Confronting Global Gender Justice: Women's Lives, Human Rights

Confronting Global Gender Justice: Women's Lives, Human Rights

Confronting Global Gender Justice: Women's Lives, Human Rights

Confronting Global Gender Justice: Women's Lives, Human Rights

Synopsis

Confronting Global Gender Justice contains a unique, interdisciplinary collection of essays that address some of the most complex and demanding challenges facing theorists, activists, analysts, and educators engaged in the tasks of defining and researching women's rights as human rights and fighting to make these rights realities in women's lives.

With thematic sections on Complicating Discourses of Victimhood, Interrogating Practices of Representation, Mobilizing Strategies of Engagement, and Crossing Legal Landscapes, this volume offers both specific case studies and more general theoretical interventions. Contributors examine and assess current understandings of gender justice, and offer new paradigms and strategies for dealing with the complexities of gender and human rights as they arise across local and international contexts. In addition, it offers a particularly timely assessment of the effectiveness and limits of international rights instruments, governmental and nongovernmental organization activities, grassroots and customary practices, and narrative and photographic representations.

This book is a valuable resource for both undergraduate and graduate students in fields such as Gender or Women's Studies, Human Rights, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology, as well as researchers and professionals working in related areas.

Excerpt

Debra Bergoffen, Paula Ruth Gilbert, and Tamara Harvey

The social contract theorists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries began their political reflections by referring to a mythical state of nature where all men were endowed with natural rights and lived among each other as equals. This state of nature and its respect for natural rights were the standards against which the legitimacy of sovereign states was weighed. In the eighteenth century, the American and French revolutionaries transformed the mythical natural rights of the social contract theorists into political instruments. Before taking military action, the Americans legitimated their rebellion in the name of the inalienable human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Where the Americans published their Declaration of Independence in advance of their attack, the French published their Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen after their triumph. Justifying their revolution after the fact, they sealed their victory by distinguishing the human rights principles that would ground their government from the principles of the illegitimate state they overthrew. Whether they justified their rebellions before or after the fact, however, the Americans and the French legitimated their particular political grievances in terms of universal human rights principles. They claimed that their battles were waged in the name of all human beings and that others had the right to oppose any government that deprived them of the rights of man.

It did not take long for women to exercise this right. They were quick to notice the gap between the universal claims of the American and French revolutionaries and the concrete realities of their lives. They did not enjoy the inalienable rights of man. By simply substituting the phrase “men and women” for the word “man,” the women who wrote the Seneca Falls Declaration, exposed the gender biases of the Declaration of Independence. The word “man” only seemed to refer to all human beings. Their substitution created a scandal because man meant men. The men who fought for the rights of man fought against the idea of women’s suffrage. They would not repeal laws that made married women the property of their husbands. Protective of their masculine privileges, they fought to maintain the gendered status quo. They argued that the natural law of women’s subordination took precedence over women’s inalienable human rights—specifically the right to equality under the law and the right to exercise their power as citizens. Here the women found a theoretical ally (if not a material ally) in the French, for though . . .

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