bell hooks: Race, Feminism, and Freedom
For much of its early history, feminism centered a female subject based almost exclusively on the experiences of a particular sort of woman: white and middle-class. “When women are talked about,” noted a Stanford undergraduate named Gloria Watkins, “the focus tends to be on white women.” In response, Watkins, writing under the pen name bell hooks, published Ain’t I a Woman—a landmark text that permanently altered the terms of feminist thought and politics. Highlighting the interlocking vectors of oppression that have, in her words, “socialized [black women] out of existence,” hooks proposes a conception of feminist politics that accounts for the ways in which sexism, racism, and class have shaped and limited female identity. Though by now standard to the feminist lexicon, hooks’s notions of marginality, oppositional looking, and liberation are a provocation to rethinking the meaning, requirements, and possibilities of feminist politics. How does hooks’ framework challenge the idea that “women” as a group share a common experience. What kind of feminist politics can be cultivated by keeping the interlocking nature of oppression in the foreground?
In this course, we will explore hooks’ multifaceted contribution to feminist theory and unique vision of feminist emancipation as we survey her most radical works, spanning Ain’t I A Woman?; Feminist Theory from Margin to Center; Talking Back, Black Looks; Where We Stand; Outlaw Culture; Real to Reel; Killing Rage; Yearning; and Teaching to Transgress. As we consider hooks’ engagement with historical and contemporary feminism, as well as her genre-spanning cultural criticism, we will ask: How do personal relationships contribute to hooks’ politics of resistance? How can an oppositional world view be cultivated from the perspective of the margins? How might loving be revolutionary? What is oppositional about the gaze? In what ways might the power to name be linked to the articulation of pleasure? hooks regularly links the terms “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” to describe power dynamics in the U.S.—what kind of call to action, or reflection, is embedded in this phrase? How does hooks deploy a feminist lens to examine the oppressive structures joined and sustained through systems of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy?
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
November 17 — December 15, 2021
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Wednesday, November 24th.