Feminists organizing for women’s rights in 2011 face a unique challenge: as community organizers, just what defines “our” community? Anyone reading this blog can likely recognize the oft-repeated mantras: we live in a borderless society; we are a global community.
The phrases “global feminism” and “transnational feminism” have surfaced in recent decades, and are now thrown around (often interchangeably) when discussing international feminist movements, gatherings or alliances. But there is a big difference between global feminism and transnational feminism. It boils down to whether we are committed to wide-reaching, yet locally sensitive organizing, or if we prefer to promote a one-size-fits-all, please-all-the-world diluted pseudo-feminist politic.
Margaretha Geertsma, an associate professor at Butler University’s Faculty of Journalism and Communication, has written extensively on this topic in recent years. She describes global feminism as a white, hegemonic US-based feminism, blind to difference and unique global contexts in the pursuit of a movement that “unites” all women(“Look! We all did a Slutwalk! My signs are in English, yours in Tagalog, we are one. Success!”). Other critics of the concept of a “global sisterhood” go even further, describing them as homogenizing, narrow, Eurocentric and imperialist.
Transnational feminism, on the other hand, treats difference – in experience, location, context, and identity – not as a challenge to be overcome, but rather as invaluable wisdom that should inform our activism. Acknowledging these differences can only make international feminist organizing, and of course, the lives of real women around the world, better.