promoted by MOB businesses. Sites were analysed in terms of the visual and written informationused to market or advertise the product of a mail-order bride marriage or the prospect of a foreignwife. It is argued that the current emphasis on women’s agency found in much feminist work should be seen as inappropriate given that MOB sites promote a form of marriage that is designed to servethe interests of men over those of women, while commodifying women through the promotion of a package deal which includes the sex of prostitution (Barry, 1995), under the guise of marriage.
THE CONTEMPORARY MAIL-ORDER BRIDE INDUSTRY
The basic processes surrounding MOB marriages are revealing of the logic that led feministtheorists, until recently, to adopt a unified,critical approach to the industry. Mail-order bridemarriages involve the procurement of women from economically poor countries, by men from primarily industrialised states, as wives through the use of commercial marriage agencies. Themovement of women in the MOB business is the same as in traditional trafficking routes; brides aresourced from regions such as the former Soviet Union, Asia, and Latin America, with male clientscoming from North America, Europe and Japan (Clark, 2004, p.18). Men are able to choose a brideafter viewing online catalogues of women, which typically include photographs, and biographicaland contact information (Orloff and Sarangapani, 2007, p.471), or after participating in an overseas‘romance tour’ of prospective brides organised by agencies, to which men pay a fee upon their selection (ibid). In contrast, women are targeted for recruitment by marriage agencies, whichexercise control over their personal information, while women learn only the details that maleclients choose to reveal about themselves (Brocato, 2004, p.230; Orloff and Sarangapani, 2007, p.471). It is currently estimated that in the United States alone, between 8,000 to 12,000 personsfind foreign spouses through such for-profit marriage agencies each year (Orloff and Sarangapani,2007, p.472).On the basis of these considerations, feminist scholars who remain critical of the industry havesought to identify MOB marriage as a form of the modern day traffic in women (see Jackson, 2004;Jeffreys, 2009; Lindee, 2004). They point in particular to the structural inequalities that exist between men and women and hence the potential for women’s exploitation, given that mail-order brides tend to come from economically unstable countries, and positions of economic vulnerability(Brocato, 2004, p.227; Clark, 2004, p.20). Scholars also highlight the informational imbalance between partners, since women gain only the information men choose to disclose, as well aswomen’s cultural vulnerability in migrating to a new countrywith which they are not familiar andin which they are often unable to speak the language (Clark, 2004, p.20-21). Women are alsocommonly placed in a position of dependency on their husbands due to their tenuous legal statusonce they have migrated, whichusually requires the continuation and success of their marriage(ibid). Such circumstances, it is pointed out, create conditions in which women have little choice but to submit to the will of their husbands, and are made especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, particularly if they should refuse men’s demands (Huda, 2007; Lindee, 2004, p.560). In current dominant feminist analyses of the MOB industry, however, these are concernsthat are given little focus, as such works prefer to view the practice of MOB marriage in far different terms.
‘AGENCY’ AND CURRENT FEMINIST THEORISING ON MOB MARRIAGE
The positive conception of MOB marriage, that is characteristic of current feminist work on thesubject, draws primarily on feminist approaches to ‘agency’, and the understanding that it iswomen’s expressions of agency that are the proper site of feminist analysis. Feminist use of theconcept of ‘agency’ derives substantially from its ordinary meaning in mainstream political andsocial theory. As socialtheorist Kalpana Wilson explains in a study on the feminist appropriation of the concept, in historical terms agency has been closely linked with the Enlightenment construction