Reading Global Feminisms
[C]ategories often invoked disparagingly by feminist theorists—equality, reason, history, modernity—are not stable, uniform entities but are reproduced and changed by the specific context of their articulation. It is here that much of feminist philosophy, with its sweeping vision of the longue durée of Western history as a history of pathological phallocentrism, reveals its limitations.
—Rita Felski, “The Doxa of Difference”
As the history of Western women makes clear, there is no validity to the notion that progress for women can be achieved only by abandoning the ways of a native androcentric culture in favor of those of another culture.
—Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate
It is another form of oppression and colonialism, the colonialism of Western feminists.
—Nawal Saadawi and Mary E. Willmurth,
“A Feminist in the Arab World”
As I have suggested, postmodern feminism moves beyond modernism by challenging and problematizing it rather than replacing, opposing, or nullifying it. Theorists, such as Bakhtin, Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, and Kristeva, and postmodern feminists influenced by their work criticize modernist projects but do not directly oppose them. They do not repudiate science, rationality, epistemology, or liberal democracy but make clear their serious limitations. Postmodern feminists criticize modernist tendencies to universalize, to focus on the individual divorced from social context, and to ignore the ways in which local situations affect interpretive processes. They also attempt to find alternatives to modern feminisms and sometimes draw heavily upon the work of male theorists and practitioners. It is antimodern feminists who, more often, associate male institutions and discourses with androcentrism and patriarchy and reject them entirely.
Feminisms are historically and geographically situated and hence context specific. Concepts such as equality, for instance, that were privileged during the Enlightenment, can be reclaimed to serve postmodern feminist ends. Rita Felski finds in “The Doxa of Difference” that critiquing the notion of equality implies