Because power has been understood from the position of the socially dominant — the ruling class and men — the feminist task, according to Hartsock, is to reconceptualize power from a specifically feminist standpoint, one that is rooted in women’s life experience, specifically, their role in reproduction. However there is a possibility that once in power, women would overcome the established economic and social system that is currently in place and be more humanistic in their approach. Although women are assigned different roles in society based on sex, they are not taught a different value system. It is the woman’s overall acceptance of the value system of the culture that leads her to passively absorb sexism and willingly assume a pre-determined sex role. Although women do not have the power ruling groups of men often exert, they do not conceptualize power differently. Were they to rule, society would not be organized that differently from the way it is currently organized. They would organize it differently only if they had a different value system. Women cannot gain much power on the terms set by the existing social structure without undermining the struggle to end sexist oppression. “The basic dilemma is how women can gain enough money and power to literally change the world, without being corrupted” by the current value systems that are in place” (Hooks 86). This statement shows either a lack of understanding of the process by which individuals gain money and power (they do so by embracing, supporting, and perpetuating the dominant ideology of the culture) or a naive refusal to confront this reality.
11. Are women different when it comes to exercising power? If so, explain!
-Women face myriad challenges in politics. Women rising to relative or absolute power within the existing structure might just imitate men, and in the process become the oppressors of other people, including other women. Although women are assigned different roles in society based on sex, they are not taught a different value system. It is the woman’s overall acceptance of the value system of the culture that leads her to passively absorb sexism and willingly assume a pre-determined sex role. Although women do not have the power ruling groups of men often exert, they do not conceptualize power differently. Were they to rule, society would not be organized that differently from the way it is currently organized. They would organize it differently only if they had a different value system. Women must consider what makes them different and how, when they do reach positions of power, they can help build healthy and inclusive societies. Underrepresentation of women in political life contributes to exacerbating inequality. The benefits of women’s participation in exercising political power clearly cannot be called into question. “If more feminist women had actively reconceptualized power, they would not have, consciously or unconsciously, shaped feminist movement using the class and race hierarchies that exist in the larger society” (Hooks 88). Bourgeois white women chose white privileged males as their role models because they possessed strength, confidence, and assertiveness while poor and working-class women did not become their role models because their exercise of strength was not synonymous with economic power. Their power is in no way linked to domination or control over others, and this is a form of power that many Bourgeois women are intrigued by and fascinated with.
12. Do you believe that money, power, and individual success would advance the feminist movement?
-I don’t believe that money, power, and individual success would advance the feminist movement because “The basic dilemma is how women can gain enough money and power to literally change the world, without being corrupted, co-opted, and incorporated on the way by the very value systems we must change” (Hooks 86). There’s just no way for this to happen without undermining the struggle to end sexist oppression. This statement shows either a lack of understanding of the process by which individuals gain money and power (they do so by embracing, supporting, and perpetuating the dominant ideology of the culture) or a naive refusal to confront this reality. If women were to rule, society would not be organized that differently from the way it is currently organized. They would organize it differently only if they had a different value system in place. “These women need to know their success has little impact on the social status of women collectively and does not lessen the severity of sexist oppression or eliminate male domination” (Hooks 94). Their individualism is dangerously narcissistic when it leads them to equate personal success with radical political movement. Individual achievements advance feminist movement if they serve the interests of collective feminist struggle as well as satisfying individual aspirations.
13. Do women lust for power? Do they really resist the pressure of ambition [Hillary Clinton]?
-“Feminists, who were once committed to working to eliminate sexist oppression, now focus their attention on gaining as much power and privilege as they can within the existing social structure” (Hooks 89). Feminist activists now know that women are likely to exercise power in the same manner as men when they assume the same positions in social and political arenas. Women are supposed to be helpful, pliant, comforting—but never ambitious. An ambitious woman in the workplace is viewed as difficult, abrasive, and accused of not being a team player—in short, a supervillain-level threat to the status quo and to her male colleagues. Let’s look at the narrative that’s surrounded Hillary Clinton since 1992, when she was propelled into the world stage. Her story is almost stereotypical of political candidates: talented and driven from an early age, she graduated from Yale Law School, pursued a successful legal career before pivoting to public service. She started out in the United States Senate and then rose to the position of Secretary of State, ultimately becoming a leader in her party and running successfully for its presidential nomination. This is not a remarkable story. It’s almost boring in its commonness. But cast a woman as the main character, and it becomes the tale of preening ambition, a relentless virago pushing, pushing, pushing, because she had always thought she deserved to be president. Hillary Clinton is very ambitious. She ran for the presidency. Twice. Obviously she wanted to win and had big plans for it once it was hers. Donald Trump, who had never held elective office in his life and whose entire public persona was built around his unceasing desire to win at everything wasn’t dogged by claims that he was overly ambitious. Ambition in men is assumed, praised, and rewarded. Handing over power to particular classes of men—whether earned or not—is the default. Women are simply expected not to act this way. Not to ask, not to want, not to take. The things men are praised for—assertive action, commitment to principle, lofty goals, refusal to compromise—are often the very things women are penalized for. This isn’t a secret, and it’s something women have to contend with constantly.
14. Do women possess greater morals, more substantial values than men? Do women conceptualize power differently than men?
-Bourgeois white women active in the feminist movement presented their struggle to obtain power in the terms set by the existing social structure as a necessary prerequisite for successful feminist struggle. “Many participants in feminst movement sincerely believed that women were different from men and would exercise power differently” (Hooks 86). Women’s values, or the values attributed to women, are different from those which run America. This may be out of politics, ignorance, fear, or conditioning. Whatever the values women have pursued-have been allowed to pursue-they are not the same as men’s. Statements like this one were commonly expressed sentiments in feminist circles. They mystify the true nature of women’s experience. Women, though assigned different roles to play in society based on sex, are not taught a different value system. It is women’s overall acceptance of the value system of the culture that leads her to passively absorb sexism and assume a pre-determined sex role. Although women do not have the power ruling groups of men often exert, they do not conceptualize power differently. “like most men, most women are taught from childhood on that dominating and controlling others is the basic expression of power” (Hooks 87). The issues around which women and men feel differently, illustrated recently by “the gender gap,” do not constitute a different set of values. Feminist rhetoric pushing the notion of man as the enemy and the woman as the victim enabled women to avoid doing the work of creating new value systems. When contradictions like this one are pointed out, the stereotypical feminist response is that these women are carrying out the orders of men, that they are male-identified. Narrowly focused feminist ideology tends to equate male development and perpetuation of oppressive policy with maleness; the two things are not synonymous. By making them synonymous, women do not have to face the drive for power in women that leads them to strive to dominate and control others. The responsibility for female commitment to domination and control over others can be simply placed on men. If more feminist women had actively reconceptualized power, they would not have, consciously or unconsciously, shaped feminist movement using the class and race hierarchies that exist in the larger society. They would not have encouraged women to emulate men, the so-called “enemy”.
15. Why haven’t women gain more power, especially in the United States?
-In many societies, including the United States, women and men are raised from birth to inhabit feminine or masculine role expectations respectively, and those expectations entail very different approaches to power. The unequal distribution of power is thus intimately entangled with gender. And “as long as the United States is an imperialist, capitalist, patriarchal society, no large female majority can enter the existing ranks of the powerful” (Books 94). Gender is not simply a sorting mechanism; it is specifically a sorting mechanism that places people on different rungs of society’s hierarchy. In other words, it sorts in ways that implicate power and influence. Differences between men and women are important because they correlate with inequality. Power, authority, and influence are fundamental resources. Men are far more likely than women to access and use them. “Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme court is a case in point” (Hooks 89). O’Connor is not supportive of most reforms that would enable women to have greater control over their lives, yet she wholeheartedly endorses policy decisions that maintain the status quo. Her appointment shows women, especially white women, that they can gain power and prestige in the existing structure if they support that structure. Undoubtedly, the Equal Rights Amendment would pass if ruling male groups were convinced that women with radical perspectives would be outvoted, outnumbered, and silenced by conservative women-women like O’Connor who will continue to support white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy.
16. Why did bell hooks criticize Margaret Thatcher and Sandra Day O’Connor perspective of power?
-Bell Hooks criticizes O’Connor’s perspective of power because she “is not supportive of most reforms that would enable women to have greater control over their lives” and she only supports policy decisions that will maintain the status quo (Hooks 89). Her appointment shows women, especially white women, that you can gain power and prestige within the existing structure so long as you support it. Women like O’Connor continue to support white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy and they will continue to undermine the feminist movement as long as it benefits the status quo undermining the struggle to end sexist oppression. These women are assuring men that their “masculinity” is in no way diminished and will continue to support white supremacy. “Margaret Thatcher, leader of England’s conservative party, made the decision to terminate the distribution of free milk to school children” (Books 85). She became influential and powerful within England’s political structure and in the process became the oppressor of other people when she decided to revoke free milk from school children. Bell Hooks criticizes them because they gave up on women’s rights and the feminist movement in order to become more powerful and influencial within a system that supports “white sumpremacy”.
17. What forms of power does bell hooks encourage women to pursue?
-Women, even the most oppressed among us, do exercise power. These powers can be used to advance feminist struggle. One of the most significant forms of power held by the weak is “the refusal to accept the definition of oneself that is put forward by the powerful” (Hooks 92). Women need to know that they can reject the powerful’s definition of their reality — that they can do so even if they are poor, exploited, or trapped in oppressive circumstances. They need to know that the exercise of this basic personal power is an act of resistance and strength. Many poor and exploited women, especially black women, would have been unable to develop positive self-concepts of themselves if they had not exercised their power to reject the powerful’s definition of their reality. Failure to exercise the power of disbelief made it difficult for women to reject prevailing notions of power and envision new perspectives. “The forms of power that these women should exercise are those that will enable them to resist exploitation and oppression so that political and economic structures will exist that benefit men and women equally” (Hooks 94). One form of power that women exercise in the economic sphere is that of consumption. Boycotts have been used often as a strategy, and have been very successful in getting the company to listen to you. If men and women all around the United States turned off their television sets for an extended period of time and purchased no products other than basic necessities to protest exploitation of women, these actions would have significant political and economic consequences. However, since women are not thoroughly organized and because most women do not understand the forms of power they could exercise, this wouldn’t be possible. “They need to be politically educated in order to exercise the limited powers that they possess” (Hooks 94). As consumers, women have power, and if organized could use that power to improve women’s social status. Feminist movements will have a greater appeal for masses of women if it addresses the powers women exercise even as it calls attention to sexist discrimination, exploitation, and oppression. Feminist ideology should not encourage women to believe they are powerless. It should clarify for women the powers they exercise daily and show them ways these powers can be used to resist sexist domination and exploitation.
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