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Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  6,289 ratings  ·  283 reviews
A sweeping examination of the core issues of sexual politics, bell hooks' new book Feminist Theory: from margin to center argues that the contemporary feminist movement must establish a new direction for the 1980s. Continuing the debates surrounding her controversial first book, Ain't I A Woman, bell hooks suggests that feminists have not succeeded in creating a mass movem ...more
Paperback, 174 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by South End Press (first published 1984)
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Gax This book was written as a critique to the second wave feminism for being white middle-class centered. I've only read te first two chapters but it's a…moreThis book was written as a critique to the second wave feminism for being white middle-class centered. I've only read te first two chapters but it's amazingly well written and thoughtful. I wold definitel recommend reading it as it's a dense way of understanding where we come from and what there is to achieve, how we have to work for an inclusive feminism.
However, if you are a man that just wants to learn a bit about feminism and hasn't read much before, it might be too much as a starting point.(less)
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Thomas
Another iconic feminist text from bell hooks. I love that hooks’s writing always takes mainstream feminist thinking and elevates it. She encourages us to deeply consider how racism and classism intersect with sexism to further marginalize women of color and poor women. She argues that we should conceptualize feminism as a radical, revolutionary movement as opposed to an individual lifestyle. Her writing, while intelligent and replete with critical analysis, remains accessible and close to the hu ...more
Vartika
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The biggest challenge faced by feminists today concerns why the world and values envisioned by western Feminism continue to remain elusive despite nearly two centuries of struggle. Emerging from the embers of the Second Wave in the 1980s, bell hooks was one of the first to answer this question by bringing to attention the hitherto exclusionary nature of the movement and its limited focus on white women from middle-class backgrounds.

Published in 1984—five years before the term 'intersectionality
...more
Christy
Reading this book immediately following hooks' first book, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism reveals how much a writer and theorist can develop in just a few years. Where Ain't I a Woman suffered because of underdeveloped points and undertheorized intersections of class with race and gender, Feminist Theory from Margin to Center shines. Hooks here works to re-define feminism in a way that opens up the movement to women and men of all race and class backgrounds and allows feminism to work ...more
Paige (Enchantology)
I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in feminism or anyone who currently identifies as a feminist but hasn't yet read this. hooks has a very accessible writing style and does an impeccable job of pointing out the flaws in the feminist movement and putting forth ideas of what feminism as a movement should be if it has any hope of success. ...more
Mousami Shinde
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I started reading this book, it was tough for me to get through even the first few pages. The scathing criticism of feminist movements left me uncomfortable, which is the exact point of this book. While it did so, it also made me take a hard look at how I advocate for feminism, and made me aware of how privilege has shaped feminism. bell hooks reviews the movement in a very harsh light, but in a way that will allow feminism to grow more diverse. While the book addresses the downfalls of pri ...more
Hira
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book. Examines the issues around women liberation through the lens of race, class, and gender, and shows in amazing detail how ignoring just one of these would diminish the possibilities of the entire movement. One thing that I am absolutely reveling in is the way how bell hooks advocates for wholeness, how its not men who are the enemy but the whole capitalistic ethos that puts aggressive competition as its ultimate ideal. How even women can be oppressors, in family, at work, and on ...more
Michael
Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book, and I found it challenging (in the sense that it challenges some generally accepted notions) and very thoughtful and well-written. She argues that mainstream feminism, which has been dominated by middle and upper-class white women, has not opened its doors adequately to non-white and working class women. she argues that part of the reason the movement has failed is because there has been an internalization of the sexist oppression paradigm by the leaders of the feminis ...more
Annie
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a difficult book to read if you are a white feminist because it requires you to do one of three things.

1) Condemn bell hooks and stop reading (no, don’t do this)

2) Rationalize: yes, bell hooks is right about this, but that’s the other white feminists, that’s not me. I am an ally. In fact, I am Saint Ally and nobody could ever say that I really fit into this stereotype of white feminists she is describing (slightly less bad, because it has more potential for growth, but don’t do this eith
...more
Klelly
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
"the shift in expression from 'i am a feminist' to 'i advocate feminism' could serve as a useful strategy for eliminating the focus on identity and lifestyle. It could serve as a way in which women who are concerned about feminism as well as other political movements could express their support while avoiding linguistic structures that give primacy to one particular group. it would also encourage greater explorations in feminist theory."

"women will know that white feminist activists have begun t
...more
Christie Skipper Ritchotte
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
bell hooks kicked open the door, and said that feminism was pretty much available in only one flavor, making it difficult, if not impossible, for women of other races and classes to join in. Feminism lacked diversity (barring lip service) because it didn't accommodate all women. It did not hear or see women whose lives did not mirror those of middle or upper class, college-educated Caucasian women.

Then she broke down the next door and declared that no one even knew what Feminism was. It's not b
...more
Alex
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
more bell hooks brilliance as usual. written in 84, this one criticizes the (white-dominated) feminist movement of the time, and provides another important stepping stone from the Second Wave to the Third Wave of Feminism.

also includes brilliant sections like this passage from page 121:

"Patriarchal male rule took on an entirely different character in the context of advanced capitalist society... As workers, most men in our culture (like working women) are controlled, dominated. Unlike working wo
...more
Heather
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, this book is remarkable in the way that it forces the reader to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about how we truly feel and see one another. Some of this is so ingrained in us that we aren’t even aware of it. To effectively battle these deeply held assumptions, we first need to acknowledge them and recognize that they are incorrect. Only then can we truly accept one another and ensure full inclusion in any meaningful way. How can we strive for equality, if we aren’t first ho ...more
Abi
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"It is the absence of feminist theory that addresses margin and center that had led me to write this book."

Essential reading by Bell Hooks! Honestly a pioneer in intersectional feminist reading.
...more
Ygraine
v much respect this as a commentary on the trajectory of feminist thought & action from the sixties to the eighties, and a starting point fr theorists & activists to interrogate their relationships to feminism, to structures of power & dominance, to labour and consumption and culture, to each other and to women excluded from or alienated by feminism.

it is, in places, tied to its historical moment & particular vantage point -- fr me the chapter on sexual oppression, specifically its treatment of
...more
Bookshark
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who want to know more about feminist theory and practice today & historically
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 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 a
...more
Andrew
What I like about bell hooks is how commonsense her approach is. She breaks down the situation, simply and directly, criticizing some of the contradictions that have plagued liberation struggles while still showing that they have merit. Unlike Marcuse, who was simply content to mock and giggle and suggest that nothing does anything ever, she is deadly serious about wanting to generate real-world solutions.

My main concern is that she works at such a grand, theoretical scale that I don't think her
...more
Nick Black
Mar 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Whoa, bell hooks is one pissed-off lady! It'd be a lot more effective, or at least less of a rodomontade, if she developed a self-consistent philosophy. On the plus side, I'm hoping that developing fluency with this half-cocked nonsense on a lonely plane ride back in 2003 will someday help me find the chinks in some attractive sociology major's psychosexual armor, allowing a cheerful ejaculation of "I blinded her....with bell hooks!" to the unforgettable tune of Thomas Dolby's classic. ...more
Genelle Denzin
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book really helped me see the complex relationship between sexism and racism. And my place as not only someone who suffers oppression as a woman, but also as a white woman, someone who benefits from the racist oppression of others and therefore causes suffering in others.
Possibly in Michigan, London
I've made it a personal goal to read more feminist staples this year, as I feel that it's easy to think I understand everything from scanning Twitter. I haven't yet finished this but I wanted to get some thoughts down.

In 1984, this book was probably really revolutionary and exactly the intervention that feminist debate needed. bell hooks insisted that we can't have a coherent feminist movement if it's determined from the centre (i.e. by white bourgeois women). The perspective of WOC can make us
...more
Macaulay Mauro
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
some of the clearest and strongest theoretical writing i’ve ever read. revolution is a slow burn, fuelled by willingness to change (destroying dualism and eradicating systems of domination) and love; love as an act of courage, not of fear, love as a commitment to others. so many good bits about patriarchal forms of power held in masculinity in the second half of the book. until men are taught that the acknowledgement and expression of pain will not negate their masculinity, we will never move to ...more
Quin Rich
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it
bell hooks is generally great, and this books has many strong points. Nonetheless, other parts left a bad taste in my mouth, but I think that might be the point. hooks didn't set out to write an authoritative manifesto on what feminism is or should be for all time; in fact, she explicitly set out to challenge such dogmatism.

That said, this is still worth a quick read; much of it is still very relevant, and while it's limited and dated in other parts it offers many generative passages that helped
...more
Mona
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of those books every one should have on their shelf to re-read every once in a while. bell hooks wrote this 36 years ago, yet the majority of its ideas remains just as valid today and are yet to applied truthfully anywhere in the world. Today liberal feminism, the kind of feminism preached by bourgeois women, somehow became the norm, while equalities are only getting worse through neoliberal policies. So reading bell hooks, who preaches a feminism of the working class, serves us as ...more
Jamie
Jan 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Rarely have I felt alienated by a feminist text; I've read hooks on a few occasions (and enjoyed her), but I found this book to be both hostile and hypocritical. As hooks is arguing for an allowance of complexity and a breakdown of dualistic cultural thinking, the way she phrases both her issues with the 'white bourgeois femininst movement' (an appropriate critique at that historical moment, so foundationally, I agree) and possible solutions, she once again falls into reductive formulations and ...more
Criss
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist, non-fiction
It took me a while, but I finally finished it. It took a while not because I didn't want to read it, but rather because it was so deep I wanted to read it when I could devote a hefty chunk of time to read it and process the info.

My copy has a bazillion pink and yellow tabs sticking out of it; all the spots I want to quote and blog about later. So many truths in that book... too bad about the author.

I have not researched this, but I heard it from someone whose intel I trust. bell hooks, while par
...more
Elli (The Bibliophile)
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, 2015
This was a great overview of bell hooks's views on various issues insofar as they relate to feminism. She addresses several different things, including race, violence, parenting and sex. Each chapter was pretty distinct and could be read as a separate essay, but I think the book is best read cover-to-cover.

If you are beginning to learn about feminism, this might not be the best place to start (go read Feminism is for Everybody, also by bell hooks) but I wouldn't say this is a difficult or dry re
...more
Fred
Mar 08, 2007 rated it liked it
I used to think feminist theory was really important to study and learn about. And then John Mayer wrote a song that made it all unnecessary:

"Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too"
...more
Roxani
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a re-read for me as I prepare to teach part of it in a Gender Theory course. It falls under the books that if I could prescribe to every human being in this world, I would.
Katya
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The exclusionary practices of womxn who dominate(d) feminist discourse (white, middle-class) gave little room for new and varied voices to emerge during the womxn's liberation movement and thereafter. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center acknowledges the individuals / groups on the fringe of feminism and gives a broader analysis to encompass a deeper range of human experiences and conditions. This book sets in motion for a more holistic feminist theory and practice, one that sees the inherent ...more
Thom Hamer
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this sophisticated critique of second-wave feminism, bell hooks resists reductive versions of reality. Arguing against a variety of positions across the entire political spectrum, ranging from patriarchy chauvinists to militant advocates of matriarchal utopia, she is difficult to pin down. Of course, she is in no need of being pinned down, for her argument is essentially negative, focusing on the flaws in the feminist debate rather than formulating a coherent brand of feminism herself.

Noneth
...more
Matt Sautman
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center is an intellectual powerhouse. In documenting the advent of feminist thought, hooks interrogates threads of classism, misandry, and racism that hooks identifies as undermining the overall feminist movement. In doing so, hooks extrapolates on how feminism is not a united front and that many "feminist" sects are just as problematic at the patriarchy they are trying to overthrow. In critiquing these sects, hooks advocates for a feminist movement that emulates ...more
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Bell Hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in ...more

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“There will be no mass-based feminist movement as long as feminist ideas are understood only by a well-educated few.” 123 likes
“..the struggle to end sexist oppression that focuses on destroying the cultural basis for such domination strengthens other liberation struggles. Individuals who fight for the eradication of sexism without struggles to end racism or classism undermine their own efforts. Individuals who fight for the eradication of racism or classism while supporting sexist oppression are helping to maintain the cultural basis of all forms of group oppression.” 29 likes
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