An aspect of feminism that actually interests me is Third World Feminism. In performing a tiny bit of investigation, I have learned that it is believed that mainstream feminism does not truly represent women living in non-western countries. Mainstream feminism, if I’m not mistaken, has served mostly white, western women. In answer to this, Third World Feminism arose. It did not emanate from the First World, but originated from the ideologies and socio-cultural factors within the Third World. It coincided with and was in opposition to white, Second Wave Feminism which seemed to have a narrow view of gender oppression.
The focus of Third World Feminism is on improving conditions for women in the Third World and its aims are to avoid using western ideals as the norm and imposing them on these women, to avoid assuming these women are weak and passive, and to assist them in breaking free of slavery, oppression, and violence.
The idea of trying to impose western ideals on Third World people is very interesting. We, as prosperous westerners, sometimes think we can swoop in and save the day for these people. We have all the answers and all the money. We throw it at them trying to make them fit our ideal and we leave feeling we’ve done a good thing.In actuality, their day may not need saving, at least not from us. We may be far advanced in technology, wealth, building construction, healthcare, but does that mean that their methods and way of life are wrong? In my observation of various parts of Africa, I have seen lives that are simple and basic, but that doesn’t automatically mean that ours way of life is better.
To assume that Third World women are weak and passive is laughable. I have met many Maasai women. Their backs are bent, their faces are deeply lined at young ages from hours, days in the sun and hard work. They live in polygamous relationships and a strongly patriarchal society. They endure female circumcision or genital mutilation in order that they derive no sexual pleasure and won’t be tempted to stray from their husbands, so I’ve been told. We rail at a life such as theirs, but they laugh and play with their children and socialize with each other. They ask for more wives to share the work load. They laugh at me because I stink of soap, deodorant, and shampoo, have ugly white skin and blonde hair, and am bound by a bra.
Often, these women suffer beatings. Russian village women I’ve met suffer domestic violence from drunken husbands. Recently, the news carried reports of Russia weakening domestic violence laws and another country weakened laws concerning the marriage of underage girls. While we should never impose ourselves on others and should respect other cultures, it is incumbent on those that call themselves feminists to unselfishly work to free women around the world who suffer in this way.