Chapters 4 & 5

25 Jan

Chapters 4 & 5
Bell hooks start off chapter four with a strong argument that is calling out middle class white women, again. This group of women created a front of so-called sisterhood. To them sisterhood was based on the idea of common oppression. However, they only led with the oppression they had experienced. These women failed to take into account race, class, and sexual preference. Hooks states that this movement taught women that being a female is being a victim. Yet, they were still only thinking about themselves in saying they are the victims, middle class white women, forgetting about the majority of the female population not being in the same position as them. Hooks emphasizes that in order to build a strong movement many things must be unlearned and thrown away. Things such as that women have no value unless relating or bonding with a man. Male supremacists thrived off of this idea that women are worthless if they are not in some way connected to a male. They executed in their actions this exactly by oppressing women. Male supremacists also thrived off of saying that relationships between two women diminish experiences rather than enhance them. Hooks goes on to explain that women must branch out and not let this affect their daily lives. Women need to explore and communicate with one another. Theresa Funiciello is an example of this, and shows what sisterhood should be. Funiciello organized a multi-racial group of women to lead a conference in response to a racist request. The request was to not talk to a white woman because she may be too articulate and to not talk to a black woman because she may be too angry. This shows oppression in the form of racism and Funiciello has a response that the feminist movement needed, not speaking of sisterhood but putting its true meaning into action. By communicating and understanding a strong foundation will be built. Women of all races, all classes, all religions and all sexualities must come together and talk with each other. In doing this, a platform for a movement will be formed under the realization, to women like those who started the movement of sisterhood, that there are far more ways women are oppressed than they are taking into account. Hooks dives deeper into the early start of feminism and highlights why it was not working. She goes on to explain that early feminists called out all men for oppressing women. Black women also did not support this, so not only were men against the movement some women were also against it. They believed that this stance, and basis, for the movement would not achieve anything rather only intensify sexism. Those early feminist did not take into account race, class, religion, and sexual preference of males. It is a simliar pattern that keeps repeating itself in the early feminist movement, saying all when in fact the voices of all have not been heard. Hooks points out the fact that lower class men, non-white men and others who do not make up the stereotypical man women think of have also been opressed by theses male supremacists. Calling out all men instead of being specific also set the feminsit movement back. Some men, like the ones listed above, may have been for the feminist movement but not after hearing that they as well are being blamed. Hooks identifies that a man can lead a strong, powerful life without oppressing others. She shows that you do not have to put others down in order to build yourself. Hooks shows this by examining lower class men, white and non-white. Lower class men have encountered women working out of normal gender roles and still been able to do their work and build themselves without attacking women. Hooks closes out these two chapters with a strong statement, that men and women both need to work together to see that sexual oppression exists and harms everyone. This will build a strong movement.
Why do you think women like those who started the sisterhood movement believed they were creating a strong platform?
Why do you think there was such a lack of communication between races, classes, religions, and sexualities?
If there was communication between the women calling out all males and the women who believed that was not a sound stance, how do you think the movement would have evolved differently?
Why does Hooks so strongly believe that in order for the movement to succeed men and women need to work together?

Nicole Burney

9 Replies to “Chapters 4 & 5

  1. 1. These women—white women liberationists—created an “illusion of unity” among their group. This illusion was built on the idea that women were victims, and it reflects male supremacist thinking and sexist ideology. Those who started this “sisterhood” movement on the basis of shared victimhood thought they were creating a strong platform where women could relate to the feminist movement. These women sought to create a protected space for other women (just like them) with a foundation of unconditional love for each other and no existence of criticism. These rules did not extend beyond groups outside of the middle-class white women sphere. They believed they were creating a strong platform for themselves, when in actuality they were simply directing hostilities elsewhere.
    2. The type of “sisterhood” and “bonding” present with white women liberationists excluded and devalued other women outside of their group. Racism and classism stood as barriers to solidarity between women. The majority of women outside of the white women liberationist group could not afford to see themselves solely as victims, and the white women claiming the role of victim were often more privileged than the majority of women. Thus, the majority of women could not serve to bond with middle-class white women on the basis of their “Sisterhood” and shared victimization. White women’s exploitation and oppression of multi-ethnic women made communication between the two groups very difficult as it became impossible to find shared political concerns or common interests. There was a greater focus on the individual and individual concerns rather than the collective; this also made effective communication across racial and class lines very difficult. Instead, an emphasis on fostering communication between groups by focusing on shared resources and strengths should be considered.
    3. Many white women liberationists dismissed the experiences of non-white males. If there was greater communication between these women, maybe white women could have looked deeper inward and outward to change their behavior and stance and begin to acknowledge their privilege. Those who called out all males placed an unchanging emphasis on hate instead of solidarity. This hindered the movement’s progress in many ways by focusing hostility and blame horizontally towards men and individuals instead of vertically towards the systems and institutions (i.e. capitalism, patriarchy) that oppress us all. If women and men could have joined forces to resist sexist oppression, then (as hooks describes), the transformative power of feminism could be reached.
    4. Both women and men have a shared responsibility to eliminate sexist ideology and oppression. Instead of turning to reactionary politics, women should seek to join forces with men in order to truly transform society and ideological principles that govern and ultimately harm both groups. Men act as oppressors because they are also oppressed by greater systems of power. In order to see to a feminist revolution, men must assume their part in the struggle to transform society.

  2. Throughout chapters 4 and 5, hooks talks a lot about the solidarity needed to create a strong movement, whether it is between women of different races and classes, or between women and men. The women who started the Sisterhood movement believed they were creating a strong movement because they saw their “illusion of unity” as solidarity (47). However, not only was this unity, as hooks says, an illusion in the sense that it was achieved through unconditional love and a lack of criticism for each other, but it also failed to acknowledge any experiences of women outside of the white bourgeois. With being victims as their only commonality, the women who started the Sisterhood movement held themselves back from exploring and learning about women outside of their race and class, and how they have different experiences, seeing as they did not come from the same place of privilege as white bourgeois women, thus perpetuating sexism, classism and racism. Therefore, I don’t think it was so much a lack of communication between races, classes, etc., seeing as it is not the jobs of Black women and other WOC to educate white people on their oppression, but rather white bourgeois women working in their own best interests, whether they were conscious of it or not. Similarly, when early white feminists surrounded their movements solely around anti-male sentiments, they failed to acknowledge how, though they are not exploited, men also experience negative effects of sexism, or how because of differences in class and race, men, like women, do not have one universal experience. These sentiments also make it more difficult for men to join the movement, and in keeping the movement “separate and unequal,” many men, like white bourgeois women, will never see how they contribute to sexist oppression, which is why hooks emphasizes that men and women must work together if they want to see any change (72).

  3. I think the white women who established the sisterhood movement believed they were creating a strong platform because of their implicit intention to create a platform that could benefit them in the way they desired without threatening their privilege. The basis of “common oppression” that Hooks explained was the foundation for the feminist “sisterhood” perpetuated the sexist ideology that to be a woman is to be a victim, rather than finding bondage through power. The women who pushed the sisterhood bound by oppression were also often those who profited the most from their privilege and power because, as Hook explained, women who are exploited and oppressed daily cannot “afford to see themselves solely as “victims” because their survival depends on continued exercise of whatever personal powers they possess” (Hooks, 45). The women who believed they were creating a strong platform for sisterhood may not have perceived their internalized sexism and racism that rules their judgements. By bonding as victims they were not required to be responsible for challenging their attitudes towards women unlike themselves or explore the impact of the race and class privilege they experience. These expressions of sexism, racism and classism are evident in the exclusionary sisterhood platform that the white feminist deemed most important for the movement’s solidarity. The concept of the different expression of sexism between men and women was particularly interesting to me while reading Hooks chapter 4, as she explained that it is expressed as dominating, discritamiong and exploiting expression in men while in women is expressed through suspicion, defensiveness and competitive behavior. This internalized sexist behavior still permeates a lot of female relations I have witnessed, it is often displayed through comparing, jealousy and judgement which I believe are equal to defensiveness and competition. I am curious in what ways the relationships between variances of women identities have changed since the start of the feminist movement and how male perpetrated sexism still negatively impacts our relationships among women today?

  4. I believe those who started the sisterhood movement believed they were creating a strong platform because they did not understand the intersectionality of individuals. The only aspect of them, upper-class white women, that was clearly discriminated against was their gender thus it became central to their being. While lower-class women and women of color faced the impact of their other identities, upper-class white women were lead with a fragmented sense of reality as they either did not realize or would not accept the difference race and economic status made on women’s lives. The sisterhood movement still holds ground today as privileged white women continue to oversimplify individual’s experience to their gender and present it as a meeting ground for feminism. In addition, these women saw gender as an issue that could be easily fixed whereas issues on race and economic status could hurt their privilege. While shouting that there needed to be change, upper-class white women shouted over the voices of lower-class women of color in order to make a “simple” fight and prevent a more radical movement from emerging. There were smaller groups that formed due to the vague, privilege-blinded sisterhood movement but fighting against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexual-orientation, and economic status had to occur within smaller single-issue groups. Whether done with malicious intent or simply because of being sheltered, the sisterhood movement only focused on forming a movement where upper-class white women could lead and effectively set the goal for “feminism.”

  5. Nicole,
    You made great points on Hook’s take on sisterhood. I think the idea of sisterhood was created in desperation to fight sexist oppression from male supremacists. Hook says “sexism is perpetuated by institutional and social structures by individuals who dominate, exploit or oppress,” and I think this greatly shows the exploitation of women in society. Women who have come together in anger of the dismissal of feminsit movement. Hook emphasized the importance of solidarity and explained why the ideology of sisterhood was shifted away from. I think you posed a good question regarding the lack of communication between races, classes, religions, and sexualities. I think that with the feminist movement has many challenges that were mentioned by hook, that included the fact that it was difficult to have a single definition. Women want equal rights as men, but men of color do not always have equal rights as white men. In addition, people of different sexualities struggle with oppression as well.

  6. I agree that The white women who established the sisterhood movement Believe that their cause was righteous; however, they did not see the classes and racist undertones of their actions. The notion that all women have a common oppression is wholly incorrect because it discounts and discards women of colors intersectional identities. Bell Hooks as an African-American woman is critical of the sisterhood because she believes they created an “ illusion of unity”, and in order to do that they stripped women of color of their identities. Through the metaphorical stripping of women of color, the initial members of the sisterhood forced the exact ideas they were attempting to fight against. Hooks argues on page 45, that the members of the sisterhood cannot proclaim themselves to be victims because they were exercising their personal power. The members of the sisterhood exercise their personal power in order to speak for the majority of women, just as white men have spoken for the majority of American citizens. This act calls into question whether or not the sisterhood is truly trying to bring awareness to all women, as they preached, or if they were knowingly creating more space for white college educated women. If the latter is true this in turn means that in order to further the sisterhood the initial members believe that they needed to knock down women of other races and classes in order to create their own safe space. It is no wonder that bell hooks disagrees with this because she subscribes to the idea that feminism is the desire to and suffering for all people regardless of race, gender, and class.

  7. I believe the white women who started the sisterhood movement believed they were creating a strong platform because they were basing it on the idea of common oppression. As hooks says, “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.” However, like Nicole said, these women did not consider race, class, or sexual orientation, and did not share all oppressions with women who were different than them . Although I don’t think the intention was to be exclusionary, white middle-class heterosexual women did not acknowledge the layers of oppression that other women face because they were not personally impacted by them, so they did not think to communicate with people different than themselves. I also believe that if there was communication between the women calling out all men and women who did not, the movement would have evolved much faster because everyone could be on the same page. Hooks believes that in order for the movement to succeed, men and women need to work together in order to see that sexual oppression exists and is implanted in all aspects of our society. If we do not work together, we are climbing an uphill mountain and the feminist movement with struggle to evolve. Division breaks people a part, so if we can not acknowledge inclusive feminism as truth, the movement will die. While reading this article, I was struck by the concept of importance of solidarity versus a shallow notion of bonding. These are two very different ideas, one being helpful, and one being harmful.

  8. I believe that the women that started the sisterhood movement thought that they were creating a strong platform because they finally were speaking out and standing their ground on a lot of stances. They thought that they could be the voice of reason for women because they had some sort of following. However those that were following did not represent the voice of all women that were oppressed. It only once again spoke of the problems of a middle class white woman that simply couldn’t understand the struggles of the women beneath them. The lack of communication between races, classes, religions, and sexualities all stems from selfishness in my opinion. People tend to be so caught up in their own world, own situations, and own problems that they can’t see the bigger picture of things. They don’t see outside of their own bubble so it leads to lack of communication. Also it was a time where women didn’t speak much to other women in other classes because they are so busy trying to gain the respect of men within that social class. I think if there was communication between the women calling out all males and the women who believed that it was not a sound stance then the movement would have started to evolve much faster. I believe this to be true because if they called these people out they could have gained respect from these parties. It would have made them indulge deeper in what the problem was that they were fighting for and let them understand further the oppression of women. I think it also would have made the movement stronger as a whole because they would have had more fire power behind it with both sides arguing for one thing which is equality. Men needed to see and understand what women were fighting for. Men and women need to work together to see that sexual oppression exists and harms everyone. When they do this it will build a strong movement.

  9. 1.Bourgeois white women who started the sisterhood quality of the feminist movement believed they were creating a strong platform among women because they were only considering the white middle and upper-class women like themselves. To them, those were the women who have a say that actually matters. However, they once again failed to consider the concept of intersectionality within the movement and the positive effects it would have on the movement as a whole. This was mostly because of the fear they had of losing the power they have to oppress other women. They would be forced to actually acknowledge the power and role they have in sexism, racism, and classism. This would go against the idea of sisterhood being a way for women to bond over victimization. Hooks said it best that “None of us can struggle to change racist attitudes if we do not recognize they exist” (Hooks 54).

    2.The same argument can be said about why there is such a lack of communication between races, classes, religions, and sexualities. People tend to have such an individualistic view that they don’t consider other people nor the value of their opinions and experiences. As Dr.Simpson said, it is a popular belief that we must be the same to achieve solidarity but that isn’t the case. If we were to actually listen to each other and find some bases of similarity or understanding, however small, there will be a sense of solidarity and collectivism.

    3.If there was communication between the women who made the blanket statement all men versus those who don’t agree with the statement, they may have come to a consensus. It’s possible that a conversation about why they call out men as a way to bring attention to the problem instead of only calling out a few there would have been some sort of understanding. Avoiding the term “all men” allows for men to potentially ignoring the problem that needs to be addressed which is the opposite of what the movement wants.

    4. Hooks believe that men and women must work together in order for the movement to gain footing because it’s crucial that they take responsibility for the ways they contribute to the system to truly eliminate it. They must both acknowledge the oppression of the system even if in some ways it may “benefit” them.

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