Main Argument of the Readings
Silvia Federici, Chandra Mohanty and Alicia Muszynski discussed in their respective articles the sociological facet of the inferiority perceived upon women. “Insatiable sexuality”, in the case of Federici, socioeconomic differences for Mohanty and race-gender stratification noted by Muszynski all point to reasons why women, under different classifications, receive unfair treatment. The three articles stand united in explaining that women received discrimination because of their biological sex and that it is a demeaning factor when added with other condescending characteristics such as socioeconomic conditions and race.
Personal Argument on the Readings
On a personal note, I perceive the connection between the three articles as highly characteristic of discrimination against women. Feminism serves as the key ideology that seeks to highlight the struggles of women across all three articles. Federici, for instance, noted that witch-hunts have become a tool of both religion and politics in preserving male dominance. Most women, if not all, who underwent execution for the crime of witchcraft did not undergo fair trials with evidence compelling under modern standards; Federici established through a historical account of witchcraft persecutions that the inferior status of women have led to the high number of women accused of being witches. Initially, one did not directly associate witchcraft exclusively to women, but throughout time that notion eventually changed because of the view that women exhibit what Federici dubbed as “insatiable sexuality”. Thus, the persecutors saw such characteristic as a sign that women may have greater proclivity to sign agreements with the Devil. Furthermore, the persecutors sought to aggravate the foregoing characteristic of women by claiming that women witches are anti-fertility – that is, they render the point of sexual relations of a man and woman as pointless for the purpose of reproduction and just as a means of indulgence. Thus, Federici has highlighted that women who did unusual acts became subject to accusations of witchcraft. In that sense, Federici established that the inferiority of women has exposed them to discrimination to the extent that they have virtually no freedom to commit acts beyond their socially defined designations.
Mohanty emphasized that women belonging to perceivably lower classes receive greater suffering compared to their counterparts in higher classes. In the case of women in third-world nations such as Afghanistan, Mohanty explained that they undergo discriminatory conditions in which cultural definitions have sought to justify negative notions concerning their sexuality and gender. Furthermore, Mohanty emphasized the role of globalization in shifting the movement for feminism to an even wider goal characterized by human rights. Feminism is no longer a unilateral movement that focuses directly on quelling discrimination on grounds of sexuality and gender. The growth of human rights movements has sought to incorporate feminism alongside a stream of concerns pertaining to human rights such as poverty, oppression, racism and many others, hence leading to the term “women’s rights”. What Mohanty tried to uncover in her article is the fact that women suffer more under the complexities third-world nations possess. The clash between the modern world and the traditions third-world nations has held onto has complicated the situation of the third-world woman, although Mohanty stressed that globalization could eventually pressure all nations towards observing the rights of women. In light of that, Mohanty saw globalization as the greatest force that could level the playing field for women across the globe. The struggle of women in relatively backward societies could derive enlightenment from the progressive ideologies advanced societies espouse. Lack of adequate socioeconomic opportunities and cultural notions have placed women on disadvantageous positions in third-world nations compared to first-world nations, as they underwent suffering on account of their sexuality and gender. However, Mohanty noted that globalization could also hinder the progression of feminism and the rights of women due to the gendered discourse it could propagate, hence the idea of feminist anti-globalization.
Muszynski noted the economic necessity of lowering wages by salmon canners in British Columbia, Canada by using stereotypical groupings. Trends in terms of population growth, the emergence of immigrants and the equalization of men and women in British Columbia have led salmon canners to plan in organizing their respective workforces. What Muszynski found out is that salmon canners in British Columbia grouped their wage brackets based on the characteristics of their workforce; the group with the lowest wage is the one composed of native women. A closer analysis reveals that salmon canners strongly considered the criteria of gender and sexuality in setting their wages. With the observance of pre-capitalist modes of production, salmon canners in British Columbia paid wages below the equivalent of the amount of output expected for each worker. Therefore, native women salmon canners suffer a two-fold sense of discrimination because they are native to British Columbia and adjacent areas and are women, considering the patriarchal society prevalent among salmon canners. In connection to the argument in the foregoing section, the suffering native women had to undergo is double compared to native men, given that their sexuality and gender have served as demeaning factors.
Elaboration and Critique of the Main Argument
A closer reading of the articles authored by Federici, Mohanty and Muszynski reveals strong historical underpinnings underlining the marginalization of women in varying contexts. The main argument overarching the three articles note that women, regardless of their circumstances, have suffered from various degrees of discrimination due to their sexuality and gender; demeaning circumstances have therefore aggravated the situation of women compared to their male counterparts. Federici argued that women have become the subject of witchcraft persecutions due to their sexuality and gender, alongside the consequent perception that their role as child-bearers has led them to have strong sexual libidos. In this case, Federici closely considered sexuality and gender into the picture. Whereas persecutors of witchcraft saw it as an evil activity that exempts no one, they nevertheless considered their impression of women as being closer to evil as a reason why most of the alleged executed witches were women. The lack of compelling evidence on the existence of witchcraft per se did not hinder the persecutors from carrying out their acts, for they have used it as sociopolitical tools to advance male dominance. Mohanty, for her part, noted that poor political and economic factors further aggravate the socially marginalized position of women in third-world nations. With due consideration of globalization, Mohanty successfully established that women in progressive societies tend to gain better reception and treatment and at the same time, suffer from gendered discourses. Yet, the same is not the case for women in third-world nations, where traditional ideas revolving around patriarchy usually prevail. Rejection of progressive ideas coming from the modern world has maintained the fact that third-world nations are less-conducive places for women to live. Furthermore, the projection of such attitude by third-world nations to the rest of the world drags the image of women further down. Muszynski extended the exploited image of women in her account of salmon canners in British Columbia. This time, Muszynski noted economic necessities as a means of marginalizing women. Yet, the concept of Mohanty also penetrated that of Muszynski through the instance of selection of native women as recipients of the lowest wages in British Columbian salmon canneries. Moreover, Muszynski emphasized the exploitation of native, rather than immigrant, women through rock-bottom wages as a matter of emphasizing that British Columbian salmon canneries thought lowly of the native people. Hence, a combination of social factors has enabled British Columbian salmon canneries to consider the levels of wage brackets, keeping the wages of those under the lower social strata as low as possible, in a bid to maximize labor while saving costs. Further enabling the interweaving of the foregoing articles to the main argument is the involvement of race in giving women a much more degrading image in the eyes of discriminatory societies. Black women, for instance, have suffered rougher types of discrimination compared to their non-black women counterparts. The oppression associated with race has led black women to live lives that are more miserable in societies where race and gender both have hierarchical notions.
Contemporary Example Related to the Readings
The marginalization of women continues to this day, albeit in more subtle tones. A closer look at how women have gained mainstream representation reveals thinly veiled oppressive messages, particularly in terms of advertising. In mainstream media, women have found association with various objects related to sexual connotations. Advertising materials on alcoholic beverages, for example, would usually feature scantily clad women in bikinis in various bids to capture the attention of the predominantly male market of the products those represent. Whereas the purpose of such advertisements is to convince men to buy the products those represents, those nevertheless set a double standard against women – that they are only tools for attracting men. Another example in which women have figured in exploitative situations in mainstream media is the standardization of beauty. Women, socially constructed as complements for men, have gone under pressure from normative social standards to become as beautiful as they could be. Advertising materials on beauty products and any related ones released through mass media have uncannily influenced women on the latest trends on beauty. In return, those advertising efforts have inevitably served as standards for women to follow. With that, those women who do not possess certain qualities to become beautiful - with emphasis on its subjectivity, have ended up experiencing more discrimination with respect to their good-looking counterparts. Nevertheless, it does not mean to say that women who are not good-looking are the only ones that have experienced discrimination. Beautiful women have also undergone discriminatory instances under men, who saw then as sexual objects rather than persons of dignity. The prevalence of the image of women being submissive to men is a strong characteristic of patriarchal social formats that emanates powerfully to this day. Hence, women who have fairly better physical characteristics were subject to exploitative measures in media, especially those who match the informal yet penetrating standards established by advertisements and other tools. Overall, mainstream media has allowed women to become subjects of misrepresentation, which surfaces as a form of discrimination on their end but benefiting the side of profitability – an important aspect that businesses must fulfill for them to continue earning income. Progressive movements against discrimination of women in media should move forward through presenting alternative ideas for businesses to continue profitability but without maligning the image of women in return.
Federici, Silvia. “The Great Witch-Hunt.” The Maine Scholar 1 (1988): 31-52.
Ferguson, Jill, Kreshel, Peggy, and Tinkham, Spencer. “In the Pages of Ms.: Sex Role Portrayals of Women in Advertising.” Journal of Advertising 19, no. 1 (1990): 40-51.
Mohanty, Chandra. “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles.” Signs 28, no. 2 (2003): 499-535.
Muszynski, Alicia. “Race and Gender: Structural Determinants in the Formation of British Columbia's Salmon Cannery Labour Forces.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 13, no. 1/2 (1988): 103-120.