"Feminism is for Everybody" adds to Marxist theory


Marxist Feminism or what is also called Conflict Theory Feminism exists because Marxism, as most conflict theories, in itself inefficiently expresses the problems with sexism.


Developed during her 25 year career as a university professor, in 2000, bell hooks has succinctly brought 21 century feminism to this new understanding, defining feminism in this way: "Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (from Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984), in Feminism is for Everybody (2000). In her work she makes it clear that feminism is not about "equality." She summarizes this clearly in her later book in just 118 pages. Her name is purposely not capitalized.


A focus on equality has diverted revolutionary action, but it has not diverted revolutionary ideas within the context of those privileged in academia. This has justified the public and private divide where the needs of working-class and poor women have been ignored. A focus on equality does not change the capitalist system that creates and exploits the lower classes. This can be seen today as even liberal politics focus on the "middle class." This is appreciated more today as many of us are feeling the pressure of the 1%.


Class, race, and sexism all intersect in hook's work. She gives credit yet argues the work of Communist theorist and revolutionaries such as Marx, Engels and Gramsci. She does so by  expanding the meaning of class. hooks points out that feminism is an important addition to Marxism by quoting writer Rita Mae Brown, from "The Last Straw."


Class is much more than Marx's definition of relationship to the means of production. Class involved your behavior, your basic assumptions, how you are taught to behave, what you expect from yourself and from others, your concept of future, how you understand problems and solve them, how you think, feel, act," she writes. 


In comparing women in class relations, hooks argues against Carol Gilligan's theory that women are more caring and ethical, and points out that Betty Friedan's post WWII work focused on upper class white women.  


In "Feminism is for Everybody" hooks devotes an entire chapter called "Feminist Class struggle."  


"Work" is the focus in this chapter, and it is where she highlights that Friedan's work focused on well-educated, stay at home, white women. Once these disgruntled women were willing to secure jobs due their class, instead of demanding men to share in the domestic sphere, they hired lower class and women of color to do their domestic work. This still exists today. To address the interest of most women outside of the home, hooks suggest improving conditions in the workplace in conjunction with better-paying jobs.      


There are solutions. hooks suggest the following: Feminist education for the youth, models that approach healthy approaches to beauty, research women owning low income housing, create co-ops with feminist principals, job sharing programs, government subsidies for at-home parents, teachers and service workers paid more, attention given to the relationships of girls of different races, theory that translates into practice, theory that shows how women perpetuate and maintain sexism, feminist literature that addresses boys, education for critical consciousness focusing on boyhood and the development of adolescent males, new theories and guides to show how to create a thriving world with female masculinity, young homosexuals need an environment of support, renewed dialog about feminist sexuality, alternative spiritual paths must use the media to support its agenda, mass-based feminist education for critical consciousness in a language all can understand- This includes children's books, basic skills teaching, and a lobby to do so, more TV and radio addressing patriarchy, and theory that addresses persons for diverse backgrounds.   


We can all participate in at least one of these solutions.


Tenzin Angmo has a M.A. in Women's and Gender Studies from Roosevelt University, and B.A.'s from Elmhurst College and UNC Fayetteville State Universities. She is currently working on a book about sexism in religion.



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