Empowering and Dis-empowering all in the same breath

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

This week I chose to do my blog on the reading entitled “Lexicons of Women’s Empowerment Online: Appropriating the other”. This reading looks at the ways in which women are both empowered yet held back by technology. This article focuses on three very different cases that all actually have the same thing in common. We are introduced to three women by the name of Phyllis who is an activist for FGM which is also known as Female Genital Mutilation; then we are introduced to a woman by the name of Yahui who speaks on the UNFPA which stands for the United Nations Population Fund; and lastly we are introduced to a woman by the name of Radhika who discusses her views on the NGO and the processes of marketing. While reading this article I came across a main point that each of these women had in common despite the fact of course that they were each speaking on different things. The commonality that exists is: 1) this whole idea of women in third world countries needing the assistance of someone from the western world; almost as they are incapable of caring for themselves. In each of the cases presented I feel as though women from third world countries are made to be looked down upon.

For instance let me focus on the first woman we are introduced to Phyllis. Phyllis is an activist for women in Africa. She speaks on how the issue of FGM is always made to look as though these women in African are uncivilized and ignorant and that they need the help of the civilized western woman in order to cope with the issues that they face in their home countries. The information that is presented online about this process tends to be one sided and make it sound as though it is more detrimental to the women than it actually is. So, on that instance because it is something that isn’t quite necessarily considered to be the norm in western society it is automatically deemed as something that needs to be corrected by the western world savior. The discourse of the woman from the third world country needing the assistance of a western world woman is brought back into existence. Another discourse that is reiterated is this whole idea that women in third world countries do not have access to not only the internet, but overall technology. So Phyllis’ attempt to empower these women may fall on deaf ears being that not all these women will have access to the information. This discourse of the “other” woman is brought back up when reading the piece by Radhika who discusses the marketing of a hand loom. Again, as a reader I see how women from third world countries are seen as charity pieces and needing someone else’ assistance to make it through they’re very “tough” day to day lives; almost like without this piece of western world equipment the weavers of in South India cannot go on. One question I thought of while reading this article was how affective all this online activism could be if all it did was empower women and in the same instant disempowered these women by reinstating the dominant discourses? Would it more so be helping them? Or would it be forcing more western world ideologies on this supposed “other”. Because women in third world countries are seen as void with technology, when it becomes something that they can get their hands on it is praised as some sort of gift. Almost as if to say that without the internet and technological advances the voices of women in third world countries cannot be heard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEQCGd1MSrk

Karen A.

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