Western Feminism Cannot Help Third World Women

First world feminists — and I’m aware of the fact that I’m making generalizations now — but most of them couldn’t even begin to conceive what real human rights violations are or the brutality of human nature. Growing up as beneficiaries of western society has protected them from all that and that is what’s making the western concept of feminism biased and inadequate. First-world women believe all women are victims of the same patriarchal hierarchy and so they create a concept of false sisterhood when they attempt to inject their kind of feminism into third world communities.

The rhetoric of Western feminism can be described as primarily centered around patriarchal power, marginalizing forces and different paradigms of inferiority. It also aims to target issues of women who are not represented on the global scene however, there are normative qualities of western feminism that prove lacking when applied to non-western countries. Western feminism, while fighting a good battle at home, still ignores the reality for many women who are being confronted with diversities of values, religion and oppressive lifestyles. It also overlooks certain cultural ideals of some cultures such as Asian traditions that are simply not compatible with Western ideals of feminism.

Third-world feminism moves past the ever prevalent “women can be” syndrome of the first world feminism and goes beyond issues of body politics, equal rights of women and issues linked to patriarchy, egalitarianism, and gender discrimination. A third world woman might be more concerned with under-development and imperialism hindering women’s sociological and economical advancement whereas a western women’s feminist focus would be wholly occupied with intersectionality, race, gender and for the liberation of her own body.

Western feminists have simplified economic and patriarchal conditions that are culture-specific through a subjective filter of consciousness. They need to create a wider paradigm through which they can provide cultural data that can reveal the existing western bias in feminist theory. There are just too many dimensions to women’s oppression and it’s not reasonable to force a sameness that doesn’t exist. The problem with western feminists is they are terrified at confronting the differences in women’s experience. They fear differences because it deconstructs the isomorphism that feminist politics is based on.

The role of culture plays a big part in the concept of feminism. As a social movement primarily derived from capitalism, it is important to note the place and development of the economic sphere in the society it is injected to. Due to a large part of the third world being less integrated into the political and economic dimension; feminists in third-world countries have different preoccupations and struggles than first-world feminists.

Third-world feminism concerns itself with national liberation struggle, labor, and human rights movement, and fighting for women’s education to name a few. There are still countries that force women to act according to certain rules and regulations under the name or excuse of ‘culture and tradition’ and will shame them otherwise. There are also women in third world countries that are the victim of child marriages, subjected to domestic abuse and modern-day slavery. What this demonstrates, is that the principal struggle of the third world is about basic needs and freedom related to race and class; it hasn’t yet reached the political angst of the first world feminism.

The Western model of feminism is not a cross-cultural fit for all and therefore, has always and will always continue to exclude the actions and experiences of many third world women. While equality and human rights are common goals for women globally, it is important to acknowledge that we must approach this progress differently according to culture and beliefs.

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