Fuck yeah feminist reading group: review

The F Collection is taking this Monday off, but we’ve got something else exciting for you:

Today’s post is from an f member who came along to our recent reading group. Enjoy her first foray on the blog, and stay tuned for future reading group adventures and the return of the F Collection next Monday!

When I saw the post on f about a reading group for bell hooks’ book Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics I was pretty eager to go. I’ve been meaning to read bell hooks for a while (I kept coming across her name in a lot of feminist books and blogs) and spending a day in the park with a bunch of feminists is my cup of tea.

Anyhoo, to the book. hooks wrote ‘Feminism is for Everybody’ because she thought there was a need for a short, readable (none of that academic mumbo jumbo), but not completely dumbed down introduction to feminist politics. She covers  a lot of topics in very short chapters so the book was pretty easy to digest.

hooks defines feminism as ‘a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.’ She uses this definition because it doesn’t frame men as the enemy. Rather it implies that sexist thinking and behaviours are the problem. Anyhow, I’m pretty sure that the only people these days who would refer to men as ‘the enemy’ in relation to feminism are conservative folk.

Throughout the book hooks reiterates that women are guilty of perpetuating sexist thinking and behaviour, which was interesting because female misogyny was something that came up at the f collective’s ‘where to from here?’ forum. Female misogyny is a sticky wicket which is probably more insidious and often times it’s harder to pick up on than male misogyny.

hooks also writes about the idea of ‘lifestyle feminism’, which is the popular notion that there can be as many feminisms as there are women. Lifestyle feminism is more palatable for the masses because it says that women can be feminists ‘without fundamentally challenging or changing themselves or the culture.’ hooks criticizes lifestyle feminism for depoliticising the movement and notes that it allowed for conservative women (ahem Sarah Palin) to identify as feminists.

This brings me to the current trend in feminism to be this all-inclusive movement. While I can see merit in promoting feminism as a welcoming, diverse, thriving movement (especially since so many groups have been marginalised within feminism’s history) are there people that we just don’t want to be part of the movement or who do not ‘count’ as feminists?

Cover image

For example, hooks makes the case that you can’t be anti-choice and a feminist (ahem Melinda Tankard Reist. ‘If feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression, and depriving females of reproductive rights is a form of sexist oppression, than one cannot be anti-choice and be feminist’). A woman can assert to never have an abortion while supporting the right of women to choose and still be a feminist.

What I liked about hooks was her constant desire to seek changes, to envision alternatives to the status quo. I’ve found some feminisms to be all doom and gloom but hooks was refreshingly optimistic and inspired. Passionate politics indeed.

Side note: hooks decapitalises her name because it signifies that what is most important in her works is the “substance of books, not who I am’ and for that I’ve been battling auto-correct whilst writing this blog – no I don’t want to capitalise hooks thankyouverymuch autocorrect!

Finally, here’s a link to a blog by Helen Razer about inclusivity and feminism which I thought might be fitting.

Featured image is of bell hooks from Flickr user Rainer Ebert, under Creative Commons 2.0.

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