Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feminist Movement as Revolutionary Struggle

We've been assigned to read a considerable number of essays and articles for this term's Feminist and Womanist Theologies. I've been reading the current assigned material more closely because we are required to write a final paper on how these readings condition and influence our own personal theologies. One article by bell hooks stood out to me. With powerful prose, hooks argues how sexism, racism, and classism (a direct product of capitalism) are all inter-related and based upon fundamental concepts of oppression. As a white woman, I have to admit that it is quite difficult to know how to come to terms with the relation between sexism, racism, and classism. Are my own theories and modes of action taking into account the fact that I am deeply complicit in this system of oppression? How can I become more conscious of the ways in which my own struggle to resist sexism might also come alongside those who struggle to resist the systems and structures of racism and classism? These are incredibly difficult questions that take nothing short of a lifetime to begin to answer.

Once hooks recognizes this complicated connected character of these various forms of oppression and dominance, she calls the reader to nothing short of revolutionary political action. Only this sort of revolutionary struggle will offer hope in the midst of those who advocate feminism. As one who has become sympathetic to revolution through my engagement with apocalyptic theology, I deeply appreciated hook's omission that this struggle is far from safe. But then again, this is the sort of mode of action I think Christians are called into as they seek to be a disciple of the Crucified Nazarene.

"Often emphasis on identity and lifestyle is appealing because it creates a false sense that one is engaged in praxis. However, praxis within any political movement that aims to have a radical transformative impact on society cannot be solely focused on creating spaces wherein would-be-radicals experience safety and support. Feminist movement to end sexist oppression actively engages participants in revolutionary struggle. Struggle is rarely safe or pleasurable.

Focusing on feminism as political commitment, we resist the emphasis on individual identity and lifestyle. (This should not be confused with the very real need to unite theory and practice.) Such resistance engages us in revolutionary praxis. The ethics of Western society informed by imperialism and capitalism are personal rather than social. They teach us that the individual good is more important than the collective good and consequently that individual change is of greater significance than collective change. This particular form of cultural imperialism has been reproduced in feminist movement in the form of individual women equating the fact that their lives have been changed in a meaningful way by feminism "as is" with a policy of no change need occur in the theory and praxis even if it has little or not impact on society as a whole, or on masses of women."

- bell hooks, "Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression", 54-55.

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