A thorough examination of Shefali Desai’s article clearly shows the major issues that are confronted by the feminist movement. Desai carefully examined the underlying ideological tenets, as well as the corresponding political, social and cultural differences that seem to create a wide gap among many feminist activists. This is most especially true in cases that specifically focus on the recognition of women’s rights and at the same time, taking into full consideration the respective cultural and social arenas in which oppression and repression take place.
Clearly, under this context, Desai attempts to formulate a concrete and feasible solution on how to resolve the tensions and disparities, which are often experienced and reflected in feminism’s multicultural approach. To further illustrate the author’s contentions and arguments, Desai offered a substantial distinction about the glaring differences between the methods and approaches that are deployed by universalists and cultural relativists (5). As universalism implies, Desai expounded that this particular approach upholds the belief that the idea of human rights can be understood within a single vantage point (5).
Consequently, cultural relativism espouses that human rights should be contextualized from different angles that subsequently acknowledge a range of external factors (Desai 5). The political, social and more importantly, cultural factors, thus affect the individual’s scope of reality. In this aspect, arguing for a universal approach is no less than a subtle assertion of power legitimacy and to a certain extent, subordination. Desai, then linked these scenarios to the recognition of women’s rights in non-Western setting, such as the Taliban society (7).
Via exerting a conscious effort to trace the historical narrative of the Taliban government, Desai narrated how a series of wars and intercultural differences have affected the women of Afghanistan (7). But with Taliban’s rise and its strict imposition of Islamic Law, is perceived by many as far more repressive, patriarchal and detrimental to Afghan women (Desai 7). This is despite of the fact that several members of the community have seen the Taliban approach as yet another way of safeguarding not only their women, but also their cultural practices (Desai 11).
This particular situation has led Desai to question the seemingly monolithic and (apathetic) contentions of both universalists and cultural relativists women advocates. Critically speaking, far more than acknowledging human rights, it can be argued that Desai was also concerned on a pragmatic application of “multicultural feminism (Worell 432)”. The Taliban case, far more than anything else raises the question of whose feminism is involved, most especially in scenarios that revolved around women oppression and identity construction. For those who do not have a direct experience of oppression, universalism and feminism can be easily combined.
However, it cannot be denied that individual differences and cultural and individualistic considerations may divide feminist movements from across the globe. Thus, via providing clear definitions and comprehensive distinctions of how womanhood is experienced and understood in various social settings, Desai’s work remarkably eliminates the possibility of Western feminist hegemony. Consequently, by being open to the respective cultural constraints of women in highly marginalized regions, the article remains free from the biases of relativism and still offers a highly pragmatic approach.
The example that Desai used added to the author’s credibility since it successfully illustrated the concrete shortcomings of two divergent perspectives that exceed the theoretical or hypothetical assumptions. Evidently, the remaining parts of Desai’s discussion presented different way of )dealing with feminism and human rights recognition. Desai called for a much more holistic and collective approach via formulating legal protocols that duly recognize human rights with great sensitivity. Yes, Desai’s work calls for sensitivity, in the sense that feminists must also pay attention to the individualistic needs of many women.
In this manner, highly customized and appropriate solutions can be enacted. Oftentimes, women-related problems become worse, not only because of the lack of direct action, but also due to the excessive politics that exist among feminists and even legal experts. As Desai stressed, feminism cannot possible produce good results if the idea of “multiplicity” is taken for granted (17). Here, it can be seen that Desai actually looks for parallelism rather than an abrupt intersection of opposing views and ideologies.
The strengths of universalism and cultural relativism are combined to overcome its respective weaknesses. In this aspect, biases and politicking shall be lessened and feminism now transforms into an efficient and pragmatic solution. Works Cited Desai, Shefali. “Hearing Afghan’s Women’s Voices: Feminist Theory’s Re- Conceptualization of Women’s Human Rights. ” Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. 16. 805 (1999): 1-17 Worell, Judith. Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and the Impact of Society on Gender. California: Academic Press
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