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Archive for October, 2008

What does it mean to recognize the home as a site of resistance?

Last semester, our professor posed this question to a group of law students at an ivy league university, and was surprised at how many students got so upset. But professor, they cried, women were oppressed in the home. That’s why we fought so hard to get out.

Do you, professor asked us, agree with them? Home is oppression that you have to escape?

Here are some images brought to my mind by the phrase “home as a site of resistance”:

I think of a classmate who declares she was born and lives in Haifa, Palestine, a place that according to official maps does not exist. And I think of her mother, who continues to live in their family home as her foremothers have done.

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I am an immigrant woman of the Two-Thirds World, who is living with the One-Third World.

I first came across Esteva and Prakash’s concept of the One Third/Two Thirds World via Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders. The concepts recognize the transnational nature of capital, and how policies instituted by people in the One-Third World (middle and upper classes in the North and elites in the South) destabilize the lives of those in the Two-Thirds World, comprised by majority of the world’s population.

And most of the time, those of us in the One-Third World remain unaware of how our actions, well-meaning or otherwise, generate and perpetuate poverty and hardship.

For example, many of us in the One-Third World rarely reflect on our patterns of consumption, on how overconsumption contributes to substandard working conditions in Export Processing Zones around the world. If you’ve ever bought clothes from Nike, the Gap, or purchased products from Walmart and Target, for example, please take a minute to consider why your purchases seem so “affordable.” Ditto with that $2 bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s.

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It’s easy to understand the appeal of microcredit. Poor women from the Global South use loans as small as $20 to start businesses and lift themselves from poverty. The creditors make a profit when the loans are repaid. Win-win.

What do they say about things that look too good to be true?

A whopping 90 to 99 percent of these loans are paid back with interest, another shining indicator of microcredit’s success. But there is an ugly side to ensuring repayment, where poor women are made to police one another and punish defaulters with collective acts of aggression.

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In findings that surprise no one who has ever lived or done business in the country, reports from Transparency International show the Philippines is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

An indignant Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo replied that these perceptions of corruption were not caused by, you know, actual corruption. Instead, she blamed “the freest media in Asia,” saying

A lot of their (Transparency International) basis is what they read in the papers. It’s a whole layering of perception indexes. And if you compare the Philippines with the rest of the region, we have to remember that the Philippines has the freest media in the region. . .

What would be on page 10 in some other countries would be a banner headline in the Philippines. Even rumors and innuendos become fact when they’re in the banner headline. That’s part of what we have to live with.*

It would probably have been possible to live with the stupidity of this argument, to add it to the pile of her other vapid pronouncements. But to say that media in the Philippines is free is a horrendous lie. At least 60 journalists have been murdered since Arroyo assumed office in 2001. This figure, which does not even include desaparecidos, has already surpassed the record of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. (more…)

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“If McCain is elected, I’m headed back home,” stated a classmate this week during a discussion about the elections.

The assumption behind the plan, of course, is that moving away would insulate you from the effects of Bush-McCain’s policies. But if anything, the deleterious effects of this administration’s military policies are magnified for marginalized populations in the Global South.

For example, there has seen a sharp increase in birth defects among children born after the 2004 US bombings in Fallujah. These defects include congenital spinal cord and renal abnormalities, septicemia, and meningitis. Cancer rates among different age groups have also increased. Iraqi researchers and medical professionals point to the US Army’s use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium, which has increased the population’s exposure to environmental pollutants.

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