China Media Research, 2(3), 2006, Yin, Toward Confucian Feminism: Critique of Eurocentric Feminist Discoursehttp://www.chinamediaresearch.net firstname.lastname@example.org
Toward a Confucian Feminism: A Critique of Eurocentric FeministDiscourse
Jing Yin, Clemson University
Feminist movements in the United States and Western Europe have called attention to the oppressionof women worldwide. However, as Western feminisms are gaining more and more currency, it is vital for non-Western women to be cautious of the pitfall of replacing one form of oppression with another. This article exploresan alternative framework for non-Western feminism. The article offers a critique of the hegemony of Eurocentricdiscourse in feminist movements around the world. It problematizes three characteristics of Eurocentric feministdiscourse: universalism, individualism, and right-based ethics. The article also proposes a Confucian feminism based on the principle of
(humanness), the notion of rights as
(share), and duty-based ethics. [China MediaResearch. 2006;2(3):9-18].
Feminism; Eurocentrism, individualism; Confucianism;
(share); duty-basedethicsFeminism is one of the most powerful struggles for social justice in the world (hooks, 2000). Feministmovements in the United States and Western Europehave called attention to womens oppression andexploitation worldwide. However, just as white malesdominate Eurocentric humanist discourse, Westernfeminist discourse is also a dominant discourse thatdisplaces non-Western cultural values. Westernfeminisms,
to differing extents, have been accepted bymany across the world as an inseparable part of modernization and development (e.g., Fung, 2000). Inthe same manner as Eurocentric modernization, Westernfeminisms are also forms of colonization that codifynon-Western cultures as Others (Mohanty, 2002).In the case of Chinese women, with few exceptions,Western studies present a homogeneous picture of gender oppression in traditional Chinese society or under the socialist regime (Chow, 1991; Gilmartin,Hershatter, Rofel & White, 1994; Mann, 1994). Thistype of research concentrated on how Chinese womenwere victimized and marginalized by the traditional patriarchal kinship system or the contemporarysocialism (Mann, 1994). According to this view,Chinese women were victims of oppression, or werecomplicit in their victimization, or were their ownoppressors. These analyses essentially reduced Chinesewomen to a monolithic Other by subjecting their experiences to Western measures and frameworks.Rather than advancing a vision of real equality, thesediscourses subjugate Chinese women to the hegemonyof Western feminisms.Chandra Talpade Mohanty (2002) contends that theconceptualization of non-Western feminisms ought to be a political project that simultaneously involves theinternal critique of hegemonic Western feminisms,and the formulation of autonomous, geographically,historically, and culturally grounded feminist concernsand strategies (p. 159). In order to achieve this dualgoal, the present article first offers a critique of Eurocentric feminism. By
I meandifferent forms of feminism that are rooted in theexperiences of European and European-Americanwomen and are relevant only to the understanding of such experiences. Second, this article explores the possibility of a form of Confucian feminism thatresonates with the sociocultural experiences of womenin China and other parts of Asia, such as South Korea,Japan, and Vietnam. Specifically, the present discussionwill turn to the Confucian principle of
(humanness),the conception of rights as
(share), and duty-basedethics for cultivating feminist consciousness in Chinaand beyond.
A Critique of Eurocentric Feminism
Asante (1980) avers that humanism itself wasfrequently nothing more than a Eurocentric concept of what was good for the world (p. 2). By the same token,feminism itself is often nothing more than a Eurocentricconcept of what is good for all women. Just likeEurocentric humanism, the first and foremostcharacteristic of Eurocentric feminist discourse is itsassumed universality.Although Western feminist discourses or practicesare by no means monolithic or homogenous, they are allrooted in the experiences of European and European-American women. However, this Eurocentric vision of womanhood is projected as the universal or naturaldefinition for all women of different cultures andclasses. From the outset, Eurocentric feminist discourseappropriated the notion of common oppression to build solidarity (hooks, 2000). The employment of arhetoric of commonality or sameness by middle-classEuropean (American) women constructed women as ahomogenous powerless group. Nonetheless, Westernfeminists emphasis on commonality or sameness didnot in fact lead to an inclusion of women of different