Finding the Middle Way for Encountering Subjects: Reflections on bell hooks’ Views on Rhetoric

Why does Gloria Jean Watkins has to use a pen name? This is a big question for me before I embark on her ideas. Pen names are only used as a manifestation of powerless of rhetoric. The very name makes me feel uncomfortable because that reminds me of inability to articulate publicly, or the intentional secret keeping. Maybe it is just because she is an Africa American? Because she could not publish or say something with her true name?

When I was reading bell hooks from Contemporary perspectives on Rhetoric, I kept thinking of Toni Morrison’s novels and many other related issues concerning feminism, slavery, trauma, writing as a powerful way to enable changes, and so on. Frankly speaking, I come from a family where the right of articulation is intense. I can say that Bell Hooks’ feelings and her later pursuit is quite reasonable due to her life experience.

I am not shocked by the experience of her life because I read too much in literature on domestic life and female struggle. Even my own thesis is on the spiritual journey of the female protagonist. What struck me is that she openly talks about the ideology of domination in the West and when it relates to the “possibility of nuclear destruction” (270) I felt quite glad that she mentions this because before I just thought any country that develops nuclear weapon is evil. Now I guess I will look at the issue from a different perspective. For instance, I’ll understand why Japan and all these Asian countries want so crazily to be powerful. Maybe they just do not want to be invaded and occupied and being destroyed by bombs. History has left a trauma to them. Similarly, no matter it is in African American or any other race’s family life, women is often left the spiritual or physical trauma due to varied reasons. That’s why they want a change.

I am not saying that all male beings are bad or violent or not understandable, just that sometimes you do things in certain systems that made you so. Some husbands will think they are right when actually they are quite wrong. However, this happens on the other side, too. Women can also make men feel marginalized in today’s world. By saying women, I mean I am one of such women. So, what really matters is how to balance the gender issue domestically. I guess men and women thinks and behaves sharply different because of biological and social orders. But how can we solve the problem with the fast pace of contemporary life? I suddenly realized that maybe I was too busy demanding my dominance or equality while neglected my husband’s feeling as a male. It is hard to do the subject-to-subject encounter smoothly. People can easily get angry I mean. People cannot get out of their own subjectivity easily. Can science solve the problem? Maybe one day, when we get a chance to experience the difference biologically, we will understand?

I really love Hooks’ idea that the ideology of love, rather than the ideology of dominance should prevail in order to realize harmony(272). Her view that love is not merely “a sentimental longing for another person or the domination and possessiveness,” but “the idea of being able to let fear go so you can move towards another person who’s not like you” (272). Just because differences can cause fear, and fear leads to separation, Hooks thinks that the mutually exclusive relationship between love and dominance is the root cause of the (272). I don’t quite agree with this idea. I think sometimes different subjects will not necessarily try to get the dominance, maybe what they want is just equality? I am not sure, but will the simple requirement of the equality become another dominance?

I totally agree that there should be a “subject-to-subject encounter,” and “mutual recognition” is of vital importance. Just like the Chinese philosophy of “the middle way,” wrongfully translated into “the doctrine of the mean” in some texts, which holds that each one should try to keep a balance and try to find the middle ground rather than going to extremes. Recognition will be extremely useful to different subjects when finding middle ways. And finding the middle way can also be a powerful rhetoric where the mutual recognition process involves and the problems get solved. Such encounters should be able to help not only in men-women relationships, but also different people’s communication, even the international political arena.


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