Current Challenges to Feminism: Theory and Practice

Sometimes it takes just a bit of parody to shed light upon what verges on the absurd. The current state of feminist theorizing, in my opinion, not only severely limits our understanding of how the global market works but also circumscribes the field of feminist action. That it is unequal to the task of explaining how globalization is built on the backs of Third World women as it allows a few to move up the class ladder, is an understatement. This task ought to be paramount if feminism is to restore its emancipatory project. Undertaking it would require a solid comprehension of the basic operations of the global economic order, first of all, and how it is relations of production that underpin nation, race, and gender.

Without this encompassing frame, the international division of labor that has engendered vast class, racial and national divisions among women will remain concealed and worse, like male domination, become normalized and naturalized. It is already proceeding in this manner when feminists resort to phrasing their relationship with Third World “Others” in terms that connote altruism, munificence, and compassion; or when, in the name of “agency,” they unwittingly attribute a native perspicacity and shrewdness to housemaids’ everyday coping. This merely echoes North/South relations of power in a version of imperial feminism different from that of the 1970s, but imperial feminism, nonetheless. If current preoccupation with nuance and complexity were to be redirected to illuminate the ways in which gender, race, and nationality are ultimately grounded in production relations, the resulting findings would likely depart radically from those of current studies, for these would unavoidably recognize the necessity of mass political mobilization, not merely the celebration of individual oppositional acts. It would be a theoretical enterprise that could open up the possibility of collective action, with social justice as the primary item on the feminist agenda once again. Bulatlat

Works Cited

Anderson, Bridget. 2000. Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic Labour. London: Zed Books.

Constable, Nicole. 1997. Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Filipina Workers. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Davies, Miranda, ed. 1983. Third World, Second Sex: Women’s Struggles and National Liberation. London: Zed Press.

Ehrenreich & Hochschild, eds. 2003. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Epstein, Barbara. “Feminist Consciousness After the Women’s Movement,” Monthly Review (September 2002), vol 54, # 4.

Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. 2001. Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Horgan, Goretti. “How Does Globalization Affect Women?” International Socialism Journal (Autumn 2001), issue 92.

Kruks, Sonia, Rayna Rapp, and Marilyn B. Young, eds. 1989. Promissory Notes: Women in the Transition to Socialism. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Parrenas, Rhacel. 2005. Children of Global Migration: Transnational Family and Gender Woes. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

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