How has globalization affected gender issues? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with all inquiry into globalization, the answer is complex.  On one hand, I think that a case can be made that globalization has constructed a homogeneity where generating wealth and its accumulation are the only elements that matter.  Globalization has blurred gender issues with its emphasis on material consumerism and the idea that technological advances can make everyone "the same."  A case can be made that globalization has empowered the those in the position of power and the drive for money has reduced the complexity of gender issues to issues of wealth and poverty.  In this light, the focus on class and material reality has obscured the fight for gender equality.  Globalization has sought to make the international bazaar one in which we examine commercial progress and access to the benefits of such progress, sometimes at the cost of gender issues or gender awareness.  In a world linked by cellular technology, driven by the latest "tablet," and one where Skyping and Tweeting are all that matter, gender issues seem to blur into something more homogeneous.

However, an equally compelling case can be made that these elements that have sought to make our world "smaller" have also generated a resurgence of gender awareness.  Women who might have lived lives in other parts of the world, unaware of how other women live, can now demonstrate an understanding what it means to be a woman around the world.  Technology has enabled the woman in sub Saharan Africa to understand what it means to be a woman in Beijing.  The woman in New York City can see what life is like in rural India.  Being a woman has become something that can be transmitted and communicated with greater ease in a globalized setting.  Along these lines, the fight for gender identity has become something that is not "Western" or "Eastern" but rather a global issue for all.  For example, when Malala is shot, it is not a statement about women's rights in Pakistan, but rather one that opens a discussion about education for women around the world.  Feminism is becoming largely understood as not merely a construct of "the West," but something that all women around the world must comprehend:

Female genital mutilation has been justified on the grounds that it is a cultural tradition. The idea that women should not be deprived of their most basic rights has been dubbed “cultural imperialism,” so that feminism is billed as an attempt to impose American or Western culture in other countries.  As feminists we need to know this argument is not true. Women from all cultures in the world want to have full equality to men, want to have the right to selfdetermination, to education, to birth control. These are not Western and certainly not American ideas. The suggestion that they are is merely a ploy on the part of backlash movements.

At the same time, embracing a more globalized view of what it means to be a woman has sought to reinvigorate a discussion of what it means to be a woman all over the world.  Many women in the West see issues of contraception denial in one part of the world as something that must be stopped everywhere:  "Americans have their own contingent of people who believe in forcing women back into the home, denying them control over reproduction and economic self-determination."  In this light, it can be argued that globalization has done much to universalize the cause of women's rights, impacting gender issues in a progressive manner.

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