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Mohantys Under Western Eyes concentrates on western feminist discourse on Third World women.

She explores many different aspects of the lives of Third World women. She touches on female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East that was quite disturbing. Her discussion on Bemba womens marital rituals can be related to the marriage that took place in Afghanistan Unveiled in which the women seemed forced to cry, to seem sad to be leaving their families. The woman in the film was allowed to choose her prospective husband unlike traditional Bemba marital traditions. Mohantys discussion on veiled women elicits that the more women who continue to wear veils only make life for women more sexually segregated. In the film I thought it was very interesting how in one of the villages she visited that she didnt interview the women because they were veiled and not allowed to have their faces on camera. Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses Chandra Talpade Mohanty Published in: Boundary 2 , nr. 3 page 333-358, 1984 When I started the Women Unbound challenge, I stated that I wanted to focus on gender, religion and ethnicity. Most of the books Ive read had to do with this topic. I have a few more up for review, but instead I decided that this 26 page long article deserved to be the last featured book I write a post on for Women Unbound. Under Western Eyes is truly a classic when it comes to ethnicity and gender. Even though it was first published in 1984 it is still highly relevant today. I found myself nodding my head to so many of the things Mohanty points out, especially when I look back on the memoirs written by Iranian women I have been reading lately. Mohantys basic argument is that Western feminists should be more aware of the political implications of their writings on non-western women. Their view of these women is often moulded by certain preconceptions about women and feminism in general that might implicate a certain colonial power relationship between the western world and other countries. In this article, she points out the common flaws in such writing, without arguing that any research on nonwestern women by western researchers is irrelevant. Instead, she provides examples of research that is relevant but doesnt make the mistakes Mohanty argues against. This is one of the things I liked about the article: it isnt only about what other researchers are doing wrong, but rather provides a guideline as to what constitutes good research in Mohantys opinion. What interested me most were the common flaws of the way Western feminist portray the Third World Women:What I wish to analyze is specifically the production of the Third World Woman as a singular monolithic subject in some recent (Western) feminist texts.Mohanty makes the important point that often feminist tend to view all women as having the same mission in the world: feminism, often defined by the use of words such as We are all sisters in one struggle. This feminism often implies that there is a worldwide patriarchical conspiracy against

women, which all reasonable women should want to fight off in the same manner. They should become self-proficient, non-religious and in control of their own bodies. In other words, they should become exactly like the model image Western feminist have of themselves. This line of thought often forgets that there is no such thing as a category of women outside of historical, cultural and socio-economical circumstances. Rather, the category of women is made within these structures, which implicates that power relations between the sexes might work differently in different circumstances.This has implications for the way we look at Middle-Eastern women for example. First of all, Mohanty points out that it might be rather too easy to speak of Middle Eastern Women as a homogenous category. Second, it often means we view religious women as suppressed per se, without taking into consideration that women from different socio-economical backgrounds might experience their religion differently and that religion does not automatically implicate suppression. Third, it often denies women in such countries any type of agency. For example, women used to wear the veil as a sign of protest during the Iranian Revolution. Veiling thus had a different meaning in 1977-1979 than it had when veiling became a mandatory act in a religious theocracy. And fourth, and I thought this was a very interesting point, such views often portray men as inherently evil. It thus often reduces complicated conflicts to an overall worldview of us versus them, as in women against men. I have written down about 5 pages of quotes, of which I decided to include (almost) none. Why? Because I strongly believe that anyone who wants to study women (rights) in non-western countries, or simply anywhere, in a serious manner needs to read this article. Under Western Eyes by Chandra Talpade MohantyIn the article Under Western Eyes, Mohanty provides a critique of hegemonic Western feminisms. In particular she rebukes the universality of the theories of western feminists and the categorization of the third world woman as a monolithic subject. Mohanty feels the assumption that third world women are a coherent group, ignoring the social factors, is problematic. Secondly, the model of men as oppressors is not a universal model, she is against the over simplification of the complexities across culture and gender to a binary division. While illustrating the lack of truth in the claims of western feminists Mohanty is also showing the ethnocentrism of these theorists. The attempts of first world women (subjects) attempting to explain third world women(objects) is viewed as a way of creating power hierarchies and cultural domination , the author calls this discursive colonialism. There is an urgent need to examine the political implications of these theories, before they lead to cultural imperialism.

Mohanty gives a less pessimistic approach than most feminists by criticizing texts which claim that women worldwide are oppressed by male violence. Experience helps people gain a

cultural insight through which they are better able to understand the situation rather than relying on a false sense of sisterhood of shared experiences. Universalizations like the assumption of women as sexual-political objects before they enter into a family structure, unitary notion of religion and economic determinism collapse because it is apparent that without due consideration to the context and the situation, it is impossible to group the experiences of women together. Mohanty illustrates this point by the example of using the veil as a form of oppression in one situation whereas in Iran it was used to portray allegiance to other women. Hence, the binary reduction that men oppress and women are oppressed is too simplistic and is not a sufficient model of power. Mohanty suggests a model of power based on Michel Foucaults theory, which would construct women in "a variety of political contexts that often exist simultaneously and overlaid on top of one another."(p.65) In conclusion, essentially Mohanty is against the universalization of theories, without due consideration to experience or adequate research but she herself paradoxically suggests an identity of women based on their own personal experiences as universal. However, this is problematic because there is never a singular identity of a woman; there are always many identities in place at every single point in time, which may transform over time as well e.g. religious, political, social identities. Total disregard for the ability to generalize will lead to the impossibility of formulating theories which could help understand the role of women in societies. It is important to understand the theories of western feminists contextually, the claims of universality may not hold true literally but the fact that often patriarchy hinders the lives of women is enough for feminists to suggest a model of power based on it. Mohanty raises valid points about the importance of experience but total reliance of experience solely is a theoretical impossibility. Mohanty - Under Western Eyes Mohanty belongs to an intellectual tradition of thought which is generally referred to as poststructuralism. Poststructuralists try to understand how discursive networks of power actually produce specific objects and categories and how knowledge is produced. They are more concerned with the interrogation of the meanings and their ambiguities, so they draw on this idea that the analysis of meanings in language requires the analysis of discourse, and by the term discourse, from the Foucauldian perspective, they mean something that enables us to link objects together in an obvious way. So under western eyes and their related discourses, certain parts of the world are treated to be only objects to be looked at and commented upon, because of the will to knowledge and power of some. So if we think about the way that the category of The Third World is produced, Mohanty argues that there are multiple discourses such as scientific, literary, juridical, linguistic and cinematic which play roles in producing this category and linking some concepts and practices to it. For example the unchallenged, pre-given, and mystified links between The Third World and traditional, underdeveloped, or economically dependent are the links by which multiple discourses intervene in producing certain meanings for The Third World. The use of the notion of The Third World is then problematic because it actually decontexualizes the context, as if there is a unified Third World with some particular immutable characteristics. This absence of context, or the existence of only one context (that is the context of relative underdevelopment), is essential in producing and maintaining the concept of The Third World. All people who are living in this context are judged automatically in relation to

the word of underdevelopment. So for example if people who are residing in the Middle East are family oriented, since Middle East is called The Third World and underdevelopment is its distinctive feature, these people are judged to be traditional, because western family-oriented people are controversially believed to be traditional. What makes her argument more remarkable, in my point of view, is when she argues that any claim for a coherent feminist subject that does not question how the subject is produced is basically reproducing a western humanist tradition, or what she herself called the authorizing signature, as if there is ahistorical, cross cultural, universal, and hegemonic subject regardless of the context of analysis. Mohanty then goes further to argue that the story is not just about building something that is similar to a western humanist tradition, but in order to have a coherent subject at all the feminist scholarship must have The Third World, or the Other, in its equation. In other words in order to be a subject, one has to define oneself against something else, or this is the periphery which determines the center, its the woman which determines the man, and its the East which defines the West. Having said that, we can consequently conceive from colonial discourses that without an underdeveloped Third World there could be no possibility for a developed First World, without the production of the concept of a veiled, virgin, ignorant and backward Third World Woman, a secular and liberated First World Woman cannot be produced. By representing and appropriating the experiences of people living in The Third World, The First World selfpresents itself as the one standing in a privileged position. And this is what actually lay at the heart of Mohantys arguments in her essay. WGS - IV Under Western Eyes I have just finished "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses" by Chandra Mohanty (Feminist Review No 30, Autumn 1988) and the same discourse rings true today as it did twenty-three years ago. Feminist writings must not appropriate commonality of third world women simply because of "shared oppression" within the "sisterhood" of women. They are not "women' based solely on the basis of a particular economic system or policy" (72). Western feminists should not purport to know what they believe third world women's experience just by virtue of their sex and a binary understanding of sex within the third world. Studies regarding third world women continue to categorize "them" in the form of "other" because western feminists view all other women in relation to themselves. This homogenous enterprise truncates the third world woman as binary "other" in relation to western thinking, political progression and colonization. As Mohanty points out, it "priveleges" the western feminist as assuming the "norm." Mohanty points out that this process labels women in the same binary as has been experienced in western thinking: woman: powerless, man: powerful. Any studies must be put into the context of time and space. Without addressing "particular historical and ideological power structures that construct such images," (70) We should not assume that a woman who wears a burka is oppressed, should we? Only by "understanding the contradictions inherent in women's location within various structures that effective political action and challenges be devised" (74).