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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 57 before Yale and during her time there, she began to develop a reputation as a key contributor to feminism’s way of thinking about itself. She is proud of what she calls “feminist movement” (declining to precede the phrase with the “the” that would iden- tify it as a unitary institution rather than a phenomenon) for its thoughtfulness. “No other movement for social justice has been as self-critical as feminist movement,” she writes in the preface to the second edition of her sec- ond book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. In that book, she fulfilled her promise to broaden the debate started with Ain’t I a Woman, and argued that feminism needed theory that would “examine our culture from a feminist stand- point rooted in an understanding of gender, race, and class.” Her critique was as much strategic as theoretical. A feminism that was too one-dimensional would be a feminism that would remain at the margins of people’s lives, rather than addressing the cen- tral concerns of the culture. She also felt that feminist movement needed theory that “speaks to ev- eryone, that lets everyone know that feminist movement can change their lives for the better.” In our conversation, she lamented that “most of our political move- ments on the left, whether femi- nism or black power or what have you, have gotten stuck, because they seem to most people in our culture to be unconnected to the practical realities of life in the community.” Rather than write a series of books on a single topic before moving on to another topic, hooks will write a first work and then revisit the topic later on, after the ideas have been batted around and percolated a bit. Her body of work forms, then, a kind of quilt, something that Saru had taught her to admire as a child, something made of distinct pieces from different times and places that could nevertheless form a whole. So, sixteen years (and about as many books) after From Mar- gin to Center, hooks put out Feminism Is for Everybody, which had a cheery cover and a message intended to inform and uplift the uninitiated. hooks could point to many victories for femi- nism: “It has changed how we see work, how we work, how we love.” And yet she acknowledged that “most people have never spoken to an actual feminist, so they have no clue about vision- ary feminism. They have a one-dimensional view learned from TV and the movies,” where it is commonplace to “trash femi- nism.” As a result, no “sustained feminist revolution” has oc- curred, which places feminism’s gains in jeopardy. hooks feels, as she states in Feminism Is for Everybody, that feminism, the movement to end sexual exploitation and dominance, is “alive and well,” but it is not the mass movement that hooks has al- ways felt we need it to be. For feminism to move from outward gains to real spiritual gains, hooks believes, men and women alike need to understand how they are both bound and dominated by the strictures of a culture of dominator and dominatee. Each is trapped. But the difficulty seems to lie in the need to have an enemy for suste- nance, which leads you away from discovering a deeper sustain- ing power. “Great moments for social justice have occurred, in civil rights, in women’s rights, and so on, but these movements have also been deeply flawed, in that they could not sustain themselves,” she tells me. “In the beginning, people push against an outward enemy, but once that push is over, things became like flat soda. What’s needed is a Buddha-like process of self- actualizing that spreads into the political world. Then you don’t have to fall into an abyss of despair, saying, ‘We failed. We didn’t achieve racial justice. Feminism didn’t complete itself.’ As we know from Buddhism, if we look for the end, we will despair ➢ page 96