Feminist explorations Expository Essay

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For this assignment, you will develop an expository essay that: 1) explains why bell hooks thinks this definition of feminism is significant and 2) examines TWO of the following concepts as ‘starting points’ for the kind of feminist analyses that hooks suggests are necessary:

  • Patriarchy
  • Privilege
    • Oppression

• Interlocking systems / integrated framework of oppression

• Intersectionality

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WGS 101 Spring 2019 F E M I N I S T E X P L O R AT I O N S Essay 1: Due Sunday, February 10th by 5pm “Defining feminism as a movement to end sexist oppression is crucial for the development of theory because it is a starting point indicating the direction of exploration and analysis” (hooks 1998: 27). For this assignment, you will develop an expository essay that: 1) explains why bell hooks thinks this definition of feminism is significant and 2) examines TWO of the following concepts as ‘starting points’ for the kind of feminist analyses that hooks suggests are necessary: • Patriarchy • Privilege • Oppression • Interlocking systems / integrated framework of oppression • Intersectionality The expository essay format requires you to create a thesis statement, however; the expository thesis is written as an argument or claim. Instead, the thesis should be based on the ideas/information found in the source(s) used. To that end, your essay must include ideas and quotations from bell hooks’s essay AND three additional course readings assigned between Jan. 16 and Feb. 6. Essay Basics: • 3 full, double-spaced pages using 1 inch margins and a 12 point font; include page numbers (may go over slightly, but should not be less than 3 pages) • Cite sources in-text; do not include a list of works cited or use outside sources • Must be submitted as a PDF file to Blackboard by Sunday, February 10th at 5pm • Late essays will incur a 5 point penalty for each day the essay is late Grading Criteria: • To what extent does the essay address the issue(s) raised in the prompt? • To what extent does the essay reflect and represent feminist frameworks and ideas? • Do quotations add substantive and/or definitional value? • Is the essay organized, cohesive and logically structured, including a well defined thesis statement and supporting ideas? • Are all essay requirements met? Page 22 a paradigm shift—a shift which like many other shifts is inevitably resisted by those committed to the modes and practices of thought and existing knowledge. Copyright © 1998. OUP Oxford. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. hooks, bell. “Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression.” In, Squires, Judith, and Sandra Kemp, eds. Feminisms. OUP Sex­Blind Disciplines? Oxford, 1998 (pg. 22 - 27). In resisting the discussion of women in the curriculum, academics (of both sexes) generally fall back on two arguments. First, that the existing literature on women is inadequate and second, that although it is conceded that it may be necessary for women to occupy a more central place in the disciplines than previously, the central issues of all subjects are sex­blind, and will remain untouched by the discussion of women. The denial of the relevance of the study of women, and the specificity of the female case, to the central issues of a subject has important practical and intellectual consequences within the academy, one of which is the possibility of the pejorative labelling of women who produce work on women as narrow specialists in esoteric fields, whilst more conventional studies become import. ant works of scholarship. The history of theoretical feminism in Britain and the United States has yet to be written. However, when it is documented it would seem likely on the evidence so far available that women engaged in feminist research do not profit by that exercise in any orthodox sense, either inside or outside the academy. There are few indications at present that British or North American universities see Women's Studies as anything other than 'a peripheral or temporary phenomenon. Whatever the indications that the subject might be popular or lively it remains—as do its practitioners—in an outer courtyard, far removed from the real centres of academic power and authority. Given these factors it is unlikely that those who decide to accept feminism, and work for it, will be able to ignore the consistent marginality and academic deviance of their position. ['In Praise of Theory: The Case for Women's Studies', in Gloria Bowles and Renate Duelli Klein (eds.), Theories of Women's Studies (London: Routledge, 1982), 219­28.] 2 Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression bell hooks A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. Without agreed upon definition(s), we lack a sound foundation on which to construct theory or engage in overall meaningful praxis. Expressing her frustrations with the absence of clear EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 1/8/2019 2:42 PM via SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY AN: 12335 ; Squires, Judith, Kemp, Sandra.; Feminisms Account: s3372930 Page 23 Copyright © 1998. OUP Oxford. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. definitions in a recent essay, 'Towards A Revolutionary Ethics', Carmen Vasquez comments: We can't even agree on what a 'Feminist' is, never mind what she would believe in and how she defines the principles that constitute honor among us. In key with the American capitalist obsession for individualism and anything goes so long as it gets you what you want. Feminism in American has come to mean anything you like, honey. There are as many definitions of Feminism as there are feminists, some of my sisters say, with a chuckle. I don't think it's funny. It is not funny. It indicates a growing disinterest in feminism as a radical political movement. It is a despairing gesture expressive of the belief that solidarity between women is not possible. It is a sign that the political naïveté which has traditionally characterized woman's lot in male­dominated culture abounds. Most people in the United States think of feminism or the more commonly used term 'women's lib' as a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men. This broad definition, popularized by the media and mainstream segments of the movement, raises problematic questions. Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to? Do women share a common vision of what equality means? Implicit in this simplistic definition of women's liberation is a dismissal of race and class as factors that, in conjunction with sexism, determine the extent to which an individual will be discriminated against, exploited, or oppressed. Bourgeois white women interested in women's rights issues have been satisfied with simple definitions for obvious reasons. Rhetorically placing themselves in the same social category as oppressed women, they were not anxious to call attention to race and class privilege. Women in lower class and poor groups, particularly those who are nonwhite, would not have defined women's liberation as women gaining social equality with men since they are continually reminded in their everyday lives that all women do not share a common social status. Concurrently, they know that many males in their social groups are exploited and oppressed. Knowing that men in their groups do not have social, political, and economic power, they would not deem it liberatory to share their social status. While they are aware that sexism enables men in their respective groups to have privileges denied them, they are more likely to see exaggerated expressions of male chauvinism among their peers as stemming from the male's sense of himself as powerless and ineffectual in relation to ruling male groups, rather than an expression of an overall privileged social status. From the very onset of the women's liberation movement, these women were suspicious of feminism precisely because they recognized the limitations inherent in its definition. They recognized the possibility that feminism defined as social EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 1/8/2019 2:42 PM via SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY AN: 12335 ; Squires, Judith, Kemp, Sandra.; Feminisms Account: s3372930 Copyright © 1998. OUP Oxford. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. Page 24 equality with men might easily become a movement that would primarily affect the social standing of white women in middle and upper class groups while affecting only in a very marginal way the social status of working class and poor women. [. . .] Many women are reluctant to advocate feminism because they are uncertain about the meaning of the term. Other women from exploited and oppressed ethnic groups dismiss the term because they do not wish to be perceived as supporting a racist movement; feminism is often equated with white women's rights effort. Large numbers of women see feminism as synonymous with lesbianism; their homophobia leads them to reject association with any group identified as pro­lesbian. Some women fear the word 'feminism' because they shun identification with any political movement, especially one perceived as radical. Of course there are women who do not wish to be associated with women's rights movement in any form so they reject and oppose feminist movement. Most women are more familiar with negative perspectives on 'women's lib' than the positive significations of feminism. It is this term's positive political significance and power that we must now struggle to recover and maintain. Currently feminism seems to be a term without any clear significance. The 'anything goes' approach to the definition of the word has rendered it practically meaningless. What is meant by 'anything goes' is usually that any woman who wants social equality with men regardless of her political perspective (she can be a conservative right­ winger or a nationalist communist) can label herself feminist. Most attempts at defining feminism reflect the class nature of the movement. Definitions are usually liberal in origin and focus on the individual woman's right to freedom and self­determination. In Barbara Bergs The Remembered Gate: Origins of American Feminism, she defines feminism as a 'broad movement embracing numerous phases of woman's emancipation'. However, her emphasis is on women gaining greater individual freedom. Expanding on the above definition, Berg adds: It is the freedom to decide her own destiny; freedom from sex­determined role; freedom from society's oppressive restrictions; freedom to express her thoughts fully and to convert them freely into action. Feminism demands the acceptance of woman's right to individual conscience and judgment. It postulates that woman's essential worth stems from her common humanity and does not depend on the other relationships of her life. This definition of feminism is almost apolitical in tone; yet it is the type of definition many liberal women find appealing. It evokes a very romantic notion of personal freedom which is more acceptable than a definition that emphasizes radical political action. Many feminist radicals now know that neither a feminism that focuses on woman as an autonomous human being worthy of personal freedom nor one EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 1/8/2019 2:42 PM via SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY AN: 12335 ; Squires, Judith, Kemp, Sandra.; Feminisms Account: s3372930 Copyright © 1998. OUP Oxford. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. Page 25 that focuses on the attainment of equality of opportunity with men can rid society of sexism and male domination. Feminism is a struggle to end sexist oppression. Therefore, it is necessarily a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels as well as a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self­development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires. Defined in this way, it is unlikely that women would join feminist movement simply because we are biologically the same. A commitment to feminism so defined would demand that each individual participant acquire a critical political consciousness based on ideas and beliefs. All too often the slogan 'the personal is political' (which was first used to stress that woman's everyday reality is informed and shaped by politics and is necessarily political) became a means of encouraging women to think that the experience of discrimination, exploitation, or oppression automatically corresponded with an understanding of the ideological and institutional apparatus shaping one's social status. As a consequence, many women who had not fully examined their situation never developed a sophisticated understanding of their political reality and its relationship to that of women as a collective group. They were encouraged to focus on giving voice to personal experience. Like revolutionaries working to change the lot of colonized people globally, it is necessary for feminist activists to stress that the ability to see and describe one's own reality is a significant step in the long process of self­recovery; but it is only a beginning. When women internalized the idea that describing their own woe was synonymous with developing a critical political consciousness, the progress of feminist movement was stalled. Starting from such incomplete perspectives, it is not surprising that theories and strategies were developed that were collectively inadequate and misguided. To correct this inadequacy in past analysis, we must now encourage women to develop a keen, comprehensive understanding of women's political reality. Broader perspectives can only emerge as we examine both the personal that is political, the politics of society as a whole, and global revolutionary politics. [. . .] When feminism is defined in such a way that it calls attention to the diversity of women's social and political reality, it centralizes the experiences of all women, especially the women whose social conditions have been least written about, studied, or changed by political movements. When we cease to focus on the simplistic stance 'men are the enemy', we are compelled to examine systems of domination and our role in their maintenance and perpetuation. Lack of adequate definition made it easy for bourgeois women, whether liberal or radical in perspective, to maintain their dominance over the leadership of the movement and its direction. This hegemony continues to exist in most feminist organizations. Exploited and oppressed groups of women are usually encouraged by those in power to feel that their situation is hopeless, that they can do nothing to break the pattern of domination. Given EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 1/8/2019 2:42 PM via SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY AN: 12335 ; Squires, Judith, Kemp, Sandra.; Feminisms Account: s3372930 Copyright © 1998. OUP Oxford. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. Page 26 such socialization, these women have often felt that our only response to white, bourgeois, hegemonic dominance of feminist movement is to trash, reject, or dismiss feminism. This reaction is in no way threatening to the women who wish to maintain control over the direction of feminist theory and praxis. They prefer us to be silent, passively accepting their ideas. They prefer us speaking against 'them' rather than developing our own ideas about feminist movement. Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression. Its aim is not to benefit solely any specific group of women, any particular race or class of women. It does not privilege women over men. It has the power to transform in a meaningful way all our lives. Most importantly, feminism is neither a lifestyle nor a ready­made identity or role one can step into. Diverting energy from feminist movement that aims to change society, many women concentrate on the development of a counter­culture, a woman­centered world wherein participants have little contact with men. Such attempts do not indicate a respect or concern for the vast majority of women who are unable to integrate their cultural expressions with the visions offered by alternative woman­centered communities. [. . .] The willingness to see feminism as a lifestyle choice rather than a political commitment reflects the class nature of the movement. It is not surprising that the vast majority of women who equate feminism with alternative lifestyle are from middle class backgrounds, unmarried, college­educated, often students who are without many of the social and economic responsibilities that working class and poor women who are laborers, parents, homemakers, and wives confront daily. [. . .] To emphasize that engagement with feminist struggle as political commitment we could avoid using the phrase 'I am a feminist' (a linguistic structure designed to refer to some personal aspect of identity and self­definition) and could state 'I advocate feminism.' Because there has been undue emphasis placed on feminism as an identity or lifestyle, people usually resort to stereotyped perspectives on feminism. Deflecting attention away from stereotypes is necessary if we are to revise our strategy and direction. I have found that saying 'I am a feminist' usually means I am plugged into preconceived notions of identity, role, or behaviour. When I say 'I advocate feminism' the response is usually 'what is feminism?' A phrase like `I advocate' does not imply the kind of absolutism that is suggested by 'I am'. It does not engage us in the either/or dualistic thinking that is the central ideological component of all systems of domination in Western society. It implies that a choice has been made, that commitment to feminism is an act of will. It does not suggest that by committing oneself to feminism, the possibility of supporting other political movements is negated. [. . .] 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 EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 1/8/2019 2:42 PM via SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY AN: 12335 ; Squires, Judith, Kemp, Sandra.; Feminisms Account: s3372930 Page 27 Copyright © 1998. OUP Oxford. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. lifestyle. It could serve as a way 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 exploration in feminist theory. The shift in definition away from notions of social equality towards an emphasis on ending sexist oppression leads to a shift in attitudes in regard to the development of theory. Given the class nature of feminist movement so far, as well as racial hierarchies, developing theory (the guiding set of beliefs and principles that become the basis for action) has been a task particularly subject to the hegemonic dominance of white academic women. This has led many women outside the privileged race/class group to see the focus on developing theory, even the very use of the term, as a concern that functions only to reinforce the power of the elite group. Such reactions reinforce the sexist/racist/classist notion that developing theory is the domain of the white i ...
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School: New York University

Attached.

Shifting Feminism Definition - Outline
I. Introduction
II. Reasons for shifting feminism definition
A. Brings to foe the diversity of women’s social and political realities
B. Provides a c...

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Thanks, good work

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