Volume 35, 2019
Health, Well-Being, and Society
Is Universalism the Cause of Feminist Complicity in Imperialism?
Global and transnational feminist praxis has long faced a seemingly inexorable dilemma. Universalism is often charged with causing feminist complicity in imperialism. In spite of this, it seems clear that feminists should not embrace relativism; feminism is, after all, a view about how certain types of treatment based on gender are wrong. This article clears the path for an anti-imperialist feminist universalism by showing how feminist complicity in imperialism is not caused by the fact of having universalist normative commitments. What I call “missionary feminism” stems more from ethnocentrism, justice monism, and idealizing and moralizing ways of seeing that associate Western culture with morality (and thus prevent Western culture and Western intervention from becoming objects of normative scrutiny) than from universalism about the value of gender justice.