Blogging the Theoretical

Mohanty and Feminism (Final)

October 11, 2011 · No Comments

Within her book, Feminism without Borders, Chandra Talpade Mohanty chooses to express and highlight some problems in which she finds crucial. She argues that the problematic point is that women in third world countries are misrepresented because of the “Third world difference”. She goes onto to explain the context behind difference and that they rely on the relationship between being a ‘woman’ and ‘women’. Being a woman is the cultural and ideological composite which is constructed through the representations of the discourse. When it comes to women, they are real, historical subjects. These images are constructed but carried through the Western discourse. However, these distinctive representations of woman and women that shape them in society are not only the problem. The problem is that women, especially ‘third world women’, are seen as a powerless group, often victimized by particular socioeconomic systems. These examples can be seen in the ways women are represented in the workforce and how they are provided with educational opportunities.

Women have been always been in the workforce but “the fact of being women with particular racial, ethnic, cultural, sexual, and geographical histories has everything to do with our definitions and identities as workers” (142). This given due to the fact that   even though the power gap division that stands between women and men in these ‘third world countries’ is centralized, there is still a domination and exploitation in terms of race and gender. “Work becomes an extension of familial roles and loyalties and draws upon cultural and ethnic/racial ideologies of womanhood, domesticity, and entrepreneurship to consolidate patriarchal dependencies” (159); women’s identity as workers is secondary to their familial roles. The idea and concept behind the ideology of work, which in this case is considered an invisible form of work, is the ideologies of domesticity, dependency, and (hetero)sexuality, which designates women as housewives/mothers and men as economic supporters/breadwinners (159). This shapes the idea that the work women do outside the home, is not really considered work or labor because of this house wife ‘role’. This reflects the displayal of women as they concentrate more on domestic, housewife roles that are supposed to benefit the family and not really them. It shows how there is still an oppression of choice for the ‘Third World woman’ who has to reflect two roles, worker and housewife, instead of one. The role in society for ‘Third World women’ is to stay under the subordination of men and masculinity because the need for them to work doesn’t necessarily create their identity. It is the “identity of women as housewives, wives, and mothers that is assumed to provide the basis for women’s survival and growth” (160).

Another factor that plays a role in the feminist outlook is the issue of educational opportunity. With the constant growth of industries and the attempts to maintain poverty within a certain level, it is the reason behind many controversial issues that have affected those who are least opportunistic. “If American higher education is in the process of undergoing a fundamental restructuring such that yet again it is women and people of color who are at risk…” (186). This economic cycle of limiting opportunities for those who are less likely to surpass their class status has circulated the mainstream economic system for quite a while. If we compare the education accessible in ‘Third World’ countries to the educational opportunities sustained in the U.S today, one can notion that it is still women and people of color who are less likely to attend prestigious schools where they can get a ‘well balanced supplemental education’ or any education for that matter. They are the ones being disadvantaged due to the lack of recognition they receive in society. Education is perceived to be more ‘tolerable’ for the men who are the dominate form and the so called ‘supporters and breadwinners’. They are the ones encouraged to attend school since they will be the ones going out into the labor force supplying the family. However, when I say dominate form, I refer to the white male domination because just like women, people of color are limited to the educational opportunities and are in a sense ‘privileged’ if they do attend a higher institution.

These forms of gender, labor, educational and other oppressions make us question whether or not the evolution of women oppression has surpassed throughout geographical locations –such as, Africa, the U.S., Mexico, India and etc. Do women of ‘Third World’ countries and the U.S. differ? Are they not both oppressed and limited to opportunities that are more available to men and the dominate norm? These limitations reflected onto women due to certain limitations enable the construction of ideologies that enable us to keep considering possibilities outside of the norm and as women, it helps us challenge them. From oppression, we choose to become activist and feminist and seek knowledge. And as feminist, we tend to use that knowledge to answer the same questions we continue to raise.

Categories: Group Two · Jennifer R

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