Theorizing Feminism: Parallel Trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences

By Anne C. Herrmann; Abigail J. Stewart | Go to book overview
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18 Hegemonic Relations and
Gender Resistance

The New Veiling as
Accommodating Protest
in Cairo

ARLENE ELOWE MACLEOD

Power invests [the dominated], passes through them and with the
help of them, relying on them just as they, in their struggle
against power, rely on the hold it exerts on them.

Michel Foucault 1

The persistence of women's subordination throughout history and across many cultures presents a difficult puzzle; although women are clearly assertive actors who struggle for better conditions for themselves and for their families, their efforts often seem to produce limited or ephemeral results. The recent widening of opportunities for some women is unusual, and when placed in historical and cross-cultural perspective, its future seems uncertain. 2 In this article, I explore the puzzle of women's persistent efforts toward change and the equally persistent presence of gender inequality—the puzzle of the resilience of power in gender relations. Part of the problem, I argue, is located in a style of struggle women employ to resist the constraints of power, a style I have called "accommodating protest."

Feminist theorists have long been interested in the part women play within relations of power. They have often cast women as victims, accepting the inevitability of domination. 3 Others have portrayed women as consenting subordinates, relatively satisfied with a deferential role.

-387-

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