Monday, May 21, 2007

bell hooks Monday: Talking About Men

More from bell hooks' The Will to Change:

Acknowledging that there needed to be more feminist focus on men did not lead to the production of a body of writing by women about men. The lack of such writing intensifies my sense that women cannot fully talk about men because we have been so well socialized in patriarchal culture to be silent on the subject of men. But more than silenced, we have been socialized to be the keepers of grave and serious secrets—especially those that could reveal the everyday strategies of male domination, how male power is enacted and maintained in our private lives. Indeed, even the radical feminist labeling of all men as oppressors and all women as victims was a way to deflect attention away from the reality of men and our ignorance about them. To simply label them as oppressors and dismiss them meant we never had to give voice to the gaps in our understanding or to talk about maleness in complex ways. We did not have to talk about the ways our fear of men distorted our perspectives and blocked our understanding. Hating men was just another way to not take men and masculinity seriously. It was simply easier for feminist women to talk about challenging and changing patriarchy than it was for us to talk about men—what we knew and did not know, about the ways we wanted men to change. Better to just express our desire to have men disappear, to see them dead and gone.(pp xiii)


I'd be curious what everybody thinks about the historical accuracy of bell's statements here--how much of early feminism included simply labeling men as oppressors and dismissing them? Certainly feminists are sometimes accused of this now, but when they are it's most often an oversimplification of somebody's views. And who's to say that it was (or is?) the job of women to do the work required to take male masculinity seriously?

That said, I love that bell hooks says all of this, and that she's not afraid to talk about masculinity, even in the face of being shot down by other feminists for doing so.

(On a side note, despite all of the stuff flying around about Jessica Valenti's book, Full Frontal Feminism, I'm thankful that she included an entire chapter about men and feminism. Hopefully I'll be able to write something more about that in a later post, because I think some of the criticism being lobbed about at Jessica is similar to criticism that bell has suffered through--especially as regards language and writing style, and including discussions that some see as 'not feminist enough'.)
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