Expanding Borders

March 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

International Women's Day rally of the Nationa...

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When I started writing my thesis, I thought I would learn about women in the developing world. When I finished my thesis, I realized that I had learned just the opposite. The prospect of grouping billions of women together and learning about their lives is so deeply ridiculous; I can sit in a classroom at my small liberal-arts college and acknowledge that I can’t speak for anyone more than myself, yet I couldn’t see the problem with grouping together women across countless borders and boundaries.

The idea of the “third-world woman” is often made into a brand of an exotic caged animal that needs liberation, and incredibly often western feminists maintain and perpetuate that discourse. There’s a strong feeling among certain types and waves of feminists that they’ve changed the conversation from patriarchal ethnocentrism to one that respects the lives of women in the developing world. Yet these conversations about who “third-world women” are, how western feminists can help them, and how people should understand third-world woman’s life is still presented in oppressive frameworks.

I’ve spent the past four years examining my feminisms and how they relate to women in America and Western norms. I like to think that I’ve garnered some sort of understanding about the complexities and subtleties regarding my feminisms and Western feminist theory. It took me until this year, however, to realize how I haven’t translated the complexity of that thinking to my understanding of global women. Post-colonial feminisms have created space for women outside of the Global North to explain how Western feminists have denied the “third-world woman” the space to speak their voice and define their identities on their own terms (or even in their own language). If Western feminists have the privilege to struggle, question and mold their identities and then re-question those identities all over again, non-Western women should be afforded the same right. Jaded16, a blogger who writes about Post-Colonial feminism, explains in ‘Skin Deep’ in Whose Skin? (http://jaded16.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/skin-deep-in-whose-skin/):

While there are quite a few theorists, bloggers, activists and people (who may or may not be acquainted with technical jargon of écriture féminin) who understand the problems with privilege and consciously work at divorcing it from their lives, there is an acute lack of Colonial critique or even acknowledgment that actions of mainstream feminism are, in fact, Colonial in more instances than countable.

Western feminists to ignore and deny the voices of Post-Colonial Feminists by using limited guidelines to understand feminisms, assuming one idea of what women want, and have a narrow idea of who’s worth listening to maintains Colonialism within feminisms. I couldn’t believe how powerful Jaded16’s blog was, and how clearly it stated what feminists were doing wrong and what she, as a Post-Colonial Feminist, needed. For her blog, see http://jaded16.wordpress.com/.


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