Sieg`s essay 2

Xuefeng Chen (Sieg)
English 1A
Prof Gomez
July 12, 2009
Essay 2 rough draft
Feminism always accompanies with some negative interpretations of men-hating,
lesbianism or women superior to men. Virginia Woolf and bell hooks are two important
preachers in the field of feminism. As being feminists, they both express women’s opinion of
social equality through their articles. Woolf wrote a short novel A Room of One’s Own to
indirectly elaborate the idea of women should be equal to the men. About half of century later,
hook wrote an argument essay Feminism--A Movement to End Sexist Oppression to express her
perspective of feminism. Through hook and Woolf’s writing, they both address an issue of the
oppression of women, but when it comes down to interpretation of feminism; hook’s view is
mostly about transformation, while Woolf’s view is focus on reform. Under hook’s definition,
Woolf’s perspective only stands for “bourgeois/liberal” women’s point of view and fighting for
their equality to men.
Bell hooks provide her definition of true feminism several times in order to contrast with
some other misleading or vogue of definitions. On the other hand, Virginia Woolf’s definition
primarily associates with inferiority of women from men. Through hooks’ essay Feminism--A
Movement to End Sexist Oppression she explained “feminism is a struggle to end sexist
oppression. Its aim is not to benefit any specific group of women, any particular race or class of
women. It does not privilege women over man. It has the power to transform a meaningful way
all our lives.” (72). by saying so, hooks bring out her idea of feminism which aims to the equality
for not only any particular race or class of women but also the whole society. The feminism that
aims to eliminate inequality for any particular race or class of women is contradictory to true
feminism. It means that one cannot choose to be a racist and a feminist at the same time. hooks
introduces bourgeois/liberal feminism as one of these untrue feminism. Bourgeois/liberal is
privileged up class white women look for equality to privileged up class white men; it has no real
significance for under privileged middle or lower class black women.(75). Bourgeois/liberal
feminism is not true feminism. Because according to hooks’ perspective “Feminism is a
movement to end sexist oppression directs our attention to system of domination and interrelatedness of sex, race, and class oppression.”(75). Bourgeois/liberal feminism only concerns
with equality of privileged up class women and men and fails to deliver the concern of other
class or race of women. True feminism concerns with sex, race and class oppression of whole
Under hooks’ definition of bourgeois/liberal feminism, Virginia Woolf’s perspective of
feminism seems to pretty much fit in. Virginia Woolf was one of the few women who receive
education for the reason of their family’s social status in late 18th century. While Woolf was
making comparison between men’s school and women’s school, she failed to mention that only
rich or privileged women can go to school and get educated in her time period. In other words,
most of women in middle or lower class cannot get educated. In her novel A Room of One’s Own,
when she was comparing the meal between men’s school and women’s school, she complains “It
was a plain gravy soup. There was nothing to stir the fancy in that. One could have seen through
the transparent liquid any pattern that there might have been on the plate itself. But there was no
pattern. The plate was plain.”,(25). After that, she wants to point out what is a good meal and
why it is important, she claims “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined
well”. (26). through her opinion on food, she expresses her dissatisfied with the food women’s
school offer. But she did not notice there were a lot of people who skips two of three meals of a
day and fight against hunger. These people would feel fortunate to have a soup even it is plain.
As a short answer to that, Virginia Woolf did not have such thought of poor people. In addition,
the title of this novel “A Room of One’s Own”, it reflects the main purpose of this novel is focus
on herself or the individual in the same class level. To respond this purpose, Woolf emphasized
“Back one was always hailed to the letter ‘I.’ One began to tired of ‘I.’ Not but what this ‘I’ was
a most respectable ‘I’; honest and logical; as hard as a nut, and polished for centuries by good
teaching and good feeding. I respect and admire that ‘I’ from the bottom of my heart.”(38).
Woolf neglects the tragedy that lower class women have to face. All she’s complains and
opinions aim to achieve a goal which is the equality to man at her class level.
Through Virginia Woolf’s complains of inequality treatment between men and women, it
implies that she would be satisfied if she were treated on the same way male student are. In order
to light this idea, she creates a virtual female named “Judith”. Judith was Shakespeare’s sister.
She has the same talent as Shakespeare. But because of her gender, she was not allowed to exert
her talent. (34). through her assumption of “Judith”, Woolf expressed the idea of reforming the
law to change women’s social status in order to prevent these tragedies from happening. In
contrast to Woolf, hooks set an ultimate goal which is not just reforming. In her essay
Feminism--A Movement to End Sexist Oppression she point out an idea from Women and the
New world “many women active in women’s liberation movement were far more comfortable
with the notion of feminism as a reform that help women attain social equality with men of their
class than feminism defined as a radical movement that would eradicate domination and
transform society … It is now evident that many women active in feminist movement were
interested in reform as an end in itself, not as a stage in the progression towards revolutionary
transformation.”(66-67). this idea indicates that reform is a step leading towards to the
transformation. What hooks wants is not only reforming the law but also the transformation of
men and women’s thought.
The reform itself always comes with forcing. Taking Woolf’s idea of reform as an
example, what if we integrate women’s school to men’s school? A few women are accepted to
the men’s school; male and female students share the same facility and treated equally. Male
student are forced by law to accept female students as their classmates. As we can image, being
the only few of female, women student will be surrounded with doubtful and despise sight.
Wherever they go in the campus, strange eye will come along with them. Maybe even their
safety cannot be guaranteed. What causes this situation is in depth of male student’s mind, they
cannot accept the thought that women should be equal to them. Because for hundreds of years,
man’s mindset is set to believe women are inferior to men. As long as their thoughts do not
change, the issue of inequality between man and women will not be solved. This example also
explains hooks’ idea of transformation is the ultimate goal of true feminism. The term of
transformation refers to the change of people’s thought. Making all of the society think women
and men should be treated equally. That is why transformation is more important than reform.
Virginia Woolf and bell hooks undeniably worked towards equality of women to men. As
their different definition of feminism, their advocating of feminism diverges from one to the
other. bell hooks’ approach of feminism is in a more general thought hoping to benefit all gender,
race and class by achieving the ultimate goal of revolutionary transformation which
fundamentally change people’s thought of the relationship of woman and men. But Virginia
Woolf’s approach of feminism is focus on herself or high class women. In order to get satisfied
by being treated equally with male student, she implies that reform law then uses it as a force
will be the only way out. The reason caused their different interpretation of feminism is due to
their different social status.