Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

bell hooks / Angela Davis

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Angela Davis’ “The Legacy of Slavery” and bell hooks’ “The Imperialism of Patriarchy” both discuss the relationships between Black men and women. As I was reading hooks’ piece, I noticed that she wrote that “Black male sexism existed long before American slavery” and white colonization and oppression “merely reinforced” the misogynistic view that Black men held towards Black women. Looking back at Davis’ writing, I found that she stated that Black women were “their men’s social equals within the slave community” and “the economic arrangements of slavery contradicted the hierarchical sexual roles” commonly found in relationship between white men and women. To me, it seems that bell hooks is claiming that misogyny and sexism is inherent in all men, and she even writes that “the strongest bonding element between Black men and white men was their shared sexism.” Whether or not she would agree with Davis, who says “the division of labor between the sexes was not always so rigorous” and that Black men and women recognized each other as “equally necessary” during the era of slavery, I can’t tell. But it is apparent that hooks believes that as Black men struggled to gain power in the second half of the twentieth century, they began to act upon their misogynistic feelings more and more. Hooks even writes on page 98 that “while the 60s black power movement was a reaction against racism, it was also a movement that allowed black men to overtly announce their support of patriarchy.” Throughout “The Imperialism of Patriarchy,” hooks is drawing more attention onto the detriment of sexism and how it affects the health of all communities. I think she ends this piece with a powerful message, writing in the last paragraph that “there can be no freedom for black men as long as they advocate the subjugation of black women.” Hooks argues that oppression of all kinds is not only terrible for the oppressed, it also “controls, limits, and restricts leaders,” meaning that it should be recognized in all its forms, and ended for the benefit of all people.

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One thought on “bell hooks / Angela Davis

  1. This is a really great comparison analysis of these texts! I really enjoyed it!

    I think something that I struggled with for a long time as a feminist and white woman was how someone can both be an oppressor and a victim. I think this is a challenging theory to grasp as people generally tend to prefer strict categories. Its relevant to these writings in that it deals with the idea of black men being victims and oppressors simultaneously.

    I agree with Hillary Clinton when she said that “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”. I think this strain of thought is in line with your interpretation, ” Hooks argues that oppression of all kinds is not only terrible for the oppressed, it also “controls, limits, and restricts leaders,” meaning that it should be recognized in all its forms, and ended for the benefit of all people.”

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