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Third-World Feminism Analysis Essay

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Updated: Feb 27th, 2022

Third-world feminism struggles for female equality existing outside the western countries, specifically in the developing ones. Western feminist discourses consider third-world women as unenlightened, less powerful, exploited, sexually harassed, and illiterate (Parashar, 2016). This belief has disputes since it views women from the third world as unitary and homogenous possessing common interests, historical struggles, and oppressions. Generally, females from third-world nations have a diverse definition of gender inequality depending on racial, colonial, ethnic, and political struggles. Most western theories explain the misleading problems to eliminate misrepresentation arising when addressing third-world women. Although the primary aim of western feminists is centered on the issues women face, the beliefs of the third world consist of various tenets compared to western feminist interpretations. Therefore, the paper addresses the significant doctrine of the third-world feminist theories by reflecting on intersectionality, ethnicity, social class, and gender relations based on colonization.

Considering intersectionality when analyzing women’s issues is a vital tenet of the third-world feminist theory. This concept elucidates the identity interlocking hierarchies, which classify individuals’ experiences. In other words, intersectionality is defined as the connections among the modalities of subject formation and social relationships (Ferree, 2018). For example, the analytical association of women’s oppression with just sexuality does not consider intersectionality. In this case, the oppression needs to be linked with other factors such as race, class, and historical background. Social class plays a significant role in determining how women are placed and compared to men in society. Therefore, linking women’s oppression with other factors besides sexuality follows the intersectionality concept.

Many western feminists usually discourse on third-world feminism as a homogenous unitary organization, regardless of its efforts and struggle against imperialism, colonialism, sexism, and racism. However, many have opposed the view that view, citing that the woman’s experience dramatically differs regarding the background, historical location, and contexts. Using intersectionality theory, it can be identified that third-world feminist theories strongly emphasize interrelationship complexities between feminism, political struggle, and anti-colonialism, which shape the women’s histories and experiences differently. Thus, these feminists try to rewrite the experiences, struggles, and daily survival strategies of women in the developing world.

Western feminist debates usually use the arithmetic approach to try to prove universalism. Their method establishes an argument that is based on event frequency. For example, western feminists, by using this method, may postulate that the more women put on veils, the more universal their control and sexual segregation are (Zabeen et al., 2017). In this context, their assumption is invalid since it does not consider the diverse purposes, making women have veils. For instance, most Bangladeshi women usually put on veils to follow the Islamic religion as they perceive themselves as true Islam believers (Zabeen et al., 2017). According to Zabeen et al. (2017), some women also wear veils to protest against the western modernization of clothes and enhance traditional culture and fashion. Therefore, this arithmetic approach is not a justifiable way to outshine third-world feminism.

The formation of the third world feminist theories was triggered by colonization, which is not only the imposition of power’s values and structure but has more elements. Additionally, it is not explainable through the binary process from backwardness to modernization since it was responded to differently by various people depending on their histories and diverse backgrounds. Generally, different women had varying perceptions of power and colonization (Sheldon, 2018). In this era, feminism practices greatly varied according to women’s position, class, ethnicity, and race. For instance, in the Indonesian colonial era, Dutch women dared to raise their voices for equal rights in voting and politics. This case was not common among Indonesian women (Arivia & Subono, 2017). During this time, they mostly concentrated on the issues of marriage. In this case, they complained about how the Dutch women were practicing feminism, terming it as ethnocentric, elitist, and racist. Thus, it is not right to categorize women in a unitary group by assuming that they share the same history, struggle, and interest. As in the aforementioned example, the Dutch and the Indonesian women had different experiences regarding political matters. Hence, it would be wrong to classify both groups as one.

Moreover, considering gender relations when explaining the issues is a significant tenet. Gender is sensible; thus, it is discussed depending on how actions, relationships, and expectations with other individuals are perceived. Moreover, restrictions on individual sex and the understanding of others play a significant role in defining it. Historically, the connection between race, gender, ethnicity, class colonial period, and how women’s relationship with others was constructed. The constructions are still used today due to their divergent historical nature. Thus, western feminist theories face critics for not reflecting the relation between genders and how it is still viewed due to different histories and colonization. Furthermore, western feminists have been questioned for using the definition of femininity and sexuality as the primary concern when seeking equal rights. Additionally, western theories do not consider the relationship between women having differences in race, ethnicity, and social class. The failure results in misunderstanding women’s nature and their struggles for equality in society. Therefore, it is essential to know that women do not become women because of their sex. Still, there is a need to consider and reflect on complex rationality, which plays a significant role in shaping political and social lives.

In summary, in developing countries, women’s struggle for equality is different from western perspectives. Third-world feminism ideas are based on the aspects that female equality depends on various factors, unlike those in the Western world. Contrary to western feminism beliefs, where equality is usually defined through femininity and sexuality, third-world feminism is against these criteria. From the western feminist perspective, women of developing nations are considered uncivilized. Moreover, the western definition utilizes arithmetic to prove universalism. Thus, there are new suggestions that such issues have to be addressed with a wider consideration. The third world examines equality from intersectionality, ethnicity, social class, and gender relations based on colonization. Therefore, the emergency of third-world feminism was significant to avoid both misconceptions and to misunderstanding the class as a unitary group. There is a need to develop a clear understanding of why gender inequality still exists in society. Solving the difference between western perception and third-world nations on the origin and definition of gender inequalities will bring women together. The unity can be done through mutual understanding of concerning theories, historical interests, and experiences. Western theorists on gender inequality need to change their perception of how they view females of the third world. Thus, with mutual understanding, the issues of gender inequality can be resolved worldwide rather than considering the geographical location of women.


Arivia, G., & Subono, N. I. (2017). Web.

Ferree, M. M. (2018). Intersectionality as theory and practice. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 47(2), 127−132. Web.

Parashar, S. (2016). Postcolonial Studies, 19(4), 371−377. Web.

Sheldon, K. (2018). Oxford Bibliographies. Web.

Zabeen, M., Shams, S., & Sultana, N. (2017). International Journal of Asian Social Science, 7(9), 728−737. Web.

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