This week’s “ESC Carte Blanche” editor is Anna!

Hello, my name is Anna, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Barcelona. I started an ESC at Open Cultural Center because I wanted to explore working in the third sector and to learn more about migration. OCC is a great place to do so because it is a very open and friendly space that encourages both personal and professional growth.

In light of the 8th of March for the International Women’s day I chose to write my article about bell hooks and her contribution to feminism. I believe hooks’ ideas are key to creating a transformative feminist movement. Moreover, her points can help us understand more about the situation of migrant women in Spain and the valuable contributions that they bring to the feminist movement.

Who is bell hooks?

Bell hooks is Gloria Jean Watkins’s constructed writer identity. She used this pseudonym in honor of her great-grandmother whose name was bell hooks and was known to be a very vocal woman (Kawesa, 2022). Hooks’ preference for writing it with lowercase letters is to emphasize her ideas instead of her personality. Like her great-grandmother, hooks has not been afraid to speak up, shown in her work revolving around how the feminist movement is confined to upper-class, white women and hence, disregards the reality of the poor, and non-white women. Certainly, hooks brought the focus to the intersectionality between class, gender, race, and capitalism. She recognized that dominant power structures result in interlocking oppressions and hence referred to them altogether as “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy”(Fitts, 2011). By phrasing it in this way she connected the historic intersections of systemic structures and the violence and oppression that are still present today. In this article, I aim to pay homage to hooks’ work by highlighting her main contributions to feminist scholarship and movement linking it with non-EU migrant women’s context in Spain.

The margin as a site for resistance

To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body.

Bell Hooks

Hooks contributions to feminism come from her position in the margin. She claims that “to be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body” (hooks, 1989, p.20). For instance, black women and other women of color have been historically only allowed in the center as domestic workers, maids, and in other essential roles that are key to sustaining the whole, a legacy deeply tied to the history of colonialism and racism in countries like Spain.

Migration to Spain has been deeply influenced by its colonial past and ongoing racist structures. The historical ties between Spain and its former colonies have created complex dynamics where migrants from these regions often face discrimination and exclusion. For example, many Latin American migrants in Spain find themselves confined to low-wage, precarious jobs such as domestic work, echoing the historical exploitation of marginalized groups within colonial systems.

Through their experiences of oppression, migrant women have an oppositional worldview that looks “from the outside in and from the inside out” and understands both (hooks, 1989, p.20). They navigate the intersectionality of race, gender, and class, often experiencing multiple forms of marginalization simultaneously. It is from the understanding that the margin is an essential part of the whole that resistance emerges. People in the margins have been able to transform those from a site of deprivation towards a place of radical possibility and resistance that allows imagining new worlds, free from colonial dynamics, racism, and sexist oppression. Hence, hooks calls for the need for the participation of those who live on the margins of the feminist movement, recognizing their unique insights and experiences. In Hooks words, they should be seen as “makers of theory and as leaders in action” (hooks, 2000, p.161).

Revolutionary feminism

Hooks distinguishes between revolutionary and hegemonic feminist politics arguing that the latter is a white women’s movement that operates within the imperialistic white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. She often focused on how mass media has been spreading the definition of feminism as a synonym for gender equality in the sense that it only seeks to lift women to the position of men.

This hegemonic feminism, she argues, erroneously views all women’s spaces as inherently free from sexism and patriarchy. By introducing class dynamics into the discourse, Hooks exposes how hegemonic feminism serves as a tool for white women to enhance their social standing within existing power structures at the expense of other marginalized women.

Contrary to the narrow focus of hegemonic feminism, hooks advocates for a revolutionary feminism aimed at uprooting sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression from society. This inclusive approach recognizes the intersecting forms of oppression faced by women, particularly those at the margins of society. For instance, migrant women in Spain often face intersecting forms of oppression based on their gender, race, and socio-economic status. They are disproportionately represented in low-wage and precarious employment sectors, such as domestic work and caregiving, which are undervalued and lack adequate labor protections. This exploitation of migrant women’s labor reflects the broader structures of sexism, racism, and economic inequality within Spanish society. Moreover, migrant women’s experiences are often marginalized within mainstream feminist discourse, which tends to prioritize the concerns and perspectives of white, middle-class women. By advocating for an intersectional analysis, hooks calls for a more inclusive and radical approach that centers the voices and experiences of marginalized women. Embracing Hooks’ call for a revolutionary feminism offers a pathway to dismantling systemic forms of oppression and advancing true equality and justice for all women in Spain and beyond.

Love as transformation

In Spain, where migrants from former colonies often face systemic barriers to integration, including limited access to employment, education, and social services, this exclusionary treatment is rooted in deep-seated prejudices that stem from colonial attitudes of superiority and racial hierarchies. Moreover, Spain’s historical role as a colonial power has influenced perceptions of cultural superiority and inferiority, perpetuating stereotypes and discrimination against marginalized communities, particularly those of African and Latin American descent. In this context, the notion of a revolution based on love takes on added significance. Self-love prompts agency and combined with the affirmation and embracing of difference we can bring revolution. It is key that we understand love as hooks did, “not as feeling that we are passive recipients of, but as a set of practices that orient us towards each other” (Nicholls, 2011, p.5). Love, then, becomes a powerful tool for resistance against the oppressive structures of the imperialistic, white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. By embracing love as a practice that fosters connection and solidarity, marginalized communities can challenge the dehumanizing narratives perpetuated by systems of domination. Thus, loving oneself and each other becomes a radical and revolutionary act. As hooks claimed “to choose love is to go against the prevailing values of our culture” that maintain systems of domination (hooks, 1994, p.246). A revolution based on love is what feminist liberation should look like, one that emphasizes collective action and nurturing practices.

To choose love is to go against the prevailing values of our culture.

Bell Hooks

Conclusion

As hooks stated, while all of us are not equal, “the consequence of that inequality will not be subordination, colonization, and dehumanization” (hooks, 2000, p.117). In the face of systemic oppression, hooks’ call for a revolution grounded in love offers a radical alternative to the prevailing values of domination and exploitation. Through self-love and mutual care, marginalized communities can resist the oppressive structures of the imperialistic, white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy and envision a future free from injustice and inequality. Hooks’ work serves as a powerful testament to the transformative potential of feminist praxis and collective liberation.

Sources:

  • Fitts, M. (2011). Theorizing Transformative Revolutionary Action: The Contribution of bell hooks to Emancipatory Knowledge Production. The CLR James Journal, 17(1), 112–132. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26758837
  • Hooks, B. (1989). Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness. Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, 36(36), 15–23. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44111660
  • Hooks, B. (1994). Outlaw culture : resisting representations. Routledge.
  • Hooks, B. (2000). Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. Pluto Press.
  • Hooks, B. (2000). Feminist theory : From margin to center. New York ; London Routledge. (Original work published 1984).
  • Kawesa, V. (2022). And Then We Wept – an Academic Obituary of bell hooks 1952–2021. NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1080/08038740.2022.2071989Nicholls, T. (2011). Introduction: Bell Hooks’ Contributions to Emancipatory Thought. The CLR James Journal, 17(1), 2–9. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26758831

Our volunteering program is funded by the European Union through the European Solidarity Corps!

The “ESC Carte Blanche ” is a section where we give the mic to our European Solidarity Corps volunteers and give them the creative freedom to write a piece about a topic of their interest linked to migration. 

Categories: Blog

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