Gloria Jean Watkins from Kentucky is also known as an outstanding writer, feminist activist and cultural critic under the name of Bell Hooks. She has written more than thirty books, which are focused on racial, gender, cultural and other pressing issues (“About the Bell Hooks Institute” par. 1). “Feminism is for Everybody. Passionate Politics” covers all challenges that feminists face and suggests that men and women should unite to make the world without sexism. In the chapter “Woman at work,” Hooks is demonstrating the change in agenda of feminists. She accentuates the need of fighting with poverty and low quality of life and claims that the role of women in the workforce is to be reconsidered.
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First of all, Hooks states that more than a half of American women are currently employed, but not really satisfied with it (Feminism is for Everybody 49). It did not liberate them from discrimination at the market, and the average women’s wages significantly differ from what men earn for doing the same job. The demonstration of gender inequality does not end with the amount of salary. Hooks claims that male domination does not disappear as soon as a woman becomes part of the workforce, so many feminists were disillusioned by finally becoming equal with men (Feminism is for Everybody 49). They used to believe in the power of workforce, but instead, they had to work even more and earn less. According to hook, the real reason for such a sad situation was the capitalist economy, which forced people to work more. This is what made housewives leave their homes, and it is not feminists to be blamed. On the contrary, Hooks emphasizes that thanks to them women already have some rights.
Second, Hooks points out that entering the labor market is more about feeling confident and useful in society (Feminism is for Everybody 50). It increases the self-esteem of women and makes them feel a part of the community, while housewives suffer from loneliness at their homes. Although if jobs were better paid and time schedules were more flexible, women would find more joy and sense of freedom. In addition, being in workforce did not change the patriarchal type of relations in families. Hence, complete change in how a woman felt in society was impossible without reducing the male dominance at home.
Third, Bell Hooks focuses on the problem of poverty (Feminism is for Everybody 51). She believes it has become the central issue in modern society, as work does not provide enough money anymore. The state of economy is unstable and weak, so there is no guarantee for wellness even if you work a lot. Despite the fact that welfare system exists to help the poor ones, it is accompanied by negative attitude. In this case, the privileges for women make men feel deprived, and Hooks claims that if the government supported everyone equally, there would be no resentment (Feminism is for Everybody 52). In addition, she is convinced that if men saw the real nature of working women, they would no longer consider them enemies and invaders (Feminism is for Everybody 53).
Finally, the author of “Feminism is for Everybody. Passionate Politics” is thinking of ways to develop a new strategy for modern feminist movement (53). Those who were fighting for women’s rights in the previous century could not foresee the dramatic changes in economy and at labor market. They could not expect such demonization of women living thanks to welfare. The idea of Hooks is that men should reconsider their perception of feminist movement and role of women in the community. Only together they can build a healthy society and participatory economics, which would eradicate any form of discrimination. Moreover, the focus of feminists should be switched to the economic self-sufficiency: “It may well become the place of collective organizing, the common ground, the issue that unites all women” (Feminism is for Everybody 54).
In one of her latest works, “Feminism Theory: From Margin to Center” Hooks herself cited the critique of liberalization at work by Benjamin Barker (Feminist Theory 96). His point was that entering the workforce was not just a way to escape leisure and increase self-esteem. He highlighted the difference between the necessity and the ability to work. For most people, both women and men, it was the necessity to be a part of power system, and work turned into the dull routine. Only a few were seeking creativity and greater meaning. However, it is to be noted that at least some feminists achieved their goals through work, and such success inevitably makes them founders of a healthier community. Without creative innovators the world would unlikely develop at such rapid pace.
In context of modern digital era, the position of women has definitely changed. Discrimination based on gender is slowly vanishing from our reality, although it is still an issue in emerging countries. In civilized societies women have become freer from workload, as most of work can be done online and modern communication tools allow to spend time with children and family while working. Numerous applications made life easier and its pace is faster now. In addition, the patriarchal type of relations has almost disappeared, and household duties are usually shared by family members. Such a positive change would hardly ever happen without those women who were first to vote for the right to work and get respectable salaries.
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Besides, ideas of Hooks were supported by Meyers, who also evaluated the damage of the welfare system to women and consequences of women’s empowerment (53). She was focused on the results of giving microcredits to women and their correlation with sexist norms. Meyers admitted that welfare partly contributed to “perpetuating global inequalities” (53). It corresponds to the statements of Hooks, who stressed that welfare system did not make life better for women, and, instead, it worsened the position of feminist movement in the world. In fact, that system was simply covering the negative impact of financial institutions on the economy. It increased the level of poverty, and welfare did not provide anyone with power. As a result, feminists faced severe criticism, although they had benevolent intentions and it is not really them to point the finger at.
The authors of “Economic opportunities, empowerment, and rights for indigenous poultry farmers” conducted research, concerning the effects of empowerment of both men and women (Maina et al. 4). One of the conclusions is that “empowerment is both an outcome and cause of social and economic factors” (Maina et al. 4). Moreover, they find that the imbalance between work and leisure is the result of traditional approach to women’s home duties, and the fact that women started expressing their concern is a positive effect and shows their augmented consciousness. These ideas clearly correlate with claims of Hooks and Meyers, and it becomes obvious that feminists are not to be blamed for making women work more and enhancing the sense of inequality in the society. Even nowadays women who continue suffering from overload have not simply found the right balance yet. They are convinced that they are obliged to run a household by themselves, but forget that no one is a superwoman.
The general idea of Hooks in the book is that feminism concerns not only women and has a huge impact on the entire community. What is especially important, men should understand the true nature of feminist movement to get involved in the common fight with global issues. As Hooks said, poverty is a central agenda, and it remains to be a grave problem today. In fact, making women more self-sufficient and financially independent would be a great benefit for men. Thus, it is in their best interest to help women make the economic system more stable and flexible. Besides, working together towards a common goal would not only increase the positions of women at the market but also improve the general standard of living, which is crucial for global development.
To sum up, Hooks illustrated the acute problems for working women and feminists, who fought for their rights. Many of these problems, like poverty and the inadequacy of the welfare system combined with common misunderstanding of feminists’ mission still exist. The primary goal of feminist movement now will be to focus on these issues and develop a long-term strategy to help women and the deprived ones. Gender equality at work and in society is not something to be afraid of, but something to long for.
“About the Bell Hooks Institute” The Bell Hooks Institute, 2014. Web.
Hook, bell. Feminism is for Everybody. Passionate Politics. South End Press, 2000.
Hook, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Routledge, 2014.
Maina, Immaculate, et al. Economic Opportunities, Empowerment, and Rights for Indigenous Poultry Farmers. ILRI, 2014.
Meyers, Diana Tietjens. Poverty, Agency, and Human Rights. Oxford University Press, 2014.