40 pages 1 hour read

bell hooks

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1984

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Feminism and the Family

bell hooks argues against 19the 80’s mainstream feminist movements’ attacks on family life. Feminist leaders were primarily wealthy, privileged, and highly educated white women who argued that liberation from sexist oppression could be achieved by entering the workforce and becoming financially independent from the men in their lives. hooks counters that this inadvertently creates tension in the economy and job market by reducing the number of jobs available to marginalized men and women, and it ignores the economic and social realities of women who have always had to support their families through work.

In the text, family is a complicated site of power. hooks criticizes the family dynamics of Western societies, particularly in the United States, by arguing that “sexist oppression perverts and distorts the positive function of family” (38). Because families replicate patriarchal systems of power, they lose the support and love that family units can provide. Nevertheless, hooks points out that “many black women find the family the least oppressive institution” (38) precisely because Black families emphasize community, self-worth, and support. If the feminist movement can reform the common conception of families as patriarchal and indebted to power structures (in that a husband has absolute power over his wife, and parents have absolute power over their children), then it can build a more inclusive community.