July 14, 2006

3 movements

Attended a lecture on feminist literary theory yesterday. With a sad sort of inevitability, the lecture turned out to be nothing more than a history of trends in feminist thought and the Q/A session completely avoided any literary topics, concentrating exclusively on economic, political and social issues. Which suited me just fine.
The professor presenting the guest speaker became an icon for what was to follow, although his arguments were usually much more nuanced than some his colleagues made during Q/A. He lumped together feminism, anti-globalization and “anti-imperial” movements without much thought, dubbing them as anti-hegemonic movements. That these just might be three separate movements, each with its own priorities, own interests that are often at cross-purposes with each other was something that seemed utterly beyond his comprehension.
In fact, I saw no reason for him to lump them together other than in their common opposition to the mythical American, Capitalist Male. A rather poetic assessment of the similarity of all resistance no doubt, but hardly a realistic one. But then again, perhaps that was where the literary part of the lecture came in.
My doubts about their world-view was clinched when a different (male) professor recalled the glory days of the 60s (of course!) as the height of anti-hegemonic activism in Bangladesh. He was put in place when his (female) colleague reminded the audience that women’s rights movements here have had small successes and become a mainstream concern only in the 90s and that the patriarchal system was as unchallenged as ever during the 60s. Along the same vein, I still have no idea why someone else called the U.S the “belly of the beast” with regards to women’s rights. With regards to upholding a slanted global power system, yes. A slanted global economic system, maybe. A slanted gender system? Really?
“The glory days of the 60s” aside, I realised whenever I wasn’t dozing off that the de-linking of these three movements gives rise to a considerable number of different permutations and combinations, some of which we have actually seen in real life. De-colonization did not lead to great improvements in the lives of women in most places, certainly not in the sub-continent. Anti-imperialism without anti-patriarchy. And how can one even begin to associate anti-imperial sentiments with anti-globalization of capital and the spread of centrally planned production systems after the Cold War has laid bare the sometimes sordid nature of Soviet Imperialism? Anti-globalization without anti-imperialism. Unless of course, “empire” is defined as an exclusively “first-world” term, which is nothing more than an old Communist ploy. Falling for that in 2006 is first-rate stupidity.
So what can we expect in the future? More anti-imperial movements that believe neither in opposing the market system nor the patriarchal system (sounds familiar?) in the third world? More pro-imperial, pro-market and anti-patriarchal systems in the first? You work out the rest. As for me, as these three movements grow and become more well-defined, the potential conflicts between their aims and the trade-offs they are willing to make with each other and more powerful actors is what is interesting.