• The Gender Security Project

GSP Study Group: Session 2

In the second month of our study group engagement, we read “United by Strength or Oppression? A Critique of the Western Model of Feminism” by Ioana Cerasella Chis.

Our session opened with each participant weighing in on the reading. The overall pulse was that the reading was relevant, interesting, and addressed the prevalence of western-centric feminism, and also looked at how important it is to revaluate the ideas of development and how nations are positioned toward a particular idea of development as produced and maintained in the aftermath of colonialism. One of the participants referenced a Tweet that read, “If you go on a mission trip, you are a colonizer.” Another participant also referenced the idea of “helping another” through Lilla Watson’s quote, namely “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

The conversation then shifted to the idea of language – and whether speaking the language of the colonizer would be the only vehicle to engage with colonialism and present reason to it. The group acknowledged that the author was in a reflective location in the article – and perhaps that explains why they wrote using the language they did, and what informed their choices in the process. The group also looked at how development rhetoric makes use of particular language to push its agenda forward – for example, queer rescue narratives and women rescue narratives were used to justify war in Afghanistan and Iraq in the post-9/11 phase.

The group noted that development as a concept should exist, although it is for each nation or group to determine what development looks like for them. The idea of a feminist strategy of development should center on enabling access to basic needs and to acknowledge and not impede others’ access to basic needs. 

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