a post-modern analysis of "women in the new east"

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A Post-Modern Analysis of Women in the New East

Good intentions do not beget positive results. Indeed what may seem to be good from one perspective may be seen as the complete opposite from another. Case in point: Western Feminism. To prove my point I will analyze the work of Ruth Frances Woodsmall, Women and the New East, written in 1960 as a feminist work, from a post-modern feminist perspective, and using works from Coco Fusco (English Broken Here) and Trinh Minh-ha (Women Native Other).
One of the first problems encountered in Woodsmall’s work is in the delineation of her methodology. She writes that she began her study for each country with,
“…the selection of a number of women leaders as advisers on the study as a whole and on specific phases… The individual advisers were very helpful in making contacts, in giving advice about special interviews, suggesting institutions and projects and interpreting the general situation.” (viii)
These women that she chose as her starting point from were most likely how many of the other informants and sources of information were found and therefore must have had a serious affect on the results of her research. These women are leaders, and therefore not accurate representations of the average women of Turkey. Indeed in the biographical appendix Woodsmall lists some of these leaders and not only do they all have “careers”, but they are all centered in military or scientific areas – not exactly a cross section of any society. This means much of this work was funneled through one class, and Fusco in her work exemplifies how class can make a difference in cultural views.
“The reactions of Latin Americans differed according to class. Many upper class Latin American tourists … voiced disgust that their part of the world should be represented in such a debased manner. Many other Latin Americans and Native Americans immediately recognized the symbolic significance of the piece, expressing solidarity with us…” (56)
This means that what Woodsmall really wrote about was Westernized women in the new East. This was not a view of all the women in the Muslim world and India as Woodsmall attains, but just those that had been educated and influenced by the West.
In the section entitled “Political Status”, Woodsmall delineates the “progress” of Turkish women in attainment of equal political rights when she writes,
“The number of wome...

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...rely present in its absence. Subject of discussion, “them” is only admitted among “us,” the discussing subjects, when accompanied or introduced by an “us,” member…” (67)
Minh-ha is arguing that third-world non-Westernized feminists have been left out of the analysis of their own lives and societies. It is from this non-acceptance of the voice of the third world feminist, that Western feminism has served to colonize and dehumanize women of the third world rather than help them.
It is precisely this point, which proves the argument of this paper. The well intentioned attempt of Western feminist to write a feminist book in order to help, both women in the East in an exchange of ideas and stimulation of still more ideas and women in the West in providing knowledge with which to further aid the women of the East. On both counts it fails. In the West it gives further ground to the false generalizations and assumptions of women in the Muslim and more generally the developing world who are seen as oppressed and in need of “liberation” while in the East it serves to colonize and dehumanize the women. These good intentions did not create what can be construed as a positive contribution.
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