Why international neo-liberal feminist movements are bad for women and bad for feminism

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Why international neo-liberal feminist movements are bad for women and bad for feminism

Duh. From The F-Word

 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.


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hysperia hysperia's picture

Why "Duh"?

Red Tory Tea Girl

That professional-class white, cis women have declared their struggles to be of core importance is of no news to me... In a strange parallel to claiming what's good for General Motors being good for the United States, many claim that what's good for Germaine Greer is good for women-as-a-whole.


Judith Revel - Women: Absent from the Political? 

When it is affirmed that women have been absent from the political - and sometimes even from history such as it has been written a posteriori by the victors - one is simply stating the obvious. But this obviousness only envisages women from the perspective of positive law, that is of the rights that one receives from the political institution by virtue of a juridical conception of power. Of course, the demand for equality of rights for all, men and women - whether we are dealing with individual or collective subjects - is irreproachable; and, from this point of view, the women's movement is today both necessary and exemplary. Having said that, it is perhaps more dangerous than it seems to limit oneself to the terrain of rights alone, in a kind of focus or reduction whose limitations some recent American developments have made patent. That is because reducing the terms of the problem of the absence of women at the heart of the sphere of the political to a simple lack of positive rights is to limit oneself to demanding for women the status of juridical subjects: this actually comes down to carrying out an operation which, albeit perfectly legitimate, is nevertheless heavy with consequences when it is considered as an end in itself.

‘Women' exist, of course; but ‘women' is also the name for a homogeneous population invented by a technology of power of a normative type by virtue of a natural pseudo-identity. Women are called ‘women' by virtue of the common characteristics that are ascribed to them: to have a uterus, to give birth to children, to work in the home, to serve their father and then their husbands, to have more sensibility than reason, to be more intuitive than they are abstract, and so on. It is in the name of this pseudo-naturalness of the community of women that their difference is recognised. But this difference is never the one that women themselves have chosen: this difference is the mark of their ultimate subjection, the one which will make it possible both to infantilise them (gender identity then becomes an age identity: being-woman and being-irresponsible, being- infans , come to overlap) and to govern them. It is therefore that norm which above all must be interrogated in order to try to produce the critique of the absence of women from the sphere of the political.