Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.

Audacious Feminisms

Audacious Feminisms: Newest Sexes, Races, Genders and Globes

Keynote address for the Australian National Women’s Studies Association, Adelaide, Australia, June 30, 2010


Prof. Zillah Eisenstein

Audacious for me means `newly new’,[1] innovative, re-scoped, inventive, uncharted, and revolutionary beyond the borders of clear knowledge.  I need to be audacious in order to find my thinking of how racism operates through white privilege on most parts of the globe, of how gender privilege is always simultaneously a system of sexing and racing the meanings of all people of all colors, of how war and militarism is used to mystify the newest forms of hetero-masculinity and racialized gender.  I have been committed to understanding all this for the past four decades, but the world keeps changing, and I am changed, and so the questions and answers must also change.

Audacious is also a historical and contextual choice of term.  President Barack Obama has popularized the phrase audacity and with it “hope” itself.  Or at least he did so while running for president.  Hope is harder to come by just now in the U.S. and especially if you are one of the 40 million or so without a job; or one of the millions of people waiting until 2014 for some of our parsimonious health care reform to kick in.  Even if my sense of hope is under siege, I will not give away the need for audacious thinking, and acting, and especially not by feminists of all sorts, from all over the globe.

If I am to be totally forthcoming I need to say at the start that so much that I ponder today unravels me.  When I think of the slaughter and mayhem and atrocities visited on women’s bodies in particular in Rwanda and Congo; when I ask why a few females are allowed entry into the bastions of male power, so to speak, when previously they were barred from doing so, I have no good answers.  But I am uncomfortable with not having any good answers so I push beyond in my next bit of meditation.

I also need to bring to the fore at the start that war—in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Congo—are very much on my mind.  I am sure that war is always critical to the way life and its meaning is conceptualized and understood.  I am also sure that the massive killing and death in war undermines the value given to life, at the start so to speak.  The suffering of war belies the ability to find words to clarify the pain.  In and alongside war billions of people across the globe suffer hunger and displacement.  It is exactly at this point of pain and need that I locate my politics—especially but not exclusively for girls and women— in this moment.

My anti-racist feminism begins here.  The politics is not exclusionary to females but it always is thinking from the site of female bodies—powerful, laboring, abused, and also defiant.  Some wear veils, others reveal their faces and other body parts, some are tattooed, others not, and on and on in endless variety.  As I rethink and update all the changes that I can purview I wish I had a new name to bespeak the audaciousness at hand. Feminism, even in the plural feminisms, is not new.  And much of what is old here is constraining.  And yet, I have no other word that bespeaks the collective political struggle that I continue to need.  So I am uneasy and doubtful but also equally passionate that we transform the world we inhabit, especially for the girls and women of this globe.

I will meander and ask you to travel with me.  Life could not be more complex and yet few of us are able to wrap our heads around the complexity—about the sexual/ racial/gender/class changes across the globe and the way these sites do not change.  I am reminded of the South African artist William Kentridge as he writes of post-apartheid South Africa. He notes that one of the strangest things about his country is how little has changed; that it is post (apartheid), and also not post at all.  He writes: “In many parts of the country, it hasn’t changed at all. Children in poor rural schools still get a miserable education… It’s also true that the main beneficiaries since the ending of apartheid are white South Africans. No sacrifices have been required.  No one’s lost their beautiful house.”  Yet he says that his compromised society “reflects and nourishes his work”. It makes him “suspicious of certainty” and the “provisionality of the moment”. Because of his world, he values “doubt”.[2]  Doubt makes me look more carefully and to wonder more. We need to wonder.

Why are women’s lives more differentiated today within the structural systems of patriarchy than in earlier historical periods?  Why is this moment of patriarchal privilege more diversely written with women’s bodies of all colors and many classes? Why is there less radical and revolutionary feminist theory and politics at this moment especially in “first-world” countries?  Why do I still use this term patriarchy when so much has changed?

Most women are working overtime doing the labor necessitated by misogyny and they also occupy sites that were once closed to them within this very system of male privilege. But this latter change of females to new sites in the public sphere—presidents, C.E. O’s—has little to do with a re-arranging of structural or collective power.  Women have been or are presidents, and secretary of states and foreign ministers in the U.S., Haiti, Liberia, Argentina, Chile, Jamaica, Germany, France, India, Pakistan, and so forth. Meanwhile 500,000 women die annually in childbirth.  Never mind all the Elizabeth’s who ruled England by birth and marriage right.  This is yet another variation on my theme.

My thoughts today are chaotic and fluid as they should be.  I ask that you move with me from the body to the globe; and the globe to our bodies that are raced, sexed, gendered and so on. Everything is changing and nothing changes. Both of these statements is true, and also not true.  It is also true that either way—changing or not—times are unsettled and unsettling.  Yet, with the uncertainty comes new possibility.

This moment we—the “big we”— inhabit with Obama as president is often called a post-racial moment.  To me it feels more like a post-racial racism, a post-sexual misogyny, a post-gendered patriarchy.  There are new racialized gender and engendered racist formations that keep much of the structural privilege in place while looking wholly new and different than before.  I see no clearly demarcated “post” anything; post is a troubled/troubling term.  Instead I am looking for the “new-old” meanings that are amazingly changed—and not.[3]

This said, there are then many narratives to construct and listen to.  But their naming is part of the process of finding what is new.  Feminisms are both stuck and have moved beyond languages that are both necessary and outmoded.  First and third world exist and yet they exist also as one.  The third world lives in New York City.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is in Kenya. The second world disappeared with the Soviet Union and the revolutions of 1989.  Indigenous feminisms are both constructed by imperial beginnings to start with, and stand against imperial feminisms of all sorts.  In the end I may create a sense of sadness as I reveal the very heartbreak that must be changed.

Feminisms put female bodies in the bold.  Female bodies, in whatever cultural/racial/class form they take are seen as a location, or the location of power and powerlessness. Women are bound and gagged because they have potential power.  Women are beaten/raped/mutilated because of the same.  If women’s bodies were not a site of power, they would not be the battlefield that they are.  The struggle over abortion in many countries often comes down to protecting the last bastion of control of women’s bodies. This struggle over the legal standing of abortion stymied the unification struggles between East and West Germany and their new constitution.  Abortion remained an unresolved contestation in the recent battles over health care reform in the U.S.  Reproductive rights and self-determination of one’s female body remains central to all the newest re-formations of misogyny.  If one could, one would just need to ask any female black slave about her body and her punishment due to its power as property.

But female bodies today are also so diversely embodied with multiple meanings and differentiations that it is harder to see the homogeneity, for a lack of a better term, which remains.  On the one hand there are Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, President Ellen Shirleaf in Liberia, defense ministers in Spain and France, and female soldiers at Abu Ghraib.  On the other hand there are poor migrant women laborers, female flower growers in Honduras, mutilated girls and women in Rwanda, indigenous women depicted as mother earth, black women and their children described as obese.

It is interesting to read an advisory report dealing with human rights in the context of counter terrorism that describes gender as a social rather than a biological construct. The report states: “Gender is not synonymous with women but rather encompasses the social responsibilities that underlie how women’s and men’s roles, functions and responsibilities, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, are defined and understood.”[4]  I would agree in part.  And then there is still the female body however complexly and fluidly it is constructed.



Whose Woman’s Nation?


Maria Shriver authors and distributes a report, “A Woman’s Nation”, September, 2009.  At this moment women in the U.S. were poised to become the majority in the labor force, outnumbering men.  I wonder immediately upon hearing this whether this means that white women, especially white married women, have now entered the labor in new numbers, just meeting black and Latina married and unmarried women who are already there.  When Shriver says that there is now an “emergence of working women as primary breadwinners” I assume she means white women here[5]. And it remains unclear whether breadwinner means anything in terms of economic gains. As well, just because more women are in the labor force than men, does not mean that women have gained equal access in this market to the better paying jobs, nor does it mean that these women earn equal wages to men, nor does it say anything about a living or a fair wage.

There are more women in the labor force than ever before in the U.S.  outpacing men, but this says little about equality nor is it indicative of a re-arrangement of  power.  It says more about the recession of 2009 and the disproportionate loss of jobs that men, especially working class men held.  These jobs are gone, for these men and women alike..  Think auto industry, anyone?  The U.S. is no “woman’s nation” in my mind.  Instead it is a nation that is upping the ante for women who now must add wage-labor to their responsibilities if it was not already part of their package before-hand.

These changes are not about feminisms or about women’s rights, or about women’s empowerment, even if women use these changes to empower themselves as individuals. All this change (and not) of women laborers is about women becoming the largest part of the new working classes. Young Chinese women, who are actually described more accurately as girls aged 14-17, make up the new millions of workers in export factories in China.  These “dagonmei” workers hardly have power, or equality for that matter, with men in China, or women across the globe that buy the products of the global factories, but do not have to work in them.  There are also the Chinese women in the auto factories, just this week that are newly demanding higher wages and the right to form a union. They appear to be the backbone of this new class of workers. There are also immigrant women—from the Philippines and the Caribbean—creating a union for women working as nannies in New York.

Yet again, there is more female network nightly news anchors in the U.S. than ever before. Why not, given it is the old way of getting news.  Never mind that fewer and fewer people watch the nightly evening news.  It seems in part that as the old sites of power diminish in significance they newly become inhabited by females and people of all colors.  One could think similarly of governments and nation-states.  Given the erosion of state power against global and trans-national corporations, females will more readily be admitted to these former sites of power.

Although there are many women of all colors with important positions in the Obama administration most women’s lives are not eased by this fact.  These appointments have had no affect, if affect means that this impacts women’s lives with greater access to day care or health care or abortion facilities. Besides, people from within the administration say that a culture of male privilege remains. It is said that he feels most comfortable around men, and they remain who he plays golf with and who is in his inner decision making circle.  The White House remains a man’s world and yet fluid—

Obama is a modern man, with “amazing” Michelle as his wife.  Barack says it is “bunk” that the all male basketball game means anything. But the fact that he thinks it is “bunk” is the problem.  Why? Because women’s lives are not just or fair; because misogyny still exists with and without basketball

Modernized misogyny is still misogynist.  The privileging of masculinity exists today but with much more economically diverse and diversified forms/expressions.  Chattel slavery created all blacks homogeneously as poor, even if there were distinctions of privilege from the manor to the field.  Being black today is more economically diversified than in the past.  This is true of gender privilege as well.  The once traditional white heterosexual married family now exists in much more various forms: single parent families, blended families, gay families, black and Hispanic and Asian families.

Amidst the fluidity there is also continuity.  Females continue to birth the next generation across the globe; they are still breeders of a fashion even if very differently so from the black slave female. But other than bodily sexual reproduction there is much variety in what gender means—it is both static and fluid simultaneously.   Older structural forms of patriarchal control have been modernized through class and racial differentiations while much else also remains the same—in terms of birthing and rearing children.  The laws of gender and racial apartheid have been challenged and changed while new economic class relations take their place.  New hierarchies form between white middle class women who hire poor and working class women of all colors; and middle class women of other colors hire poor and working class who are otherwise like them.

In the U.S Elena Kagan while waiting to be confirmed by the senate as the next Supreme Court justice was assumed to be gay, given that she is not married and has no children. Heterosexist patriarchy still reigns, no matter when she is confirmed.  Without a husband and children, she is suspect.  There is much speculation as to whether she has had to give up a personal life, assuming that a personal life requires a husband and children, in order to achieve her new status.  There is lots of chatter whether high achieving (white) women need to remain childless, and have given up too much by doing so.  It also remains true that for the 80 percent of women with children, the higher realms are effectively closed to them.[6]

Four in ten mothers in the U.S. are primary breadwinners and upwards of eighty percent of women contribute significantly to the economic well being of their households.[7]  Yet, women remain poor despite all their hard work, and one’s color plays a huge role here still.  In the U.S at present the median wealth for single black woman is $100, for a single Hispanic woman is $120, and for single white women, $41,000.

Let me sum up for a moment: the fact that women are working hard and located in new arenas does not mean women has gained more power, if power means ease with justice in their lives.  More women in the labor force, whatever their color, does not shift the structural privileges of masculinity although it can make patriarchal inequalities look very different.  So although Maria Shriver calls the U.S. a “woman’s nation”, it is hardly that.  Most women of all colors are working more and harder and in new locations but this just simply means that females are working harder.  And, it is also true, that females across the globe have always done a majority of the cooking, and collecting of wood and hauling of water, and whatever else needs to be done to sustain themselves and their loved ones.

Women in Eastern Europe before the revolutions of 1989 already carried these burdens of the labor force and their triple days of labor.  Women in most African nations have carried more than their share of life’s burdens. Women in China were said to hold up half the sky during Mao’s reign.  Women filled the munitions factories during WWII in the U.S. and England.

Yet, still, most women are not paid as equals.  They are not promoted as equals either. And yet there is something new here.  What is new is that this labor is being put more in view, and some females are also doing newly paid labor. Misogyny has more egalitarian looking forms today without the equality. There is a more diverse range of jobs that females of all colors hold today.  This level of differentiation and diversity defines the present global economy.  I continue to wonder why this newest form of patriarchy exists and to who’s benefit other than corporate greed and its masculinist privileging.  It is not to the benefit of most women or many men across the globe.

The media exposure of women’s labor force participation, however racialized and ignorant it is, bespeaks a shifting of the authoritative discourses of a newer form of misogyny.  This also compels the Obama administration via Hillary Clinton to commit to making women’s rights a central aspect of U.S. foreign policy, whatever this might mean. There is something very old and worn in this new directive: the World Bank has promoted investing in women in poor nations for at least three decades.[8] They have long argued that an investment in women is an investment in their families and the nation.  This is hardly innovative or revolutionary feminisms at work as women become the bulwark, once again, for family and nation building.  In bringing this directive to the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy at this point in time bespeaks the intimate needs of a privatized globe run by corporate/masculinist greed.  It needs women’s labor in all its forms—old and new, more than ever before.


Changing Racial and Gender Masks


Moments and time matter when I am talking/thinking about the newest happenings and changes.  The very idea of “new” means it is in the present moment, but then quickly moves out of the present, requiring a “newest” yet again.  For my thinking just now I keep looking for the “newest” happening and yet try to see these events as part of larger contexts that contain the “new-old”.  These larger contexts explain, at least somewhat, how moments appear and explode as though they come from nowhere.  Because gender and white privilege are never singular in content they cannot be understood in singular fashion.  These moments which appear to be un-rooted and disconnected can be found to be connected back to female bodies.

I meander away from women’s body and their many forms of labor to the sexing and regulation of these bodies.  I am looking for connections that are not readily in view and yet let us think newly. Discourses meld together to form new exposures.  The recent sex abuse scandal of the Catholic Church reminds me to never forget the physical/sexual body and the deep secrets that spill out over and over again—whether in the Catholic Church or the mass rapes in the Congo or in juvenile detention centers throughout the U.S.  These are scandalous and heartbreaking abuses of young people—male and female—and their (sexual) bodies.

This story of sexual abuse is global. The pope and much of the Vatican turned a blind eye. The church as a whole was complicit in shielding the perpetrators through silence and avoidance.  Scandalous priests were allowed cover and protection.  Few guilty perpetrators have been held accountable for their actions. Yet, just last week, the pope took no time at all in immediately excommunicating a devout nun who assisted in obtaining an abortion for a woman in dire need.

While the papal sex abuse scandal was unraveling I saw the film Precious which received rave reviews from white reviewers as it exposed, yet once again, the story of a young black girl who is raped and sexually abused repeatedly by both her crack addicted mother and her negligent father.  Sex, race and gender are all in play here and in very old forms.  Black motherhood, black teenager, black father are all depicted as troubled. Meanwhile Sandra Bullock receives the Oscar for best actress in the film, Blindside which is a (true) story about a white woman who embraces a black teenager who has been abandoned by his crack-addicted mother. This is also an old story. Motherhood is still all the rage and the good kind is rich and white.  These stories run parallel with the changing nature and character of female life in all its colors and newnesses.

There are always new happenings to think about. Caster Semenya, the South African runner is castigated for feigning her sex as female but running like a man, with testesterone levels to prove it.  A young black female basketball player Brittney Griner plays her heart out for Baylor in the NCAA playoffs but punches an opponent in the face and it is called unwomanly and not nice.  Griner agrees and says there is no excuse for what she has done—and says it will never happen again.  I watched the replay on You Tube at least five times to see the punch and it looked pretty much like a visceral reaction to being pushed hard.  But no matter; women’s sports are supposed to be different than men’s, and not.

Let me add to the iconography of where my mind has recently traveled. Alongside the narratives and films and sports mentioned I was reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and also Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. [9]  Henrietta Lacks was a black woman living in the segregated world of the 1950’s in the U.S.  She was a poor black female in a white racist world of medicine. She died of cervical cancer on an all black ward in Johns Hopkins Hospital.  She died a terribly painful and frightening death.  Despite the racial segregation, or some might say because of it, her cells were harvested from her body and they became immortal—they reproduced themselves in the lab like no other cells could do before.  Today her cells which are known as—HeLa cells—are used in research in laboratories  across the globe.

The book, written by Rebecca Skloot, a white woman, was supposed to tell the story about Henrietta, to give voice to the forgotten woman who was the origin of these cells. But the story we are provided tells instead the story of the family she left behind and this family is depicted by the narrative of drug addiction, prison, and lack of education.  By default, Henrietta is constructed and remains within this black portrait, so to speak: uneducated, ignorant, and so forth. There is little mention of the way racism and sexism was written into the science and its methods at the time Henrietta lived. There is little sense of political context; of how racism affects all aspects of life and how white privilege and gender hierarchy intersects with her cells.

I saw glimpses of a different story. Henrietta seemed incredibly important to her family and was its backbone until her death. Her death caused a family crisis that was only exacerbated by the racist meanness of the times. And yet racism had its boundaries: Henrietta’s cells were harvested for the entire white world to benefit from even though she was segregated as a black woman.  Although her life was defined through legalized racial apartheid, and her “rights” to her cells, the use of her cells ignored and negated these racist borders.

In The New Jim Crow I read how today more blacks are in prison in the U.S. then makes any kind of logical/democratic sense. Prisons and felon status set aside and segregate blacks like in the days similar to Jim Crow laws.  The status of felon, which is so readily attached to young black men, stays with them for life and denies them the citizen/civil rights won earlier.  I want to hear of the black females that are defined in and by this new felon status. This newly formed racism also segregates and punishes black women as felons, and mothers and wives as well. After all, the new Jim Crow definitely has a story of Jane Crow. The newest story necessitates a telling of the webbed relations of sex and gender with racism, a story often ignored in discussions of chattel slavery as well.


Racializing Gender for Imperial Militaries


Females are more present in the U.S. military than ever before. Disproportionate numbers of these females are colored and not white. But also let us not forget that millions of women were militarized—even though not part of the military per se— during World War II as they stocked the munitions and bomb factories throughout Europe and the U.S. as well. Actually, 6 million workers, a majority of them women, were injured during WW II in these factories; and 64,000 died throughout the war.  This information is not new, but I know it newly.

Like elsewhere, although most women in Iraq have gravely suffered from the war, some Iraqi women have advanced with the U.S. occupation.  Women’s businesses have grown, and some of the rights of urban women under Saddam Hussein have been renewed. Yet a majority of women have lost loved ones, lost their homes, exist within a troubled economy, and suffer the daily travails of war.  Meanwhile, women in the U.S. have become much more necessary to the military effort, especially in combat arenas.

U.S. military women have also become a new liaison with Afghan women in Afghanistan.  U.S. females allow the U.S. to be “culturally sensitive” to female practices, and U.S females are often said to be more culturally astute.  They talk with Afghan women, assist in medical procedures, and build bridges—the way women are assumed to be able to do, but in this instance, from once male defined sites. U.S. women wear their camouflage and Afghan women their veil.  And neither customary meaning of gender is what they are assumed to be—these are not simple opposites of a clear divide. Female marines spark curiosity by Afghan women as they look for physical proof that they are female, while male marines resist and challenge the newly sexed militarism.[10]

U.N. peace keeping forces also have a new face. Indian women now make up a large part of the newest U.N.’s peace-keeping force in Liberia. The women whom are a special U. N. police unit from India live two lives: they guard the Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and patrol the streets with their guns and then go back to their barracks where they video conference with their children at home. The sergeant in charge of the unit calls these women “my men”.[11]

Chechen women have become the newest wave of suicide bombers in the war between Chechnya and Moscow. They make up 40 percent of the bombers.  They kill and maim in defense of themselves and their families.  Often called Black Widows these females have often lost a husband or a brother to the war and they embrace Chechen separatism.

Iraqi women have also become suicide bombers.  They are harder to search given the gender rules that protect and set aside the Muslim woman’s body.  Then they break the rules and throw or carry the bomb.  Gender and its borders, and the female body itself are not simply what it/they might seem.

Sgt. Maj. Teresa King is the first woman in the U.S. to command an Army drill sergeant school. She teaches those who will teach all the others on how to become a soldier. She is eighth of twelve children of a sharecropper.  In this job she has important influence over the basic training of every enlisted soldier.  She oversees the training of all drill sergeants training.  And every enlisted soldier will have this introduction to the army, with a black female in charge. She drives a black Corvette and has vanity plates reading “no slack”.[12]  Her newly achieved status has little to do with the majority of women in the army.  They remain discriminated against and at risk.

Changes at the top of any hierarchy matter greatly and also matter little for most of the women in the military, or the larger society as well.  In 2008 Ann Dunwoody was the first U.S. woman to be promoted to a four-star general, the army’s highest rank. She is head of the Army Materiel Command, in charge of weapons, equipment and uniforms in the army. There are 21 female generals, most of them one-star.  I keep wondering how these changes camouflage the basic misogyny of war and militarism more generally.  I am thinking that this diversification of gender is necessary to the newest distributions and necessities of women’s labor in all its present forms.  The privatized nation-state demands a more fluid and diverse practice of racialized gender and engendered racism within public spaces.  It now matters much less what the sex of the individual is performing the meanings of gender and race.

This same process of diversification applies to other sites as well: Presidents, Secretary of States, or Supreme Court Justices.  These were sex-segregated realms.  Most of the realms were protected through an understood sexual apartheid, rather than a legal one.  But either way, there have been significant shifts away from established legal apartheid and inequality toward a more nuanced economic and racialized set of hierarchies.

Although women are barred from joining combat branches like the infantry and Special Forces, very often quiet circumvention of military policy has them in full combat mode. In Iraq and Afghanistan females end up wherever they are needed, like bomb disposal and intelligence. Necessity and history define gender here.  The Iraq insurgency “elevated” U.S. military women to new sites by “obliterating conventional battle lines…Commanders were forced to stretch gender boundaries, or in a few cases, erase them altogether.”[13]   Females do battle in all its forms—patrolling streets with machine guns, steering gunners on vehicles, disposing of explosives and so on.

Under these circumstances and needs, pregnancy is not seen as something a woman should allow to happen.  For a short while a new army policy was initiated that would have court –marshaled and possibly jailed any female who became pregnant and any male soldier responsible for the impregnation.  This prohibition was initially introduced by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III. He defended the controversial policy this way: “My female soldiers are absolutely invaluable….with their male counterparts, they fly helicopters, run my satellite communications, repair just about everything, re-fuel and re-arm aircraft in remote locations, are brilliant and creative intelligence analysts…I am going to do everything I can to keep my combat power.”[14]  Nevertheless, these incredibly competent women are reminded of their tenuous gender status as they remain victims of rape and harassment.

More than 160,000 women have been deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  One in ten U.S. soldiers in Iraq is female.  They have done a yeoman’s duty—they have experienced lethal attacks, devastating trauma and wounding, and death.  These same women have faced sexual assault and harassment by their fellow soldiers and officers.  They return home traumatized by the wars on all their entire being.  Their bodies and their minds suffer deeply.  One-third of female soldiers seeking health care from the V.A. said they had been raped, and of these women, 14 percent say they were gang raped.  Female soldiers suffer PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) at twice the rate of male soldiers.[15]

In 2008 there were 2,923 reports of sexual assaults among active duty troops worldwide. In Iraq and Afghanistan the complaints have shot up by 26 percent.  Forty- one percent of female veterans seen at the Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area report being victims of sexual assault while serving in the military.[16]

Most female soldiers who are also moms feel conflicted between their work that takes them away from their children, and their children’s needs.  There is no assist for them in this realm.  Women are court-martialed if they do not show up for duty, and showing up means that they need 24 hour day-care coverage, while deployed overseas.  This is no easy matter.  More than 100,000 female soldiers who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan are mothers, which is about half the number that has been deployed. The vast majority is primary caregivers and a third is single mothers.[17]  New families and new genders appear to be historical necessity.  But these new genders still remain ordered, even if chaotically, in hierarchical masculinist fashion.

These newest patriarchal maneuvers mean that women enter sites once closed to them.  But for the ordinary woman, the working class women of all colors, the females who bear children and rear them in whatever new arrangements they can create this is just another necessary job, in its newest form. Male privilege is re-wired and keeps women’s labor intact:—the labors become additive rather than liberating.

Overvaluing the public sphere of labor and politics keeps the focus on these newest opportunities and not on the labor already being done and assigned to women. The more privatized our globe becomes the more labor there is for the majority of globe to do.  With less public responsibility borne by nations, women, and now even many men, are working in more diverse gender patterns and for less money than before.

I am out for an early morning jog and I see three men pushing baby carriages.  I wonder whether their partners are off at their jobs.  After all, in the recession/depression of 2009 men lost 80 percent of the jobs.  Their jobs are gone for good.  White men, especially working class ones, are described as angry.  There should be little surprise here.  This is what gender fluidity looks like.  Females can do any job and for less money while males are losing ground with some of them moving toward the non-paid labor of the home.  That is, unless, you are black and poor, and then you are at risk for being incarcerated or labeled a felon.  There is no equivalency in the mobility of labor across sexual and gender divides because misogyny and racism continue to define the choices differently.  And, a male worker, whatever his color, will still earn women’s wages if he is doing a classically woman’s job.

Many of the changes due to the economy—national and global—mean that patriarchy looks different and it is different. And, a different kind of misogyny is still misogynistic. Just like newly different forms of global capitalism, is still capitalist.


Gender Bending with theGlobe 

               Gender and race—if one can even speak of these constructs in and of themselves in any separate and singular way—are always in the process of being defined.  They are not givens but potentials in that their meanings shift, and bend, and sometimes maybe even break apart within and alongside their more seemingly unchanging `nature’.  Although gender and race are treated as static, which assumes that they are biological categories more often than not, their meanings meander continuously given the needs of economies, state formations and their militarist needs, and other historical moments.  
               By now there are many scholars and political activists who take note of this fluidity and changeability, and yet the categories also remain in place, with static and unchangeable resonance. This ‘two-ness’ as W.E.B. Dubois might say—fluidity and unchangeability—is at the heart of racialized gender today.  It is just possible that we live at a critical juncture—where these changing constructions of racialized gender and engendered race— hold out new possibility for the ultimate destabilization of race and gender as they have been traditionally established.
               The edges of racial identity have become more blurred.[18] With interracial marriage, and mixings of races that are already blends of themselves through extraordinary histories of exchange and imperial acts, race has multiple meanings.  My point is not that there is no race, or that white privilege is not incredibly powerful for those who have it, and punishing to those who do not.  Rather, I wish to explore the newest shifts and meanings of race and gender in order to see if there are radically new constructions and possibilities for them.
        I am wondering if white privilege and gender are significantly and uniquely different than what they were in earlier form.  In other words, that maybe this is a key historical moment that might actually alter the practices of gender and race so that former constructions of each are undermined and challenged in fundamentally unknown ways.  As such, this may be a revolutionary or radical moment where former gender and racial hierarchies are potentially destabilized.  Revolutionary does not necessarily mean progressive, or radically democratic.  But the possibility remains.  An astro-physicist might call this a moment of “singularity”—“a state in which things become so radically different that the old rules break down and we know virtually nothing.”[19]
               If this is a unique moment to realign and reconfigure the domains of racialized gender and engendered race it can only be done with recognition of their structural, and not merely individualist meaning. Barack and Hillary have both relocated and redefined the sites that a Black man and a white woman can occupy.  This may appear to be fundamental and structural change, and it may actually be so, but it is not self-evident that it is.  
               The more gender bends the more it also loosens its clarity.  It just may be that my notion of a sexual decoy—that the female body should not be simply read as one and the same with the culturally gendered body— is too clear-cut and constricting because gender can have too many meanings.[20] The more women are in the military and act as political operatives the more this becomes part of the changed expression of gender itself.  The clarity of decoy status—that a female body should not automatically be presumed to be one and the same with a gendered woman—assumes that a female is tied to a static unchanging traditional conception of what a woman’s gender is in the first place.  The sexual decoy may simply be a newest form of gender expression. Gender is simply what it becomes.
               Nations do not remain as they once were either.  Countries are carved anew and the global economy disregards national borders whenever it is beneficial to do so.  I think that global capital disregards gender and racial borders in similar ways.  Women and girls provide the labor for the new global markets while renegotiating former familial and national borders. Global capital’s greed has led to an economic crisis of unknown proportion along with an undermining of earlier patriarchal familial forms. 
               The greed stops at nothing, even at the cost of its own exposure. Global capital now undermines systems of patriarchal gender and racialized misogyny by its endless search for the cheapest labor. This endless search for profits—be it oil or girl’s and women’s labor—reveal the many colors of the globe, which destabilizes earlier notions of white privilege for its more modern, `newest’ form.   
               Global capitalism’s gender undermines the structural requisites of earlier forms of patriarchy itself.   The excesses of global capital have undermined patriarchal gender as it has been established through clear-cut public/private divides and has as a result created new viable and complex varieties of gender/s. These changes and tensions impugn earlier mutual dependencies between capitalism and misogyny.  As such, gender exists in traditional patriarchal ways and it is also transforming misogyny in its more homogenous standardized form.
               Women are able to distance themselves from the more traditional aspects of patriarchy, as they become wage earners, and sometimes earn higher salaries.  Women who live within more traditional forms of patriarchy, given their poverty, find it harder to escape the burdens of patriarchal labor.  Wealthy women have been able to alleviate the more punishing aspects of misogyny, and continue to do so with even greater effect.  This is often done through their dumping the more punishing responsibilities for domestic labor on poorer women.   
               The labor of the globe is disproportionately people of color, especially women and girls.  But the colors of women vary enormously, depending on place and geographical location.  There are many more women of color in the middle classes today in China, Chile, Spain, etc. than in earlier history. This complex nexus of economic class cuts through and within colors, races, and cultures forming a newer racialized gendering of the global economy. 
               The global working class was never predominantly white, but rather colored men. Today it is predominantly colored girls and women.  It is the migrant and displaced labor of women and girls of color doing the “international transfer of care”: domestic work, nursing, nannies, etc.[21] The care related occupations develop with the growth of new middle classes. And yet these new workers are part of the continual migrant populations of displaced peoples, exiles, undocumented workers, traffickers, and so on.  There are 175 million people living outside their country of birth and approximately 49 percent of them are women and girls.  And of the 25 million persons internally displaced, 70 percent are women.[22] 
               There is an internal class hierarchy for women—as a gendered construct. In Shenzhen, China there is a full imprint of global capitalism.  There is an urban professional class of young women who now work for transnational companies.  These women are known as “white collar beauties” and they hire poor rural women to do their former domestic jobs.  At the same time, these urban professional women are being re-feminized from the so-called de-femininized heritage of Mao.[23]
               There has been much attention paid to the way that global capital disregards national boundaries and reconstructs new global economic formations.  I wish to point towards how global capital now also ignores and undermines the pre-existing borders of race and gender in new form.  Gender and race and the way they connect and define each other are destabilized by the hunt for girls and women’s labor. This search pulls women into the paid labor force and public workspace while realigning their private and public spheres.  The clear-cut divide between home and work is undermined by new global formations.  
               As women traverse both realms, sometimes freely, other times as enforced, the borderlines of established patriarchal gender morph.  As such, gender fluidity and its bending underpin the newest globe. Global capital re-genders and maybe un-genders labor while re-sexing it.  This does not mean that greater equality exists for women and girls, but it means that there is more sexual fluidity.          
               New forms of genders and their practices allow more flexibility that challenges the privileging of sexual hierarchy and sexual differentiation.  Although many women have more choices today than their mothers did there are also greater economic inequalities and therefore greater burdens to bear.  Because class divisions differentiate genders and races they appear to have more diversity, and possibly fluidity
               Do not misunderstand my querying here.  I do not think patriarchy or white privilege or misogyny will wither away due to the assaults of global capitalism. I rather think that global capitalism destabilizes genders and races as we have known them, and will do its best to reformulate them for its new/est needs.  I rather point to several other important claims: that the new fluidity and diversity within the constructs of gender and race should not be misinterpreted as though they mean civil and women’s rights have been achieved; that existing constructs of racism and sexism need new political conceptualization; that these new complexities prove that race and gender are endlessly malleable and therefore open to all kinds of new regressive and progressive possibility; that gender and race are both newly punishing, and not.
               In sum: countries are more racially diverse and mixed than they used to be during colonialism, when the mother country often remained white. Today, a country like the U.S. is richly colored and racially diverse with people from all over the globe.  As well, gender today is also more differentiated and complex.  More economic differences exist within engendered misogyny.  Although women have always inhabited countries, in a way that multiple races have not, the spaces women occupy have become more differentiated in labor markets.  
               All this said the incredible pluralism of choice that challenges the glass ceilings remains possible for a precious few.  And in this sense, radically plural genders and races continue to be embedded in white privilege and misogynist hierarchy for the masses of poor people across the globe. Yet, alongside these limitations, I also continue to look to find and see the newest racialized gender and gendered racial formations for their possibilities to enliven a politics of a newly radical democracy.



What is a woman, anyway? And who needs to know?


There is a lot of talk at present about what it means to qualify as a woman, especially if you are running in and competing in an athletic race. Caster Semenya, the South African runner, has been said to have too much testosterone and internal testes and no ovaries and uterus.  As such, her female status is in question. This querying of sex categorizations is much older and broader than this present controversy about athletics.  Sigmund Freud asked and wondered about it.  So did Simone de Beauvoir.

While others are wondering if Caster Semenya can qualify as female, which is also tied up with notions of being a woman, I wonder if Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton should be tested for their testosterone levels. Hillary started her run for the presidency making clear she was not running as a woman, but because of her experience.  And then she went to extraordinary lengths to prove that she could be a hard and tough commander-in-chief, just like a man.  Condi Rice authorized the dropping of bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan despite high civilian casualties.  She watched along with Bush and Cheney while black women and children were pummeled by hurricane Katrina.

Biologists, like Anne Fausto Sterling in her book Sexing the Body, have addressed this issue of sex categorization and its clarity. According to Fausto-Sterling, “labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision”; actual physical bodies blur clear boundaries.  She argues that the state and legal system may have an interest in maintaining that there are only two sexes, but that “our collective biological bodies do not.” She continues: “masculinity and femininity are cultural conceits”; that the “two party system” of sex is a social construction”; that male and female “stand on extreme ends of a biological continuum” with many other kinds of bodies which are a “complex mix of anatomical components.” As such, our sexual bodies are “indeterminate” and therefore “policed” to become male and female.

It then follows that biology, as well as gender, is bio-political; and the more gender is challenged, the more rigidly sex is constructed as either male or female.  This extends to hormones themselves; which Fausto-Sterling says are identified as though they were sexually determinant, but rather are simply part of an already “gendered discourse of scientists.” Citing Frank Lillie, Fausto-Sterling states that there is “no such biological entity as sex”, but rather it is merely a name for our impressions about sexual differences.  Sex is not fact here.  It is random acts of science that name male hormones androgens and female hormones estrogen.[24]

According to Joanne Meyerowitz there are “overlapping sexes”; possibly a universal bisexuality. Men and women have male and female hormones—“all women had elements of the male and all men elements of the female.” As such, it is scientifically inaccurate to “classify people as fully male or female.”[25]  In this sense, biology is not simply innate or genetically determined.  Nancy Krieger and George Davey Smith write that “societal conditions shape the expression of biological traits”; that there are “linkages between bodily constitution and the body politics”.[26]  New constructs of sexes and genders reflect this fluidity.  Krieger argues further that transgender, transsexual and intersexual blur the established boundaries between and within the gender/sex dichotomy.  Gender influences biological traits and sex linked biological characteristics can affect gender.[27]

Similarly Susan Oyama queries the nature/nurture divide and says that each is partly constructed by and through the other. She rejects the notion of biology as an innate category and instead argues that innate and acquired are complexly intertwined—that genes are complexly interactional and change as a result of context. “Bodies and minds are constructed, not transmitted.” As such, nature is a product and a process; “nature is not transmitted but constructed.” The biological/sexual body includes our whole selves “which includes the social worlds in which we are made.” Oyama asks us to reject the “disciplinary imperialism” of “genetic control.”[28]

It is then crucial to understand that gender impinges on how we see and name the sexual body; and the sexual body is used to justify the very notion of gender.  Gender even defines the sexed body and the sexed body constructs gender.  There are several sexes, and more than two.  And there are more than two genders.  Yet the language of two-ness dominates.  This means that both sex and gender are part of the most intimate constructions of our political world.

It is often thought that sexuality—as in biological sex and sexual preference–is more stable, or static, and predefined, than gender.  But I wonder whether gender—as in the cultural construction of masculine and feminine–is not more static and contrived and more resistant to change.[29]  In this way, gender rigidifies sex. Gender regulates sex and sexual preference as much, if not more, than the other way around. This is not to overdraw the distinctness of sex and gender but rather to query whether the body and its sexuality is not more ambiguous and multiple and diverse than the constructs of gender allow.  Or put slightly differently: that gender exists to control sex and its variability. Gender makes biological sex and sexuality static and rigid.  The point: neither sex nor gender are simply essentialist or constructed. Rather, they are a complex relational mix.  But, given this, the sexual body is probably more fluid than its gendered meaning.  Yet, the biological body—meaning both the so-called `natural body’ and its given hetero-sexual proclivities–is normalized as a justification for the cultural meanings of men and women.  In sum: gender colonizes sex.

I disagree with Peggy Orenstein’s depiction of the problem in “What makes a Woman a Woman?” when she says “biology, at least to some degree, is destiny.”[30] For me, biology matters but is not destiny.  I do not depict nature and nurture in dichotomous form.  Nature is nurtured, and nurture natured.  Women are not simply socially constructed or biologically determined.  We are always both our bodies and their surroundings; bodies reflect cultures and cultures define bodies.  There is no separation that allows clear borders even though people insist as though there were.

Orenstein says that breast cancer was an assault to her femininity.  Fine, but my breast cancer was not for me.  Years later, I have no female body parts left—given that vaginas do not appear declarative–and I do not wonder who I am, or whether I am still female or a woman.  Technically, biologically, I am not female according to established and narrow criteria.  Culturally I am a defiant and insurgent woman that means that I don’t care what others think I am.  Do not get me wrong.  I love jewelry and beautiful clothes, and complete decadent sensuality.  I just do not care how you choose to categorize it.

What is the central need of sexual assignment?  The distinctions are being found to be more arbitrary than reasoned. This simply means that any categorization of biological sex could be drawn differently and according to differently agreed upon standards.  This is not about right and wrong but about how differences destroy the very clarity needed for such judgments.

This gets me back to the title query.  Who needs to know what any of us are? And why?  If we each are human with a sexuality, then we remain curious and multiple rather than singular and bordered. There are cyber bodies, and legal bodies and breast cancer bodies, and AIDS bodies, and pregnant bodies, and gendered bodies, and war bodies, and tortured bodies, and on and on.

Judith Butler has long argued that gender is made-up, performed, plastic, improvised, and multiple.  Enforced gender categorization is tied to an “anatomical essentialism” when there is no simple original form of the copy.  She thinks that many so-called men can do femininity better than she can. A universal notion of gender can be a form of cultural imperialism—so we need to pluralize our understanding of both cultures and their genders.  If gender dysphoria and sexual minorities can be embraced and recognized in the human community then Butler says we most focus on the possible.  “For those who are still looking to become possible, possibility is a necessity.”[31]

The idea that here are two biological sexes is then in and of itself a political limitation/regulation that depends on a formulation of gender as two-ness too.  Sexual and gender classifications are regulatory and by and large stand in defiance of the fluidity and changeability of sexual and gender identities.  Sex is assigned at birth; but through a gendered biological visor.  According to Paisley Currah this denies chromosomal ambiguity, gonadal ambiguity, gender pluralism and sexual indeterminacy.[32]

But there is no adequate language to embrace this complexity so we recreate gender while debunking it: female lesbians, female men, etc.   Sexual and gender indeterminacy needs to become a part of a radically pluralized sex/gender system allowing for a democratic sexual life that is freely chosen.  The presumption however of essentialist biological/innate gender categories still remains firmly in place even when they are scrutinized. Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University explains that women are underrepresented in tenured science positions at top universities because of “intrinsic aptitude” sounding awfully close to innate differences; as though scientists are born, and not made.[33]

Language that flexes with radically plural definitions and meanings is what I search for.  And the level playing field will be made out of this cacophony, not the fantasized notion of two types.


On Audaciously New Anti-Racist Feminisms

It is crucial at this historical moment to stand clearly against imperial feminisms that do not recognize the laboring masses of females and males of all colors across the globe. This means that I stand in total opposition to the aggrandizement of the few—even if they are women and of all colors—if their lives stand on the backs of the rest of us.  It means that a language of women’s rights is no longer, if it ever was, enough to imagine with because these rights are at their heart remain exclusionary and unjust.

I am compelled but also cautious of Nicholas Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s stance that “women’s rights are the cause of our time”.[34]  Although much of their focus on the sexual exploitation—rape, violence towards, and trafficking of women and girls—is needed it is also wanting today. Rights discourse continues to cover over the structural webs of power that require built-in exploitation and oppression that remain extra-legal.

And, the division of women as victim in the 3rd world and victimless in the 1st perpetuates its own form of prejudice and ignorance.  As well, these travesties against women stand alongside and with the violation and devastation of women in war-torn countries across the globe, where the U. S. is often the aggressor.  And there are few women’s rights to be had, or for that matter anyone’s rights, in war.

Many more women today have become the newest safety net that was once often provided by governments.  With neo-liberal privatization regulating the globe females are often times the only ones addressing the every-day challenges and burdens people face daily.  It is the usual that women manage the food, water and other environmental sources in ghetto and slum and all kind of communities.  Women remain and have newly become an essential part of the globe’s infrastructure. Their very bodies and their labor create crucial aspects of the global economic infrastructure.  Their familial and cultural networks create whatever sustainability may exist.

Women are also disproportionately the globe’s migrants, refugees and displaced persons.  They remain and have become both—the most necessary and sustaining component of the global economy while suffering its injustices the most profoundly. As a result, the globe is in the midst of a de-balancing of the sexual division of labor that has been rooted in engendered public and private spatial divides.  As global capital has undermined nations and families women have blasted through the established and traditional gendered boundaries.

This newest reformulation of the patriarchal globe may require corporate interests to invest and sustain in this newly forming gendered structure.  As such, women’s “rights” may be the newest requirements of capital to ease the pressures of the privatized globe.  Just do not confuse women’s rights with women’s empowerment or liberation. Or, as one in the same with the many extraordinary feminisms that females across the globe are creating.

Women’s rights, in the past, are often times identified with Western, or liberal feminist agendas.  But with all the flux and differentiation and chaos in females’ lives, no singular notion of feminism or “rights” for that matter will do. Nor is it how many feminists understand the complexity of their own lives.

A group of trans people—travestis, transgenders, transsexuals—who identify as feminist but say they do not consider themselves to be “new subjects for feminism”.  Instead they say they are feminists, “each one in her own way and after her own fashion”.  They seek to challenge the differing ways in which patriarchy “oppresses every single person, female subject or male subject, who does not fit into its normative parameters of privilege.” [35] They push the borders of feminism because their sexualities and their races demand this.

With so many class and racial and gendered formations and practices of female bodies, feminisms must recognize the entirety of these complexities while also embracing doubt.  Given historical and cultural changes, especially in the global economy, revisions and re-articulations of feminisms are necessitated.  Feminisms cannot remain static or bound by the ‘west’ if they are to re-address all people’s humanity.

The Somali Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets stuck doing just this: she falsely oppositions Islam and feminism because of the misogynist practices of her own radically patriarchal Somali Muslim family. But there are many Islams, and there is as many Islamic feminisms as there are “wests”.  She believes that the only hope for Muslim women is the western form of feminism, and she assumes there is just one kind of this.[36]

Women in Zimbabwe, and Rwanda, and Congo can teach people everywhere that females can stand against war, militarism, rape and devastation, to build peaceful communities despite the horrific suffering of the most despicable atrocities. These African women’s movements for reconciliation and rebuilding their countries have much to teach about the miraculous possibility of rebirth. The reality that survivors of the Rwandan genocide say that there is no choice but to reconcile—even if one cannot forget one must forgive— demands much from the rest of us.[37]

Indigenous feminisms from parts of the world both far and near demand that economic and racial inequalities be recognized and redressed. For some this means that public resources cannot be privatized and land resources and basic food security must be self-governing. It means that the earth is sacred and must be protected as such. Multicultural, multilingual and multiracial life is embedded in the very idea of being female.

The Lipan-Apache women live along the Texas/Mexico border which is a zone of conflict defined by militarization, militarism, border walls, repression, dispossession and security technology.  They think the territorial conflict between the U.S. and Mexico ranks similarly with the Israeli/Palestinian divide.  Both regions are militarized along a bordered wall.

Texas has the highest percentage of medically uninsured children in the nation, and is dead last in the percentage of residents with high school diplomas.  It has America’s dirtiest air.  It sentences the most prison inmates to death. No surprise that these Lipan-Apache women wish for safe potable water, usable housing, medical care, education and an end to gender violence.  Margo Tamez is founder of the Indigenous Peoples laws which “give primacy to indigenous egalitarian systems, as opposed to Euro-American derived, assimilated and socialized hierarchical structures and institutions”.[38]

These indigenous visions must frame feminisms in order that imperial power is displaced by the needs of people with their ears close to the ground, and their eyes towards the sky. These feminisms cross fertilize environmental protection with peace and economic justice while respecting ancestral lands, water, and air.  Such knowledge from indigenous beginnings deepens and complexifies our world view.  It demands that we look for new knowledge for living justly.  And living justly requires that we protect each other in birth and death while insuring the health of the land, food, water and air.

Let me return to the importance of doubt….and the necessity of risking everything to change this world filled with too much sorrow.  I continue to believe that women of all colors will commit to this struggle because there is less and less choice not to.  And, as more and more people are included by feminisms—as sexuality, and genders, and races and classes redefine their many meanings—feminisms may well be the inclusive politics for almost everyone.[39]


A momentary Postscript


I finished, or thought I had finished this writing yesterday.  But then last evening I was reminded, yet again, how high the stakes are just now in relation to anything called feminism.  Ross Douthat, in his “No Mystique About Feminism” in the New York Times writes that it is a victory for feminism that so many Republican women, and Conservative Republican women, at that, won in the primaries last Tuesday.  Sarah Palin embraces these women as “mama grizzlies” and hails their “emerging feminist identity”.  And Douthat hails what he sees as a big umbrella of fractious interests within feminism as a triumph of the women’s movement.[40]  But, this conservative business oriented and anti-abortion/reproductive rights Republican women are no cause for celebration.  Feminists that do not embrace the full egalitarianism of all peoples, and recognize the structural constraints limiting their lives are a diversion, not a completion of feminist vision.

The issue is not about whether Sarah Palin—or any right-wing female is a feminist or not.  How could Palin not be a feminist in some limited sense given that she has Title IX to thank for her fabulous athletic body?   This is however about creating new feminisms for this moment and not allowing right-wing females to parade as women’s rights activists.  The stakes could not be higher for the entire globe that the most radically democratic feminisms imaginable become key players in this struggle for a just world.





[1] See my The Audacity of Races and Genders; A Personal and Global Story of the Obama Election (London: Zed Books, 2009).

[2] Quoted in, Calvin Tomkins, “Lines of Resistance”, The New Yorker, January 18, 2010, p.59.

[3] For a full accounting of the idea “new-old” see my Global Obscenities; Patriarchy, Capitalism and the Lure of Cyberfantasy  (New York: New York University Press, 1998).

[4] “New U.N. Report Pushes Gender as a Social Construct not based in Nature”, www.c-fam.org/publications/id.1452/pub_detail.asp


[5] Maria Shriver, “The Shriver Report”, A study by the Center for American Progress, found at http://awomansnation.com/awn.php


[6] Lisa Belkin, “Judging Women”, New York Times Magazine,  May 23, 2010, p. 12.

[7] Katha Pollitt, “Working Women: Strength in Numbers”, The Nation, vol. 259, no. 16, p. 10

[8] Mark Landler, “A New Gender Agenda, an interview with Hillary Clinton”, New York Times Magazine, August 23, 2009, pp. 41-43.  Also see the rest of the magazine for many discussions of women’s rights as the major cause of this time.

[9] Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010); and Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (New York: The New Press, 2010).

[10] Elisabeth Mumiller, “In Camouflage Or Afghan Veil, A Fragile Bond”, New York Times, May 30, 2010, p. A1.

[11] Doreen Carvajal, “Women Put Own Stamp on Mission in Liberia”, New York Times, March 23, 2010, p. A12.

[12] James Dao, “Drill Sergeant at Heart, She Ascends to a top Spot in the Army”,  New York Times, September, 22, 2009, p. A1.

[13] Lizette Alvarez,  “G.I. Jane Stealthily Breaks the Combat Barrier”, New York Times, August 16, 2009, p. A1.

[14] Yana Kunichoff, “Women Soldiers in Iraq Who Become Pregnant Face Court-Martial”, December, 2009. See: http://www.truthout.org/1221097

[15] Sara Corbett, “The Women’s War”, New York Times Magazine, March 18, 2007), pp. 41-72

[17] Lizette Alvarez, “Wartime Soldier, Conflicted Mom”, New York Times, , September 27, 2009, p. A. 1.

[18] Sam Roberts, “A Nation of None and all of the Above”, The New York Times , August 17, 2008, p.wk6.

[19] P.W. Singer, Wired for War, (New York: Penguin Press, 2009), p. 102.

[20] See my Sexual Decoys, Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy (London: Zed Press, 2007), especially chapters 1 and 2, for a full discussion of my use of the term, sexual decoy.

[21] Robyn Magalit Rodriquez, “The Labor Brokerage State and the Globalization of Filipina Care Workers”, Signs, vol. 33, no. 4 (Summer, 2008), p. 795.

[22] Adele Jones, “A Silent but Mighty River: The Costs of Women’s Economic Migration”, Signs, vol. 33, no. 4 (Summer, 2008), pp. 761, 762.

[23] Zhongxin Sun, “Worker, Woman, Mother: Redefining Urban Chinese Women’s Identity Via Motherhood and the Global Workplace”, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, vol. 14, no. 1 (2008), pp. 7-33.

[24] Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body (New York: Basic Books, 2000), pp. 3, 31, 32, 40, 54, 177, 179, 188.

[25] Joanne Meyerowitz, How Sex Changed (Cambridge: Harvard university Press, 2002), p. 28

[26] Nancy Krieger and George Davey Smith, “Bodies Count and Body Counts: Social Epidemiology and Embodying Inequality”, Epidemiologic Reviews, vol. 26, 2004, pp. 92, 93.

[27] Nancy Krieger, “Genders, Sexes, and Health”, International Journal of Epidemiology , vol. 32 (2003), p. 652.

[28] Susan Oyama, Evolutions Eye (Durham University Press, 2000), pp. 3, 18, 22, 28, 29, 48, 191.

[29] Although this has been a central query for feminist theory for over two decades now I particularly wish to address this issue in terms of its relevance for my viewing of sex and gender decoys.

[30]  New York Times Magazine, Sept. 13, 2009, pp. 11-12.


[31] Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 1, 7, 9, 31, 213.

[32] Paisley Currah, “The Transgender Rights Imaginary”, The Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law , vol. 705 (Spring, 2003), pp.705-720.

[33] Lawrence Summers, “Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversitfying the Science and Engineerig Workforce”, January 14, 2005, available at: www. president.harvard.edu/speeches/2005/nber.htm

[34] Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2009).

[35] From the Trans-Feminists Statement, delivered at the Latin American Feminist Encuentro at http://ar.mujer.yahoo.com/cocina/

[36] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nomad (New York: Free Press, 2010).

[37] Jean Hatzfeld, The Antelope’s Strategy (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007).

[38] Lipan Apache Women Defense documents.  See: http://lipanapachecommunitydefense.blogspot.com


[39] This makes me think of bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2000).

[40] Ross Douthat, “No Mystique About Feminism”, The New York Times, June 14, 2010, p. A21.

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