Racism, Feminism, Colonialism And Women's Oppression Term Paper

Length: 13 pages Sources: 30 Subject: Sports - Women Type: Term Paper Paper: #59787988 Related Topics: Bell Hooks, Colonialism, Passionate Declaration, Female Circumcision
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Women's Oppression, Racism, Colonialism And Feminism

"The Committee is concerned that women's access to justice is limited, in particular because of women's lack of information on their rights, lack of legal aid, the insufficient understanding of the convention by the judiciary and the lengthy legal processes which are not understood by women. The Committee is concerned that physical and psychological violence cases are particularly difficult to be prosecuted in the legal system…"

(Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women / United Nations General Assembly, Sixty-second session)

This paper reviews and critiques the available literature on women's oppression, racism, colonialism and feminism. Delving into these subjects opens the door to knowledge as regards how racism and the political, economic and cultural effects of a lingering colonialism shape the way in which women experience oppression.

Feminism and Racism -- Living up to the Feminist Label

Referring to one's self as a feminist is perfectly appropriate when sincerity and a focused view of what feminism means to contemporary society is in place. However, there are imposing responsibilities associated with the label of feminism in the 21st century, and one of those responsibilities is to look at the bigger feminist picture, well beyond cliched issues like equal pay for equal work and a women's right to choose. To wit, feminism in a worldly context implies being mindful of how racism is linked to oppression. Indeed, understanding what racism does to a marginalized person should not be a subject shrouded in mystery and confusion for alert women who identify themselves as feminists.

That said, when Professor Rakhi Ruparelia recently presented a lecture to a group of Caucasian men and women in Canada -- a woman's conference -- she was treated with "open hostility" by several of the "feminists" in attendance (Ruparelia, 2014). Admitting in her peer-reviewed piece that she was "…the lone racialized woman in the room," she was nonetheless taken aback when several women became "agitated" and launched an aggressive attack on the legitimacy of her remarks. Ruparelia has come to accept that when she speaks of racism in a feminist context, there is resistance, and that is unfortunate but it sets the table for her main theme: If feminism does not "aggressively attempt to undermine racism and colonialism," it is of "little import" (Ruparelia, 83). Moreover, Ruparelia, an attorney, argues that systems of "domination" will persist unless and until there is a fuller understanding of the ways in which racism, sexism, colonialism, classism and heterosexism operate "in tandem" with oppression (Ruparelia, 85).

Ruparelia concludes her essay with the thought that feminist scholarship that is tight-lipped when it comes to racism, colonialism, and oppression is in effect denying the existence of these "structures of domination" in the lives of racialized and white women (113).

Noted Authors -- Bell Hooks -- Feminism is for Everybody

In her book, Feminism is for Everyone: Passionate Politics, Bell Hooks wastes little time offering her definition of feminism: "Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (Hooks, 2014). She explains that this particular definition works for her because it does not suggest "…that men were the enemy." Hence, it is not men that are the problem for women necessarily, rather it is "sexist thinking and action"; and, based on Ruparelia's argument, the problem is also linked to women who identify as feminists but don't see the link between racism, colonialism and oppression.

Meanwhile Hooks admits that there was a lot of "anti-male sentiment" among the early feminist activists; they understandably were incensed and frustrated so they responded in anger, and that anger fed the first feminist movement. As time moved on, feminists realized that women could be just as sexist as men, and so the feminist focus "shifted to an all-out effort to create gender justice" (Hooks). Because most of the early feminists were Caucasian, and black women were busy dealing with civil...


In time, Hooks explains that "lifestyle feminism" came into the forefront of gender equality issues; that is, there could be "as many versions of feminism as there were women." And that evolution embraced black and Native American women, and it meant that denying women their reproductive rights was "…a form of sexist oppression" (Hooks).

Noted Authors -- Chandra Mohanty -- Feminism Without Borders

The continuing discussion on what feminism means -- and what it should stand for -- is explored in Chandra Mohanty's book, Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing theory, Practicing Solidarity, she is careful to define "Western feminism" -- not as a "monolith" or a specific movement. Rather, this branch of feminism should be viewed as discourse on Third World women from the perspective of the West (Mohanty, 2003). She also takes great pains to describe "colonization"; it is an overused term that has many meanings, Mohanty explains. Essentially colonization applies to "…structural domination and a suppression -- often violent -- of the heterogeneity of the subject(s) in question" (Mohanty, 18). In other words colonization relates to cultures unfairly dominated in ongoing social / feminist struggles. This is a key point in the entire discourse on the oppression of women, one in which as Ruparelia insists, is not consistently ingrained in feminist writings and attitudes.

Moreover, Mohanty explains that western feminine scholarship is not just presenting "knowledge" about the subject at hand; rather, it is "purposeful" and "ideological" and it is in reality an "intervention into particular hegemonic discourses" (18). The point of going to lengths to clarify feminist writings is that feminist scholars (including Mohanty) who write about colonialism and Third World hegemony are really writing about "power" (19). But they should not generalize when using "Third World" women as a theme, unless the feminist writer is alluding to the "…international male conspiracy" (19). Specifically, Mohanty believes that Western feminists should explain that a Third World woman leads "…an essentially truncated life based on her feminine gender (she is sexually constrained) and on her being…ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, domestic, family oriented, victimized" (22).

In covering issues concerning Third World women, Western feminist writers must be sure to understand that it isn't just economic and social hegemony that impact the Third World woman; it is "male sexual politics" through genital mutilation (Mohanty, 24). Indeed in Africa and the Middle East this unconscionable practice is widespread and is intended to "mutilate the sexual pleasure and satisfaction of women" -- basically controlling her sexual rights and her reproductive rights (through anti-abortions policies) (Mohanty, 24).

Professor Sylvia Walby argues (quoted in a 2003 article by Mohanty) that in fact what Mohanty has done is make pivotal points that needed to be made in this context: "Mohanty is claiming, via a complex and subtle argument, that she is right and that (much) white Western feminism is not merely different, but wrong" (Mohanty, 2002). Commenting on Mohanty's pursuit of a better definition of white Western feminism, Walby insists that Mohanty is "not content… [or] comfortable" with white feminists' perspectives."Not a bit of it," Walby remarks (Mohanty, 502).

In fact, Mohanty's search for "a more universal truth" is presented through the "power of argument" -- and a strong argument at that, Walby explains (Mohanty, 502). Mohanty goes on in this 2002 piece to point out that in 1986 she wrote "…mainly to challenge the false universality of Eurocentric discourses, but was told by some feminist writers that she should "not dabble in 'feminist theory'"; instead, she was urged to keep her focus on her work with "early childhood education" (Mohanty, 504).

The writers that urged Mohanty to stick with safe subjects (and not rock the boat) appear to be clones of the white women that attacked Ruparelia in that women's conference in Canada. How many pseudo-feminists are out there preaching safe sermons, believing they are feminists because they are liberals, and eschewing the more meaningful feminine subjects such as colonialism, racism, and oppression? That, of course, is a rhetorical question, but a valid one in the context of this research.

Noted Authors -- Sylvia Walby -- Gender Transformations

Any narrative that inspects the various aspects of feminism should seek to explain where feminism came from as well as in what direction it should be going. In that regard, the book Gender Transformations by Professor Sylvia Walby reviews some of the positives from the feminist movement. She gives credit to the "first-wave feminism" movement for helping women have access to educational opportunities and for "the winning of political citizenship" (Walby, 2003). Indeed women today in the UK and in other Western democracies have benefitted from the feminist movement through increased opportunities in education and in paid employment. However, those positives have been "tempered by…the poor conditions of nearly half of employed women," Walby insists. Too many women are offered only part-time work, and are oppressed by the "tenacity of occupational and industrial segregation" (Walby, 2).

Indeed there has…

Sources Used in Documents:


Barrett, Michele. 2014. Women's Oppression Today: The Marxist/Feminist Encounter. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books.

Bhabha, Homi K. 2012. The Location of Culture. Florence, KY: Routledge Publishing.

Blake, John. 2014. 'The new threat: "Racism without racists." ' CNN, Retrieved December 16, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com.

Cermele, Jill, and DiLorenzo, Jacqueline C. 2010. Women's Experiences of Violence differ: Feminism is not just about Patriarchy and Intersectionality is not just about Oppression. Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol. 34, 555-563.
Parliament UK. 2011. 'Women in Parliament: making a difference since 1918 -- Commons Library Research Paper.' Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.parliament.uk.
United Nations General Assembly, Sixty-second Session. 2007. Report on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Thirty-seventh Session (15 January -- 2 February 2007). Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.un.org.
United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.un.org.
University of California at Los Angeles. 2013. 'Kimberle W. Crenshaw / Distinguished Professor of Law. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from https://law.ucla.edu.

Cite this Document:

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"Racism Feminism Colonialism And Women's Oppression", 17 December 2014, Accessed.22 January. 2022,

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