hooks – “Holding My Sister’s Hand: Feminist Solidarity”

hooks, bell. “Holding My Sister’s Hand: Feminist Solidarity.” Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. 93-110. Print.

In this essay, hooks examines issues of race and gender within the feminist movement. She is careful to put relations between black and white women in the U.S. within the context of racial oppression under the institution of slavery and beyond where black women were still subservient to white women as domestic servants. hooks maintains that the strained and distrustful relationships between black and white women then continues to have an impact on relations between these groups within feminist movements.

hooks stresses the importance of women of color and white women confronting and addressing racism in feminist settings (109-110). Collective, honest confrontation and dialogue about race and reciprocal interaction and the willingness to deal with racist assumptions, and mutual fears are key factors in establishing positive relationships between the groups (108).

hooks insists that even in the midst of racism in feminist settings, women of color should actively try to find ways to take part in discourse. [How does this mesh with issues of distrust and fears about appropriation 104-105.]

If revitalized feminist movement is to have a transformative impact on women, then 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 or know one another in the difference and complexities of our experience, is essential (110).

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hooks – “Theory as Liberatory Practice”

hooks, bell. “Theory as Liberatory Practice.” Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. 59-75. Print.

In this essay, bell hooks challenges the perceived dichotomy between theory and practice or lived experience. hooks attributes the unnecessary disinterest in feminism and feminist theory by women to this dichotomy. According to hooks, feminist theory presented as mysterious and/ or disconnected from real life experiences and concerns beyond the classroom “assaults the fragile psyches of women struggling to throw off patriarchy’s oppressive yoke” (65). This type of theory edifies academic departments, but undermines liberatory movements.

Theorizing must be connected to action, practice, critical reflection, and/ or lived experience:

This is what makes feminist transformation possible. Personal testimony, personal experience, is such fertile ground for the production of liberatory feminist theory because it usually forms the base of our theory (70).

hooks – Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

hooks, bell. Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. Print.

bell hooks’ Teaching to Trasngress speaks to educators and students in the U.S. academy about what it is to embrace education as the practice of freedom. She describes her collection of essays as an “intervention” to counter the devaluing of teaching and the disinterest in teaching and learning. hooks shares teaching practices that she asserts are critical and encourage the interrogation of biases in curricula that “reinscribe systems of domination (such as racism and sexism) while simultaneously providing new ways to teach diverse groups of students” (10). hooks pedagogical approach also appreciates the need for passion and pleasure in the classroom which necessitates the consideration of not only students and teachers’ minds, but their bodies and spirits as well.

hooks shares knowledge based on her lived experience as both a student in a predominantly Black school as well as the work of Paulo Freire on critical pedagogy. This knowledge in addition to her classroom experience provides the basis for what she considers a “testimony” for the power of liberatory education.

The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy… Urging all of us to open our minds and hearts so that we can know beyond boundaries of what is acceptable, so that we can create new visions, I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions — a movement against and beyond boundaries.It is that movement which makes education the practice of freedom (12).

Essays of particular interest:

  • “Engaged Pedagogy”
  • “Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World”
  • “Paulo Friere”
  • “Theory as a Liberatory Practice”
  • “Holding My Sister’s Hand”
  • “Language”

hooks – “Paulo Freire”

hooks, bell. “Paulo Freire.” Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. 45-58. Print.

This is a “playful dialogue” between Gloria Watkins, bell hooks’ government name, and her writing voice (bell hooks) about Paulo Freire, his work, and the impact they’ve had on her approach to teaching. hooks discusses the relationship between Friere’s term “conscientization” and the process of decolonization:

And so Friere’s work, in its global understanding of liberation struggles, always emphasizes that this is the important initial stage of transformation…Freire has had to remind readers that he never spoke of conscientization as an end itself, but always as it is joined by meaningful praxis (47).

She also addresses the sexism in the language o fhis earlier works and the feminist critique of it. While hooks says Friere is among other critical thinkers that have constructed a phallocentric paradigm of liberation (where freedom is linked to patriarchal manhood) (49), she maintains that that the value of the insight Friere provides (especially for feminists) should not be forsaken (49): “Freire’s own model of critical pedagogy invites a critical interrogation of this flaw in the work. But critical interrogation is not the same as dismissal (49).

hooks – “Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World”

hooks, bell. “Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World.” Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. 35-44. Print.

This essay addresses the need for adopt democratic  teaching practices compatible with multiculturalism as well as the fears and challenges that teachers and students face in the multicultural classroom. In such a democratic setting, hooks states that it is the goal of transformative pedagogy to give students and faculty a sense of responsibility to contribute to learning (39).

While hooks says there is more tension in diverse classroom settings where critical pedagogy is practiced, there is also more opportunity for community building and freedom to “talk–and talk back” (42):

When we, as educators allow our pedagogy to be radically changed by our recognition of a multicultural world… we can teach in ways that transform consciousness, creating a climate of free expression that is the essence of a truly liberatory liberal arts education (44).

hooks – “Engaged Pedagogy”

hooks, bell. “Engaged Pedagogy.” Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. 13-22. Print.

In this essay, hooks emphasizes the importance of the self-actualization of professors in order to best create teaching practices that engage students. This approach goes beyond the “banking” model of education and the transfer of information to include students as participants and not passive consumers (14). In hooks’ model of engaged pedagogy, students nor teachers should be objectified and perceived in part, specifically the mind, but should include body and spirit as well:

Progressive, holistic education, ‘engaged pedagogy’ is more demanding than conventional critical or feminist pedagogy. For, unlike these two teaching practices, it emphasizes well-being. That means that teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students. (15)

Richardson – ‘She was workin like foreal’: critical literacy and discourse practices of African American females in the age of hip hop

In a semi-structured group interview with three middle-class African-American young women (one East Coast, 2 Midwestern), Elaine Richardson uses critical discourse analysis to explore ways that the young women negotiate stereotypical and hegemonic representations of black men and women. Richardson presents an analysis of her conversation with the young women about the video for Midwestern rapper Nelly and the St. Lunatics’ song “Tip Drill.” The controversial song and video portrays the commodified images of hypersexualized women of color and hypermasculine black men: ” The song could be considered a strip club anthem replete with signs of carnality and status, attractive young black women wielding their power signs – their beautiful shapely bodies…; virile men flashing their black men’s power signs – cash money…” (791)

Richardson’s primary question is: “How do young African American females negotiate stereotypical representations of African American culture, gender, labor, and sexual values in rap music videos?” (791) Through her conversation and critical discourse analysis, Richardson shows the “special knowledge” that the young women have about themselves, other black women and men, and their position in the racist, global, capitalistic system of the United States.

Richardson finds that the young women use Black and Hip-hop discourses, “smart talk” (Van Dijk 1997), and African American female literacies to understand and articulate their positions which are at times complicated and conflicted. One notable example of this is when one of the participants “represents” for the men in the video and their lived experience. “Representin'” as a part of Hip-hop discourse is a concept and practice that is “a part of the larger black discourse practice that emerged in the slavery experience and is akin to fictive kinship, wherein enslaved African devised a way of surviving, achieving prestige and creating a black human identity apart from dehumanized slave,” (797) Participants “BE” gives rapper Nelly the benefit of the doubt arguing that he would not talk to a woman of “class” the way he speaks to “Tip Drills,” women who are strippers, or opportunistic women that do not have class. This notion that implies that there is a category of black women unworthy of respect.

Richardson concludes that young people, like those in her study, are aware of the dominating forces that perpetuate stereotypes about African Americans, but they do not possess all of the necessary critical tools to “escape internal victim blaming for their predicament.” (806) She advocates for critical pedagogies that go beyond challenging to changing systems that allow for inequality, sexism, and racism. Of course, we can add a host of other “isms” based on social divisions.