Sunday, 31 October 2010

imperial feminism

interesting article from here:

IN A nation as rich in immigrants as Australia, feminists are rightly seeking to bring light to the sufferings of women who migrate from Third World countries with stories of abuse. However, on occasion, this feminist discussion slips into racist rhetoric that is oppressive to these women, just like the patriarchies they flee.

The use of marginalising language creates the figure of the faceless ''other'' - a woman who is shackled by ''uncivilised'' cultural practices and who needs to be schooled in the Western feminist ethos to ever have a chance at liberation.

This is not a legitimate form of feminism. We need to be aware of it to prevent the many female migrants in Australia from being exposed to what is known as ''imperial feminism''.

Imperial feminism is a term used by Pratibha Parmar, a black British filmmaker, to describe the struggles of black women in Britain in the 1970s, when the wave of feminism which emerged rarely captured the experiences of those women. If it did, it was often from a racist perspective. It claims to stand in solidarity with Third World women but in fact perpetuates stereotypes of these cultures as backward through the use of marginalising language and sweeping assumptions.


This simplistic ''us and them'' gremlin in modern feminist discourse must be recognised for the prejudiced creature it is and be eradicated. Only then can we truly begin to develop a meaningful and constructive dialogue that recognises the plight of women from grief-stricken regions of the world. These women are owed, at the very least, an unbiased voice to speak their narrative.

(link added by me). the rest of the piece is worth reading, it's not too long. i think it's relevant to the conversations we've been having here recently, and also reminds of the piece i wrote last month about the difficulty in speaking out about oppression within a minority community that is itself subject to oppression. i have many tales to tell about battles currently being fought, and not particularly successfully, right here in our country. but i hold back, because at this stage it feels like the telling will cause more damage than good.

the thing is to find a way where we can all fight together for the things that are important to us. unfortunately, often the things that are important to women from minority communities are not the same as what is highlighted by outsiders looking in. so, for example, if you talked to a group of muslim women, the burqa wouldn't be their greatest concern. not by a long shot. but if you wanted to know what their greatest concerns were, there would first have to be an environment where they felt safe to speak.


Chally said...


Adele said...

Teenaa koe, stargazer

Thank you for the commentary and the links.

From the perspective of an indigenous worldview colonised, we have an acute appreciation of the voice of those tauiwi (immigrants) imperialised. Most often our separate struggles are conflated into a singular cause.

As an example of imperialist thinking, an ongoing controversy in this country is the proposed animal-welfare ban on shechita, the Jewish ritual slaughter of livestock.