Women and racism

Dr. bell hooks, a renowned feminist scholar, spoke at the Ragan Theater about the connections between feminism and racism. Celeste Tholen/ UVU Review

Filling the Ragan Theater to its capacity, Dr. bell hooks gave her capstone lecture on Friday, April 1, finishing her week spent on campus.

As a feminist scholar, hooks lectured about racism through a feminism framing, lending understanding to how women are a part of, and pass on, racism.

She discussed the relationship between women using examples from the media, research and personal experiences. Her critical analysis of these situations connected women and racism, as well as how it is passed on through the relationships women have. She mentioned not just friendships between women, but also family ties, particularly that of motherhood.
To begin her argument, she discussed the traditionally-strained relationship between women of color and white women, particularly affected by the role of the white woman and the colored housekeeper working for her.

Hooks said that while the white woman feels the need to be loved by her charges, colored women have generally felt misused, taken advantage of and ill-paid. According to hooks, this fosters racism, or a feeling of supremacy within the white woman, and encourages “exploitation ethics.”

Further, she discussed the different campaigning technique used by First Ladies Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama. According to hooks, while Clinton was alienating herself from anti-feminists, Obama was endearing herself to the same group.

Although Obama was educated at an Ivy League university as a lawyer, she promised to take a step back and be “chief mom” while her husband ran the country. Hooks sees this as a step back for both feminism and the fight against racism.
“Headlines celebrated the sacrifice to motherhood in the White House… reassuring the nation that she would not be Hilary Clinton,” hooks said.

To hooks, this is how black women and white women are pitted against each other – the white woman is free to pursue her career and goals, while the black woman fades into the background of the sparkling clean house full of pristine children.

Her overarching point was that to move past inherent societal and personal prejudices, minorities should be fairly represented in the media. The “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy” must listen to the stories of minorities and then take what they have to say and use it to evaluate systematic injustices.

On an individual level, she called for a realistic understanding of differences and accountability for one’s actions.

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