I just finished Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks. I was a bit embarrassed that I had never heard of hooks until I did some research on her after I read a great essay by her called, Buddhism and the Politics of Domination from the book Mindful Politics. In this essay she claims that:
Most folks I know would rather denounce George W. Bush than examine the ways we all participate in the perpetuation of domination culture, of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.This idea of capitalist patriarchy grabbed by attention; it is also the main theme of Ain’t I A Woman. While parts of the book can become a bit pedantic, there are ideas that I think many people, men in particular (of all races) need to hear.
She claims that while women, both black and white, have made strides in the Untied States, they are merely striving to participate in a capitalistic patriarchal system. In a sense, she is saying that women have not worked toward changing an unjust system, they have simply worked to be a part of the very system that has oppressed them for thousands of years.
She urges men and women to work to:
Reorganize U.S society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires…to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.As I mentioned earlier, the book spends a large amount of time on the plight of the African American woman, and rightfully so; however the end message is that the entire domination culture, of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy must be changed. She states numerous examples of how African American women have been excluded from meaningful feminist movements in the past, but claims that in order for any oppressed people to be free, all oppressed people must be freed, (sorry must free themselves through struggle), and this freedom is only possible through a dynamic shift in society. As in any revolution ,simple reforms like women being given certain rights by men is not enough; we must rethink how we want to organize our society, and I for one have no qualms about sharing the load with women in our societies. Let me restate that, since it is obvious that women shoulder the majority of the load anyways, I have no qualms giving women their due once and for all.In closing, I think this is an important book for anyone interested in sexism, racism, and change.
Note: The title of the book is based on a Sojourner Truth speech of the same name. The following is an excerpt. Read the speech in its entirety here:
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?