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A review of Mohanty's Under Western Eye


A review of Mohanty’s Under Western Eye: Feminist and Scott’s Gender: A Useful Category of Historical AnalUnder Western Eye: Feminist The essay is the opening chapter of Feminism without boundaries by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, a significant con...Read More


~Posted on Jan 2019

A review of Mohanty's Under Western Eye

A review of Mohanty’s Under Western Eye: Feminist ...

A review of Mohanty’s Under Western Eye: Feminist and Scott’s Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Anal



Under Western Eye: Feminist

The essay is the opening chapter of Feminism without boundaries by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, a significant contributor to the feminist transnational and postcolonial studies. The primary purpose of the essay was to critically analyze the presentation of women in various sectors of the society by numerous researchers in the particular subject. The criticism was particularly on those scholars trained and introduced in western feminism scholarship. She was critical towards the discursive presentation of ‘Third World Woman’ in all writings pertaining Gender and Development that tended to eliminate the geographical and historical difference between women. She also draws the reader’s attention to various effects of textual strategies used by individual writers to codify themselves as western and the others as non-western.

The author gives the implications of assuming that women are a cohesive group in which economic, political or social acts enable the production of work that engages more seriously with the knowledge production. She begins by indicating that even if the colonization process may appear like it is sophisticated, it has a downside where it is a suppression of heterogeneity subjects. She also considered that even the political practice and the western feminist are not singular and homogenous. Throughout the essay, the author exposes various presentations of a singular category of ‘Third World Woman’ which according to her is ‘deconstructing and dismantling.' Reason being that it creates a discursive systemization and homogenization of oppressed women in the third word. She points out the attention of western feminism towards the third world women is commendable. However, the third world remains inferior to the West in levels of technological development, scientific development, and economic wealth. Mohanty proposes careful approach not to replicate inequality in power between the first world and third world.

The author builds the argument by presenting various examples from different sources. The examples are from various books by different authors on the issue of feminism. Reduction approach by Juliette Minces is one of the books. From this Mohanty brings forth the argument by Minces that a Muslim woman only acquires a title of a sister, wife or mother since family and tribe are the only social structure this woman gets to know about. Mohanty criticizes this since it assumes that the effecting factor of oppression of women is the singular kinship system. The assumption also fails to consider other factors such as cultural differences between the societies and also the class difference. The worldwide victimization of Muslim women undermines their struggles, their efforts and the achievements they have made. Another book presented is women of Africa; Roots of Oppression by Maria Rosa Cutrufelli. The book generalizes all women from Africa dependent, and their main source of income is prostitution. The main issue is the generalization of women according to categories, and Mohanty has explained this using various authors throughout the article.

The author has achieved criticizing various written material throughout the article, presenting various arguments like the issue of black and Vietnamese women being victims of male violence, difference in classification on third world and first world women which are based on the race and treatment of women on the veiling issue which is based on religion. However, the author has failed to give a clear solution to the problems since she did not want to appear us being judgmental.

Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis

The article is based on the question of the meaning of gender. Scott starts by dismissing the notion that gender is a natural distinction between male and female and instead she points out that gender is a system of distinction or a way of classifying phenomena that are socially agreed upon. The author, therefore, tries to explain the issue on gender in order to be able to identify the source of inequality in the society that is based upon the societal definition of gender. She suggests that people should change their belief on social power because according to her power lies and is enabled by an existence of unequal organizations or relationships. She believes that it is only by analyzing the concepts of gender that people can be able to understand the history of inequity and be able to deal with the problem. Through feminist history, Scott tries to critically understand how history works as a place of the production of general and gender knowledge. Through the analysis, she hoped to influence historians to abandon a single-cause explanation of historical changes after recognizing the multivalent and created nature of the society.

The author builds on her argument through a social constructionist point of view where she argues that meanings are political and that they are agreed upon or disputed and that they do not occur naturally. This is the same way she approaches on other concepts like race and class. Her reasoning on the issue is mainly influenced by the post-structuralist school of thoughts which proposes that meanings are communicated by directly or indirectly contrast through internal differentiation. Therefore, she suggests the need to examine entirely by context and consider historical phenomenon and their transformation over time. The process involves reanalyzing the situations completely and asking how the society was organized on sexual basis resulting to power inequalities.

Scott’s definition of gender is broken down into various elements which are:

·         A constructed element of social relationships based on perceived differences in sexes.

The created element involves four other interrelated aspects which are; nominative concept, culturally available symbol, the subjectivity of identity and gender restrictions. The nominative concept is the set interpretations the meaning of various symbols which may tend to limit their metaphoric possibilities. The ideas are expressed in education, science, law, religion, political ideologies and many more. Culturally available symbols typically evoke many and contradictory representations. The subjectivity of identity is where gender identities are contracted and relate to a broad range of activities historical specific cultural representation and social organizations. Gender restriction, on the other hand, is where a gender is not restricted to household or kinship systems. Gender is created through kinship but not exclusively and comprises of the economy and polity which operates mostly independently on kinship.

·         Gender as a way of showing relationships of power

Through this definition of gender, it is defined as the main field in which power is articulated. Concepts of gender are structured through the perception, and established as the objective set to reference the symbolic and concrete organization of social life.

The author’s comprehension of the gender also affects all the historical discipline due to her theory revolving around meanings and truth are not discovered but made. The author, however, has achieved in convincing the reader that knowledge is the way of life, and it is inseparable with the social organization since it functions through knowledge. She believes that the process she has used to analyze gender can also be used to analyze other issues like social processes, race, religion, and ethnicity meaning it is a useful category of historical analysis.

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A review of Mohanty's Under Western Eye