Gender Diaspora and International Women's Movements

Gender Diaspora and International Women's Movements

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7757-7.ch004

Abstract

This chapter outlines the psychological or affective characterizations of diaspora in relation to gender. The chapter provides a brief literature review in gender studies and diaspora, including the concept of intersectionality. The chapter discusses the #MeToo movement in terms of women feeling like strangers in their own homes (or homelands) as well as from a traditional diasporic definition features ethnographical research in the form of interviews with Middle Eastern women who inhabit the Muslim diaspora in the United States. The interviews are used to highlight real-world experiences of diaspora and the affective impact of diaspora politics, and the building of diasporic networks.
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Introduction

Women’s and girl’s bodies determine democracy: free from violence and sexual abuse, free from malnutrition and environmental degradation, free to plan families, free to not have families, free to choose their sexual lives and preferences – Zillah Eisenstein (1998, P. 161)

In theory there is much use of weather and natural phenomena to describe paradigm shifts in social and political realms, ‘waves’, ‘tsunamis’, ‘eruptions’, this author will not disappoint in carrying on with tradition in describing the seismic transition that the international community has felt since 2016. While many political theorists today will too quickly point to the election of Donald Trump as the catalyst, this abrupt change in the psychology and political calculations for women became a worldwide has been simmering under the surface, and perhaps, was brought to an outright boiling point with his election. Yet as stated, the enduring rhetoric in American politics toward women and their rights (and role) has been point of contention that has been exploited by both political parties, with one touting traditional family values, and the other, a women’s right to choose her own journey. Around the world, there has been a collective (yet distinct) battle raging for increased rights for women this includes Western democracies, looked upon as the harbingers of human (thus women’s) rights. These movements became more visible after the 2016 U.S. election, and arguably spread the spirit of female angst globally; movements that began as egalitarian transformed into separate calls for freedom and civil rights for women in places like Iran (2017) and Saudi Arabia (2015-present).

Social movements highlighting the plight of women have become international phenomena. Women around the world have taken a microscope to the ways in which not just the other sex treats them, but the systematic ways in which they have been relegated to the fringes of their respective societies. Women have been subjected to stereotypes about who and what they should be, can do or say, how much they deserve to be paid in relation to their male counterparts, and of course, the more obvious and gratuitous objectification and use as sexual fodder. Modern (perhaps fourth wave feminist) women’s movements have popped up worldwide, and in some unlikely places, all attempting to shed light and bring about change to societies and regimes that have condoned, and at times even celebrated the inequalities between the sexes. Intersectionality has become an important concept in the study of female politics and feminism more generally. Intersectionality began to emerge in the late 1980s and is largely associated with Kimberle Crenshaw, who pointed out the exclusion of black women from the larger feminist movement by white feminists by their setting of an agenda that sought to rectify problems of the white female community (Crenshaw, 1991). Kathy Davis argues,

While intersectionality is most often associated with US Black feminist theory and the political project of theorizing the relationships between gender, class, and race, it has also been taken up and elaborated by a second important strand within feminist theory. Feminist theorists inspired by postmodern theoretical perspectives viewed intersectionality as a welcome helpmeet in their project of deconstructing the binary oppositions and universalism inherent in the modernist paradigms of Western philosophy and science. (2008, P. 70-71)

Thus, it became part and parcel of feminist theory and research that intersectionality or the consideration of both structural and individual (or personal) elements of the female experience by understanding political and cultural characterizations of woman-ness, as well as the individual experience of females and the impact of those political and cultural elements (Carbin & Edenheim, 2013). The ideology behind postmodernism’s inclusion of intersectionality in research is perhaps best described by an editorial in Politics and Gender, “...Viewing gender as a stand-alone factor necessarily distorts reality. Gender never operates independently from other aspects in political life, so it is misleading to thin of gender as an autonomous category of analysis” (2007, P. 229).

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