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Feminism: Exposing Women to the Public Sphere Essay

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2021

Mies, Pearson, and Sen depict some interesting viewpoints on the impact of exposing women to the public sphere based on their empowerment. Their perspectives make sense particularly when looked from the perspective of the three videos on ‘Women of Cambodia’, ‘Bangladeshi’ and ‘Mexico’. All the women in the videos seek a way out of the evident economic, social, and physical oppression as well as the awkward traditional practices, some of which people have relied on since time immemorial.

According to them, such practices have helped them in terms finding employment or engaging in a paid labor. For some women, it implies joining the formal sector, working in corporations, institutions and/or other firms in the world. However, a great percentage of women have remained in the informal sectors.

This simply means that, while those in the formal sectors have policies like affirmative actions with ‘equal pay’ working for them, a greater percentage of women who spend their days toiling in factories, industries, farms and other informal sector have no sense of relief that comes from such regulations. They do not go on strike upon harassment based on the corresponding repercussions of losing a job. They have no maternity leaves or any other benefits such as house allowances and reproductive consideration.

The “Grandmothers of Silk in Cambodia” is a truly inspirational tale of female heroines who managed to keep the silk-weaving heritage alive in spite of the challenging times they had to live through including the French Colonialism, the US bombardment and even Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror during which millions of Cambodians were killed. Chan Sot, one of the pioneer grandmothers who were to revive silk weaving with the help of Kyoto Marimoto, a Japanese merchant and craftsman from Kyoto, states during her interview that they were forced to grow vegetables.

It is important to note here that Cambodia is the perfect illustration of the ‘Structural Feminism Perspective’ advanced by Maria Mies, a German Feminist. According to her and her followers, “the world is constantly in conflict over class struggles and power struggles and domination and oppression are structurally sustained as a function of the system” (Mohanty 237). The sub-groups sharing this viewpoint include the dependency feminism and the global capitalist patriarchy.

According to the former, one can best understand gender inequality from the dependent relationship that periphery countries have with core countries. This means that regardless of how exponential the economy of such countries may grow, oppression shall never die. Instead, new forms of it will prevail, better living conditions maybe, but women will never receive empowerment. Mexico is a good example of this. The feminist who ascribe to the global capitalist patriarchy theory insist that the relationship between men and women will always be power centered. Men benefit in terms of capital from the underpaid domestic labor of women. In addition to these, they are the propagators of violence in society, and are fast to assert their patriarchy. Bangladeshi is a case in point for this group of thinking.

Amartya Sen remains best known for her Intra-household Distribution and Control theory, which covers issues such as the bargaining power and breakdown positions. However, studies by these scholars have proven that the rate of female mortality is lower in areas where women have access to better employment opportunities. They also show that an increase in a father’s wages or salary is directly proportional to the nutritional decline of children’s health whereas an increase in the mother’s income results in better healthcare and nutrition for children.

They also discovered that developing areas such as Mexico, Bangladeshi and Cambodia often have an unequal distribution of social amenities in the household. This follows in reference to food, healthcare, education, and other needs, with the father getting the lion’s share, followed by the mother, then the children in terms of age. The older children get more than the younger ones. Generally, males stand out as more favored in terms of apportioning shares.

Finally, Pearson comes up with a new outlook of the entire empowerment issue. “Informalization” is the new trend in the globe, in terms of economic production. With this in mind, it proves very important that, as feminists and other concerned groups seek to improve the quality of life for women, they look more into the informal sectors such as Garment production, Export Processing Zones, and other industries, which hire women to make those changes. Bangladeshi is a good example of a place where women have taken over industrial labor opportunities, dominantly male for centuries, but with counterproductive results in terms of improvement of working conditions, wages and other allowances.

“Even the ‘elite’ workers have never enjoyed the full range of social protection expected” (Mohanty 244). Pearson highlights the need for distinguishing between the formal and informal sector to gain insight on women’s economic and social rights, acknowledging both economic or exchange labor and reproductive or home-based work and challenging the notion that poor women have unlimited time to spend working so as to establish the coverage of public policy. Such actions should lead to the improvement of women’s education in terms of quality and affordability, establishment of a ‘minimum income’ during rallies for better working conditions, better health and transportation services, and protection from any source of violence, both in the community and in their individual households.

Personal Experience Essay

Mohanty is very inspirational on her doctrine of transnational feminism. She begins the chapter by addressing the issues she addressed back in 1986 on feminism admitting that at the time, her aim was to brew change in the environment she was working, which was a feminists department (Mohanty 221). As a stranger from a third world country, she went through difficulties in adjusting and fitting. she then touches on aspects that she addressed back then, 16 years down the line, that still need readdressing concluding by discussing the current standing of matters in the world as pertaining to feminism education.

She touches on the issue of colored women being the target of house cleaner trafficking, sex trafficking and industrial exploitation, stating that the US is currently running on the efforts of migrant and immigrant women to labor in its industries at low wages (Mohanty 248). She also introduces the concept of prisons pointing out the harsh discipline experienced by these same women upon making a mistake in the industries or homes where they work, or when caught abusing drugs or breaking any other low.

The prisons seem packed to capacity with non-native women, colored women, be it African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, or any other nationality except plainly American. She concludes by indicating that a transnational feminist practice turn on building solidarity across all levels, divisions and classes of women. There is a need for transcending origins, identities, beliefs and so forth. The reason for such necessity is that it is much difficult to build these proposed relationships now more than ever because of global capitalism, which makes it difficult to interact due to the introduction of diverse groups of people into the same locality. However, educators need to find a way of teaching the importance of such interaction in this age to their students.

Works Cited

Mohanty, Talpade. Chapter Nine, Under Western Eyes. Revisited: Feminist Solidarity Through Anticapitalistic Struggles. Mohanty, Talpade. Feminism without borders: decolonizing theory, practicing solidarity. Ithaca, New York: Duke University Press, 2003. 221-251.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Feminism: Exposing Women to the Public Sphere." January 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-exposing-women-to-the-public-sphere/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Feminism: Exposing Women to the Public Sphere'. 29 January.

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