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Reconciling Western and Arab Feminisms
This article attempts to address how Western and Arab (North and South) feminists are able to envision solidarity and empower women across local and national boundaries through (1) connecting local and global gender issues and (2) reconciling Western feminist scholarships and Arab women’s culturally specific positions in international and cross-cultural frameworks. Given the historical background of the Middle East, there is a need to understand multiple factors such as class, nation, racism, sexism, colonialism and imperialism that influence Arab women’s struggles for liberation. Arab women’s struggles cannot be defined and situated in a context that removes the diversity of their historical experiences, location, religion and cultural factors. I would like to examine how Arab women are marginalized within the sphere of Western feminism(s) because they have been portrayed as passive victims instead of active participants seeking mobility and changes in their society. In dismantling the binary construct of East/West, liberated/oppressed, colonizers/colonized and progressive/backwards in global feminist discourses, there is an urgent need for a cross-cultural dialogue between Western and Arab feminisms in order to create space that allows differences to be recognized and examined, and crafting a meeting point for women to relate across their differences. For Western feminists trying to make sense of Middle Eastern issues and Arab women’s struggles, solidarity will remain elusive unless they recognize that women’s experiences and struggles cannot be separated from race, class, nation, colonization and imperialism.
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