Discovering bell hooks

bell hooks image

bell hooks (aka Gloria Watkins)

I had one of those “Aha” moments when I sat down to watch this week’s assigned youTube videos.

All I knew about bell hooks before this week was that she was a feminist author/scholar. After watching the “On Cultural Criticism” pieces, I recognized that I was actually familiar with parts of her work despite never having “studied her.” (Aha!) This particularly applies to her work in terms of cultural visuals. I was especially interested in Part III of the series, in which she talks about transformation as being a combination of critical thinking and literacy.

Being an enlightened witness does require a higher level of literacy. As we strive in the English Department to counteract our culture’s visible representations of those less literate than ourselves as lower-class, I think we should try to remember that our responsibility extends beyond creating a dialogue. We also have a duty to help people acquire the skills they need to interact in such a dialogue. We need to help people see beyond the constructed narratives in movies like “Hoop Dreams.” We need to DO cultural criticism, and bell hooks outlines many of the ways to do this.

I also particularly like her concept of creating a more complex accounting of identity. Anytime a person is asked to define him/herself (including in our first module), it creates a sort of mini-identity crisis. How much more confusing must this intricate code-switching be to a young person who is assaulted every day be the various ads and messages we all discovered are so prevalent in our media journals this week? When it comes to defining the culture of oppression, the difficulties become even greater. The idea of the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy calls attention to this too-often-unarticulated problem, although I would include many more (and some just plain different) descriptors in my own illustration of oppressive forces.

All things considered, I had a hard time remembering to apply everything I was hearing to visible rhetoric because I was just so fascinated at hearing bell hooks talk. I’m having some trouble narrowing down what aspect of mass media I want to tackle for my project, but I think once I spend some time putting the videos in context I will have an easier time of it.

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