How to be famous
You’ll remember (won’t you?) that my favorite commenter on the FGM question told us that all this had been thoroughly sorted out by the great and famous Chandra Mohanty. I was moved to find out more.
Chandra Talpade Mohanty (born 1955) is a prominent postcolonial and transnational feminist theorist. She became well-known after the publication of her influential essay, “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses” in 1986. In this essay, Mohanty articulates a critique of the political project of Western feminism in its discursive construction of the category of the “Third World woman” as a hegemonic entity.
Ah, good. I’m relieved to know that she took care of that. It’s always irked me, the political project of Western feminism in its discursive construction of the category of the “Third World woman”. You know? The way Western feminists talk about ‘the Third World woman’ all the time and what they’re going to do to her and what an exciting project it is.
Okay I’m lying. I’ve never in my life heard a feminist talk about ‘the Third World woman.’ It’s a stupid category that is way too big and undifferentiated to use for the ‘discursive construction’ of anything. That’s not necessarily Mohanty’s fault, it could be just the fault of whatever acolyte wrote the Wikipedia entry – but whoever wrote that silly sentence, it’s a classic of strawman nonsense. It’s also a good example of doing the very thing one is aiming to ‘critique’ – it treats ‘Western feminism’ as a ‘hegemonic entity’ by discursively constructing it as such. In other words it generalizes wildly about ‘Western feminism’ in the course of charging (by implication at least) ‘Western feminism’ with generalizing wildly. In short, it’s stupid and complacent. And typical. ‘Theory’ punches itself in the eye again.