• Gender, Feminism, Antifeminism, and Imperialism

  • By Susan Zimmermann | 07 Mar 17 | Posted under: Antiracism/Migration , Feminisms , History
  • Notes from a Gender History Perspective on the Current Debates Around Male Immigrant Attitudes Towards Women

    This contribution to current debates around the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, first presented at the workshop Crises and Victims in Budapest in February 2016,1 discusses from a gender-history perspective past and present invocations of women’s emancipation and women’s subordination in asymmetric transnational and cross-culture discourse and politics. The aim is to understand why and how, since the nineteenth century at the latest, gender has played a pronounced role in negotiating the asymmetric relationship between ‘white’ and ‘brown’ countries and populations worldwide. In particular, I look at various instances and long-term trends of how Western imperialism, some white and some non-white feminisms, as well as anti- feminist and anti-Western ideologies emerging in the Global South, have invoked the ‘woman question’ in these discursive, political, and military encounters. I then discuss how the critique of this long-term trajectory of unequal interaction can help us to counter the growing agitation around male immigrants’ attitudes towards women, including sexual atrocities committed by brown men on white women, and to avoid some of the traps in arguments and politics encountered by activists and scholars who have wanted to counter the appropriation of women’s rights’ discourses into an anti-refugee racism. Specifically, I argue that a consideration of the history of the entanglement between globalising gender politics and global inequality can serve as a conceptual foundation for developing an alternative perspective on the present condition within Europe, when anti-refugee discourse and policy is systematically built on invoking ‘Western’ gender norms. In conclusion, I present some strategies for arguing against forms of reference to women’s rights and women’s equality for racist and imperial aims in present-day Europe.

    The invention of globalising gender policies in the long nineteenth century

    Historically, globalising gender politics constituted one element of many and historically ever more diversified types of international and transnational policies and discourses within a deeply unequal and hierarchically organised world system. A vignette exemplifying British approaches to treaties with non-sovereign entities in the middle of the nineteenth century may serve as a point of departure for my argument on how gender became implicated in these global interactions. In this period, commanders of the British Royal Navy – at the time the world’s uncontested leading maritime power – and other British authorities concluded dozens of treaties and agreements with dozens of rulers reigning over territories on the African coast. The chief aim of most of the treaties was to establish free trade in these territories and to suppress the African and transatlantic slave trade in which many of these rulers and their subjects, as well as foreign slave traders residing in these territories, were involved. Representatives of the British Crown were granted superior rights to monitor and if need be use force to ensure compliance with the related stipulations. The suppression of the slave trade, repeatedly described as ‘a dictate of humanity’ in these treaties, was one of the most significant humanitarian goals the British pursued internationally in the mid-nineteenth century.2 The ‘Engagement of the King and Chiefs of Bimbia’, signed on 31 March 1848 by rulers of a coastal territory in what today is Cameroon, exemplifies this type of treaty-making. These rulers committed themselves ‘to do away with the abominable, inhuman, and un- Christian like custom of sacrificing Human Lives […] on account of their superstitious practices’, which included sacrificing a ‘Chief’s’ wife upon his death.3 Parallel humanitarian goals included the human treatment of prisoners of war who otherwise would be killed, the fight against ‘polygamy’, etc.

    It is important to underline that reference to gender norms and practices was only one of the elements of international humanitarianism and that it took many forms. Despite these complexities the globalising gender and humanitarian policies addressed here were characterised by a number of fundamental traits. They combined their universalising argument about the global reach, and the non-negotiability, of certain norms as rooted in ‘the dictate of humanity’, on the one hand, with the claim that these norms and values were rooted in Christianity or, in the standards of the (originally) European ‘family of nations’ or, later on, the (globalising) ‘international community’, on the other. These policies also de-contextualised these norms and standards so that each of them could serve as a non-negotiable point of reference for trans-border ‘single issue’ policies. As a result, such globalising gender policies could be considered legitimate in whatever other framework they were pursued, which included global power politics, colonial and imperial policies, military intervention, etc.

    International interaction with non-Western entities and powers was thus predicated on their commitment to an evolving ‘standard of civilisation’ in international law, and recognition of these powers as partners in international law was predicated on their adherence to this ‘standard’. Gerrit Gong has argued that gendered norms and gender values constituted one important element of the ‘standard’ as a legal configuration and the related nineteenth- century policies and discourses. The ‘standard’ functioned as a malleable legal device, which as its ‘most elastic, and most subjective’ element involved certain humanitarian norms, namely the ‘demand that a country’ accepted certain ‘“civilized” norms’. A country was considered civilised only if it was in conformity with ‘the accepted norms and practices of the “civilized” international society’, including, in these early days, the condemnation of so- called ‘sati’, i.e., widow burning or widow sacrifice, and polygamy.4 These requirements were at the core of the emerging globalising gender policies.

    The fundamental traits of globalising gender policies were to be found not only in treaty-making and formal political engagement with non-Western powers and other entities considered non-sovereigns in the (Western- dominated) international system. A similar logic also characterised other dimensions of globalising gender policies, including less formalised global reform and gender discourses as well as intra-empire colonial policies. One of the best researched examples is the long-term British-Indian encounter over so-called sati. In Great Britain, driven by Christian missionaries and the humanitarian movement, a strong campaign against so-called sati in India unfolded after 1810. Its proponents argued that Britain had a duty to bring civilisation to her Indian subjects, focusing in particular on the ill-treatment of women. While the argument was based on reference to ‘suffering humanity’, it was largely addressed to powerful men who exercised colonial authority to act on behalf of suffering women. In this way, the anti-sati campaign legitimised imperial power in the name of both humanity and Western civilisation, on the one hand, and of saving suffering non-Western women, on the other. A first milestone towards the full abolition of sati in British India was reached in 1829.5

    Feminism and the discourse of women’s emancipation from their very ‘proto-feminist’ beginnings in the late eighteenth century were deeply involved in this imperialism of globalising gender policies. As Clare Midgley has persuasively argued, already the earliest (proto-) feminist tracts in the period between 1790 and 1869 built explicitly on the identification of appropriate gender relations and progress in the status of women as belonging to Christian and Western civilisation, and the consequent identification of non-Western societies as despotic or corrupt entities keeping women in a state of abject subordination. In so doing, these tracts construed still-existing women’s subordination within Western civilisation as an anomaly and/or as an anachronistic remainder of its ‘uncivilised’ past. Women’s subordination was, in other words, construed as ‘un-Western’, and women’s emancipation as modern and Western in character.6 This made it possible, within the various frameworks of unequal global interaction and unequal interaction between dominant and dominated non-white populations, to both construct adherence to women’s equality as positive identification with Western values and justify policies of domination by invoking women’s equality.

    So far I have discussed some of the origins of the association of women’s emancipation with the West, as well as the concomitant imperial overtones or substantive imperial traits of globalising gender policies in the nineteenth century. This history was to have dramatic consequences for the fate of women’s emancipation in both dominated and dominant world regions, and amongst dominant white and dominated brown populations both globally and locally, that is, in the framework of how ‘first world’ white societies relate to brown immigration and brown refugees.

    The internationalisation of gender imperialism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

    The twentieth and twenty-first centuries can be considered the period in which globalising gender policies have been transformed into one important element of more modern forms of global governance, which on the surface might appear less imperial than their nineteenth century predecessors. However, even a cursory glance at the history of gendered global governance reveals that this historical process can better be characterised as a transformation of imperialism and even an expansion of imperialism.

    The origins of this transformation reach back to the multilateralisation of globalising gender policies which began in earnest in the last third of the nineteenth century. In the aftermath of the First World War this was followed by the institutionalisation of international organisation embodied by the League of Nations. In the process, gender imperialism was stripped of important dimensions of its geographical and geopolitical identification with the West. Those gender values which were deemed universal and had formerly been associated with the West increasingly came to be associated with the ‘family of nations’ and later on the ‘international community’ as such. This international community uniformly called upon all sovereign countries to conform to certain standards of acceptable behaviour. In the process of de-colonisation, for the emerging third-world members of the international community progression to sovereignty was connected to invoking these standards. During the short twentieth century the international community thus assumed at least ‘soft’ authority in terms of monitoring compliance with or approximation to these standards. After the end of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union disappearing as a rival power in the Global South, the soft authority developed during the short twentieth century gradually was complemented by the new ‘humanitarian’ and military intervention of our day.

    Unequally globalising gender policies in the short twentieth and in the twenty-first centuries took on important additional traits. International organisations claimed international authority – instead of imperial authority, as in the nineteenth century – to intervene in gender relations and promote women’s human rights in many parts of the world. This international authority was not without imperial bias. One example, analysed by Keith David Watenpaugh among others, was the response of the League of Nations to women and children survivors of the Armenian genocide. During and after the end of the First World War Armenian women and children were, on a large scale, sequestered, forcefully adopted, or enslaved into Muslim households, subjected to forced conversion or marriage, etc. The ensuing rescue operation coordinated by the League and feminist activists working in its orbit focused on the fate of these women, emphatically identified as Christian women in the Muslim society of the dissolving Ottoman Empire. The rescue operation at the time was considered a pioneering intervention because of its truly international character.7 Yet it also epitomised the ongoing global inequality which continued to be at the root of globalising gender policies. It was addressed at a weak non-Western power, with its dominant population deemed unable or unwilling to address the problem. It thoroughly de-contextualised the problem it aimed to address and was built on universalised humanitarian values. Intervention in this case was justified with reference to the fate of Christian rather than Muslim women.

    Feminist politics were once again implicated in generating new forms of gendered global governance. From the 1930s on, women internationalists seized the new opportunities of globalising gender policies pursued within and around the League of Nations, and later the United Nations, to campaign for the development of an overarching international gender equality doctrine and regime. They made use, on the one hand, of the newly established and gradually expanding global governance and international authority to promote, from above, the emancipation of women everywhere in the world via instruments aimed at ensuring that gender equality and women’s rights are enshrined in international conventions and international law. On the other hand, it became apparent already in the 1930s that success in this regard in the international arena was predicated on the separation of the gender equality agenda from other agendas.8 The separation of the gender equality agenda from the problem of unequal global interaction in particular made it difficult to avert the absorption of the emerging international women’s rights’ regime into various forms of the politics of global inequality. The Cold War decades saw, at least in the Global South, less emphasis on the imperial politics of gender-equality and women’s human rights. However, since the 1990s women’s rights have been increasingly emphasised in global governance and various military as well as discursive operations – amongst them the paradigms of humanitarian intervention, the ‘responsibility to protect’ and the responses to ‘conflict-related sexual violence’. Sara Meger has shown how, starting with the initial UN Security Council Resolution 1325 adopted in 2000, ‘conflict-related sexual violence’ has developed into a narrowly defined, and homogenised and objectified, concept which has come to function as a ‘a commodity fetish of higher value than all other forms of gender-based violence’ in international politics. This has helped Western governments to mobilise support for military intervention abroad by stressing the sexual violence committed by ISIS (while defunding domestic support systems for survivors of sexual violence), and has entailed the ‘unanticipated effect’ of sexual violence developing into a tool for perpetrators to gain international media attention and increased bargaining power.9 This last point raises the question of the global impact of, and responses to, globalising gender policies, a question to which I will turn next.

    The global co-construction of gender traditionalism

    Imperial policies of globalising Western gender norms historically played an important role not only in terms of ‘modernising’ non-Western gender regimes. They have also contributed to ossifying, and indeed creating and expanding, gender traditionalism in many places – a fact which in no way exonerates from responsibility those who do not respect women’s rights. Two characteristics of globalising gender policies in particular played an important role in creating and sustaining this dynamic.

    First, as imperial and Western discourse and policies engaged in a sustained manner with those gender practices of non-Western societies which were deemed ‘abominable, inhuman, and un-Christian’ they themselves contributed to the reification and culturisation of these practices. Intense discursive and political engagement with these practices and the collection of extensive information about them inevitably publicised these practices. In some cases the colonisers exaggerated, reified, or redefined the religious dimension of customs, as Jörg Fisch has argued in the case of so-called sati in India, where ‘the British’, because they ‘were so afraid of interfering in religious customs, [...] explored the religious character of widow burning, thereby partly creating this character in practice’.10 In other cases, colonisers preferred partial legal action, that is, regulation and restriction, over abolition. They were anxious not to unnecessarily antagonise colonised populations or male colonial elites over an issue which easily could be deemed private or subject to religious law and which was not by definition a key issue in terms of the material dimension of colonial policies. Yet even as certain gender practices were relegated to the realm of ‘native’ or ‘religious’ custom, they underwent a process of codification inasmuch as colonial legislation codified and legally subordinated these realms. Whatever the precise combination of these various motivations and policies, taken together they contributed to the legal and cultural reification of what now was considered ‘un-Western’ gender norms and practices.

    Second, globalising gender policies provoked outright opposition within the Global South against imperial interference in gender regimes in non- Western settings. Some of this opposition was imprisoned from the very beginning in the very rhetoric created by globalising gender policies itself, namely the language of both global universal values (when talking about gender imperialism) and cultural or religious essentialism (when talking about non-Western gender practices). A petition issued in 1830 by Indian opponents of the abolition of so-called sati by the British directly opposed the invocation of the ‘common voice of mankind’ as a justification for abolition. ‘By what right are the holy dictates of our religion brought down to be measured by so low and vague a standard?’, the petition asked.11

    Opposition could be informed by quite a number of divergent interests, and it could be outspoken or silent about these respective interests. In the case of the international rescue operation for Armenian women and children in the early 1920s, for example, both male representatives of the Muslim elite and Turkish feminists defended the practice of enforced integration of these women and children into Muslim households. While the former regarded the practice as one of giving ‘shelter’ to women and children who would have lacked any protection otherwise and challenged the rescue operation as a completely illegal intervention into the domestic affairs of the heads of Muslim male households, one Turkish feminist defended it as an attempt to erase national difference in a moment of extreme threat to the Turkish nation.12

    Both opposition to and support of cross-border intervention developed numerous tactics of invoking gender imperialism or silencing reference to it. Brown male patriarchal interest could silently make its case for a patriarchal gender order by selling it as an anti-imperial defence of brown culture against interference by the West. The same interest could also claim that brown women speaking out against patriarchal violence or oppression in the country were betraying their own country and serving imperial interest. Numerous white feminists would invoke global feminism and solidarity with brown women when speaking out about patriarchal oppression in countries of the Global South while at the same time remaining silent about the involvement of their global feminism in the politics of gender imperialism. All of these discursive moves exploit the visible or invisibilised interconnection between gender, imperialism, and anti-imperialism.

    As globalising gender policies incorporated additional agendas in the later twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, opposition to these policies repeatedly invented new strategies of incorporating these same agendas into their oppressive arguments and action. While there have been many other reasons and motivations for pursuing retrograde and oppressive gender policies in the Global South and worldwide, it is undeniable that these ongoing unequal exchanges have proved harmful for endeavours to advance gender emancipation worldwide. Examples of such harmful exchanges include issues as variegated as the global institutionalisation of gender studies or the cross-border policies of promoting LGBT rights.

    The transnational policies of promoting LGBT rights – some of which could be seen as contributing to the reification or even fetishisation of these rights, just as in the case of ‘conflict-related sexual violence’ – have been accompanied by visible cross-border reverberations, for instance amongst radical anti-Western groups. Reporting at length on current Western sexual policies, the English-language online-journal Dabiq, which has been associated with ISIS, describes how Western countries use ‘their shirk-based parliaments to legalize sodomite marriage’ and ‘their education system to corrupt their children right from the kindergarten level by introducing books into the curriculum to combat “homophobia”’. Dabiq continues: ‘In the midst of this widespread affront to the fitrah (natural human disposition), the Islamic State continues its efforts against these deeds of misguidance – which Western “Civilization” regards as a part of their “values” – by implementing the rulings of Allah on those who practice any form of sexual deviancy or transgression.’ Dabiq does not fail to give the recent example of ‘a man found guilty of engaging in sodomy. He was taken to the top of a building and thrown off, as was one of the traditions … with those who committed this filthy deed.’13

    The fate and fortunes of academic gender studies in Eastern Europe is another example of the problematic implications of the imperialism of globalising gender policies. After the systemic change in Eastern Europe, Western science foundations offered large grants and possibilities to Eastern European countries or institutions to develop and institutionalise gender studies, while at the same time construing acceptance of the new discipline as a marker of adherence to liberal and democratic transformation. The fact that in this way gender studies and neoliberalism arrived in Eastern Europe as a package, that is, that gender was appropriated into neoliberalist expansionism, had awkward consequences for the prospects of progressive gender policies in Eastern Europe. The packaging nourished leftist groups’ suspicion that gender studies were something liberal rather than leftist, which consequently reinforced the prevalence of masculinism and patriarchal thinking in the Eastern European left, leaving more critical or leftist gender studies scholars without many allies in the region. Nationalists could sell their endorsement of new patriarchalism and restrictive gender norms as resistance to ‘Westernisation’.14

    The imperialism of globalising gender policies thus has contributed in many ways to the reification and culturisation of retrograde gender regimes and the invigoration of patriarchal social relations and gendered violence in the non-Western world. Reference has been made to women’s emancipation as a Western export to stabilise and rally support for restrictive gender orders. Most recently, news of systematically organised instances of violence against women has been enthusiastically circulated internationally and extolled as markers of heroically anti-Western policies.

    It can thus be argued that what usually comes across as a binary opposition between gender equality and women’s rights as a marker of Western societies on the one hand, and the archaic and inherently patriarchal character of non-Western gender orders on the other, needs to be re-conceptualised as a historical co-construction. Imbuing the idea of women’s rights with the idea of the superiority of white Western societies may well have contributed to generating some of the real and discursive gains in terms of women’s rights in the Western world and culture and, at the same time, some of the resistance to women’s rights in non-Western societies and cultures.

    No ‘we’ and no ‘them’ in the so-called ‘refugee crisis’: Resisting gender imperialism and resisting patriarchy can never be separate

    In conclusion, I aim to demonstrate that some of the problematic aspects of present-day discourses and policies focusing on brown male immigrants’ attitudes towards white women can be more effectively resisted when read against the backdrop of the above analysis of the historical and ongoing constellation of globalising gender policies. This perspective helps develop a set of arguments which might be helpful in countering the massive connection between the currently dominant discourse of women’s rights and anti-refugee racism and in avoiding some of the traps those of us who are committed to both women’s emancipation and anti-racism encounter when developing our own argument.

    While the slogan ‘rapefugees not welcome’ in this form is propagated by the far right, sentiment and discourse nourished by and implicitly building on this discourse has become widely accepted in large segments of the societies of the European Union, especially after the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. This sentiment and discourse effectively undermines solidarity with the refugees and legitimates extremely restrictive asylum and immigration policies. Measures such as a temporary ban of male asylum seekers from a municipal swimming pool after an incident of sexual attack by an asylum seeker in the facility have been widely reported in the media and become widely accepted. The discourse of ‘how do we react to sexual atrocities committed by asylum seekers’ and ‘how do we protect our gender values and gender culture against such atrocities’ has come to dominate TV talk shows and channels – while concomitantly any alternative political discourse questioning the very discursive foundations of such a discourse has effectively disappeared from public view. The discourse of differential legal treatment (that is, beyond the different treatment long established by now) for asylum seekers and other resident non-citizens and recently naturalised citizens in the event they violate ‘our’ gender norms has become fully socially acceptable. Gender and women’s rights thus have developed into key categories invoked to justify systematic erosion of the rights and normative legal guarantees that once came with citizenship and refugee status. Legitimated by reference to ‘our’ gender norms there is an erosion of fundamental legal guarantees and categories as such. Intense efforts are underway in terms of the compulsory education of young male refugees in Western gender culture – and, through this process, miniskirts and high heels as characteristics of this culture are normalised more than ever before, while sexual violence committed by Western men remains as closeted as it ever was, and gendered sexual violence committed by brown men against ‘their’ women is discussed or persecuted only if such discussion serves the policies of domination and exclusion.

    Meanwhile, when critical white feminists talk about brown men’s sexual misbehaviour in regard to white or brown women their discourse tends to be effectively and easily appropriated by the mainstream anti-refugee discourse, which insists on the aggressive imposition of ‘our’ gender norms on ‘them’, including the racialised additional punishment for non-citizens or recent citizens. This tendency to undesired appropriation might explain why much of the white feminist critique of the various ‘rapefugee’ discourses tends to focus on the need to address the ongoing sexual violence Western men commit against Western women. However, even when feminists rally behind clearly anti-racist and pro-women demands such as ‘Against sexualised violence and racism. Always. Anywhere. #ausnahmslos [“no excuses”]’15 they run the risk – as long as they do not make explicit their anti-imperialist grounding – of their politics being appropriated by dominant gender discourses and subjected to their divisive racialising and racist strategies. In addition, dominated groups and brown women, particularly those of lower social status and belonging to dominated groups, will not easily trust such universalising discourses, given their centuries-long appropriation for gender imperialism.

    A parallel silencing of critical analysis has been occurring as regards the connection between the particularly hopeless legal status and asylum prospects of certain groups of non-citizens – in other words, the wider context – and the reportedly high crime rates amongst these groups. Any attempt to generate an informed debate about crime – by pointing to possible connections between class and citizenship status on the one hand and crime on the other – faces the immediate accusation that its aim is to ‘excuse’ some brown men’s violation of Western gender norms or ‘relativise’ their criminal behaviour.

    The analysis presented above of globalising gender policies and their consequences for gender orders and gender policies on a global scale can help us to systematically unpack and counter these varieties of the ‘rapefugees not welcome’ sentiment and discourse and to overcome the impasses in which some of the counter-discourses have been trapped. Against this historical and global background it is easy to see that thinking and acting in terms of the varieties of the ‘rapefugees-not-welcome’ logic reproduces and deepens the false binary between white societies’ alleged commitment to women’s rights and brown societies’ and communities’ assumed inherent patriarchalism. The glimpses into the past and present of globalising gender policies I have provided above amply demonstrate that both this alleged binary and the alleged gender traditionalism of non-Western societies or cultures (among other things) have long been and continue to be co- produced by the unequal interaction between Western global expansionism and non-Western agency. Such traditionalism thus cannot be characterised as an inherent or autochthonous characteristic of non-Western societies, and if brown immigrants carry it into or learn it in the West, this phenomenon cannot be defined or treated as a problem in which Western and globally dominant discourses and policies are not implicated. The fact that phenomena such as resistance to women’s or LGBT emancipation and rights have been co-produced by the ongoing unequal globalisation of gender policy does not of course make any of these phenomena in any way more acceptable. Yet without systematically building the critique of this co-production and connection into our critique of these phenomena we unwillingly get drawn into the pro-imperialist discourse dominating the associated global struggle, even if we consider ourselves to be, among other things, anti-imperialists.

    The move first of the ‘Christian nations’, then the ‘family of nations’, and now the ‘international community’, from the nineteenth-century anti- sati and anti-polygamy rhetoric through the rhetoric of gender equality in the twentieth century, to the rhetoric of Gender Studies and LGBT emancipation in the twenty-first has been co-motivated and co-produced from the moment of its origin to the present day by imperialist interest and involvement. Without this imperialist connection, the status of gender rights and gender equality as dominant discourses – but not realities – in the Western world and internationally, yet always imbued with the white Western superiority complex, might not even have been established or the pursuit of progressive gender policies might have encountered even more resistance. The systematic appropriation of some of the claims of women’s, and now also LGBT, movements by dominant Western policies has been predicated on this ongoing imperialist connection. Feminism, insofar as it construed itself as being a part of Western civilisation, partook in this dynamic from the very beginning. In this sense it is – in both political and scholarly terms – inappropriate to presuppose that progressive gender policies have been politically neutral with regard to other questions, since these values and policies for centuries have, more often than not, signified global hegemonic policies and the politics of global inequality. Therefore, whenever we talk about these values without distancing ourselves from this imperial connection, we unwillingly acquiesce in these ongoing politics of global inequality.

    These analytical insights highlight long-term and ongoing patterns of the imperialism of globalising gender policies and thus help us draw relevant conclusions for relating to and challenging the present situation when the alleged binary between white and brown gender orders plays out in the discourse on the alleged general tendency of brown male immigrants to misbehave in relation to white women. How, then, can we summarise the elements of a critique of the current invocation of gender in relation to the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, a critique solidly built on left-wing and anti-imperialist foundations and a pro-women- and pro-LGBT-liberation perspective?

    In my view, opposition to imperial/globalising gender policies must go beyond the critique of the ‘instrumentalisation’ by gender imperialism of gender equality and progressive gender norms. This kind of critique essentially leaves scant room for pursuing progressive gender policies since it tends to conflate, or at least can be alleged to conflate, progressive gender policies with imperialism. In addition, it tends to conceptually and politically privilege the anti-imperial element of resisting gender imperialism over the dedication to progressive gender policies which must be part of any progressive policy of resisting gender imperialism.

    We must demand that gender policies take on an inclusive character. Only then can they resist the separation of progressive gender norms and policies from larger processes of social, material and cultural transformation. Such separation and the related objectification and narrow definition of women’s rights are a condition sine qua non of the imperial type of globalising gender policies. This can be avoided if the anti-imperial element of resisting gender imperialism is always made explicit as one indispensable element of any truly inclusive gender policy. None of these elements of such an inclusive gender policy ought to be conceptually or politically privileged, and inclusive gender policies always must make sure to underline their commitment to each of these elements, since otherwise their pro-woman and anti-racist stance can easily be appropriated into the dominant imperialist racist and binary discourse.

    Last but not least, I believe that the voices and struggles of brown women must take centre stage in the fight against sexualised violence and other forms of gender oppression. They live at the intersection between brown hierarchical gender orders, feminism dominated by white women, and white patriarchal and/or imperial interest. Therefore, without their liberation there is no liberation. The documentation In Our Own Words. Refugee Women in Germany Tell Their Stories16 documents some of these voices and struggles.


    1. ‘Crises and Victims. A Workshop on Refugees, Migrants and Anti-refugee Discourses in a New Way’, Budapest, 26/27 February 2016, organised by Eszmélet. Quarterly Journal for Social Critique, the Karl Polányi Center for Global Social Studies, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. This text retains the character of the oral presentation; a degree of simplification is unavoidable given the large scope and time-span of globalising gender policies covered. I use inverted commas to signal distance from a number of terms on their first use, but for the sake of readability omit them in subsequent recurrences.

    2. Numerous examples can be found in Lewis Hertslet (ed.), A Complete Collection of the Treaties and Conventions at Present Subsisting Between Britain and Foreign Powers (and of the Laws, Decrees, and Orders in Council, Concerning the Same); So Far as They Relate to Commerce and Navigation; To the Repression and Abolition of the Slave Trade; And to the Privileges and Interests of the Subjects of the High Contracting Parties, 31 vols, London: Butterworth, 1820-1925; here Hertslet, vol. 7, 1850, pp. 818-9.

    3. The ‘Engagement’ is reprinted in Hertslet, vol. 8, 1851, pp. 42-3; and Ralph A. Austen and Jonathan Derrick, Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers: the Duala and their Hinterland, c.1600-c.1960,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 66.

    4. Gerrit W. Gong, The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984, pp. 14-5, 19-20.

    5. Clare Midgley, ‘Female emancipation in an imperial frame: English women and the campaign against sati (widow burning) in India, 1813–30’, Women’s History Review 9 (2000) 1, pp. 95-121; Jörg Fisch, Burning Women. A Global History of Widow Sacrifice from Ancient Times to the Present, London: Seagull Books, 2005.

    6. Clare Midgley, ‘Anti-slavery and the Roots of “Imperial Feminism”’, Clare Midgley (ed.), Gender and Imperialism, Manchester; Manchester University Press, 1998, pp. 161-79.

    7. Keith David Watenpaugh, ‘The League of Nations’ Rescue of Armenian Genocide Survivors and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism, 1920–1927’,The American Historical Review 115 (2010) 5, pp. 1315–39.

    8. Susan Zimmermann, ‘Equality of women’s economic status? A weighty bone of contention in global gender governance emerging in the interwar period’ (in preparation).

    9. Sara Meger, ‘The Fetishization of Sexual Violence in International Security’, International Studies Quarterly 60 (2016) 1, pp. 149-59.

    10. Fisch, Burning Women, p. 435.

    11. Quoted in Fisch, Burning Women, p. 437.

    12. This is Watenpaugh’s wording, p. 1333.

    13. Dabiq 7, pp. 42-3. My attention has been drawn to this journal and its relevance for the present text by Lukas Huber.

    14. Susan Zimmermann, ‘The Institutionalization of Women and Gender Studies in Higher Education in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: Asymmetric Politics and the Regional-Transnational Configuration’, East-Central Europe/L’Europe du Centre-Est: Eine wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift, 34-35 (2007–2008) part 1–2, pp. 131–60.

    15. http://ausnahmslos.org/english and http://ausnahmslos.org/mitzeichnerinnen

    16. https://iwspace.wordpress.com/in-our-own-words/

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