Selasa, 13 Januari 2015

Feminisms and Development: Taking Postmodernism into Account into Heterogeneity in Emancipation

Poverty reduction, awareness of health condition—particularly on HIV/AIDS—focuses on children’s rights, citizen’s right-based on policies, human rights and recognition of minority groups are some of the contributions of feminisms in development. The concept of feminisms is not only filling the gap in development, but also contributing in agenda setting and deconstructing the concept of gender roles in development (Visvanathan 1997).

The struggles and implications of feminisms vary. In fact, feminism can be seen in three waves. To simplify, the first-wave of feminism was fighting in legal and political structures, such as, the women’s right to vote. The second-wave was embedded in the social and cultural institutions, such as, a struggle to eliminate gender discrimination whereas the third-wave of feminism referred to symbol and language to get self-realization. It was the second-wave of feminism that Nancy Fraser (2009) has criticized. She was of the view that second-wave feminism is in line with neoliberalism. She argued on four characteristics. There are economism, androcentrism, etatism, and Westphalianism. Generally, these characteristics can be seen from the struggle of emancipation and social security of feminism (Fraser 2012).

This essay disagrees with Fraser’s statement that says feminism is a dangerous liaison with neoliberalism by focusing on the implication of emancipation only relating to androcentrism and economism characteristics. In supporting the disagreement, first, this essay starts by explaining that Fraser’s suggestion to valorizing the care has not covered the power structures in heterogeneous feminisms. Second, postmodernism that has a strong influence in feminisms and development is absent in her writing as well. Third, it also shows that feminist movements are not limited to the economic arena, but are integrated each other. Therefore, participation of women in economic activities is not a guarantee to gender justice.

Heterogeneity in Emancipation
According to Fraser (2012), feminism has double-edged sword. It would like to end the discrimination of sex by being critical to the theories of capitalism. However, its critiques also could make a justification of neoliberalism’s policies for new forms of inequality and exploitation and Fraser called this as dangerous liaison. Fraser (2012) is questioning the struggle of emancipation that can be seen in androcentrism and economism characteristics.

Subordination of women is mostly caused by male-domination, thus it is called androcentrism. For instance, men are considered as bread-winners, so they tend to have higher income than female workers, hence feminists fight to get equal wages regardless gender differences. Nonetheless, Fraser (2009) takes that as a venture. The wages equality emerge the concept of two-earners family and it may add women’s responsibility because household budget can be women’s burden too. It can be used as a justification to exploit women by the neoliberalists, such as, long-hours work and low wages work (Fraser 2009). 

Fraser suggests to valorizing the care work (2009), although it has been in South feminists’ agenda (Aslan and Gambetti 2011). It tends to assume that Fraser has not included Third World women perspectives in her critique. Indeed, valorizing the care work is also important in terms of women’s recognition. There is a hidden cost since women care works have never recognized as valuable work[1]. In another way, it opens the possibility to emerge gender injustice.

Fraser has uncovered the power structures. By valorizing the care works, power relation is not disappearing, but only migrating to other women. Women with access to means of productions can hire women who does not have access to productions to do their care work during their office hours. Aslan and Gambetti (2011) mention that care works of First World women are taken care by Third World women, thus injustice also happens between social classes and social classifications. It is an intersectional issue. This perspective also based on an assumption that women would automatically empower when they get a job, even there is a risk that inequality still occurs (Aslan and Gambetti 2011).

In that context, Fraser seems just talks about works that have institutionalized or formalized. She includes no informal work (Aslan and Gambetti 2011) which has contributed in macro economy and women have become the actors. In Indonesia, State Ministry of National Development Planning or called Bappenas (2009) reports that informal business has succeeded helping the economy keeps running when the economic crisis hit globally. It shows that informal work is not influenced by neoliberalism policies. However, I would question Aslan and Gambetti’s counter argument in a sense that formal and informal work since it can be considered as binary opposition.

In explaining her statements, Fraser also uses binary opposition. Fraser’s point of view more likely based on dichotomy of public-private and men-women, eventhough the dichotomy, such as masculine-feminine and male-female, tends to determine the women subordination. As Derrida says that is quoted in Parpart (1993), the latter definition is determined by the previous as opposite. There is a subtext that one must be better that the other. There is almost no equal position, such hierarchical position. Therefore, Fraser’s critique does not put aside the basis of inequality that happens structurally.

Rejecting binary paradigm is one of the postmodern feminism movements that Fraser has never mentioned as well. Postmodernism offers point of view that helps emerging equality in society. Postmodernism—one of third-wave feminism—focuses on the difference, as Parpart (1993) said, that leads to multiply possibilities for solutions in development issues. It knows no unity, thus feminisms as heterogeneous entity is facilitated, and women have spaces to be heard.

Dichotomy opposition aligns with gender and development (GAD) in structuralist perspective since GAD is not questioning its distinction. It is an approach that based on gender relations, not only on women (Visvanathan 1997). Nussbaum in Ashlan & Gambetti (2011) has mentioned that right based approach that does not make distinction, but takes human as center. “It is impede neoliberalism,” as Aslan and Gambetti stated (2011). Women are seen as free-subjects, citizens, so the agency of women is appreciated. Nevertheless, critique to postmodernism is also acknowledged.

Other feminists, particularly liberal feminist, question the action of postmodern feminist whether has contributed in achieving equality or not. Liberal feminist has succeeded including women in politic sphere, such as right to vote. The result of postmodern feminist has not seen in that area (Parpart and Marchand 1995). Fraser (2009) also says that feminist movement apparently more focuses on political and social structure rather than economic structure as she explains economism characteristic. Although she acknowledges the importance of this movement, she has a hard time to see the connection to the economic issue (Chhachhi and Fraser 2011). She also mentions that the changing focus on political and cultural structures will be in line to neoliberalism’s aim that is making people forget about the equality in society (Fraser 2009).

Including women in economy activities is not a guarantee to defeat inequality. Even if women have access to means of productions, they also experience injustice in cultural sphere. Sati and dowry traditions in India would be good examples[2]. Women in high caste and upper social classification are also forced to experience injustice. Women struggles are not only about political and economic sphere, but also in every aspect since the inequality happens based on power relations. As Aslan and Gambetti (2011) say, feminist movement is not only about economy, but also try to find a strategy to defeat inequality in many different aspects that women face. The shifting into political and cultural structures would be systematic and strategic to deconstruct patriarchy. Patriarchal culture has been taught and forced for centuries. Changing it by the ways of thinking in politics, culture, and identity—as tend to be the struggles of postmodernisms—seem to be more long lasting because it reconstructs the discourse. Even so, postmodernism also does not neglect other approaches. Parpart (1993) emphasizes this by revealing that it is even completed each other.

Fraser’s critique of feminism movement that has become dangerous liaison needs to be revisited, particularly as a heterogeneous entity. She tends to talk about second wave feminism that represents white, North, and middle-class women (Aslan and Gambetti 2011). She has not mentioned South feminisms. Parpart and Marchand (1995: 169) emphasize the need to see feminisms as heterogeneous entity and they argue that, ‘Rejection on universals can undermine women’s struggles for democratic rights and greater participation in development and the state.’

Not only South feminism, but also third-wave feminism is not present in her writing. Postmodernism is not being dealt in her literature, although postmodernism is possible to deconstruct the way of thinking of gender relations in every aspect. Since Fraser has not successfully explained the power structures of inequality in cultural sphere, postmodernism might be the solution. Furthermore, postmodern feminism emerges as self-recognition in women as well.

Postmodernism facilitates the intersection. Intersection does not take into account in Fraser’s critiques, though emancipation of women should be seen from different perspectives. For instance, from the point of view one of the Third World, informal work—which absents in Fraser’s critique—shows emancipation is not in line with neoliberalism.

Not only intersection, but also gender and development approaches show that feminisms contributions on development are aligned with other minorities group. People—and not only women—who have not seen as a priority in social, political, and economic condition fight together. They try to achieve their rights because they are related each other. For instance, the struggles of children rights relate to the right of women, health, education, and policy for sure. Therefore, the successes and struggles of feminisms will influence other policies too. Feminisms give implications to policy-agenda setting whereas the policy makers start to consider gender relation and intersection.

Aslan, Ö and Z. Gambetti (2011) 'Provincializing Fraser's History: Feminism and Neoliberalism Revisited', History of the Present 1(1): 130-147.
Chhachhi, A. and N. Fraser (2011) 'Nancy Fraser', Development and change 42(1): 297-314.
Fraser, N. (2012) 'Feminism, Capitalism, and the Cunning of History: An Introduction', FMSH-WP, No. 17.
Fraser, N. (2009) 'Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History', New Left Review (56): 97-117.
Kedeputian Evaluasi Kinerja Pembangunan Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional (2009) 'Peran Sektor Informal Sebagai Katup Pengaman Masalah Ketenagakerjaan'. Jakarta: Badan Perencanaan Pembanguan Nasional.
Parpart, J.L. and M.H. Marchand (1995) 'Exploding the Canon: An Introduction/Conclusion.'.
Parpart, J.L. (1993) 'Who is the ?Other??: A Postmodern Feminist Critique of Women and Development Theory and Practice', Development and Change 24(3): 439-464.
Visvanathan, N. (1997) The Women, Gender and Development Reader: Ed. by Nalini Visvanathan (Co-Ordinator) ... [Et Al.]. London [etc.]; Halifax; Dhaka; Bangkok; Cape Town: Zed Books.

[1] Amrita Chhachhi’s lecture on Feminisms and Development on 24th December 2014.
[2] Amrita Chhachhi’s lecture on Feminisms and Development on 24th December 2014.

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