bell hooks on the Importance of Feminism, Anti-Racism, and Intersectional Activism

Below follow highlights from a 2010 bell hooks lecture at the New College of Florida.

In the lecture, hooks explains the absolute importance of feminism, anti-racism, and intersectional activism, and how critical it is to fight against all of these “interlocking systems” in our world of “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy,” treating them not in isolation but as different manifestations of the same “dominator culture.”

  • All white people benefit from the privileges accrued from racist exploitation, past and present, and are therefore accountable for changing and transforming white supremacy and racism.
  • We live within a dominator culture of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy.
  • No contemporary movement for social justice in the United States has changed the nature of how we live as much as the feminist movement.
  • Given the role patriarchy plays as a system, exploiting familial relationships to teach dominator values, there are clear benefits for everyone, female and male, adult and child, when patriarchy is challenged and changed.
  • When I first began to use the phrase “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy” to characterize the interlocking systems that shape the dominator culture we live in, individuals would often tell me that they thought it was just too harsh. In the past 10 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 nation’s politics was being exposed; but as the laughter followed me from talk to talk, from city to city, and town to town and 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 led to the groundwork 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, fundamentalist in religion, economic power controlled by a minority in the interest of wealth. In fascist regimes, … teaching populations to fear terrorism is one way the system garners support. And we all know that that’s what we’ve been doing for the past few years, being told how much we have to protect ourselves from terrorists. …

    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, dissident 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.

  • There can be no love where there is domination. And any time we do the work of ending domination we are doing the work of love.

You can watch the rest of the lecture here: