Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, edited by Mohanty, Russo, and Torres highlights definitional issues with the struggles of third world women, and feminism. The book then confronts the interrelation of “colonialism, capitalism, race and gender” (3). Furthermore, the book is a collection of stories of different women who’s works are, “woven together by the political threads of opposition to forms of domination that are not only pervasive but also systematic” (4). These works represent “communities of resistance” (5) who’s “common context of struggle” (7) identifies their sociopolitical relationship. Mohanty then goes on to address some methodological problems with the studies presented in the book, pointing out that “‘third world women’ also do not constitute any automatic unitary group” (7). In addition, she argues that there is no “necessary connection between being ‘female’ and becoming ‘feminist’ “(7). The label feminism itself presents challenges as its use has been “questioned by many third world women” (7). However, Mohanty does identify an “inescapable link between feminist and political liberation movements” (10).
Mohanty then argues that third world women’s struggles have not been properly presented or represented within the literature and “thus, third world feminists have argued for the rewriting of history based on the specific locations and histories of struggle of people of color and postcolonial peoples, and on the day-to-day strategies of survival utilized by such peoples” (10). Third world women have experienced a distinct struggle that, while it is inherently connected to the larger social movement for all oppressed peoples, should be properly represented as such. Moreover, Mohanty then explains that the methodological distinctions between “liberal feminism” and “the feminist politics of women of color” is the focus of their research. Liberal feminism focuses on gender as the main variable of interest, while the later focuses on gender in relation to a “broader liberation struggle” (11). Due to the distinct experiences as feminists and third world women, “gender defined as male/female domestic relations cannot be a singular focus for feminists of color” (12).
Furthermore, Mohanty outlines the feminist waves as they adhered to “the construction of a politicized gender consciousness” (11). Citing colonialism as an origin of the construction of the racialization and sexualization of colonized peoples that was then instituted through the state and citizenship practices that resulted in, what Mohanty calls, a “gender regime” (21). This sexualization is evidenced in genderized labor that is still prevalent today. Furthermore, Mohanty highlights the argument that “immigration, naturalization, and nationality laws suggest the relationships between the liberal capitalist state and gender and racial formations” are impregnable (25).
Organized movements are often a key variable of interest in studying gender and racial discriminations. However, feminist struggles can be understood on multiple levels. Mohanty lists, writing, memory, consciousness, and political resistance as alternative examples of mediums, through which, we can gain an understanding of feminist struggles (35). In doing so, Mohanty highlights the importance and power of writing. In addition, the conception of agency, which “works through the logic of opposition”, is presented to illicit discussion. Resistance, Mohanty argues, “accompanies all forms of domination” (38). Furthermore, it occupies all forms of hegemonic narratives, being social, private, or even silent. Agency, therefore, is the every day struggles of third world women and collective agency is the struggles of all oppressed peoples (38). The proceeding book is then divided into two sections on issues of definition, and context (39).
While, this summary focuses only on the intro to the book and not the articles themselves, I think that Mohanty clearly identified the major concepts, arguments and themes that are prevalent throughout the book while concurrently avoiding just a summary of the articles themselves. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism is a must read for all feminists.