Thursday, March 10, 2011

the Bible: bell hooks

Throughout our history, African-Americans have recognized the subversive value of homeplace, of having access to private space where we do not directly encounter white racist agression. Whatever the shape and direction of black liberation struggle (civil rights reform or black power movement), domestic space has been a crucial site for organizing, for forming political solidarity. // In our young minds houses belonged to women, were their special domain, not as property, but as places where all that truly mattered in life took place—the warmth and comfort of shelter, the feeding of our bodies, the nurturing of our souls. There we learned dignity, integrity of being; there we learned to have faith. The folks who made this life possible, who were our primary guides and teachers, were black women . . . [who fostered] a radical political dimension . . . [and who created] a site of resistance and liberation struggle.
--bell hooks
"Homeplace: a Site of Resistance"

Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago [in 1985]. It was my hope that at that time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.
--bell hooks
"Feminist Politics: Where We Stand"
page 1

"Ongoing discussion about the wide range of issues
that come under the heading of reproductive rights is needed
if females of all ages and our male allies in struggle
are to understand why these rights are important."
--bell hooks,
"Our Bodies, Ourselves"
Feminism is For Everyone

Have you read much of bell hooks?  She was born Gloria Jean Watkins and has influenced how a number of us approach the Bible.  Some of this gets very personal, so if you're more interested in objective and objectivized readings of the Bible, then do ignore this post please.  Well, and claim now (with the three epigraphs above you've worked your way through) that you've read some of bell hooks' writings.

But if your mother told you stories as a child, especially if your household was a refuge from sexist or racist kyriarchy in any way, then I bet you're already familiar with bell hooks (perhaps without even knowing it).  Once upon a time, Julia Caesaris the Elder and Julia Caesaris the Younger and their little brother Julius Caesar may have benefited from such respectful home training

My own story is of my own mother telling us stories in her childrens' very difficult upbringing, and of her reading the bible with me anyway.  I've blog-told it now twice at least.  (The first telling was an "Ongoing discussion about the wide range of issues that come under ...," a discussion not only that a contentious and challenging man blogger friend prompted but also that a thoughtful and thankful woman blogger friend supported me in much more because she really understands the bible and women and the personal with the physical and the political. // And with respect to my home training, I've told of my other mothers, also of Nancy now twice at least.  bell hooks has helped me never ever to underestimate the spiritual support and influence of mothers telling stories.)

Lest I bore you more, please do read more interesting encounters with bell hooks by others: 

Here's Rod of Alexandria re-membering what happened his first semester as a Th.M. student.

Here's Julia M. OBrien working and blogging as a Hebrew Bible\Old Testament scholar.

Here's Jeff a blogging feminist ally in one of a series of posts on the personal.

Here's "The Feminist Texican," a teacher, a Chicana feminist blogger, learning.

Here's Linda Lopez McAlister, reviewer of Malcolm X, the film, and the misogyny-prone man.

What about you, then?  Are you "from a Bible-toting, Bible-talking world where scripture was quoted in everyday conversations"?  Then might you not find something in bell hooks helpful perspectives too? 

Here's her own story:
Coming from a Bible-toting, Bible-talking world where scripture was quoted in everyday conversations, I lacked the psychological resources and know how to positively function in a world where spiritual faith was regarded with as much disdain as being from the geographical south.
Where does she go from there?  And where do you and I? 

1 comment:

Rod said...

I love my books by bell hooks.

I especially enjoy her criticism of modern entertainment (movies, etc) produced by African Americans.