Home > Feminism > bell hooks’ “Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center”: Chapter 5.

bell hooks’ “Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center”: Chapter 5.

Chapter 5- Men: Comrades In Struggle

Hooks believes it was a mistake of women’s liberationists to call upon women to exclusively engage with feminist movement, she believes that men should be encouraged to assume responsibility for the end of sexist oppression. By making man the all-powerful misogynist, oppressor, “the enemy”, that made women the oppressed, “the victim”, this reinforced sexist ideology. As we have seen, this kind of mentality in feminist thought more aptly reflected the race and class background of the proponents, you guessed it, the bourgeoisie. This thinking neglected the fact that men do not share the same social status across all boundaries, that “patriarchy does not negate the existence of class and race privilege or exploitation, that all men do not benefit equally from sexism.” (p. 69) Moreover it also neglected the fact that bourgeois white women, while often victimized by sexist oppression, have more power and privilege and are less likely to be exploited or oppressed than poor, uneducated, non-white males. It is not uncommon states Hooks for black women and men to unite in political struggle against the anti-male stance, which did not mean that they denied the reality of black male sexism, it does mean however that many of “us” as Hooks notes “do not believe we will combat sexism or women-hating by attacking black men or responding to them in kind.” (p. 70) The goals of this line of thought, of alienating men, seems contradictory to Hooks, as the ultimate goal seems to be to replace white male supremacist rule, with white female supremacist rule – it is clear that sexist mentalities are being ignored in the ‘man-hating’ crowd. As Hooks states:

All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another. It is crucial that feminist activists not get bogged down in intensifying our awareness of this fact to the extent that we do not stress the more emphasized point, which is that men can lead life-affirming, meaningful lives without exploiting and oppressing women. Like women, men have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology. While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsiblity for eliminating it.  (Hooks, p. 73, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center, 2000)

Hooks states that it angers some feminists to see discussion in regards to men being victimized by sexism, it is hard to maintain that all men are the enemy when men suffer as a result of it (although Hooks does state that men are unable to be exploited or oppressed by sexism). Moreover Hooks believes that the suffering men can feel as a result of sexism can help to show them that there are patriarchal issues that need addressing. She also believes that struggling men, who are honest about sexism and sexist oppression have a place within feminism, but that they are often isolated and ignored, both by anti-feminist women and men, and by women active in feminist movement.


Hooks, B. (2000). Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center (Second edition).Cambridge MA. South End Press.  Pp. 69, 70,73.

Categories: Feminism
  1. HeatherN
    August 7, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Hiya…I like the article. Just wanted to say, I realize this is like, well into your discussion of bell hooks, but hooks purposefully writes her name without any capital letters. It’s not a big thing…just letting you know. 🙂

    • August 7, 2012 at 5:49 am

      Thanks so much for the correction!

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