Blogging the Theoretical

Mohanty and Gender

October 5, 2011 · 4 Comments

Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders addresses many critical and multifaceted issues and present-day feminism. Mohanty establishes essential links and connections between the working lives of women in the Third world as well as the United States and how these connections show similar ideological patterns within varying class/ cultural structures.

Mohanty looks at women in the Third World and how “gender” is portrayed. When Mohanty says: “This average Third World woman leads an essentially truncated life based on her feminine gender…” (22), which signifies the idea that the lives of women in the Third World are sexually constrained. What binds these women together is their “sameness” of oppression (22). Women, as a gender, have been labeled as “powerless, exploited, and sexually harassed…” by varying scientific, economic, legal, and sociological discourses (23). Mohanty brings up the concept of “object status” in regards to gender. Mohanty expresses that when women have been previously defined as “victims of male violence, universal dependents…and the victims of the economic development process” (23), women’s status then becomes objectified. As women of the Third World they are simplified to objects, or property then in which men acquire rights over (27). Through the economic development process, globalization, and the capitalist economy, women of the third world are once again being exploited by a dominating patriarchal society.

The second section, Demystifying Capitalism, looks at the exploitation of Third World women workers, by comparing various situations in many diverse locations. First, Mohanty expresses the idea of “the sexual politics of global capitalism” (141) and hoe globalization has led to the exploitation of women workers across national borders. Mohanty goes on to discuss a few key examples of women workers in the Third World and how the work they are doing, or how they are viewed doing the work leads to patriarchal domination. Before going into the specifics of the examples, Mohanty sets the stage very nicely by stating: “While the global division of labor looks quite different now from what it did in the 1950s, ideologies of women’s work, the meaning and value of work for women, and women’s struggles against exploitation remain central issues for feminists around the world. After all, women’s labor has always been central to the development, consolidation, and reproduction of capitalism in the United States and elsewhere” (146). In comparing situations of women workers, Mohanty first looks at the lace makers in Narspur. The women of Narspur are responsible for making products, and ultimately means that men “live on profits from women’s labor” (149). Mohanty discusses the polarization between that of men and women’s work. “Men actually define themselves as exporters and businessmen who invested in women’s labor, bolstered the social and ideological definition of women as housewives and their work as ‘leisure time activity’” (149). Through this we see a patriarchal definition of work and Mohanty looks at this patriarchal definition of work to further her discussion of worker and non-worker, and ultimately the further exploitation of women. Naomi Katz and David Kemnitzer show a comparison of the Third World “women’s work” to that of “women’s work” within the US in looking at the production strategies/ processes that produce an “ideological redefinition of normative ideas” of Third World factory workers in the Silicon Valley of California, where immigrant women are the primary workforce. Katz and Kemnitzer discuss that gender stereotypes are used in the Silicon Valley to attract females who may be “more suited” to perform “tedious, unrewarding, poorly paid work” (Mohanty 153). Clearly these stereotypes/ ideologies around gender are the basis for exploitation of these workers.

In both instances we see how Mohanty examines globalization and capitalism in terms of division of labor to show how ideas of “woman’s work” come into play, not only in Third World countries, but within the United States as well. These examples of the lace workers in Narspur and the electronic workers in the Silicon Valley show the “gendered” politics of the global labor market. Mohanty establishes essential links and connections between the working lives of women in the Third world as well as the United States. These connections show similar ideological patterns within varying class/ cultural structures. Woman’s work is viewed in terms of leisure time or something to do in their “free time” and comes secondary to their roles within the family structure; taking care of the children, the house, and being their for the husbands. Based on these ideas woman’s work outside the home is judged on a completely different scale compared to men, but Mohanty explains how woman’s work has indeed been the backbone of the capitalist system for some time.

Categories: Erika · Group Two



4 responses so far ↓

  •   bphess09 // Oct 8th 2011 at 11:38 am

    Erika-

    I think you have a solid analysis of your topic and have provided substantial textual support. Continue to further examine your quotations as to why they signify the conceptualization of gender as an ideology.

    In your summary I really liked how you described gendered politics and think that could be interesting to expand upon in your next post. Overall, I think you’ve done a really nice job examining Mohanty!

    Brooke

  •   kaasel09 // Oct 9th 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Erika-
    You do a great job discussing some of Mohanty’s key points relating to gender (as all things do). You have done an excellent job selecting quotes which will further your argument.
    I also think it would be interesting for you to do a closer examination of Mohanty’s argument about how the place of women in the house has been used to devalue them as employees, and how masculine labor has been commodified. Mohanty has some really interesting points on this issue which would tie in nicely with your discussion of what we think of as women’s traditional roles in the “50’s” and how these discourses are, in fact, still prevalent today.
    Good Job!
    Kate

  •   jmrodr09 // Oct 9th 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Erika-

    Good post!

    Your choice of quotes transitions into your dialect and reflects the point you are trying to get across with women and the objectification they encounter. With this conceptualization you make a strong foundation for your thesis.

    You could dissect and elaborate more on the political attributes beyond the workplace and give more examples but overall, good job.

    -Jennifer R.

  •   ogmcma08 // Oct 9th 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Erika-

    I think you have a solid start to your analysis of gender. I have a few suggestions to strengthen your argument:

    Your discussion of the objectification of the 3rd world woman is strong, and the quotes you have chosen are on point, but you could add some specific examples given by Mohanty to strengthen your points even more!

    Because your discussion of objectification is so strong, you could tease out your transition slightly so that you flow from objectification to capitalist influence. Maybe discuss the change of women to consumers and how they are in turn objectified by this change?

    Overall great start

    Liv

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