Professor Diana Reese
22 February 2008
The Role of Theory in Wittig and Hooks
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “theory” as both “a belief or
principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment,” and simply “a conjecture,”
among several other definitions.
In science, a theory is an explanation, supported by evidence,
of why a certain phenomenon occurs.
In mathematics, a theory is a set of principles pertaining to
a specific topic.
It seems that there are as many definitions of “theory” as there are theories
themselves; a word that is often so precise in context (theory of evolution, music theory, number
theory) has been adopted to mean so many things.
Also, individual theories themselves mean
different things to different people
some are oppressed by theories and the actions that they
inspire, others are liberated, and still more remain unaffected and indifferent.
Theory: From Margin to Center
, bell hooks discusses feminist theory in this light.
that while feminism as a theory and a practice thus far has been beneficial to white bourgeois
women, it has systematically ignored the plight of minority women, who often choose to reject it
as a result.
This theory, then, must and can be changed in order to become all-encompassing.
Monique Wittig, in her essay “One is Not Born a Woman,” discusses long-held theories about
who women are and why we are oppressed, criticizes them, and calls to attention a somewhat
radical theory, echoing Simone de Beauvoir, that the term and entity “woman” is a dangerous
These two authors effectively employ different definitions of and outlooks on
“theory,” while criticizing two drastically different theories to assert and validate their own.