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Mutualism: A concise response to Bell Hooks

Bell Hooks discussed sexism, racism, classism, patriarchy and domination on her visit to UVU. These themes are prevalent in our modern society.


Hooks believes in “engaged pedagogy”, a concept she refers to often. Engaged pedagogy involves a creative mode of critical thinking addressed to what Hooks sees as our society’s entrenched political resistance to genuine intellectual development. As a social critic she urges us all to think critically and intellectually about our relationships to one another, the media, politics, patriarchy, and our roles of dominate and subordinate relations. She suggests that the system the majority engages in is called “the banking system of education” a system that deposits information into people’s heads like the way one deposits money into a bank account. When an institution follows such systems of learning some may come up short, or without.
What I think she is pushing for is more information, more awareness about our world, and asks more from relationships, thus engaged pedagogy which expands our pool of shared meaning. I think the most important way to do this is to continually stay in dialogue, add to the larger conversation out there and honestly share our information.
I agree with Hooks values, and grasp the conversation. I will focus on feminism. In my experiences here as an English creative writing major at Utah Valley University I have become engaged in the larger conversation. I learned about the privileged, the underprivileged, femininity, classism, racism, patriarchy, and domination. UVU is seated at the heart of Utah County, which is a beautiful place to learn such conversations. Being of Western Culture and traditions in nature allows one to fully engage in philosophical and social thought. Here we have patriarchy pushed not only through America, but through a dominant religion. Women’s “roles” are continuously shifting by rotating around wherever dominant society thinks a man should be. In some places women are revered as mothers and homemakers, in other places (like the multi-billion dollar porn industry) the greatest “control” a woman can have is through sexually objectifying herself. Men are even struggling to know themselves, because society places a large emphasis on men being hunters and gatherers, the financial stability and supporters of their family and emphasizes that they become “masculine” contributors of society through their career and religious pursuits.
Furthermore, I think it is important to discover new realms of femininity and masculinity and what I enjoyed most was Hooks ideology of mutualism*. Many think equality is the solution to such societal ills. But Hooks doesn’t agree with equality, and for good reason. She says that equality, between couples for example, forces each to split up housework, for example, evenly between the two, which means that both parties will be participating in housework and activities they do not desire. Hooks says that mutualism is a better substitute for equality because it allows the couple to each choose what they desire. Hooks used the example of her partnership stating that “I hate garbage. H e takes out the garbage, and I scrub the toilets.” In a mutual society everyone chooses what they do based upon their desires (which can be driven by gender roles, tradition, or intuition) and from there work towards the betterment of the whole.
In contrast, equality created factions in the feminist movement because women were divided on their roles. They argued about what unified stance to take in the presence of change. Women got caught in trees instead of looking at the forest. They began to fight one another over the definition of womanhood and became divided in their definitions as each woman viewed herself differently than the rest of the pack. While some positive changes came from this movement, so did a lot of negative attention.
I think mutualism is the best solution to unlocking a higher system of society because it allows freedom to enter into the equation. Equality forces people to divide and conquer (often without choice); where in mutualism society is allotted choices, which won’t divide us into factions. Essentially, if women love to be homemakers, let them be, if men want to be homemakers, allow it. If women want to work on Wall Street please don’t pay them less than men. And working women, allow your sisters to be mothers without judgment if that is where they feel they belong.
In support, Marx Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844 go in hand with Hooks philosophy. (While he is talking about Capitalism, his theories can be applied to mutualism.) He essentially guides us through different forms of alienation prevalent in a capitalistic society, but the base of all four concepts lies at the fact that such alienation from oneself in society estranges people from aspects of their human nature.
In mutualism, human nature is expressed, people have choices, and divisions of labor are ok. There are many definitions of femininity, and masculinity, and many roles women and men fit into. Mutualism is a choice; and offers ways to regain identity and no longer estrange ourselves from our human nature by forcing equality upon society.

*Mutualism: the relation between two organisms, each interdependent, and each organism gaining benefits from the other.

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