Monday, October 15, 2007

bell hooks Monday: Anger As Motivator

More from hooks' The Will to Change:
"Nowadays I am amazed that women who advocate feminist politics have had so little to say about men and masculinity. Within the early writings of radical feminism, anger, rage, and even hatred of men was voiced, yet there was no meaningful attempt to offer ways to resolve these feelings, to imagine a culture of reconciliation where women and men might meet and find common ground. Militant feminism gave women permission to unleash their rage and hatred at men but it did not allow us to talk aobut what it meant to love men in patriarchal culture, to know how we could express that love without fear of exploitation and oppression." (pp 12)

My inclination is to be somewhat skeptical about blanket claims about what women who advocate feminist politics 'have to say', and about blanket claims about early radical feminism. It's important to me to recognize that, while hooks almost certainly knows more about this than I do in general, I ought not take her claims as gospel. Hooks' personal experience in this regard is important to recognize and take into account, but one should also get a sense of this from a larger historical perspective, if possible. These sorts of claims can also be kind of self-perpetuating at times, especially within feminism, I think; one great example of a similar kind of claim is the idea that there is a (growing) rift between second- and third-wave feminism.

Still, my only reasons to doubt hooks here center around being careful about huge generalizations (in general!). I think it's pretty safe to say she paints a fair picture, while keeping in mind that others may disagree with her in this regard.

I think it's also important that, if it is the case that there wasn't much room for feminist women to be concerned about the plight of men in early feminist thought, if it is the case that anger toward men eclipsed other feelings toward men, that we recognize that we shouldn't find this fact surprising. Lots of us would probably say that some such anger was and is justified, and as a first stage of a movement, necessary and useful. And, to the degree that such anger is still justified, it's still understandable and useful.

I think there is plenty of room in feminist theory, feminist movement and the various feminist circles for groups of women who have anger toward men as a primary motivating factor. There's still a lot to be angry about, after all. I would hope that such groups aren't the only groups of feminists, mostly because I think that multiple ways of doing feminist work in the world are more likely to more quickly bring about some of the sorts of change that most feminists (if we can pardon my generalization for a moment) want. Also, I think that being motivated only by anger (if there are people who are only motivated by anger) is tiring, and that such motivation will help burn one out pretty quickly, if it's all one has.

But more than that, I think there are more women doing the sort of work that hooks wants feminists to do than she thinks there are, but we travel in different circles!
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