While building solidarity between activists in the U.S. and Iran can be a powerful way of supporting social justice movements in Iran, progressives and leftists who want to express solidarity with Iranians are challenged by a complicated geopolitical terrain. The U.S. government shrilly decries Iran’s nuclear power program and expands a long-standing sanctions regime on the one hand, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes inflammatory proclamations and harshly suppresses Iranian protesters and dissidents on the other. Solidarity activists are often caught between a rock and a hard place, and many choose what they believe are the “lesser evil” politics. In the case of Iran, this has meant aligning with a repressive state leader under the guise of “anti-imperialism” and “populism,” or supporting “targeted” sanctions.
As members of a feminist collective founded in part to support the massive post-election protests in Iran in 2009, while opposing all forms of US intervention, we take this opportunity to reflect on the meaning and practice of transnational solidarity between US-based activists and sections of Iranian society. In this article, we look at the remarkable situation in which both protests against and expressions of support for Ahmadinejad are articulated under the banner of support for the “Iranian people.” In particular, we examine the claims of critics of the Iranian regime who have advocated the use of “targeted sanctions” against human rights violators in the Iranian government as a method of solidarity. Despite their name, these sanctions trickle down to punish broader sections of the population. They also stand as a stunning example of American power and hypocrisy, since no country dare sanction the US for its illegal wars, torture practices and program of extrajudicial assassinations. We then assess the positions of some “anti-imperialist” activists who not only oppose war and sanctions on Iran but also defend Ahmadinejad as a populist president expressing the will of the majority of the Iranian people. In fact, Ahmadinejad’s aggressive neo-liberal economic policies represent a right-wing attack on living standards and on various social welfare provisions established after the revolution. And finally, we offer an alternative notion of and method for building international solidarity “from below,” one that offers a way out of “lesser evil” politics and turns the focus away from the state and onto those movement activists in the streets.
We hope the analysis that follows will provoke much needed discussion among a broad range of activists, journalists and scholars about how to rethink a practice of transnational solidarity that does not homogenize entire populations, cast struggling people outside the US as perpetual and helpless victims, or perpetuate unequal power relations between peoples and nations. Acts of solidarity that cross borders must be based on building relationships with activists in disparate locations, on an understanding of the different issues and conditions of struggle various movements face, and on exchanges of support among grassroots activists rather than governments, with each group committed to opposing oppression locally as well as globally.
We’re in post-racial America, so we shouldn’t be so touchy about MacFarlane and Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis sharing a guffaw about Don Cheadle being mistaken for a slave while he’s in character. We shouldn’t care about Iron Man star Robert Downey, Jr. defiantly clapping as MacFarlane joked about the brutalization of a then 21-year-old Rihanna, because she went back to her abuser, so to hell with objectifying her for shits and giggles.
And we most certainly shouldn’t care about a 9-year-old Black girl-child being called a “cunt” on the biggest night of her life because there are more important white feminist things to be concerned about.
Patriarchy ain’t over just because we got a shot at the lead part in the genocide show. That is not my feminism.
It is my intention to put together a non-western feminism course syllabus for submission to my Women’s Studies department. In that spirit, I have collected a list of texts on non-western feminism, mostly in the voices of non-western women, to serve as a starting point for developing this syllabus.
I’m sharing this list with Tumblr because too often “feminism” is understood through a western lens, and this includes African-American and Latin@ feminism, as practiced in the academy. Positions at the margins of feminism, developed from theoretical frameworks that do not rely on western epistemology are necessary to disrupt the theoretical assumptions that we have grown too comfortable with.
Further, it is my intention that, as this list circulates tumblr through reblogs, more texts will be added to it so that space can be made for voices that are all too often unheard, new voices can be added to the feminist “canon,” and we can recognize the very real need for feminisms that arise in contexts outside the american and the western theoretical.
Maria Lugones “On the logic of pluralist feminism” in Pilgrimages
Alison Bailey “Locating Traitorous Identities” (about how privileged should proceed)
Uma Narayan, Chapter One, “Contesting Cultures: ‘Westernization,’ Respect for Cultures, and Third-World Feminists” in Dislocating Cultures (about what is really western about our (eastern) feminism)
bell hooks “Sisterhood: political solidarity among women” in FEMINIST theory
Sumbul Ali-Karamali, “Women in Islam: Marriage, Divorce, Polygamy, and that Veil Thing” inThe Muslim Next Door
Amina Wadud “Rights and Roles of Women” in Qur’an and Woman
Azizah al-Hibri “The Nature of Islamic Marriage” in Covenant Marriage in Comparative Perspective
Birdwhistell, Joanne D. 2007. Mencius and masculinities: Dynamics of power, morality, and maternal thinking. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Butnor, Ashby. 2001. Self and social engagement in Zen Buddhism and Western feminism. East-West Connections 1(1).
· 2011. Cultivating self, transforming society: Embodied ethical practice in feminism and Zen Buddhism. In Buddhism as a stronghold of free thinking? Social, ethical, and philosophical dimensions of Buddhism, ed. Siegfried C.A. Fay and Ilse Maria Bruckner. Nuestall, Germany: Edition Ubuntu.
Dalmiya, Vrinda. 1998a. Not just “Staying Alive.” Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 15 (3): 97-116.
· 2000. Loving paradoxes: A feminist reclamation of the goddess Kali. Hypatia 15 (1): 125-50.
· 2001a. Dogged loyalties: A classical Indian intervention in care ethics. In Ethics, in the world religions, ed. Joseph Runzo and Nancy M. Martin, 293-308. New York: OxfordUniversity Press.
· 2001b. Particularizing the moral self: A feminist-Buddhist exchange. Sophia 40 (1): 61-72.
· 2009. Caring comparisons: Thoughts on comparative care ethics. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36 (2): 192-209.
· 2009. The metaphysics of ethical love: Comparing practical Vedanta and feminist ethics. Sophia 48 (3): 221-35.
Goswami, Namita. 2008. Auto-phagia and queer trans-nationality: Compulsory hetero-imperial masculinity in Deepa Mehta’s Fire. Signs 33 (2): 343-69.
Herr, Ranjoo Seodu. 2003. Is Confucianism compatible with care ethics? A critique. Philosophy East & West 53 (4): 471-89.
· 2004. A third world feminist defense of multiculturalism. Social Theory and Practice: 30 (1): 73-103. Reprinted and trans. into Chinese in Collected works in Sino-Western political culture, vol. 5., ed. Will Kymlicka and Depu Ma. Tianjin, China: TianjinPeople’s Press, 2006.
· 2008. Politics of difference and nationalism: On Iris Young’s global vision. Hypatia 23 (3): 39-59.
· 2012. Confucian Family for a Feminist Future Asian Philosophy, 22 (4 ), 327-346.
· 2013. (forthcoming) Confucian Family-State and Women: A Proposal for Confucian Feminism. In Ashley Butnor, Jen McWeeny (Eds.), Liberating Traditions: Essays in Feminist Comparative Philosophy. (pp. 261–282). N.Y., N.Y. : Columbia UP
Hu, Hsiao-Lan. 2007. Rectification of the four teachings in Chinese culture. In Violence against women in contemporary world religion: Roots and cures, ed. Daniel C. Maguire and Sa’diyya Shaikh, 108-30. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press.
· 2011. This-worldly Nibbāna: A Buddhist-feminist social ethic for peacemaking in the global community. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Jiang, Xinyan. 2000. The dilemma faced by Chinese feminists. Hypatia 15 (3): 140-60.
· 2009. Confucianism, women, and social contexts. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36 (2): 228-42.
Klein, Anne C. 1994. Presence with a difference: Buddhists and feminists on subjectivity. Hypatia 9 (4): 112-30.
· 1995. Meeting the great bliss queen: Buddhists, feminists, and the art of the Self. Boston: Beacon Press.
Li, Chengyang, ed. 2000. The sage and the second sex: Confucianism, ethics, and gender. Chicago: Open Court.
McCarthy, Erin. 2003. Ethics in the between. Philosophy, Culture, and Traditions 2: 63-77.
· 2008. Towards a transnational ethics of care. In Frontiers of Japanese philosophy II: Neglected themes and hidden variations, ed. James Heisig, Victor Hori, and MelissaCurley, 113-28. Nagoya, Japan: Nanzan Insitute for Religion and Culture.
· 2010. Beyond the binary: Watsuji and Irigaray in dialogue. In Japanese and Continental Philosophy: Conversations with the Kyoto School, ed. Bret Davis, BrianSchroeder, and Jason Wirth, 212-28. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
· 2010. Ethics embodied. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
McWeeny, Jennifer. 2010. Liberating anger, embodying knowledge: A comparative study of María Lugones and Zen Master Hakuin. Hypatia 25 (2): 295-315.
Rosenlee, Li-Hsiang Lisa. 2004. Neiwai, civility, and gender distinctions. Asian Philosophy 14 (1): 41-58.
· 2006. Confucianism and women: A philosophical interpretation. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Wang, Robin R. 2003. Images of women in Chinese thought and culture: Writings from the pre-Qin period to the Song dynasty. Indianapolis: Hackett.
· 2009. Kundao: A lived body in female Daoism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36 (2): 277-92.
Wawrytko, Sandra A. 1981. The undercurrent of ‘feminine’ philosophy in Eastern and Western thought. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
· 1994. Sexism in the early Sangha: Its social basis and philosophical dis- solution. In Buddhist behavioral codes (sila/vinaya) in the modern world, ed.Charles Wei-hsün Fu and Sandra A. Wawrytko, 265-80. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
· 2000a. Kong Zi as feminist: Confucian self-cultivation in a contemporary context. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 27 (2): 171-86.
Chandra Talpade Mohanty “Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity,”
· Chandra Mohanty “Under Western Eyes” http://blog.lib.umn.edu/raim0007/RaeSpot/under%20wstrn%20eyes.pdf
Susan Moller Okin “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?”
Gaytary Spivak “Can the Subaltern Speak?”
Intersectionality provides a way out of the cultural essentialism, objectifying and infantilising that often occurs when the Middle Eastern woman is the subject of feminist research or writing. It takes into account different positionalities, as well as whether these positionalities marginalize, empower, or grant privilege. It addresses power and inequality, as well as how different systems of oppression interlock, such as capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism, etc. It encourages self-reflexivity, and a constant awareness of one’s own assumptions, background, and position within the social, political and economic spheres.
Carrying out research from an intersectional perspective allows us to decentre Western feminism. This would mean no longer locating the “start” of the feminist project in first wave feminism, but to see women’s activism as a process that has happened across many places during different times. It would mean acknowledging the importance of other systems of oppression that have been downplayed by Western, white feminists, such as race, religion, class, imperialism, and so on. Finally, it would mean an explicit focus on power relations. In essence, using an intersectional approach is one way of reclaiming the feminist project and making it a project all women can be part of.
“Redefining Feminism: Overcoming the Legacy of Exclusion”, by the brilliant Sara Salem
Are you following her on tumblr? because you should be!
Fuck this article. This is such a lazy summation of feminism, I could scream. In the first sentence alone, the author cites Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Even though the author recognizes Friedan as a figure of controversy, Friedan and her ~seminal~ text are major focal points here and thus tools with which one should ~evaluate~ and ~critique~ Beyonce. In other words, the ~legacy~ of an openly homophobic, privileged, white, and now deceased second-wave feminist woman should, by all means, constitute a rubric for ~uncovering~ and ~problematizing~ everything that is apparently “wrong” with Beyonce’s feminism. Drawing from Beyonce’s recent interview with GQ Magazine, the author regurgitates the same tiresome remarks, reminding their readership that there is “more to Knowles than raging narcissism.” There’s no mention of — probably because the author is a white woman with, in no uncertain terms, a devastatingly unidimensional perception of feminist theory and praxis — the imperative project of radical narcissism and the ways in which Beyonce has brazenly cultivated and performed self-love, compelling women of all backgrounds to acknowledge and accept the transformative properties of personal (r)evolution. The author validates Beyonce’s astute deconstruction of women’s (dis)enfranchisement, but then makes the sweeping claim that “American women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men” which, by the way, is linked to a recent piece by the National Women’s Law Center clearly delineating that “the wage gap is more pronounced for women of color” (e.g., Black women with year-round, full-time jobs make 64 cents for every white male dollar while Latin@s with year-round, full-time jobs make 55 cents for every white male dollar). After conveniently evading the pertinent aforementioned statistics, the author essentially shames Beyonce and her contemporaries for their participation in “porn-like” photo shoots which “pander to the male gaze” and employ predatory villains like Terry Richardson. The author spends the majority of the article casually indicting Beyonce for “selling out” and “commodifying” her body yet refrains from going beyond one critical line about Richardson. How can one discuss what one believes to be the compulsory hypersexualization of arguably the world’s most popular female entertainer without even alluding to a paternalistic music industry’s racialized and gendered modus operandi? How can one not commend Beyonce for surviving and thriving in this environment? The article ends on a bitter note, mocking Beyonce’s conceptualization of women’s emancipation — the author dubs it “her Dworkin-ish call to arms” — and postulating the absurdity of “famous women [who] can sing about ‘independence’ and ‘girl power’, as long as they’re wearing next to nothing.” According to the author, it is these paradoxes, then, that “do not live up to” the ~dreams~ of Friedan. But what about women of color feminisms and the revolutionary practice of embracing contradiction, as it were? If we actually go beyond Friedan’s second-wave liberal feminist framework, we can explore the philosophies of groundbreaking Black feminist theorists, scholars, and activists such as Audre Lorde and Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks and Pauli Murray and Elaine Brown and the Combahee River Collective and Angela Davis and Assata Shakur whose lives and works are testaments to the rejection of dichotomous thinking and, instead, the espousal of a “both/and” orientation that views thought and action as the same process, creating new possibilities for relationships between thought and action and valorously transgressing the confines of a white-supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy.
“I’m a feminist so I believe in inhabiting contradictions. I believe in making contradictions productive, not in having to choose one side or the other side. As opposed to choosing either/or, choosing both.” -Angela Davis