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power by mohanty FINAL

October 17, 2011 · No Comments

In Chandra Mohanty’s piece, Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity she discusses the theme of power and how it is critical for us to move away from the old definition of power that forces us into a binary mindset of powerless versus powerful. She suggests we do this by stopping the categorization women as a homogenous group, crossing borders to experience new cultures and obtain new perspectives on feminism as well as understanding the innovative concept of “relations of ruling” proposed by Dorothy Smith. Mohanty also illustrates how the images of Third World Women are sustained by First World discourse. In addition, Mohanty discusses how power operates through capitalism and in turn creates a system of inequality, which not only affects the ideology of the Third World Woman, but also the education system which perpetuates these hegemonic ideas.

Mohanty explains how the major issue with the definition of power is that it cements struggles into binary structures, “processing power versus being powerless”. (39) She goes on to elaborates that since women are seen as powerless groups, their shift into power in terms of feminism discourse, would be dismantling all men and taking over. This would make men powerless and women powerful, but women as a group aren’t all powerful or all powerless. It is critical to acknowledge that “women are not a homogenous group or category (“the oppressed”), even though this is a common assumption in the Western World.” (39) Mohanty also describes the six ways that Third World women are viewed as powerless figures from the viewpoint of Western eyes: victims of male violence, dependent on their husbands, victims of colonial marriage process, obedient wife, or hardworking mother. (24-29) These images of powerless women are sustained by the way Western societies perpetuate theses hegemonic ideas, which set into motion a colonial discourse that uses power to maintain these lasting First/Third World connections. Mohanty believes that border crossing is necessary to change people’s perspectives on Third World women and that by decentering yourself you will become more humble and thus have a better understanding of feminism as a world issue. Also by crossing borders, it will shift the power away from the existing binary structures of examination because you will have more worldly knowledge.

In addition to border crossing, Mohanty highlights Dorothy Smith’s concept of relations of ruling, which is “a concept that grasps power, organization, direction and regulation as more pervasively structured that can be expressed in traditional concepts provided by the discourses of power.” (56) Mohanty thinks that this concept is progressive as it focuses on various intersections of power and highlights the fluid process of ruling not the concrete expression of it. This concept is in the step in the right direction that will move society away from the binary examination of gender, class and race.

In Chapter 6, Mohanty begins to discuss how power operates through capitalism, which in turn produces a system of inequality in the social and work sphere. She describes how patriarchal ideologies, which put women against men inside the home as well as outside of it, interject the images and ideas of the Third World women onto them. This makes it critical for us to rethink the way we see the working class as well as opening our minds to cross-national analysis to better understand the Third World woman. (141) Mohanty lays out three examples of women in the workforce in various parts of the world. The first example is in Narspur, India and it shows how these lacemakers are seen as doing a “leisure time activity” although their work is long hours and grueling meticulous labor. These women cannot be seen as workers because it goes against the hegemonic ideology of men as the breadwinners and women as housewives. (150) In the second example, Mohanty describes the factory worker women in the Silicon Valley and since they are immigrants who are married, their work is seen as not as important as their husbands. These women take on second jobs to better their families’ lives and their bosses put down their efforts and give them part time jobs. The women view their work as upward steps in social mobility. (154) These examples highlight the idea that “women have common interests as worker, not just transforming their work lives and environments, but in redefining home spaces so that homework is recognized as work to earn a living rather than as leisure or supplemental activity.” (168)

In the next chapter, Mohanty discusses how the obsession with making profit affects the universities and diversity, which used to be an institution that allowed discussion, debate and open thought. The privatization in today’s society shifts education away from open discussions and free though because universities are now controlled by whatever corporation is giving them money. With this being said, the companies that donate, or control, these higher education institutions are run by the dominant hegemonic group. This leads to the suppression of diversity, as well as feminist thought. Before globalization and privatization, higher education institutions critiqued these forms of power.

Mohanty, Chandra T. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke UP, 2003. Print.



Categories: Chandra Mohanty · Group Three · Maddy

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