Feminist theory from margin to center

by Bell Hooks

Paper Book, 1984


When Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center was first published in 1984, it was welcomed and praised by feminist thinkers who wanted a new vision. Even so, individual readers frequently found the theory "unsettling" or "provocative." Today, the blueprint for feminist movement presented in the book remains as provocative and relevant as ever. Written in hooks's characteristic direct style, Feminist Theory embodies the hope that feminists can find a common language to spread the word and create a mass, global feminist movement.


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Due March 27, 2023

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Boston, MA : South End Press, c1984.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Crowyhead
Probably one of my favorite feminist works of all time.
LibraryThing member beau.p.laurence
seminal work in feminist theory. a good primer.
LibraryThing member neverlistless
I read this book for my Implications of Racism course and wrote a big paper on it, but I'll spare you readers all of the minute details. In a nutshell, this was a fascinating look at the intersection of race, class and gender and a critique of the 1960s feminist movement. hooks argued that the
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1960s feminist movement was too narrow and did not give credence to the struggles and experiences of women of color or women in lower classes. A must read for anyone interested in feminism or racism.
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LibraryThing member raschneid
Bell hooks, writing in the mid-eighties, discusses how second-wave feminism could reclaim its focus on social justice and become relevant to everyone. Picked this up at a library book sale and loved it. Hooks' prose style is crisp and direct and quietly passionate, occupying the space where popular
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and academic writing meets. It is not an introduction to feminism, but it's a great read for anyone wanting to consider more deeply the place of feminism in social justice movements now.
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LibraryThing member brleach
Although this book presented a critical challenge to feminist orthodoxy at the time it was published, it has ironically become the contemporary feminist party line. There are some aspects of this book I find praiseworthy and other elements I find problematic, but regardless of which arguments fall
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in which categories, I think today's feminists would do well to take up hooks's call to continually re-evaluate whatever the hegemonic consensus of the day is.

On the positive side, hooks is excellent at identifying problems and courageous at putting forth potential solutions. She proposes concrete practices which align with her theoretical proclamations. Most importantly, she airs some of the perspectives which are common among poor or non-white women yet neglected by white bourgeois feminists. However, in her attempt to introduce these valuable perspectives, I think hooks ultimately reinforces the binary logic of domination she considers to be the root of oppression. By relying on a version of standpoint epistemology in which the most marginalized people have the greatest access to truth, hooks provides a rationale for the "oppression olympics" in which the "most victimized" status is coveted, even as she critiques the victim mentality within the feminist movement. The contrasts she sets up between white women and women of color sometimes ring false or just too strongly worded (for example, she states that black women are raised communally while white women are not), which seems to reinforce barriers between women rather than breaking them down. Furthermore, she seems to neglect other axes of oppression beyond gender, race, and class. She does not talk at all about disability, immigration status, or trans/non-binary gender identity. Her discussion of LGB individuals is either in the service of making points about heterosexuality, trite, hetero-splaining, or non-existent (e.g. heterosexuality is not per se oppression any more than lesbianism is per se liberation, separatism is undesirable, lesbians should make sure there are men involved in their kids lives, etc). Lastly, she seems to be holding out for a utopian world in which there is no domination, which seems impossible if perhaps desirable as an ideal.

Despite my reservations, this book is definitely worth a read. It clarifies much of the logic behind contemporary feminist thinking, and reading it will help you understand where hooks's thinking has become hegemonic within the movement vs. where it has not gained such currency. It's also integral to the history of feminist theory.
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