What makes Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s scholarly article “Under Western Eyes” a continually important text for postcolonial feminism (Mohanty’s article was first published in 1984, it was republished four years later in 1988) depends on how one connects the ideas that Mohanty articulates to present concerns.
One of Mohanty’s first points relates to the generalization of women. She critiques the way in which women are “socially constructed as a homogenous group.” Mohanty criticizes the Western-centric presentation of women and the tendency to analyze them, however unintentionally, from the vantage point of a white, Western matrix.
These points continue to be important because they relate to debates that feminists are engaged in right now. In Hood Feminism, which was published in 2020, Mikki Kendall shares Mohanty’s concerns about the dominance of white woman within feminist discourse. Kendall involves herself in Mohanty’s postcolonial feminist conversation when she says that feminists shouldn’t presume that every woman needs to be “saved” from the hijab.
Mohanty’s examination of the reductive, universalism of women could also be seen as an important precursor to debates about representation. As more women occupy positions of power in society, some feminists, taking up Mohanty’s argument, feel the need to state that one woman doesn’t automatically represent the interests of all women. Women are not a monolithic group. The ascension of a woman to, say, the position of vice president of the United States, doesn’t inevitably provide clear material benefits for all women throughout the world.