This sample Feminism and Acculturation Research Paper is published for educational and informational purposes only. Like other free research paper examples it is not a custom research paper. If you need help with writing your assignment, please use research paper writing services and buy a research paper on any topic.
Feminist theorizing and praxis has had a bumpy, yet ultimately successful voyage over several ‘waves.’ These waves have sought to respond to women’s experiences and needs in changing social and political circumstances, eventually recognizing that context matters. Feminism has not only struggled to dismantle patriarchy and transform societies, but it has also responded to the unique cultural contexts in which people live. Today, some argue that we live in a postfeminist age in which feminism is no longer relevant. Others argue that this is a short-sighted view born out of a limited appreciation of the unique cultural contexts on which women’s experiences are based, and feminist consciousness is born. This research paper discusses the multicultural and global trajectories and dimensions of feminisms, paying particular attention to non-Western forms that have received less attention.
- Enculturing Feminism
- First-Wave Feminism
- UN Feminism
- Second-Wave Feminism
- Third-Wave Feminism
- Black and Third World Feminisms
- Third World Feminisms
- African Feminism
- Post–Third-Wave Feminisms
Women’s status, social, economic, and political rights have been defined, defended, established, and then contested. Recent debates about Beyonce Knowles’ feminist identity, as well as the assertions by powerful pop icons that they are not feminists have led some to argue that in reality we live in a postfeminist age. During a panel discussion at New York’s New School (7 May 2014), feminist author and social activist Bell Hooks expressed qualms about the feminist perspective of Beyonce’s projects. Particularly concerned about Beyonce’s visual representation and her impact on young women, Hooks noted, “I see a part of Beyonce that is, in fact, anti-feminist, that is assaulting, that is a terrorist …” (The Hufington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/beyonce-anti-feminist_n_5295891.html). And in a recent interview with Time magazine actress Shailene Woodley was asked if she considered herself a feminist. Ms. Woodley, 22, answered in the negative, explaining, “Because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.” (The New York Times, 21 May 2014; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/fashion/who-is-a-feminist-now.html). Others have pointed out that the very fact of a debate underscores the salience of feminist discourse and praxis. Today, it is generally accepted that there is not one but a variety of feminisms, each with unique cultural emphases. However, this contemporary taken-for-grantedness of feminism’s multicultural nature did not come without contestations. This research paper traces the paths to contemporary multicultural feminisms across socio-geo-political contexts.
In 1967, the (Chicago) Women’s Liberation Union was formed, birthing the women’s liberation movement. In the United States, women’s liberation gave way to feminism, a term that has been ascribed to the work of French physician Madeline Pelltier best known for her activism related to women’s sexual and reproductive rights and the voting right. However, women had fought for equality before the concept was thus named.
Feminist scholarship enjoys rich and diverse theoretical and methodological traditions (Adomako Ampofo et al., 2004; Essof, 2001; LeGates, 2001; Imam et al., 1997; Mbilinyi, 1992; Mohanty, 1986). This brief review emphasizes the impact of its diverse global, especially Third World adherents. In a piece titled “Sarah Baartman, Invisible!” Adesanmi produces a fictitious letter written by Baartman to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar who produced the Norton Anthology of Literature. Adesanmi (via Baartman) laments the ‘excision of African theories and theorists’ (2011, p. 109) from this 2452-page 2-volume collection. Sarah Baartman was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as curiosities in nineteenth-century Europe under the now discredited name Hottentot Venus. African feminists have used her story to draw attention to the double burdens of sexism and racism endured by black women. The term feminism is used to refer to the notion of an agenda for women’s rights, generally, while feminisms refer to the diverse forms that subsequently emerged in response to cross-cultural differences. The sources for this research paper include scholarly as well as popular sources published in English, and a Facebook discussion with black feminist scholars in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (This is credited to Kara Keeling, Maisha Eggers Peggy Piesche, and Wangui Wa Goro.) The rest of the research paper maps feminism’s global and, hence, multicultural trajectory, tracing feminism’s waves and signposting contestations and convergences until the current ‘postfeminism’ era.
Elements of feminist theorizing and activism around social justice for women can be found in every modern culture. This section discusses the trajectory of feminism and its ‘enculturing.’ Feminist theorizing and politics emerged as an organized movement in Western societies in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Histories of Western feminism are often discussed in the context of three waves; each wave focusing on issues influenced by progress in women’s rights, and the inadequacies of an earlier wave. Of particular significance are the contestations between Western and Black/Third World feminists, leading to the formation of diverse feminisms privileging difference.
Western feminism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been labeled as first-wave feminism, in relation to the subsequent issues and approaches of the 1960s to 1980s. It emerged in the context of industrialization, the growing organization of the working class in Europe and America, and the so-called liberal politics of the time. This period was principally concerned with equal opportunities for women, and was anchored in a universalist paradigm in which women were undifferentiated. The period was characterized by activism and campaigns – including hunger strikes, picketing, conventions, parades, and marches – for women’s education, employment, and legal rights; and for reforms in family life and sexual values. Specific issues included the push for equal pay for equal work, women’s rights to vote, and rights to family planning services. This period also confronted female stereotypes and became known as the women’s liberation movement. In the United States, women’s liberation struggles begun as early as in the 1840s, and were linked with other movements, such as the abolitionist movement. However, the movement was generally by, and for white, educated, middle-class women about their social and political discomforts. For example, socialist feminists constructed marriage and the home as a site of oppression for women, a major point of later disagreement with Third World feminists. Betty Friedan’s (1963) ‘The Feminine Mystique’ for instance, examines the conditions of middle-class American women isolated and excluded from social and productive life. Even so, the nineteenth century struggles were supported by Black women abolitionists, such as Maria Stewart, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, and Sojourner Truth who, with her famous “Ain’t I a woman” call agitated for the rights of women of color (Krolokke and Sorensen, 2005). Significant during this wave of feminism was the suffragist movement, which was combined with the struggle to legalize contraception (Antrobus, 2004). Questions of the connections between the institutions of private property, control over assets, and female–male relations within families and society were founded within the social-democratic and communist debates of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in Eastern Europe. A socialist/Marxist feminism also developed in workers’ unions in the United States and social-democratic parties in Europe. Socialist feminism insists on locating feminism within wider movements for economic transformation and social justice. It is this view that paved the way for second wave feminism.
A brief detour between the first and second waves to reflect on the role of the United Nations (UN) in the feminist movement is in order here. Technically, UN feminism spans the first and second waves, even stretching beyond the boundaries of second-wave feminism in some cases. The United Nation’s role in globalizing feminism, and thus catalyzing multicultural feminisms is undeniable. Meetings held in Mexico City in 1975 marking International Women’s Year, and the beginning of the UN Decade on Women, eventually internationalized women’s issues. While government representatives of member states attended the official UN meetings, women’s groups attended parallel nongovernmental forums. With these NGO meetings began the tradition of measuring states’ commitments to, and implementation of, gender equality policies. Follow-up meetings were held in Copenhagen in (1980), Nairobi in (1985), and Beijing in (1995) and women’s issues and feminism gained global momentum. This helped women coalesce around common concerns such as discrimination generally, and gender-based violence more specifically. It also highlighted the specific experiences and concerns of women around the world, frequently locating these in discussions of development and underdevelopment, and the complicity of women from the industrialized (Western) world in the exploitation of women in the Third World. Third World feminists objected to underdevelopment being conceptualized as a Third World problem, and this led to a conference and the subsequent well-cited 1991 volume edited by Indian feminist Chandra Mohanty et al. titled, “Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism”. Feminist development theorists note that the interaction between feminism and development has taken five main forms: Women in Development (WID); Women and Development (WAD); Gender and Development (GAD); Women, Environment, and Development (WED); and Postmodernism and Development. The WID approach, drawing on modernization theory, advocated for the integration of women into existing development projects and also setting up women-only projects that addressed everyday needs (Kabeer, 1994; Tinker, 1990; Rathgeber, 1990). In many African countries, this agenda was taken over by first ladies and has been described as femocracy (Mensah-Kutin et al., 2000).
The WAD perspective argued that it was precisely women’s link with modernization that had impoverished them. Thus, WAD drew much more from dependency and neo-Marxist approaches to questions of underdevelopment. Concerns with the origins of patriarchy, the intensification of patriarchy with the spread of capitalism, and Engel’s analysis of the rise of private property and the agricultural revolution formed the background to this approach, which was particularly favored by Third World feminists who supported the social role of the postcolonial state (Kabeer, 1994; Rathgeber, 1990).
In the GAD approach gender (power) relations became the main analytical category. This perspective looked at the structures and processes giving rise to women’s disadvantaged position, including the ideology of male superiority. The assumptions in WID and WAD of women as a homogeneous group were critiqued and GAD argued in favor of intersectionality, recognizing that women are differentiated by class, race, religion, and other social characteristics.
The WED perspective was first introduced in the 1975 Mexico-City UN Conference by Vandana Shiva, and was founded on the notion of sustainable development, linking notions of equity between generations, the balance between economic and environmental needs to conserve nonrenewable resources, and the idea of reducing industrial waste and pollution. Sustainable development challenged the notion that development automatically translates into economic growth. Offshoots of WED are Ecofeminism and, later, feminist political ecology. The late Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wanguri Mathai was a proponent of Ecofeminism, and she built the Green Belt movement in Kenya to support women and the environment.
The United Nations and the international discussions it facilitated have shaped the progression of feminist agendas and actions, as well as the recognition that women are not a monolithic category. The United Nations, perhaps through the contestations that erupted during the parallel NGO meetings of the international conferences, and the women’s bureaux that were set up in different countries, may also be credited with catalyzing feminism’s enculturation. A transparent and collective approach that accepts and understands differences, the power of discourse, and the importance of consultation so that women can articulate their own needs and agendas is favored.
Second-wave feminism which began in the early 1960s, and is generally recognized as lasting into the late 1980s, was a response to the perceived lack of politics of the first wave. This wave was influenced by student protests; gay and lesbian movements; the anti-Vietnam war and civil rights and Black power movements in the United States, linking activism with theory-building (Antrobus, 2004; Krolokke and Sorensen, 2005). Theorizations of the subjugation of women were linked to broader critiques of patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, normative heterosexuality, and women’s gender roles; scholars distinguished biological sex from gender.
The second wave is responsible for the concept of ‘women’s empowerment’ that remains influential, and for slogans such as ‘sisterhood is powerful’ and ‘the personal is political,’ as well as consciousness-raising efforts (Krolokke and Sorensen, 2005; Ali et al., 2000). The period was linked with, and provided the foundation for, the establishment of formal sites for feminist scholarship around the world – women’s gender, and queer units in universities (Krolokke and Sorensen, 2005). The University of Maryland, Baltimore, lists more than 900 women’s/gender/feminist study programs, departments, and research centers around the world with web sites. Many more will not have active web sites so this is a very conservative count. While the majority are to be found in the United States, in many places in the global south women’s or feminist studies may be subsumed under other programs or within other disciplines and, thus, not be as easy to track via a cursory web search.
Confronted with ‘cultural difference’ – such as women wearing the (Muslim) veil – many Western feminists perceived themselves as rescuing Third World women from their cultures. This approach exposed tensions between Western and non- Western feminisms. Third World feminists, such as Gayatri Spivak (1988) criticized Western feminists for speaking on behalf of Third World women. Some, like Mohanty (1986), even opined that the glossing over of the diverse experiences, cultures, and histories among Third World women was a political project to subjugate Third World women. They further criticized Western feminists for speaking naively on behalf of Third World women. Thus, a fundamental shift in second wave feminism was the insistence on the importance of differences among women. Questions of the body, sexuality, female genital mutilation, the family, and motherhood emerged as key points of contention between Western and non- Western feminists. Radical Western feminists argued that women (should) have rights over their bodies, advocating a sexuality disconnected from the obligations of marriage and motherhood. Third World feminists disagreed and nowhere did this present itself more sharply than during the International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD held in Cairo in 1990 where many African representatives insisted, without apology, that abortion was not a key concern, and that motherhood remained central to their identities especially as it linked them to, or provided respite from, lineages as the case might be. Motherhood also provided status, and emotional and economic support. Third World feminists also insisted that the (over) emphasis on sexuality was misplaced and that they had the right to privilege their own concerns. African women in particular were very unhappy with a focus on female genital mutilation to the near-exclusion of other issues and without any attempt to understand the cultures in which the practice was located. The delicate home of global sisterhood based on a notion that feminism could create an alliance based on the commonality of womanhood and the patriarchal societies they lived in crumbled. At one meeting organized by the Nigerian feminist Nnaemeka Obioma in Nsukka in as late as 1992, African Americans and some African participants even objected to the participation of white women. The factions that emerged necessitated a questioning of the comfortable notion of global sisterhood (Nnaemeka, 1998). It saw the beginning of ‘standpoint feminism’ (Chodorow, 1978) and identity politics. Women of color, working-class, Third World, and lesbian feminists questioned the predominantly White, middle-class, and heterosexual feminist agenda of liberal, socialist, and radical feminists, accusing them of “ignoring, trivializing, or distorting the lives of women who were ‘different’ through other forms of othering” (Friedman, 1995, p. 9). The concept woman could no longer “bear the weight of all contents and meanings ascribed to it” (Gillis et al., 2004, p. 1). These accusations caused essential reconceptualizations in the feminist theory.
Third-wave feminism emerged in the mid-1990s, the period of many of the UN World Conferences on Women and the signing of international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). These meetings meant that feminists from all over the world had begun to interact. It was also the beginning of an ICT society, meaning women could now meet virtually as well. Third-wave feminism finally addressed difference, speaks of feminisms, and makes room for contradictions. Terms such as the body, gender, sexuality, and ‘heteronormativity’ were deconstructed. This wave concerned itself with interrelated issues including environmentalism; human rights; domestic violence; women in politics; eating disorders, body image, and reconstruction; hegemonic knowledge production; globalization; and the effects of racism and classism. Third-wave feminists advocate self-location and positionality and an antihegemonic global feminism. An important contribution to Third-wave feminist thinking is the notion of ‘transversal politics’ launched by Yuval-Davis (1997), a British Jew. Inspired by Spivak’s theory of ‘strategic essentialism’ and Collins’s theory of the ‘partiality of standpoints’ and ‘situated knowledge’ Yuval-Davis presents possibilities of dialogue between women across national, ethnic, and religious boundaries. Yuval-Davis was also inspired by the politics of feminist activist groups such as the London-based Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) – which includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus – and others such as the Bologna feminists, who work with women from groups in conflict, such as Serbs and Croats or Palestinian and Israeli Jewish women who work across typical identity schisms. Transversal politics recognizes differences in nationality, ethnicity, or religion – and hence in agenda – but also requires a commitment to listen and participate in dialogue.
Black and Third World Feminisms
The distinguishing lines are very blurred, however, Black feminism typically focuses on the Diaspora experience. North American Black Feminism has its roots in nineteenth century abolition movements articulating Black resistance and advocacy for social, political, and economic equality (Krolokke and Sorensen, 2005). It is laden with accusations of racism in white feminism that ignores the particular histories of slavery, and neglects the racial oppression and invisibility of women of color and Black feminists (Collins, 1990). White feminists’ concerns for the right to abortion, for instance, ignored the subject of the forced sterilization of Black women. Influential texts include Barbara Smith’s “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism” (1977), Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” (1983), Bell Hooks’ “Ain’t I A Woman? Black Woman and Feminism” (1981), Hazel Carby’s “White Woman Listen!: Black Feminism and the Boundaries of Sisterhood” (1982), and Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider” (1984). Black feminists argued that their political reality was one of a simultaneity of oppression, underscoring the notion of interlocking identities or intersectionality. Indeed, in her landmark text “Black Feminist Thought,” Collins (1990) insists that in order to appropriately examine and respond to black women’s lives, (black) feminist theory must be built simultaneously on the experiences and effects of race, gender, and class. Crenshaw (1989) coined the term ‘intersectionality’ to describe how ‘multiple oppressions’ are experienced, and Collins (1990) introduced ‘the matrix of domination’ to analyze how these intersecting oppressions are actually organized. Black feminists formed organizations to fight these multiple oppressions including the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO) of 1973 and the Boston-based Black lesbian feminist Combahee River Collective of 1974. The Collective also expanded the by-now popular feminist mantra, “the personal is political,” to include the notion that the personal is also cultural. They note that “Even our Black women’s style of talking, testifying in Black language about what we have experienced, has a resonance that is both cultural and political” (Combahee River Collective, 1982, p. 17). Further, unlike white lesbian feminist separatism, the Collective advocated an inclusive political strategy that would enable black women and men to fight together against racism while simultaneously challenging sexism. Indeed, Black feminists have sought to differentiate their feminisms via naming, to include the traditions and values within black communities. Some reject the term feminism altogether preferring to discuss issues of gender. The unease with the term feminist goes beyond culture as Purkayastha et al. note: “unease arises from how the conceptualization of individuals is taken for granted. A sharp distinction is assumed to separate the individual from any collectivity” (2003, p. 506). Along comes ‘womanism’ a key feature of which is the need for community – including men – to fight injustice, and not merely an emphasis on individual advancement or emancipation. Alice Walker is credited with introducing the term ‘womanist’ in 1980. The term was adopted by many African feminists independently of Walker (see Ogunyemi, 1985). ‘Womanism’ is equated to Black feminism, and is portrayed as superior to White feminism – promoting relations between women and men; privileging motherhood, community, and spirituality. A fourth definition, according to Walker, and where she deviates from African womanism, speaks of romantic love between women, thereby making a claim for Black lesbian feminism. African women outside of Southern Africa have generally not embraced the LGBT movement, even though same-sex love between women, including romantic love, is increasingly acknowledged and discussed (see Tamale, 2011). Audre Lorde, lesbian feminist activist, was instrumental in linking heterosexuality with discussions of women’s oppression. She used her writings and speeches to argue that heterosexuality is institutionalized to perpetuate the social power of men across class and race. In Germany, Eggers referenced a series, ‘Adefra,’ with Peggy Piesche and Katja Kinder where they talk about The Black Women’s Movement in Germany. On the level of practice, Black Germans, through ‘Adefra,’ have also always found it important to “share activist spaces with brothers, sometimes children and grown children of Black women Activists, sometimes siblings, sometimes fellow activist comrades from other organizations” (Maisha Eggers, personal communication on Facebook, 2 March 2014). This leads to conflicts with the White Women’s Movement in Germany who had a strict no-men policy. ‘“Adefra’ is also a space that embraces Black Lesbians. In the United Kingdom also there are fractures born of race and class differences – white women do not generally accept class issues based on race, while some black women do not find issues of sexuality a priority. In the Facebook discussion, Wa Goro points to the longest surviving organization, the Southhall Black Sisters set up in 1979 to meet the needs of black (Asian and African-Caribbean) and minority ethnic women (http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/). Although the term womanist has declined in usage, the term did enjoy a brief renaissance with the publication of the Womanist Reader (Phillips, 2006). Although black women insisted on their special circumstances, African and African-American feminists also built effective relationships with White feminists on specific issues such as access to services including day care, reproductive health care, maternity leave, and prevention of and support for domestic/gender-based violence. This was admitted during the first conference of the National Black Feminist Organization in 1973.
Third World Feminisms
The Third World has been defined severally (Spivak, 1988; Sangari, 1990). Third World women have diverse experiences with different local, national, and regional contexts. However, the commonality of the shared experiences of slavery, colonization, imperialism, and capitalism unifies them in unique ways (Spivak, 2006). Third World feminisms have been heavily influenced by globalization, international funding for national NGOs, transnational advocacy groups, and the UN organizations. These further expose, influence, and increase the tensions that exist between feminisms. Early encounters between feminists from different countries during the nongovernmental forums of the UN women conferences resulted in claims that Third World women were not feminists – or feminist enough – as they did not prioritize the issues that Western feminists considered critical. In Under Western Eyes, Mohanty et al. (1991) contest the Eurocentric gaze that privileges Western notions of progress and arbitrarily homogenizes Black women as victims of ignorance and restrictive cultures (Mohanty, Spivak (1988)). Other Third World scholars contest Western feminism’s naivety in speaking on behalf of Third World women, and about non-Western social structures they do not understand (Oyewumi, 1997).
Today, the categories that would be considered Third World are numerous and fluid – Asian, Arab, African, Caribbean, Latina, Indigenous peoples, etc. The problematics around the terms, for example, ‘Asian women’ has been discussed at length by scholars such as Arisaka (2000). At best, it is an ambiguous category, at worst, laden with racial (racist undertones such as non-Christian (i.e., heathen or barbaric)). There are many influential texts reflecting the diverse Third World experiences, approaches, and theories. However, one could summarize the following as critical areas that have received much attention: women’s visibility and voice in politics; violence against women; sexualities; and relations with the state. Useful reviews/ accounts include those by Bayoumi and Sidawi (2014) and Saadawi (2007) on the Arab world; Loomba and Lukose (2012) on South Asia; Purkayastha et al. (2003) and Maitrayee (2005) on India; and Mihesuah (2003) and Pettman (1992) on Native Americans and Australian women, respectively.
The origins of African feminism(s) cannot be specifically dated, and we distinguish this from Black feminism to underscore a more conscious link to the continent. It can be argued that it predates colonialism certainly in purpose if not in name as one is dealing with several languages that predate the introduction of European languages in the continent. This is evidenced by women’s specific struggles for their gender concerns. African feminism has been defined as an intellectual and activist movement, rooted in the experiences of slavery, colonialism, and patriarchy and striving to end interlocking systems of multiple oppressions resulting from these experiences and their conditions (Adomako Ampofo and Arnfred, 2009; Adomako Ampofo et al., 2004; Mama, 2011; Steady, 1981). Significant attention is paid to describing precolonial and traditional systems of gender relations to help understand connections to contemporary experiences, thus it is very much grounded in relating lived experiences to theorizing, and addressing issues such as health, gender-based violence, sexuality(ies), education, the family, work, politics, the state, and women’s organizing (Adomako Ampofo et al., 2004). This important criterion for scientific enquiry has often led to the unfortunate accusation that African (scientists) feminists are mere empiricists. It is recognized as heterogeneous, bearing the marks of its multiple and diverse colonial contexts, and influenced by a multiplicity of civilizations (Islamic, Christian, and indigenous) before being further shaped by an array of anticolonial, anti-imperialist and nationalist movements, and interactions with (white) Western feminism (Norwood, 2013; Mama, 2011). African feminisms have been “fundamentally deconstructive, inherently rebellious and unapologetically antiimperialist, antiracist, antisexist, and (recently, since the third wave) antihomophobic” (Norwood, 2013, p. 226). They also have problematized White Western feminism(s) and the production of knowledge on Africa, introducing alternative concepts, methodologies, and theorizations that valorize African-centered knowledge. Particularly significant have been the scholar-activist collaborations that have addressed the social and political concerns of women and that have been instrumental in women mobilizing. Adomako Ampofo (2009) maps some of the significant moments in these collaborations, significant among them the setting up of the electronic network, GWS, at the then African Gender Institute at UCT, and the subsequent establishment of the flagship e-journal, Feminist Africa. The journal’s subject matter reflects the diversity of issues of concern as well as its activist edge. Along with other units, the African Gender Institute has since been merged into a School for African & Gender Studies, Anthropology & Linguistics (see more at: http://www.humanities.uct.ac.za/hum/departments/axl#sthash.A6ZNgE2b.dpuf). A recent issue of Feminist Africa (2006, p. 7) has been devoted to Diaspora voices in which Reddock, a well-known Caribbean feminist scholar wrote the Editorial, and Barriteau, Rajack-Talley, Safa and Boyce Davies, fellow Caribbean feminists are contributors. In addition to defining, problematizing, and celebrating diaspora (Reddock), the contributors provide an eloquent summary of the status of black feminism for women in the Caribbean and in Brazil. As with continental Africa, much of the literature engages with the state’s neglect of women’s concerns, or their direct complicity in women’s oppression. Additionally, Caribbean feminists have been concerned with issues of identity (e.g., Mohammed, 1998) and masculinities. Nnaemeka (1998) and Reddock (2006) provide excellent summaries of some of the better-known conferences and anthologies that have taken place about African women’s issues, particularly in Africa, and that have provided opportunities for important collaborations.
This period is so named to reflect emerging issues and the technological tools of the new millennium, as well as the post- 9/11 culture-of-war. There are increasing engagements with states and international organizations in discussions around citizenship, identities, globalization, peace and security, terrorism, climate change, and food security; and feminists have recognized the need to coalesce around these. This wave includes intergenerational feminisms, and the use of social media in feminist engagements. As part of Facebook discussions with Black feminists in Europe, Maisha Eggers, in Germany, paid tribute to the power of digital campaigns for black women’s spaces in Europe. She offered the example of a campaign, “My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.”
The narratives and methods of a younger generation’s experiences have introduced new issues and approaches. We find a feminism that manifests itself in ‘grrl’ rhetoric, which challenges the notion of ‘universal womanhood’ and embraces ambiguity. Younger feminists of this era adopt body expressions of femininity that earlier feminists identified with a male oppressive culture (Baumgardner and Richards, 2000; Gillis et al., 2004). The attitude is that, “it’s possible to have a push-up bra and a brain at the same time” (Pinkfloor cited in Krolokke and Sorensen, 2005, p. 20). Popular culture is engaged with, while sexist language and inappropriate terms such as ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ are criticized. Discussions on feminism and popular culture are linked with cultural studies and gender roles, exploring the ways in which feminism and popular culture influence each other. The interactions have revealed the sexist representations of women that societies consume and take for granted. Of particular importance has been the objectification of women in audiovisual media and advertising. Munford and Waters point out that popular culture celebrates models of privileged ‘housewifery’ that encourage ‘fairy-tale idealizations of feminine idleness’ which is a concern in feminist discourses (2013, p. 93). Significant in this ‘post-era’ are discourses around religion and fundamentalism, Euro- American attitudes toward Islam particularly, and the resistances to these attitudes that have fed feminist theorizing and activism about the place of Muslim ‘others’ in Europe. Rottmann and Ferree (2008) compare feminist discourses around Europe’s antidiscrimination legislation and headscarf cases in Germany, showing that the relationships among race, religion, gender, and the role of the state influences German feminists’ discussions, particularly feminists of color. Traditionally, Islamic women who wear the veils or headscarf have been viewed as not ‘feminist enough’ or worse, as culturally backward (Mernissi, 1987). Ignored is the role of the veil to protect, or even empower women in contexts where their movement is otherwise circumscribed or even limited, or worse, where they are exposed to sexual harassment (Odeh, 1993). The discourse addresses the confrontations among globalization, terrorism, feminism, and war. In their edited volume, Feminism and War: Confronting US Imperialism, Riley et al. note the annihilating effects of war on the lives of women and how women’s liberation is invoked “to justify, legitimize and continue wars through the use of racialized discourses of male supremacy and female helplessness” (2008, p. 11).
This ‘post-era’ also enjoys convergences. The issue of motherhood, for instance, has now gained such prominence in North America that an entire series is dedicated to it by Demeter Press. Convergences do not lead to a (re)universalization of womanness, however. Rather, global feminisms are approached in terms of similarities and differences, and exchanges of ideologies, human resources, political movements, and transnational feminist collaborations and activisms (Lal et al., 2010). One such successful collaborative project is the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment project coordinated through the Institute for Development Studies, IDS, Sussex, and with partners in four regional hubs – South Asia, Latin America, North Africa, and West Africa.
Challenges remain, however. Finding a nuanced position that can specify women’s particular social locations, their universal human rights, and a feminist identity is not easy. As Mohanty (1986) noted, a focus on universal gender oppression can mean that particulars such as race and class must become invisible in order for gender to become visible. Valorizing differences – sexualities, religion, global location, class, generation– while keeping the larger project intact requires deep sensitivity and skillful balancing.
There are also backlashes. Wa Goro notes, “As with ‘Black’ advancement, these [feminist] issues seem to take on cyclical and ‘one step forward two steps back’ kind of patterns. These are also differentiated in various contexts at any time, with some progressive pockets in some arenas with simultaneous backlashes or backsliding elsewhere as in all struggles… and of course the mass media have a role to play in deciding whether to advance these ideas or not, based on the wider political/ economic reality…” (personal communication on Facebook discussion, 3 February 2014). As long as gender-based inequalities remain we will need feminism. But for feminism to survive it must be inclusive. In the words of Bryson, “what we dare insist on for the survival of feminism is that we share this movement towards an open-minded, generous, and inclusive feminism that moves beyond modern/postmodern, local/global, theory/practice and academic/real world dichotomies in what some might describe as a dialectical resolution that builds upon the best of earlier thought and experience to suggest ways forward for the future. Rather than suggesting that feminism is moribund, they show the breadth and diversity of feminist politics and ideas, the ability to develop even in a hostile climate, and the continuing importance of feminist concerns.” (Bryson, 2002, p. 239).
- Antrobus, 2004. The Global Women’s Movement: Issues and Strategies for the New Century (Global Issues) by Peggy Zed books.
- Adesanmi, Pious, 2011. You’re Not a Country, Africa. Penguin Books, Johannesburg.
- Adomako Ampofo, Akosua, 2009. One who has truth, she has strength: the feminist activist inside and outside the academy in Ghana. In: Adomako Ampofo, Akosua, Arnfred, Signe (Eds.), African Feminist Research and Activism-Tensions, Challenges and Possibilities. Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, pp. 28–51.
- Adomako Ampofo, Akosua, Beoku-Betts, Josephine, Osirim, Mary, Njambi, Wairimu, 2004. Women’s and gender studies in English Sub-Saharan Africa: a review of research in the social sciences. Gender and Society 685–714.
- Ali, S., Coate, K., Wa Goro, Wangui (Eds.), 2000. Global Feminist Politics: Identities in a Changing World. Routledge, London.
- Arisaka, Yoko, 2000. Asian women: invisibility, locations, and claims to philosophy. In: Zack, N. (Ed.), Women of Colour in Philosophy. Blackwell, New York, pp. 1–18.
- Baumgardner, Jennifer, Richards, Amy, 2000. Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.
- Bayoumi, Noya, Sidawi, Rafif Rida, 2014. Arab Feminisms: Gender and Equality in the Middle East (Contemporary Arab Scholarship in the Social Sciences. I. B. Tauris.
- Bryson, Mary, 2002. Me/no lesbian: the trouble with “troubling lesbian identities”. International Journal of Qualitative Studies 15 (3), 373–380.
- Collins, Patricia Hill, 1990. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Unwin Hyman, Boston.
- Collins, Patricia Hill, 2001. What’s in a name: womanism, black feminism, and beyond. Black Scholar 26 (1), 9–17.
- Chodorow, Nancy, 1978. The reproduction of Mothering. University of California Press, Oakland, California.
- Crenshaw, Kimberle, 1989. Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: a black feminist critique of antidiscrimination, doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140, 139–167.
- Ebunoluwa, Sotunsa Mobolanle, 2009. Feminisms. The Journal of Pan African Studies 3 (1), 227–234.
- Essof, Shereen, 2001. African feminisms: histories, applications and prospects. African Feminisms 50 (1), 124–127.
- Friedman, S., 1995. Beyond white and other: relationality and narratives of race in feminist discourse. Signs 21, 1–49.
- Gillis, Stacy, Munford, Rebecca, 2004. Geneologies and generations: the politics and praxis of third wave feminism. Women’s History Review 13 (2), 177–178.
- Hooks, Bell, 1981. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. South End Press, Moston, MA.
- Imam, Ayesha, Mama, Amina, Sow, Fatou (Eds.), 1997. Engendering African Social Sciences. CODESRIA, Dakar.
- Kabeer, Naila, 1994. Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought. Verso, London.
- Krolokke, C., Sorensen, A.S., 2005. Three waves of feminism: from suffragettes to grrls. In: Krolokke, C., Sorensen, A.S. (Eds.), Gender Communication Theories and Analyses: From Silence to Performance. Retrieved from https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/6236_Chapter_1_Krolokke_2nd_Rev_Final_Pdf.pdf
- Krolokke, Charlotte, Sorenson, Anne Scott, 2006. Gender Communication Theories and Analyses: From Silence to Performance. Sage Publications Inc, California.
- Lal, Jayati, et al., 2010. Recasting global feminisms: toward a comparative historical approach to women’s activism and feminist scholarship. Feminist Studies 36 (1), 13–39.
- Legates, Marlene, 2001. In Their Time: A History of Feminism in Western Society. Routledge, London.
- Loomba, Ania, Lukose, Ritty A., 2012. South Asian Feminisms. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
- Lorde, Audre, 1984. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press, California. Maitrayee, Chaudhuri (Ed.), 2005. Feminisms in India. Zed Books, London.
- Mama, Amina, 2011. What does it mean to do feminist research in African contexts? In: Feminist Review’s Conference Feminist Review, e1–e20.
- Mbilinyi, Majorie, 1992. Research methodologies. In: Meena, Ruth (Ed.), Gender in Southern Africa. SAPES Books, Harare.
- Mensah-Kutin, Rose, et al., 2000. The National Machinery for Women in Ghana: An NGO Evaluation. Third World Network-Africa, Accra.
- Mernissi, Fatima, 1987. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.
- Mihesuah, Devon Abbott, 2003. Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism. University of Nebraska Press (Contemporary Indigenous Issues).
- Mohammed, Patricia, 1998. Towards indigenous feminist theorizing in the Caribbean. Feminist Review 59.
- Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, Russo, Anne, Torres, Lourdes, 1991. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
- Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, 1986. Under Western eyes: feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. Boundary 12 (3), 33–58.
- Munford, Rebecca, Waters, Melanie, 2013. Feminism and Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique. I.B.Tauris, London.
- Nnaemeka, Obioma, 1998. The Politics of (M)othering: Womanhood, Identity and Resistance in African Literature. Routledge, New York (Opening out: Feminism for Today).
- Norwood, C., 2013. Perspective in African feminism: exploring expressions of black feminism/womanism in the African diaspora. Sociology Compass 7 (3), 225–236.
- Odeh, Lama Abu, 1993. Post-colonial feminism and the veil: thinking the difference. Feminist Review 26–37.
- Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo, 1985. Womanism: the dynamics of the contemporary black female novel in English. Signs 11 (1), 55–68.
- Oyewumi, Oyeronke, 1997. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourse. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
- Pettman, Jan, 1992. Living in the Margins: Racism, Sexism and Feminism in Australia. Allen & Unwin, London.
- Purkayastha, Bandana, Subramaniam, Mangala, Desai, Manisha, Bose, Sunita, 2003. The study of gender in India: a partial review. Gender & Society 17 (4), 503–524.
- Phillips, Logan, 2006. The Womanist Reader. Routledge, New York.
- Reddock, Rhoda, 1998. Women’s organizations and movements in the Commonwealth Caribbean: the response to the global economic crisis in the 1980s. Feminist Reviews 59.
- Rathgeber, Eva, 1990. WID, WAD, GAD: trends in research and practice. Journal of Development Areas 24, 489–502.
- Rottman, Susan B., Ferree, Myra Marx, 2008. Citizenship and intersectionality. Social Politics 15 (4), 481–513.
- Saadawi, Nawal El, 2007. The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World. Zed Books.
- Sangari, Kumkum, Vaid, Sudesh, 1990. Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.
- Spivak, Gayatri, 1988. Selected Subaltern Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Spivak, Gayatri, 2006. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. Routledge Classics.
- Steady, Philomena, 1981. The Black Woman Cross-Culturally. Schenkman, Rochester, VT.
- Tamale, Sylvia, 2011. African Sexualities: A Reader. Pambazuka Press, Cape Town.
- Tinker, Irene (Ed.), 1990. Persistent Inequalities: Women and World Development. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Walker, Alice, 1983. In Search of Our Mother’s Garden: Womanist Prose. Harcourt, California.
- Yuval-Davis, Nira, 1997. Gender and Nation (Politics and Culture Series). Sage Publications Ltd, London.