found a wonderful expression to describe my distrust of consciously women-based history: purdah of scholarship, a woman’s wing of history writing to and for itself — where ideas of women scarcely cause ripples outside the tokenism of a highly specialized gender studies, a kind of ‘women’s quarters’ of the royal academic palace. Feminist scholarship can and does flourish wonderfully where it draws on an academic community operating from similar premises, language sets and standards of critique, but it seems to me to simultaneously imply an unfruitful segregation — such as political parties in Malaysia in the 1970s, which spawned a multitude of ‘Women’s Wing of X Party’ in the name of female emancipation into the political arena, even though the very idea of a ‘women’s wing’ marginalizes as much as it empowers — I think.
Another problem arises when I consider women on a transnational scale — how European women in the colonies cast their non-European counterparts as necessary inferiors by showering them with sympathetic goodwill as to their ‘backwardness’; so impressing on them the need to ‘modernize’ or ‘progress’ to their level of development. I think about such dichotomies (modernity v. backwardness seemingly always juxtaposed with male v. female, strength v. weakness, occident v. orient, patriarch v. matriarch) and whether these are inherent in the world (“real”, if you will) or whether they are, so to speak, arithmetic products of a calculus of Judeo-Christian or even Confucian patriarchal structures.
in this way I also become skeptical of the notion of a “universal sisterhood”, which obviates racial and cultural differences in the cause of sexual singularity — surely this has led to all sorts of vicissitudes about e.g. whether the niqaab is oppressive for women or not (this is not a clear cut answer) and implies that a certain conception of freedom is an unmitigated universal (something I also have problems with).
apologies for incoherence — I am trying to work out my gut distrust of feminist history & nothing is quite fossilized yet, so I am open to any thoughts.