Feminism and War: Confronting US Imperialism

Feminism and war: confronting US imperialism
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Outside the USA, see our international sales information. University of Chicago Press: E. About Contact News Giving to the Press. The History of Development Gilbert Rist. The Red Years Bandi. Women across the globe are being dramatically affected by war as currently waged by the USA. But there has been little public space for dialogue about the complex relationship between feminism, women, and war. What is the relation between this claim and resulting American foreign policy and military action? Did American intervention and invasion in fact result in liberation for women in Afghanistan and Iraq?

How are these connected to the specifics of religion, culture, history, economics, and nation within current conflicts?

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What is the relation between the lives of Afghan and Iraqi women before and after invasion, and that of women living in the US? Main These are perilous times. This fear of ideas that a voluntary curtailment of the imagination suggests prompted long-time activist and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz to draw a parallel with McCarthyism when, in contrast, such fears were justifiable.

That was two years ago. Now the eagle has bared its talons. In response, youthful anti-war, anti-globalization activists, suspiciously untutored in antifoundationalism and the profundities of indeterminacy, are out in the streets. One can only hope that scholars engaged in what these days passes for leftist thinking will follow suit and rise to the challenge. For the time being, regressive currents have caused paradoxes of all sorts to proliferate.

What are we to make of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's denial of the fact that the United States is the world's reigning superpower and their argument that globalization must not be simplistically viewed as univocal and unified ? Juxtapose this with economist Joseph E.

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Both in Britain and France the argument was that the unremunerated work of married women enabled their husbands to do paid work Military culture seeks to stabilize and punish the dangerous female. War is a danger to democracy because it justifies and therefore normalizes secrecy, deception, surveillance, and killing. Gender naturalizes war; and war is gendered. Such is the magic of "transnationalism," where racism and immense power differentials are easily wiped out. But the US media rarely shows these women as actual victims or resisters of the US war.

Stiglitz' censure of his former employer, the World Bank, in which he validates anti-globalization activists' allegation that structural adjustment programs have merely served to further impoverish the poor of the world today Or with patrician financier George Soros who writes that year after year the flow of money has been from the poor nations to the rich, and advises that the process be halted. And how are we to take historian Kristin Hoganson's contention that the United States' adventure in the Philippines was driven by the "problem of male degeneracy"?

Is it to stamp out incipient effeminacy that U. And is the reclamation of manliness why Colin Powell, speaking for the U. What confusion is being sown at the very moment when it is clarity that we most need! Something is awry when it is rock star Bono and the Secretary of Treasury, not radical intellectuals, whom we observe publicly bemoaning Third World plight like indebtedness and lack of safe water. Yet it is probably a good guess that, along with the noblesse oblige of Stiglitz and Soros, such cooptational moves by the bourgeoisie are designed to preempt the emergence of a new social movement from which leftist academics have so far abstained.

To be sure, not all Marxists in the academy have yielded to the postmodern turn of the 80s and abandoned the socialist project. But debates among Marxists about the meaning of globalization—whether it is a mere continuation of the old or whether it represents an epochal shift, a distinct break from the past, for example— have been confined to very limited circles.

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Ellen Meiksins Wood rejects the notion of an epochal shift and views as erroneous the assumption that the forces of production are determinant and that the global reach of giant corporations means a diminished nation-state and a fragmented working class. While pointing to the disintegrative effects that "totalization" may likely produce on capital she nixes the use of "globalization" because it hides the contradictions inherent in capitalist accumulation and indicates the withdrawal of the state from regulatory functions , she insists on both the possibility and urgency of recuperating the socialist project.

Agreeing with Meiksins Wood's exhortations to organize opposition to capital, David Harvey attributes the promotion of "globalization" as a concept to the financial press which coined it to explain the financial deregulation of the early 70s. Going further than either Harvey or Meiksins Wood, James Petras proclaims globalization to be nothing more than a code word for U. He demolishes the myth of an interdependent, bi-polar or tri-polar "global village"—dismissing the "Asian Miracles" as a mirage—by documenting what he presents as the unquestionable economic supremacy of the United States.

He cites as the year in which the dominance of the United States was established, furnishing the following information, among others: the U. Thus, control of the global economy by transnationals is, in effect, tantamount to control by the United States.

Needless to say, economic domination by the United States has been known for decades by most of the world's peoples. They've felt it in their blood and bones.

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That they've also viewed the United States today as the most dangerous threat to world peace is only now reaching the consciousness of citizens of this country. Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, lambasting the bombing of Afghanistan when food packages were dropped in retaliation for the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon, wrote searingly of US "brutality smeared in peanut butter" More recently, Kenyan development worker E.

Mathew writes of the imminent war on Iraq: "But the horror of horrors is the fact that there is feeble public opinion around major international issues in the United States. For reading cultural studies publications these days can be a deeply alienating experience. It is as if the stark realities of globalization have been carefully concealed from scholars whose writings continue to be replete with fantasies of the demise of the nation-state, seamlessness, border-crossing, fragmentation, multiplicity, heterogeneous and fluctuating identities.

Feminists, on the other hand, ruefully remark on their exclusion from discussions of globalization. I think one can safely assume that it is not discussions about the US imperium that feminists are raring to join, given that Marxists are a negligible number in the U. For example, the editorial in a Feminist Review a UK-based, formerly Marxist-feminist publication issue on women and globalization complains that male intellectuals have monopolized the construction of macro analyses of globalization in spite of women's participation in anti-globalization movements internationally Brah et al The editors seem not to have noticed the state of disconnect characterizing theory and practice in the North.

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Nor do they hesitate to claim credit for the active role that women in the South have taken in anti-globalization efforts. Moreover, the issue itself, while indeed tackling the topic of Third World female diaspora, has little to offer that truly illuminates, simply reiterating as it does the idea of "positionality" and the banal "intersections" formula—of race, class, and gender, sexuality, etc.

Bush' call to war, bringing to notice the puzzlement of women elsewhere over US feminism's utter lack of influence on the country's foreign policy. The fact is, there is no viable U.

Marxist feminists have wondered about its disappearance beginning in the early 80s, but public expression of this has been resisted Epstein It is the dissolution of the progressive movement in general and the institutionalization of feminism in particular that have divested the latter of both urgency and substance. If feminist theory has surrendered to postmodernism and culturalism, in the process becoming vacuous, jargon-laden and ineffectual, it is because there has been no collective practice upon which to bring theory to bear.

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This, only a mass movement can supply. Nor is there a place to test the validity of theories spun in the sequestered cranny of the university.

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In such a context, it is to be expected that feminist theoretical production would be undertaken chiefly for professional career purposes, even as a pretext of "transformation" might still be implied as its goal. In spite of this main trend, the start of the 90s witnessed the publication of works that began to interrogate the progressive claims of postmodern feminism, clearly doing so against the current.

Barbara Epstein saw postmodernism as a dead end for feminism, pointing to the ways in which its focus on difference and the pursuit of anti-essentialism served to inhibit its radical potential. Sylvia Walby wrote that the fragmentation of identities had gone too far, and Carole Stabile decried the middle-class character of feminism and its confinement to educational institutions.

Joanne Naiman argued that "left feminism" had strayed off the mark of social change as a consequence of what Ellen Meiksins Wood called a "retreat from class," and urged a return to Marxism But the most thorough study, review, and critique of the major theories that inform feminist theoretical production is that of Teresa Ebert whose unequivocal emphasis on class and the social relations of production lifts the cover off their complicity, in one way or another, with the existing order.

All of these writers are among the minority who have sought to demonstrate that underlying the shift to postmodernism and discursive analysis is the totally mistaken perception that Marxism is economist, determinist and, surely to the delight of those in power, outdated and irrelevant; that is, that postmodernism is anti-Marxism.

Overall, feminists who have bravely persisted in thinking within a Marxist conceptual frame reveal the conservative bias in analyses that valorize discourse over historical materialism, consumption over production, and culture over production relations. Instead, they call for a recuperation of a class analysis.

But it is difficult to be generous with feminists doing research on migrant labor—domestic workers, mail-order brides, or prostitutes "sex workers" in postmodern-speak — when they shirk the responsibility of telling us what the deal is.

Confronting US Imperialism

Feminists writing about the subject normally come face to face with distinctly class-marked Third World actors and compile a remarkable wealth of empirical data to draw conclusions from. Yet they do not. Tangible evidence of migrant workers' heightened role in the economic survival of their countries is provided by the remittances they provide. I will turn shortly to a sample of studies of Filipino migrant workers, but let me first give a brief overview of the phenomenon. While the enlistment of migrant labor has been integral to the history of capitalist development, with free trade, deregulation, and neoliberalism as globalization's guideposts, the diasporic flow of migrant women from peripheral formations to more affluent countries is today quite unprecedented.

Our comprehension of the situation of Filipino overseas contract workers OCWs would be hugely aided by Petras' unflinching use of "U.

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Taken over from Spain and colonized for 50 years by the United States, the Philippines today maintains relations with the U. In this regard military arrangements bear mention, for economic domination in tandem with military might are intended to banish dreams of resistance and revolution.