Global Currents in Gender and Feminisms

Cover of Global Currents in Gender and Feminisms

Canadian and International Perspectives

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(27 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxi
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Introduction

Pages 1-18
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Abstract

This chapter provides the introduction of the book and argues why gender and feminism matter in theory and praxis in the 21st century. It includes the conceptual interrogation of the meaning of gender and feminism and its practice in western and non-western contexts; global currents in feminist struggles; thematic organization of the book; and the future under ‘feminist eyes’. The thread of shared struggles among diverse groups of women based on selected themes — movements, spaces and rights; inclusion, equity and policies; reproductive labour, work and economy; health, culture and violence; and sports and bodies — situates Canada as a western society with avowed egalitarian ideals favouring gender equality and social justice, but with its own issues and concerns like women in other countries facing their own challenges.

Abstract

In this chapter, we reflect on the possibilities of craftivism — yarn bombing, specifically — in a fourth-year undergraduate seminar on feminist praxis. We suggest that knitting in the classroom, as an ‘everyday [act] of defiance’ (Baumgardner & Richards, 2000, p. 283), opens a productive space for complex and challenging conversations, in the process enabling not only different ways of listening, but also different ways of learning. Knitting, as a meditative and embodied practice, encourages and supports critical attentiveness. We also argue that craftivism can operate to make change in a way that emphasizes collaboration, non-violence and critical self-reflection. Social change, in a craftivist framework, happens in the everyday, and perhaps more radically, within the domestic spaces of the normatively feminine. Finally, our project demonstrated that knitting as feminist praxis serves a bridging function: we contend that systems of power may be challenged through knitting-as-protest, and that students may be able to practice engaged citizenship as they navigate the slippery borders between public and private, and academic and community-based feminisms.

Abstract

We consider Brazilian society as a case and evidence for a noteworthy transformation — albeit not unique to Brazil — toward gender equality that has resulted from an evolving interplay of transforming gender relations and women’s participation in feminist as well as in a wide range of other organizations and social movements, enabled by national as well as global contexts. We claim that the transformations of gender and feminisms in Brazil in the last four decades have been intertwined and closely linked to changes in socio-economic structures and political regimes. Gender equality processes advancing institutional, economic, social, and cultural changes have unequivocally resulted from women’s active role in the social and political movements engaged in fighting the military regime in the 1970s, in the transition to democracy in the 1980s (which we call the second wave), and in the democratization of the country in the 1990s (the third wave), as well as from the ongoing processes of growing institutionalization and policymaking (the fourth wave). Throughout the last four decades, feminism has increasingly spread horizontally, creating “horizontal fluxes of feminism,” or, in other words, a perspective that highlights the continuity of gender discrimination, but goes beyond that to equally value the principle of non-discrimination based on race, ethnicity, generation, nationality, class or religion, among others. In fact, we argue that this is a case of increasingly “intersectional feminism.”

Abstract

This chapter argues that feminist inquiries and activism must be pursued considering women’s marginalized position within a religious institution in Canada in the 21st century. Drawing on Canadian Catholic nuns’ unique accounts of their experiences with the Roman Catholic Church, this chapter brings nuance to the complicated power dynamics navigated by women religious to show how women remain excluded and exploited in various ways in their own religious institutions. We point to the institutionalized Roman Catholic Church’s long-standing control over women’s reproductive rights, as well as its ongoing prohibition and recent criminalization of women’s ordination. We also address recent structural dynamics at play by drawing attention to a recent Vatican investigation and ongoing surveillance of women religious in North America under newly established church doctrine. We view these recent tactics as evidence of the Vatican’s renewed commitment to existing gender hierarchies within the Church. Feminist intervention is especially important considering this deepening patriarchal power and how, by extension, the church is regressing rather than progressing towards gender equality, even while it shows evidence of shifting attitudes on other social issues. This chapter also underscores the implications of a global religious institution for women in Canada.

Abstract

Birth and birthright, in relation to citizenship, are entangled in a complex politics of power and patriarchy as well as past and present notions of cultural and national identity in Nepal. The debates highlight how gender inequality intersects historically with social inequality in a highly stratified society based on religion, caste and ethnicity. The constitutional discussion that has been ongoing in Nepal since the end of the 10-year long civil war in 2004 highlights the need for a critical feminist approach that looks at the multi-faceted and intersecting relationship between citizenship, gender, political projects of imagined communities, social inequality and access to political power. Women have become responsible for the containment of attributes, values and identity within nation-state, regional boundaries, and communities or collectivities. They are constituted as both an asset and a threat to the nation-state should there be fluidity in borders or boundaries. With the struggle to produce and promulgate a new constitution in Nepal, we see how women’s interests and equality can be sacrificed in the name of protecting idealized social and political values as well as preserving the nation-state itself.

Abstract

This chapter aims to understand how the role and status of Sámi women in kinship system and in reindeer herding were transformed over time in Norway and Sweden. What is the reason for considering men as reindeer herders and not women? Has it always been men who play a more important role in reindeer herding and so have higher status in Sámi society than women? This has not always been the case. Reindeer herding has instead become a dominant male occupation with the implementation of the nation-states’ reindeer herding legislation. Gender roles in Sámi communities are changing and new strategies for surviving and maintaining a Sámi identity are being formed. Many women in reindeer herding Sámi communities are now working as wage-labourers and professionals, bringing in money to the family. Their income often facilitates the continuation and transformation of subsistence practices, and power relations. This chapter proposes that the ascribed ethnic identity of Sámi women became linked to the identity of their brothers and husbands with the implementation of modern legislation, and still is, although Sweden is striving to be a gender equalitarian society.

Abstract

Gender analysis of the narratives of low-income divorcées in big cities of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir shows that their lives are under patriarchal domination. Women are subjected to all kinds of violence in their marriage and escape it by getting a divorce. Their lives are vulnerable as the increasing numbers of lone mothers are neither morally nor socially accepted in Turkish society. The patriarchal family ideal exacerbates the situation of lone mothers who become stigmatized as divorcées. Divorce is considered a ‘shame’ for women, and the ideology of family is used as a political tool where persistent conservative bias ignores wife battering, rape and other types of abuse in society.

Abstract

Gender inequality in New Zealand, and globally, remains a social justice and human rights issue despite decades of feminist activism and scholarship as well as social and political interventions. This chapter outlines the strides in gender equality in New Zealand, and the continued manifestations of gender inequality within the country. It argues that to address persistent patterns of gender inequality, a primary prevention approach that deals with gender polarity and then sexism is needed before it takes hold. New Zealand considers best practice from other countries in implementing gender equality education and better media literacy in schools. Drawing on existing Scandinavian policies and other empirical work, this chapter explores how such gender equality education policy is outlined.

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Abstract

This chapter considers the interwoven history of child care advocacy and feminism in Canada. It begins by examining the efforts of second-wave feminists to make child care part of national political discussions. It then moves into the 1980s and 1990s, when, as part of broader neoliberal reforms, feminist demands were no longer foregrounded in child care advocacy. Instead, ‘social investment’ and childhood development rationales took centre stage. This chapter considers the implications of the ‘disappearing woman’ from child care advocacy, and concludes by making a case for the ongoing relevance of intersectional feminism to the child care landscape, to ensure that all women are offered meaningful choice, opportunities and rights when it comes to their roles as caregivers and workers.

Abstract

Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in rural Manitoba and throughout the Philippines with temporary foreign workers employed at a small inn and conference centre and their non-migrant kin, this chapter offers an introduction to and expansion of feminist engagements with social reproduction and global care chains. This chapter illustrates the importance of feminist analysis of migration trajectories and labour processes that fall outside of the conventional purview of gender and migration studies. To this end, it suggests that in addition to interrogating the conditions and rational under which reproduction comes to be articulated and experienced as labour, consideration of how divergent forms of labour also constitute and shape reproduction can provide significant insight into the social consequences of neoliberal capitalism, while revealing the ways in which the gendered and racialized parameters of reproductive and intimate labour come to be reproduced.

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to apply a Feminist Social Constructionist (FSC) epistemological stance to the analysis of the literature on sexual harassment and aggression in the workplace. Research demonstrates that institutions and their policies are ineffective in addressing sexual harassment and that, for the most part, perpetrators are not sanctioned. This chapter deconstructs the ways in which Canadian policies and systemic variables serve to silence victims of workplace abuse and, consequently, protect perpetrators. To this end, we review the definition, legislation and policies related to sexual harassment. Next, factors that lead to risk, reporting and silencing are assessed. As well, organizational responses are analysed to identify institutional factors that result in creating environments that serve to perpetuate sexism, and the resulting victimization of workers with little to no change in the number of perpetrators being implicated.

Abstract

In 1994 South Africa transitioned from apartheid — a system of racial segregation and oppression — to a democracy. After the transition, legislations which had prohibited women from working underground in mines were repealed and replaced by gender sensitive ones. These legislative changes were crucial in the entrance of women in mining, especially underground occupations. Yet, while legislative changes have taken effect women continue to feel like outsiders and invaders in mining. They face many challenges and their experiences at work continue to be mediated by their gender. While some argue that legislative changes in mining symbolise a shift towards a gender inclusive mining industry, this chapter demonstrates a gendered structural resistance to the inclusion of women and argues that more changes are required if mining is to be seen as gender sensitive and inclusive.

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on the culturally assumed link between femininity and pregnancy. It situates itself using the feminist theories of performativity (Butler, 1990), female masculinity (Halbertstam, 1998) and the queer art of failure (Halberstam, 2011). The chapter is based on ethnographic research with butch lesbians and genderqueer individuals in British Columbia, Canada. It focuses on these individuals’ desires to experience pregnancy, find appropriate clothes to wear when pregnant, and not being simultaneously socially recognized as both pregnant and masculine. It argues that feminism is still needed to broaden how we gender pregnancy, and to challenge the assumptions and social pressures that link individuals with uteruses to female to femininity to pregnancy and motherhood.

Abstract

Concern about side effects is one of the most commonly cited reasons for women’s non-use of contraceptives in sub-Saharan Africa, and the most common reason why women discontinue family planning. While studies find that some of women’s worries about contraceptives are based on distressing side effects, such as menstrual disruption, nausea, weight gain and delays in fertility, researchers frequently focus on misinformation spread by rumour. These studies decontextualize women’s concerns from the larger gendered context of their lives. Drawing on ethnographic field research carried out in northern Ghana with a feminist approach to understanding reproduction, this chapter examines women’s concerns about side effects, and the impact of these concerns on family planning practice. I show that despite anxiety about side effects, and their real physical, social and economic consequences, some women’s conceptions of the action of contraceptives on their bodies are pragmatic. Ethnogynecological perceptions of the importance of blood matching, combined with the importance of having small families for economic success, often encourage contraceptive use and mitigate the action of side effects rather than prompt non-use or discontinuation.

Abstract

This chapter examines men’s involvement in birth control from a feminist political-economic perspective. Fertility, and hence women’s body, is still a focus of political struggles today. In the late 1990s, the international community of population policy recognized a concept of women’s reproductive rights and adopted a rights-based discourse in place of a language of economic efficiency. At the same time, they advocated for men’s participation in family planning and burden sharing between couples. This gender-sensitive new policy was effective in achieving more successful contraception in patriarchal societies where men are decision-makers in many aspects of social life. Yet, from a feminist perspective, such a policy could threaten women’s reproductive rights if gender relations remain patriarchal. A close examination of Turkey’s fertility decline suggests that the process was led by men who increasingly aspired to have small families which they could manage to look after as wage-earning fathers. In other words, it was realized without women’s empowerment. A case study of Kurdish women conducted in Eastern Turkey where fertility rate was significantly higher than the national average indicates a positive impact of men’s involvement on effective birth control. Yet this study also suggests a risk of undermining women’s empowerment and autonomy. The promotion of men’s involvement in family planning can reinforce men’s control over women’s bodies and endorse birth control without women’s empowerment again, unless it is consciously designed in the context of reproductive rights.

Abstract

Poverty and stress associated with it have been identified as key contributors to intimate partner violence. This chapter explores intimate partner violence experienced by Malaysian Indian women living in poverty in Penang. Data for this study come from in-depth interviews of 12 women who were categorized as hard-core poor, ordinary poor and vulnerable poor. Most participants experienced some form of violence from their husband; some experienced physical, emotional and verbal abuse, while some experienced only verbal abuse. Low income was the main reason for material deprivation in these households which became worse with substance abuse and extra marital affairs by male partners. Both violence and poverty is part of a vicious cycle, and some male children are following in their father’s ‘footsteps’. Violence is closely tied to patriarchal values and gender relations in family relationships showing how notions of hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity play out in everyday life.

Abstract

The growth of the pick-up industry all over the world and in Israeli society in recent years has been called ‘reverse sexism’. This phenomenon reflects how young men in hierarchical and competitive culture suffer from what they perceive to be fragile or partial masculinity, and are misled by the pick-up industry to learn and practice aggressive seduction techniques. All to improve their ability to gain sex and, therefore, to become ‘real men’. The discourse, language and concepts taught in these pick-up courses echo the traditional approach of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy, reinforcing rape culture on the one hand, and the vulnerability and suffering of these men on the other.

Abstract

Since the 1970s there have been extraordinary changes and growth in Canadian sport in terms of access, opportunity and recognition. Yet, the gains and successes of girls and women’s sport are often written, told and retold as uncomplicated success stories, as progress, with the battles fought and the complex negotiations of the past eerily absent. In this chapter, we turn to the work of feminist poststructuralist Avery Gordon to consider gender, feminisms and sport in the Canadian context. We do this by putting various moments in time in conversation with one another and considering our current moment in light of what has come before but is often forgotten, overlooked or even suppressed. We argue that the need for feminist praxis remains significant in Canadian sport and it is imperative that we continue to shed light on ghostly (dis)appearances in narratives of sport in Canada.

Abstract

The view that physical education (PE) positively affects students’ perception of their own body efficacy and self-esteem is not often seen as related to issues of gender equality. Nevertheless, PE classes leave many girls with a negative physical experience, of weakness, clumsiness and heaviness. Although the ways in which the beauty myth undermines girls’ self-esteem and body image are quite known, until recently researchers in the field of PE have not focused on the possibility that PE teachers also play a role in disciplining girls’ bodies and subjectivities. Consequently, studies in this area tend to marginalize the covert exclusionary mechanism potentially exerted on girls who find their bodies unsuitable for PE. This study is the first to examine PE in Israel from a gender perspective. Some PE teachers in Israel are already aware to a certain extent of their educational role in legitimizing diversity in girls’ body shapes. How then do PE teachers negotiate this awareness with regard to the dominant discourses related to girls’ bodies? To explore this question, we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 15 PE teachers. The analysis revealed two key features of PE teachers’ talk about girls’ bodies: acceptance of body shape diversity, and awareness of girls’ issues about their bodies. Our findings suggest that these progressive aspects of teachers’ perspectives on girls’ bodies are negotiated against older forms of girls’ body disciplining.

Basketball Diary

Pages 279-289
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Abstract

I have played basketball for almost three quarters of my life. It is a sport I love and it taught me young that sexism exists and feminism matters. By paying close attention to the local and particular — playing basketball for almost 30 years in various gyms in Ontario, Newfoundland and Manitoba — I demonstrate in this piece how politics of gender, race and sexuality infuse our everyday lives and connect to larger themes of societal inclusions and exclusions. The piece is written as a series of fictionalized diary entries, beginning in 1987 when I was 10 and first started to play basketball, and ending in 2014 when I wrote the chapter. Learning to play the game came along with navigating life as a girl on a team of boys who passed the ball to one another but not to me. The tone and content of the diary entries change as I grow up and understand the world better, but the theme of passing the ball, and what it might mean to live in a world where we passed the ball more often and differently, remains central to the story. I chose to write a short story rather than an essay because form matters for how content is delivered and received. One thing I have learned from my students is that academic writing often communicates that the ‘we’ who produce it want merely to sound clever and not actually to communicate with the ‘you’ who try to make sense of it. Here I take seriously students’ concerns by writing in an engaging and accessible way, thus following a feminist politics of inclusion rather than alienation.

Index

Pages 291-304
Content available
Cover of Global Currents in Gender and Feminisms
DOI
10.1108/9781787144835
Publication date
2017-11-28
Editor
ISBN
978-1-78714-484-2
eISBN
978-1-78714-483-5