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Mohanty and Gender (Final)

October 10, 2011 · No 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 the gendered politics within the global labor force. Mohanty deconstructs the ideologies around female labor forces in Narspur, India and the Silicon Valley, California and how the out-of-the-home jobs are seen as secondary to their wife and motherly duties.

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 how 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). Mohanty looks at the ways in which women of different races, ethnicity’s, as well as social classes have profoundly different experiences of work in the developing economic world. The increasing division of the world into consumers vs. producers has had a tremendous effect on Third World women workers who have been seen internationally as anything from agricultural workers, manufacturing workers in textiles, electronics, garments as well as toys, to workers of the sex and tourist industry (146). This is further deconstructed when Mohanty says: “The value, power, and meanings attached to being a consumer or a producer/ worker may vary enormously depending on where and who we happen to be in an unequal global system” (146-47). 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 mean 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 definition of work to further her discussion of worker and non-worker, and ultimately how it leads to the further exploitation of women. “In other words, work, in this context, was grounded in sexual identity, in concrete definitions of femininity, masculinity, and heterosexuality” (149). 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). Through this patriarchal view of women and women’s work we see how the “normative definitions of women as wives, sisters, and mothers- always are in relation to conjugal marriage and the ‘family’ (150). Clearly these stereotypes and heterosexual, patriarchal ideologies around gender are used to devalue the work that women do outside of the home. Here we see a disparity between the labor of men and women once again. Men are seen as the “businessmen, the exporters of goods” (149), and the so-called basis for capitalism, but in all actuality the men are “running of the same economic wheel” as the women, but the work of men is always more highly regarded. Men’s work is seen as something of great value as well as believed to be the basis for the economic system. Since men run the economic system, the work of the women in production and manufacturing is not highly regarded and the women get looked over. The work of men is being commodified and the work of women is not even acknowledged on the same scale to be considered an asset to the global economy, almost as an unnecessary/ disposable resource. Men should try to sustain a global economy without the use of women’s work in production and manufacturing as see just how “disposable” or unnecessary women’s work is and see how far they get!

In these 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 · Uncategorized

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