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Bell Hooks “Teaching to Transgress” Chapter 7

January 24, 2017 in uncategorised

Chapter 7 ‘Holding My Sister’s Hand – Feminist Solidarity’ launches with two quotes by Audre Lorde and Ama Ata Aidoo, introducing the ideas about feminism and its place in both a historic context as well as present-day feminism.

Hooks makes reference to the relationship of the two racial groups of women. Black women and white women.
She cites that although black men who lusted for the company of white women, and once it became legal for white women and black men to be married in the eyes of the law, the “point of contact between black women and white women was one of servant-served, a hierarchal, power-based relationship unmediated by sexual desire. Black women were the servants, and white women were the served.” (Hook 1994: 94).
I couldn’t help think of films “Imitation of Life” (1959) to a more recent film “The Help” (2011) and all the other similar films of the genre, where the role of white women, were always portrayed as more superior to that of black women.

It made me wonder if today’s white girls/women felt more superior to black girls/women in our British society.
Or if indeed, black girls/women in our society felt equal to their white female counterparts?

As a tutor, I have already seen for myself the notion of certain groups within a classroom feeling more privileged than others because they felt their voice/experiences were more worthy of being told and heard.
Hooks published this book in 1994, so could her views now be outdated?

Do problems still exist in regards to the relations between black and white women?
If there are still problems, then I believe, we have the responsibility as educators, teaching the next generation, to ensure this problem I eradicated.
Do I ensure that within my classroom, young black and white women, get along?
Purposely, create safe spaces for the two groups to form bonds. Maybe as Hooks suggests “radical confrontation, without feminist exploration and discussion of white female racism and black female response” (Hooks 1994: 103).
Is it the responsibility of educators to lend a helping hand in the union of the two female groups?

This chapter continues to explore the historic relations between the races and genders. Hooks explains just how she believes white women “were instrumental in perpetuating degrading stereotypes about black womanhood” (Hooks 1994: 97).

Hooks cites just how black women “who have never been white women’s servants have inherited ideas about them from relatives and kin, ideas which shape our expectations and interactions” (Hooks 1994: 99).
I guess Hooks felt this was important to not only the cause of the feminism but to highlight the relations between the two groups of women, for the sake of proposed pedagogical approaches, as females of all ages, will be entering classrooms, with preconceptions of how females from the other racial groups, live their lives. So as educators, we must be vigilant to seeing these stereotypes being played out in the classroom environment, from either side (black and white women).

As a black male, on a personal level, I found this chapter to be very insightful. My friend, who is of Ghanaian descent, highly educated, having worked for many organizations, on occasions found herself working for and taking orders from less qualified privileged white women. Her recent posts include working for the United Nations and other diversity projects, but as Hooks suggests “white women have assumed positions of power that enable them to reproduce the servant-served paradigm in a radically different context” (Hooks 1994: 103).

Hooks continues and writes “Now black women are placed in the position of serving white female desire to know more about race and racism, to “master” the subject” (Hooks 1994: 103) but I guess this isn’t just the fear of black women, but also the fear of black men too, myself included.
Having worked for the UAL’s widening participation department, I have always found it strange that the story of marginalized BAME people in society, to be told by that of people (white privileged men) who have no direct experiences of the challenges faced by the group, they claim to want to help. Or even worst, white privileged men heading race relation departments.

For some reason or another, like Hooks, I have only ever managed to form true friendships with white people “who come from working class backgrounds or who are working class and understand the impact of poverty and deprivation” (Hooks 1994: 106).
So for somewhere as prestigious as the UAL, I do understand that there will be students from all different backgrounds, so as an educator, I believe it will be my responsibility to ensure that everyone feels truly valued in the same way and their voices are heard, as well as their experiences welcomed.
It is important for students from privileged backgrounds to hear the stories of those less privileged and vice versa, to ensure true friendships are created during all student’s educational journeys.

Do I ensure those that need extra help receive this?

How will it make the already privileged students feel?

Will I create more of a division among my students?

The Teaching Within program was created, based on giving people of the BAME community extra assistance in achieving a teaching status qualification.
How will this impact the relations between other members of staff who are not from the BAME community within the UAL?

Although the chapter is solely based on the feminist movement, Hooks makes a great closing statement about ideas for improving the relations between black and white women.
She cites “If revitalized feminist movement is to have a transformative impact on women, creating a context where we can engage in open critical dialogue with one another, where we can debate and discuss without fear of emotional collapse, where we can hear and know one another in the difference and complexities of our experience, is essential” (Hooks 1994: 110).
A statement I believe also ties in well, to the current racial tensions between different ethnic groups, both here in the UK (Post Brexit) and in the USA (police brutality against African-Americans).

With recent events at the weekend, following the Inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington DC, I felt this video of the women’s march on Washington was appropriate…

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