While many of us can claim to embrace the idea of intersectionality within our understanding of feminism, some struggle to keep gender, race, nationality and class within the same analysis and context. I myself felt exposed after this week’s reading on globalizing feminism and our application of U.S western-based feminism on global issues. I had always considered my views on oppression against women to be all-encompassing in which different societies were considered and included. In my ignorance, I failed to focus on these intersections across race and gender within the context of modern day colonialism. As an American born citizen with foreign roots, I did not realize much of my understanding on the oppression of women was based on liberal thought with naive ideals on empowerment and equality for all women. These thoughts of mine did not consider the multiple facets of each society and their history as well. As Mohanty critiques in her essay on western feminism, there lies an inadequate self-consciousness about the effect of western scholarship on the ‘third world’ in the context of a world system dominated by the west (Mohanty, 3). This self-consciousness characterizes a large extent of western feminist work on women in the third world (Mohanty, 3). This same misguided self-consciousness can lead those, such as myself, to gloss over the differences of women around the world.
Mohanty’s essay sparked an interest in transnational feminism for me. The idea of transnational feminism was very appealing to me because of my background as an American-born citizen with Taiwanese and Cantonese roots. My identity is inter-sectional and contains many categories and facets. I find it refreshing to adopt a more international and global perspective where common traps like racism and Euro centrism can be avoided. Although cultural relativism might also seem like the simple solution in respecting the different expressions and meanings inherent in other cultures, it is not an absolute solution. On the other hand, it is vitally important to recognize these differences as products of different histories, as expression of different circumstances, and as manifestations of differently structured desires (Abu-Lughod, 5). Adopting this kind of stance will foster the rise of global communities becoming increasingly connected with each other. It was interesting to see that transnational feminism has been present as early as the twentieth century. Transatlantic connections began even in the mid-nineteenth century with visits and strengthened within progressive organizations devoted to abolitionism, pacifism, and women’s rights (Rupp & Taylor, 4).
It would be ideal if we can all progress towards thinking of ways to create connections and stand for one another across differences, without creating power inequalities in feminism. Alliances need to be made between women in the U.S and women residing in other countries. Congresswoman Juanita Millender McDonald calls for all U.S. women to stand up particularly for the women in Afghanistan (The Black Electorate, 2001). However, it was important to note here that even her understanding of Afghanistan’s history, culture, and geography might be limited in regards to the experiences of oppression. Although she points out that women were oppressed by the Taliban for showing their face in public, tradition sometimes dictates that a veil signifies a cultivation of virtue and a sign of educated urban sophistication (Abu-Lughod, 4). If transnational communication was fostered and nurtured on a more prolific scale, globalization might become a reality.
Abu-Lughod, Lila. “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.” American Anthropologist 104.3 (2002): 783-90.
Black Electorate Communications. “The Thong vs. The Veil.” 26 November 2001. http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=491. 02 July 2016.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Feminist Review 30 (1988): 61.
Rupp, Leila J., and Verta Taylor. “Forging Feminist Identity in an International Movement: A Collective Identity Approach to Twentieth-Century Feminism.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 24.2 (1999): 363-86.