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Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision: Local and Global Challenges, by Luciana Ricciutelli, Angela Miles and Margaret, McFadden, editors.

March 16, 2012


Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision: Local and Global Challenges, by Luciana Ricciutelli, Angela Miles and Margaret H. McFadden, editors. Inanna Publications & Education, 2004, Paperback, 392 pages.

An exciting anthology full of provocative, if sometimes dense, articles about international feminism, its global context, and its local actions.

All of us who consider ourselves feminists need to understand the issues explored in this collection of articles by feminists from all over the globe. Sadly, I had only the faintest notion of some of them before I read this book. I can only touch on a few of the topics and articles in this review.

Several of the articles discuss the context of international feminism in the past thirty or so years. As feminism re-emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, it surfaced in a number of countries. Feminists reached across national boundaries with networks and conferences. Actual gains for women tended to be small, however, and with the growth of global capitalism and religious fundamentalism, anti-feminism has flourished. As the wealth gap between nations has expanded, and women have been the disproportional losers. Evidence of their losses described here are staggering. Since 2001, militarism, intolerance, and masculinity as policies have spread. Danger of co-option of women’s concerns has also increased as a few women have gained power within systems that are still basically unfair.

In “Love and Gold,” Arlie Hochschild addresses the internationalization of domestic service. Some of us discussed African-American women’s experience as domestic servants in the past. It was easy to assume that those problems were over. Hochschild’s article provides clear evidence that the situation has gotten worse, not better, with the development of an international importation of workers, especially of nannies. As she points out, a woman from the Philippines can earn $400 a month in the USA and spent $40 to pay for a caretaker for her children back in the Philippines. The woman caring for her children has left her own children under the unpaid care of her oldest child. Hochschild asks what the effect will be on all the children whose mothers leave in order to support them.

Charlotte Bunch, a longtime favorite of mine, writes about women as advocates of intentional peace. Gender definitions which assign women the tasks of sustaining connections, nurturing, and maintaining harmony explain why women are overall more committed to peace than men without resorting to debates over “essential” biological differences between the sexes. She discusses the specific costs of war for women and their vulnerability and the need to work for security that is not based on military might.

Pakistani feminist, Nighat Said Khan, writes about the actual attacks on scholars who advocated women’s studies when their government moved against women. She urges feminist everywhere to recognize that the state can become a tool of those who fear women and feminism. She urges feminists everywhere to return to a feminism that is willing to be “oppositional” to the powers in control rather than trying to find our place within them.

As I read this anthology, I kept returning to the discussion of bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody, last month on Feminist Classics. The articles in this collection are about putting hooks vision into action on a global scale. All the articles stress that feminism is about all women and can not be defined by any particular class or nationality. It is never enough to assume that the gains for a few women in a few rich countries are going to make life better for most of the women in the world.

This book was published by Innanna, a Canadian feminist press which publishes a variety of fascinating fiction and nonfiction books. Feminist presses like this one have long been particularly open to publications that directly address diversity. In the USA, we have lost many of the feminist presses that nurtured us in last wave of feminism. We need to make sure the ones remaining globally thrive. Check them out.

I highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who considers herself or himself to be a feminist. At keast read a few of the articles.

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