bell hooks- Ending Domination- The Struggle Continues- New College of Florida, March 1, 2010

bell hooks Ending Domination-The Struggle Continues

New College of Florida March 1, 2010


22: 20 Even though origins which see the invention of patriarchy as the root of domination seems inaccurate, what is true is that the family in dominator culture is often the primary pedagogical location for the teaching of dominator thought and practice via the acceptance and perpetuation of patriarchy. Hence working to challenge and change patriarchy continues to be essential to any effort to transform dominator culture.

23: “cognitive dissonance between what you believe and what you are willing to take action on”

23:33 Progressive folks especially prominent black male thinkers and activists on the Left openly denounce imperialism racism and capitalism but rarely talk about the need to challenge patriarchy.  And while all people of color, all black people are socialized to embrace white supremacist thinking few if any of these individuals from these constituencies openly advocate racism.  Individual black people who straighten their hair because they’ve been taught to believe that their natural hair texture is ugly are perpetuating a white supremacist aesthetic even as they may be adamantly anti-racist.

“Watch what people do not what they say” quote from therapist.  We often say one thing but our actions are constantly saying another.  And I think Chris Rock in the film “Good Hair” tried to show that whole distinction between saying why don’t black kids love themselves and at the same time putting little kids through that torturous process.  What little kid who is five, who’s being put through some torturous process of burning their head is going to feel like “Oh yeah, I should really love myself and I should really love my hair”  I think that one of the best bell hooks books is “Happy to Be Nappy”.    Grew out of my concern that a lot of the books that tell black girls and black boys that we should love our hair starts off telling us how awful our hair is.  “And by the way, it’s awful, but you should love it.”  So I wanted to write a book that would actually just stay in that place of …..coming from positive affirmation not negative affirmation.  These contradictions in our lives reveal the myriad ways dominator culture shapes our thoughts and actions in ways that are unconscious.  It is precisely because dominator thinking is so deeply embedded in our psyches that efforts to acquire critical consciousness so that we decolonize our minds need to be an essential aspect of resistance struggle, of education as  a practice of freedom and a liberal arts education.  When individuals who are psychologically confused engage in resistance struggle they often are dysfunctional and act out in ways that negate or undermine their efforts to create constructive change.  Since dominator culture relies on interlocking systems to sustain itself it seems to cover up the connections between these systems or it allows for one aspect of the system to be challenged for example, challenge racism while silencing anti-capitalists or anti-sexist voices.  Many more citizens of our nation question white supremacy and certainly white supremacists efforts to exert imperialist control around the world that question patriarchy.  And while religion was once a major tool pushing racist thought, it is no longer an accepted norm.  many Christian white people are not overtly taught in church settings that god has ordained that they are superior to an inferior people of color and should rule over them.  What’s amazing that if you study the development of Christian cults in the U.S. and look at the black people and people of color who joined those groups like Jim Jones… Many of those folks testified that it was the only time in the United States that they felt they were not among racists.  So I find it really interesting that the notion that while we sit around in the academy, I was asking my ride over here about diversity.  If you go to any fundamentalist Christian conference they don’t have the same problems with diversity.  Because the message that they are putting out like the black people testified about Jim Jones,

Nowadays many of our nation’s citizens do not attend church, so the family still remains the primary institution for the dissemination of patriarchal thought to children.  Patriarchal females as primary care-givers to children are the people who teach patriarchal gender roles.  Yet most males and females in our society rarely use the word patriarchy or understand its meaning.  Patriarchy is a political and social system that insists males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak as well as the right to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological abuse and violence. As I said earlier no contemporary movement for social justice in the United States has changed the nature of how we live as much as feminist movement.  Acknowledgement through law and public policy that women are the equals of men and deserve equal rights changed the nature of work, economics, home-life.  And while much is blamed on feminist movement, the truth remains that females and males have greater access to gender equity in all spheres of our life as a result of feminist struggle. It is precisely the myriad successes of feminist reform that lead to anti-feminist backlash.

Challenging and changing patriarchy threatens a core foundation of dominator culture.  If boys are not socialized to embrace patriarchal masculinity and its concomitant violence then they will not have the mindset needed to wage imperialist war.  If females and males are taught to value mutuality then partnership will be valued and not the ethics of domination.  31:10  Since patriarchal thinking creates psychological dis-ease; new models of partnership offer the promise of well-being and therefore undermine the capitalist consumer culture which exploits psychological pain.  The positive changes created by feminist movement were so widespread that the backlash has been fierce.  Mass media, especially media targeting young children teenagers and young adults continually re-inscribe sexist thinking about gender roles just as it has been the primary tool for portraying feminists and/or powerful women in negative ways.  I think it’s hard sometimes for feminist women to even go to the movies.  I just saw two films that just blew me away with their anti-feminist thinking.  Sandra Bullock in both of them, The Proposal and All About Steve.  The proposal, she is big corporate executive who is the boss, but how she ends up being humiliated by the guy she’s going to marry and when’s she’s being humiliated, he says “oh she’s a feminist” to his mother.  It’s just very interesting.  And that wacky movie All About Steve, so once again we have the idea that if you’re really smart as a female, you’re not going to get your man, no one is going to like you, remember that when she allows the guy to have the kudos for what she has designed, that is the escape out of the hole, I don’ know if you remember.  I don’t know if you guys watch these, lots of people do.  All About Steve was really popular.  Think about how re-tro that message is.  But who is that movie being targeted to?  A lot of those movies are being targeted to the 12 to 16 year old crowd, who watch them over and over and over again.  Mass media continues to portray feminists that are powerful women in negative ways.  In “the power of Partnership” Riane Eisler emphasizes that one form of antifeminist backlash that media has taken is promoting domination and submission as the only possible relation between parents and children and between women and men, explaining further she contends that the reason is that these intimate relations is where we first learn to accept domination and control as normal inevitable and right.  This is why many of our most repressive modern regimes have sprung up where family and gender relations based on domination and submission are firmly in place.  It’s also why, once in power, these regimes have vigorously pushed policies that have as their goal the reinstatement of a punitive father in complete control of his family.

Riane Eisler Mass media promotes the idea of a punitive family relationship

34:50 We see this pattern all too clearly in one of the most serous aspects of the dominator regression of our time, the rise of so called religious fundamentalism I say “so called” because if we look closely, it’s clear that what many  fundamentalist leaders preach be it in the Middle East or the United States is not religious fundamentalism but domination and control models with a religious spin.  Given the role that patriarchy plays as a system exploiting familial relationships to teach dominator values there are clear benefits of everyone, female and male, adult and child, when patriarchy is challenged and changed.  Yet changing patriarchy will not bring an end to dominator culture as long as other interlocking systems remain in place when feminist movement began and when it began to bring revolutionary changes in the status of women and men girls and boys , imperialism capitalism and racism were all gaining strength globally.  When I first began to use the phrase imperist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy to characterize the interlocking systems that shape the dominator culture that we live in individuals would oftent tell me that they thought that it was just too harsh.  In the past ten years, when I use the phrase at lectures more often than not, audiences respond with laughter.  Initially I thought this laughter was an expression of discomfort that the true nature of our nations politics was being exposes.  But as the laughter followed me form talk to talk from city to city, town to town and college campus to college campus, I began to see it as a way of deflecting attention from the seriousness of this naming.

Time and time again critical theory has told us the power of naming correctly what we are challenging and hoping to resist and transform.  But one way to silence accurate naming is to make it appear ridiculous too strident too harsh.  Rarely am I asked the value of calling attention to interlocking systems, yet when we examine the cultural circumstances that lead to the ground work for fascism in the 20th century, looking particularly at the roots of fascism in Germany Spain and Italy, we find similar traits in our nation today, patriarchal nationalistic racist fundamentalism in religion economic power and control by a minority in the interest of wealth.  In fascist regimes teaching populations to fear terrorism is one way the system garners support.  We all know that that’s what we have been doing for the past few years being told how much we have to protect ourselves from terrorists.  I remember protesting at the airport about the i.d’s  and being told sternly “this is because of terrorism and we are keeping you safe” and of course being the bright critical thinking that I am I was like “oh, so you’re telling me that the terrorists don’t have i.d.’s?”  Think about the wackiness sometimes of the culture we live in that we went through that whole process of how we were to arm our selves against terrorism at the airport,  but now we can just go stick our little id’s in those kiosks and there’s nobody checking you if you have a an id.  After this whole thing about how crucial it was to have this direct examination.  It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Most recently in our nation, the use of media to suggest that anyone who criticizes government is a traitor deserving of condemnation and even arrest, effectively silences many voices.  Concurrently dissonant voices challenging the status quo tend to be silenced by varied forms of censorship.  Meaningful resistance to dominator culture demands of all of us a willingness to accurately identify the various systems that work together to promote injustice exploitation and oppression.  To name interlocking systems of domination is one way to disrupt our wrong-minded reliance on dualistic thinking.

39:23 Highlighting these interlocking systems tend to indict all of us in some way.   Making it impossible for any of us to claim that we are absolutely and always victims, calling attention to the reality of our accountability however  relative.  I think that feminism constantly amazes me because it is the one movement , radical movement for social justice, that when a major critique was brought to bear upon it, i.e., the racism of white feminists, people actually went back and began to re-do work and to re-think that work non-violently.  That’s really awesome when you think about it.  Can we look at any other radical social movement and talk about how they went back to the table and said the way we were constructing our theory was inaccurate and we have to change it.  I can’t tell you how much I admire all the feminist thinkers.

4144 When we are accountable we eschew the role of victim and are able to claim the space of our individual and collective agencies.  For many folks, especially those who are suffering exploitation and or oppression, that agency may seem inadequate. However asserting agency is always the first step in self-determination.  It is also the place of hope.  As we move away from dominator culture towards a libratory culture where partnership and mutuality are valued.  We create the culture wherein we can all learn to love . there can be no love where there is domination .  And anytime we do the work of ending domination, we are doing the work of love.

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