[Marxism] Liberal feminism

Nick Fredman sra at scu.edu.au
Thu Jun 24 01:27:01 MDT 2004

Phil Ferguson said

>In New Zealand, both the current and the previous prime ministers are
women.    If you don't think liberal feminist ideas are a problem, you
need to get out of the US more.  There's a whole big world out there -
not only the other imperialist countries but also 
institutions like the UN, where liberal feminism 
plays quite a pernicious role in relation to the 
Third World<.

Phil's position doesn't account for the 
contradictory effect of someone, in Australia at 
the moment, like Laborite-liberal femocrat par 
excellance Anne Summers (former adviser to ALP PM 
Paul Keating), who has recently published a 
scathing book on the effects of the 
neoconservative Howard government on women (yes 
in general, but recognising that working and 
poorer women are worse off), "The End of 
Equality", with lots of very useful info, and 
supportable immediate demands, but having no idea 
what to do about it.

Re the Third World and liberal feminism (and 
Iraq, where I think this discussion started), 
comrades following this discussion may be 
interested in a posting form a few weeks ago by 
Reihana Mohideen of the Socialist Labour Party in 
the Philippines (and previously of the Australian 
DSP, which sees itself as Marxist feminist, as 
opposed to socialist feminist)

Women in Uniform

The scenes of Iraqi male prisoners being tortured 
by US women soldiers pose some sharp questions 
for feminists. Clearly gender is not the 
determining power-relation here. Instead, what a 
shocking subversion of power relations we find in 
these images. A subversion, not in its 
radicalism, but in it’s most reactionary, racist 
and colonial manifestations.

Women's bodies and women's rights have always 
been an ideological and political battle ground. 
This is the case, from the fascism of Nazi 
Germany, to the neo-fascist agenda of the US 
Empire today. From the invasion of Afghanistan, 
also justified in the name of defending women's 
rights (remember those absurd propaganda pictures 
of smiling unveiled Afghan women), to the racist 
anti-Arab, anti-muslim hysteria in the West in 
the name of the "war on terror" (and the banning 
of the hijab in "secular" French schools), to the 
invasion of Iraq.

The women's movement's silence on these questions 
is not only deafening but some feminists, 
especially in the West, have supported this wave 
of reaction (such as the banning of the hijab in 
French schools) in the name of women's rights. 
Others refuse to support the popular Iraqi 
resistance to occupation for the fear of 
"(Islamic) fundamentalism".

While some Southern feminist voices have been 
more outspoken, these stand out for being so few 
in number. The Southern women's movement still 
remains relatively mute in comparison to the 
scale of the offensive post 9/11. Gathering after 
gathering of the movement takes place without a 
murmur about the occupation of Iraq. The problems 
of “fundamentalism” get dissected in the minutest 
of detail, without a whimper about the resistance 
in Palestine. Why is this? Dare I suggest that 
it's perhaps related to the taming influence of 
Western funding.

Clearly "gender mainstreaming" the US occupation 
army does not make it more caring and nurturing. 
It still remains a fundamentally reactionary 
institution. Neither is war a purely "masculine" 
trait - ask Condi Rice. And as we struggle 
against fundamentalism in its concrete forms, 
let's make sure we don't forget the bigger 
picture which is also still very much determined 
by factors such as class, capitalism and 

Reihana Mohideen


Nick Fredman
Student Rights Advocate
Southern Cross University (Lismore)
Student Representative Council

Shop 9 Plaza, SCU Lismore

Ph: 6620 3044
Email: sra at src.scu.edu.au
web: http://www.lismoresrc.org.au/


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