Women and Politics in the Third World

Sample Term Paper

Words 2,300


In the early 1970s, scholars of anthropology and development attempted to document the lives of women and emphasize the importance of the woman’s perspective; this practice often resulted in universal explanations of women and their subordination. The assumption that women were a discrete category, who experienced similar constraints and interests regardless of class, race, and age, was applied cross-culturally and universally. This early scholarship was followed by an array of works that sought to produce an image of an “average Third World” woman, “based on her feminine gender (read: sexually constrained) and being ‘Third World’ (read: ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious, domesticated, family-oriented, victimized, etc.)”; scholars often constructed the Caucasian Western woman as culturally superior, liberated, and modern. (Mohanty, 1988; Marchand, 1995) Aihwa Ong (1998) notes that, although a common past may be claimed by feminists, Third World women are often represented as mired in it, ever arriving at modernity when Western women are already adrift in postmodernism.  Feminist scholars in both the developed and developing world have been occupied with the denunciation of the neocolonial discursive practices for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

Feminist scholars now widely accept that the tremendous diversity of women’s experience means that to argue globally for ‘woman’ in unspecific ways contributes to the oppression of women. For example in a region as diverse as Latin America, with its pluricultural and multiracial societies,  to speak of the oppression of the Latin American woman is to speak of a generality which hides the hard reality lived by millions of black and indigenous women. (Gunew, 1989; Gonzales, 1988  ). Hence, because of the diversity of cultures contained in the Third World, it is impossible to generalize about women and politic in the Third World.  Rather, this paper will discuss women and politics in term of four cultural paradigms:: Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

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