Bell Hooks Feminist Theory Explained


At its core, every feminist theory has a similar discourse that is being pursued. There is a desire to understand the inequality which exists between genders through societal definition. This may be done through the social roles which are assigned to each gender, discrimination that may apply, oppression which may exist, or even through one gender’s sexual objectification of the other gender.

Feminism is often believed to apply only to women, but feminist theory studies the roles which both men and women play in a society.

In Bell Hooks’ feminist theory, the goal is to create a perspective of equality that begins at the personal level. Instead of one gender deciding to privilege one over the other, Hooks introduces an idea that is rooted in many religions. Unless there is love for another involved, there cannot be common ground where people can come together.

“Genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.”

Why Is Love at the Foundation of Hooks’ Feminist Theory?

Many Christian weddings tend to have five verses from the Bible incorporated into them in some way. These verses come from the book of 1 Corinthians and they deal specifically with love. Here is that passage, from chapter 13, and from the New International Version.

“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Hooks makes the argument that when love is not present in a society, a genuine love which fits the description above, then there cannot be equality. Feminism, therefore, is more than a movement to end sexism, gender-based exploitation, and oppression. It is a movement that looks to incorporate love into the equations of personal, interpersonal, and intergroup interactions.

Love cannot be present when one gender is attempting to coerce the other. Love cannot occur when a relationship is based on domination instead of equality. According to Hooks, it is impossible for people to even love themselves when a society demands that they define themselves based on rules which involve coercion and domination.

This means a society must be based on the concept of mutual growth. Every relationship, no matter what level that relationship may be at, must be based on self-actualization. People must look at how the emotional well-being of others can be advanced before looking at how their own can be advanced. This is how gender equality can go from bondage to freedom and how lovelessness can go to love.

What Does White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy Really Mean?

Hooks makes the argument that the culture in the US is specifically biased towards the idea of equality. The entire system, according to her perspective, is corrupt. This makes achieving a real equality impossible and could even make it non-desirable. The goal, according to her theory, should be to transform society and its institutions instead of trying to take over the systems which were created by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

The United States, as with many cultures, was established by Caucasian men. There is also a certain emphasis on capitalism within the American culture. Hooks says that the historical perspectives of those who founded the systems that we currently use cannot be changed. She argues that taking them over would simply create another form of inequality.

In some feminist theory proposals, Hooks notes that there is an appeal to the racism and socioeconomic classism that targets women and minority groups. It is good to recognize that racism and classism exist, but she also notes that using these tools, even in reverse, does not create the foundation of a society that is based on equality.

It simple changes the politics of the situation. That is just one of the many reasons why Hooks doesn’t capitalize her first or last name in her publications.

The goal of feminist theory should be to eliminate the sexism, racism, and socioeconomic classism which exists. If feminists seek to create equality by using tools that are inherently only going to create in equality, then the goals which are being pursued can never be obtained. One cannot create freedom by placing others into bondage, nor can a woman love herself if she is attempting to put a man into the same systems of coercion and exploitation that she is fighting to remove.

Until women can remove the ideas of racism and white supremacy, oppression cannot be defeated.

Who Hold Responsibility in Hooks’ Feminist Theory?

Hooks asserts that feminism cannot be successful until women are willing to recognize that historically, both genders are responsible for creating the societal circumstances which exist today. All races must learn to conform with one another. Both genders must have a true equality as the foundation of the relationship. Feminism must hold all responsible and then transform the society instead of seeking to place blame.

All people suffer in some way, even if some may not be oppressed or oppressed equally. White men suffer when targeted by women for violence, just as a woman suffers when targeted for violence by a white man.

That is why love must be at the foundation of feminist theory, social interaction, and perspectives of equality. It is impossible to love someone else thoroughly until an individual can thoroughly love themselves. Under capitalistic rules, it is impossible to love oneself because a love of money must also be in the equation.

It is impossible to serve two masters and still love in a way that promotes the equality which feminist theory, at its core, is seeking to promote.

Then each person must be able to speak from their own perspectives. There is no joy in claiming the oppression of another. For a societal transformation to take place, there must be an authenticity to it. If a person is speaking of an experience for which they have never felt, that authenticity goes away.

Yet each person tends to judge the perspectives as if one is “better” than the other. Hooks argues that there isn’t a “better” form of oppression. All oppression shows evidence that there is a lack of love present in that society. Instead of comparing oppressive perspectives and judging them, there must be a collective effort to change how power is used within a society.

Bell Hooks’ feminist theory looks to end oppression be redefining how power is obtained and maintained. Instead of creating a system where the strongest survives through oppression and coercion, she suggests that both men and women look to transform societal structures into something that is mutually supportive. In doing so, the lovelessness can eventually be eliminated and that will promote real equality.