Saturday, December 16, 2006
Where now feminism? Go global?
I was reading an interview with Katha Pollitt about her new book Virginity or Death! And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time and I was struck by her response to a question about the current state of 'feminism'. I consider myself a feminist in that I believe in and actively work and campaign for women's rights. But I notice that some of my contemporaries are reluctant to call themselves feminists and in some cases are even a little wary of feminist analysis and argument. In the interview, Katha was asked if she sees anything that might "reawaken" the feminist movement in the United States. In her response she comments on the very different experiences of different women: I think that there are areas in which the feminist movement is a victim of its own success. There have been so many victories, but again, spread in a very uneven way. So, if you’re an educated person, if you’re able to compete in the current economic setup, things are so much better for you than they were in my generation, let alone my mother’s generation. We forget about all those people who are not so well equipped to compete: single mothers, poor people, people who are not equipped for this modern sort of weird economy that we have. If you’re a factory worker, then you’re really in trouble. Even within New Zealand this gulf is wide between the experiences of educated, middle class, New Zealand-born white women (like me!) and many other women. But if we take a global perspective, the gulf becomes a gaping chasm and impossible to ignore. I am feeling startlingly inarticulate this morning, so I'll have to come back to this topic. But the point I am weaving my way towards could start with a question. What role do the global economy and international political relations play in maintaining gender inequalities in countries like Afghanistan? Another question would be, what advantages to more privileged women in 'developed' countries gain from the maintenance of the very same global structures that allow these inequalities to be sustained? Put another way, what would we have to give up in order for real change to be possible, and are we willing to give up anything at all?