International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 15: Is transnational feminist solidarity possible?
With the debates and concerns that were raised in third wave feminism, which gathered momentum in the 1990s, there seemed to be a consensus that we had perhaps resolved the problem of multiple voices and unifying causes. An understanding prevailed through the turn of the century that feminism had reconciled with diversity, positionality and privilege, with a commitment to recognizing the category of women and displacing it too (Sylvester, 1994). Third wave feminism emphasized the need to foreground the ‘personal’ in an attempt to understand the multiple voices, highlight the many silences and find solidarity in transnational feminist activism, without patronizing or unifying the struggles of the women in the Global South or at the intersections of gender, race, class, ethnicity and queerness (see for example Basu, 1995; Mohanty, 2003a, 2003b; Hewitt, 2010). It demonstrated not only that ‘global sisterhood’ was a myth, but also that understanding the struggles and suffering of those outside our ‘comfort zone’ was essential to validate our own struggles. Three decades into third wave feminism, there are ominous signs of discomfort, silencing, exclusions and bullying (Sylvester, 2010; Shepherd, 2013). The emphasis on diversity of voices on substantive empirical issues and debates to understand the grand theoretical underpinnings, instead of opening up, has fenced in terrains of knowledge. Feminism not only is deeply engaged with and inspired by the politics of identity but finds itself limited by the very discourses it creates (Borren, 2013).
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