Last week, Colgate students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Colgate center for women’s studies for our weekly brown bag. This week’s topic was Feminism in Africa. This brown bag truly blew my mind. It made me question how feminism, gender relations, and activism is constructed in different places.
One point brought up by our primary speaker, Professor Mary Moran, is that oftentimes, “feminism” is viewed as a white and western idea. Indeed, much of feminist history is rooted in the activism of middle-class white women. At one point it was also very exclusionary practices that did not allow for the intersections of class, race, sexuality, and gender. With that in mind, feminism has grown in its inclusivity and conceptualization, but most of it is still grounded in a western context and a western conceptualization of feminism and gender. For example, there are assumptions that gender relations as far as a man/woman dichotomy (binary) work the same and lead many and scholars to jump to conclusion that root of all things not consider “feminist is patriarchy. Professor Moran posed this idea that in fact, gender relations are necessarily based on gender expression or sex as know or not in it is entire, but rather familial relations the role of wife/husband plays a large role. It is very possible that woman per se could be in the role of husband. The Husband/wife denote power relations but not necessarily gender, as I understood. Furthermore, it it is very possible that sisters, aunts, and mothers have more power in certain instance sand differs depending on the realm of conversation like public sphere vs. private sphere.
Another idea that Professor Moran touched upon is the theme of “Feminism as Imperialism.” When trying to show solidarity with siblings abroad, western feminists or perhaps simply feminist who don’t live in the target areas, over-sensationalize issues that may be seen as important but no more problematic or controversial than issues herein the U.S. For example, many feminist organizations have targeted the idea of gender based violence, in particular, vaginal mutiliation. According to professor Moran, although this is a very important issue, some not all, but some see that as an equivalent how western feminist view plastic surgery.
Transnational feminism and conflicting narratives should be the standard. There are many paths and ways to do feminism and it is time many of educate ourselves we can best contribute to conversation of solidarity when conceptions of feminism and the issues feminism addresses are very different.