What is it to be a woman? Some say a woman is the better half of a man; some use women or motherly traits to define nature and the world around us; for example ‘mother nature’. We give great attention to women and hold them to such dear characteristics, and yet there has been a decline in the interest to keep our women safe, secure, and free in the era of globalization. What made this topic intriguing to me is the following fact; “Women are the poorest of the world’s poor. 70 % of the 1.3 billion people who live in absolute poverty are women. Women work 2/3 of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food and yet earn only 10 % of the world’s income and own less than 1 % of the world’s property.” This fact about women was just one of the reasons why I decided to pursue this topic and the foundation of my paper. My general question is about how in different ways globalization has negatively impacted the lives of women worldwide. The question seems general and simple to answer, yet it is a distinct and a complex question that needs to be addressed in-depth. Globalization in the Post-Cold War era has had a real positive image attached to it in terms of economic prosperity that some developing nations have gained, but at what cost? The exact answer is at the cost of exploitation of human rights, and most importantly women and children and in addition the marginalization between the men and women. The paper will be broken up into three parts: 1-) exploitation of women in the work force, 2-) women trafficking (mistreatment of women in the world other than the work force) and 3-) the rise of women led by feminist theory (emergence of women).
To understand the entirety of the topic, two main terms need to be clarified before moving on to the argumentative part of the paper. The first is the definitive understanding of globalization and its brief history and the second theme is the definition of feminism and its basic assumptions.
What is Globalization? “Globalization is a complex phenomenon that brings new forms of social relations while at the same time maintaining the old modes of capitalist expansion.” This definition is correct, however to fully understand the concept of globalization one has to understand that this ‘complex phenomenon’ did not occur overnight. Immanuel Wallerstein’s theory on the formation of globalization is one of the most famous works in academia called: “A universalizing world-system: reminds us that globalization did not dramatically happen when corporate giants flexed their muscles in the 1980s.” Therefore, one way to measure globalization is in three different, yet important time events: “1-) Began in 16th century – nothing but the continuation of European Imperialism 2-) Began in 1970s 3-) Began in 1989 with fall of the Berlin Wall.” In addition, it is very important that when one is talking about globalization they have to have in mind the concept of modernity. Both globalization and modernity are a complementary term to one another. An example of this is the universalization of media, and more specifically movies that are being filmed in Hollywood. Hollywood films are translated into hundreds of languages worldwide, the young generations of followers are looking up to the actors/actresses as role models, and they want to walk in their footsteps.
The second term is feminism (theory), and one of their main arguments is that “male-stream visions of international relations (IR) distort our knowledge of both ‘relations’ and the changing constitution of the ‘international’.” Here feminist and feminist theorists are stating that our world and the knowledge that is within it has always been the vision of man and by doing this we have created a distorted image on how we understand and conceptualize the IR system. Feminist suggest that this order and ideology can be changed by “revealing socially-constructed masculinity and femininity as constitutive of (sovereign) identities, (state) structures and ideologies (of nationalism, militarism, capitalism accumulation and science), feminists suggest that there are real possibilities for changing the unequal international order.” Feminist believe that the above terms like sovereignty and state (militarism, nationalism) are not only constructed by male dominance in IR and their view of the world system but most importantly these are terms that women are deprived of on a daily basis.
Exploitation of Women in the Working Force:
Before I move forward onto my first argumentative part of the essay, I want to explain what I mean when I say exploitation of women and what example to look for when reading the paper. No one defines and conceptualizes exploitation better then Marxism’s theory progressed by Karl Marx. One of the main themes in Karl Marx explanation on the transformation of the global society is exploitation and he saw it as “the condition in which particular groups directly control and profit from the labours-power of others.” As I will discuss in the fallowing section the exploitation of women by, transnational corporations, manufactories, and the nation-state.
Women are often times the most targetable objects in society. One first has to look at the previous sentence and has to understand the way our society portrays women. One has to recognize the terminology used to classify women as ‘objects’. The word object rather than ‘subject’ is used to describe women, this is because throughout history we have seen men brutalize and use women for their own interest. Regarding social issues on a domestic and international level, women have often times been reduced and or eliminated. Furthermore, another term that is coined to classify women drawn from the objective perception of women is due to the incorporation and popularization of globalization/modernity. “Women’s double burden – working long hours in the field as well as attending to household chores like cooking and collecting water and fuel for the day – is often taken for granted.” Traditionally, it was up to the men to provide money and food for the family, as he would work endlessly in the fields as a farmer or in the city as a factory worker. However globalization has caused a distribution in our traditional way of life and has created this new system in which both the husband and the wife have to work endlessly to help the family to survive but at the same time, the wife has obligatory responsibilities by taking care of her home. The section on women in the work force will be divided into three parts; the first is the nation states exploitation of its women citizens. The second part will cover the high number of women going into the work force with high demand of cheap labour by TNCs. The third and last part will cover the working experiences and conditions of women in temporary, and low paid jobs.
Exploitation of Women in Developing Nations:
The exploitation of women never seems to go out of trend in the era of globalization. What I mean by this is that it does not matter where be it developing, developed or undeveloped nations women have always been exploited. However, one must not misunderstand the previous point, that women are not the only ones who are exploited. The exploitation of men and children of all ages is also present in the undeveloped and developing nations by working for long hour shifts for less than a dollar a day. “The establishment of international free trade policies, such as North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and General Agreements on Tariffs and Trades (GATT), (TNC) are using the profit motive to guide their interest towards developing nations in search of “cheap” female labour.”
One of the biggest forms of exploitations of women is through cheap labour, encouraged by transnational corporations. So, the key question here is why are women preferred over their male counterparts when it comes to cheap labour? “Corporations prefer female labour over male labour because women are considered to be “docile” workers, who are willing to obey production demands at any price.” This trait is exactly what corporation’s look for. That a worker shows up to work obeys, and fallows every word of the corporation without projecting its own interest or voice on any matters. Another reason why women labourers are preferred more than their rival genders is because, males often times will speak out and protest some working conditions and will cause a delay in the production process, which might cause millions of dollars in profit. In other words, women are cheap, and are less likely to cause resistance to their corporations and are in desperate need of job with bad or good conditions to support their family. Furthermore, another point that complements the points stated above is women “work in labour-intensive industries at wages lower than men would accept and in conditions that unions would not permit.” Once again, the conditions of highly competitive working positions is one of the many modes of problems that globalization has created. Globalization has created this mode of competitiveness that is waging the males and females against one another in the working force. “Females are attracted to assembly production because of the lack of opportunities for female employment in other industries (aside from the informal sector).”
Transnational Corporations Exploitation:
As discussed briefly above, transnational corporations are one of the key actors in the formation and practises of globalization. Globalization has made it so the exploitation of the developing nations seems regular and a part of our daily life. This is the case because globalization follows a capitalist system, where the maxim flow of good and profits goes to rich and developed nations at the cost of exploiting the undeveloped and developing nations. One of the biggest corporations is International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). Both these agents enforce “structural adjustments loans (SAL) to privatize the exports in developing nations. SAL’s allow transnational corporations the freedom to enter into developing nations and take advantage of the labour force.” Transnational corporations like the IMF and WB are highly invested in by the U.S.A (United States of America), therefore they control most of its area of investment in most part of the world. What ends up happening is that developing nations end up receiving a lot of loan, which they cannot afford to pay back to the transnational corporations and forced to strike a deal in the favour of the TNC. The deal would see the “developing nations willing to sell off vital aspects of their country (land, resources, and labour) to the World Market.”
Low paid and unstable working experience and conditions:
This subsection on the instability and poor working conditions will serve as a complementary to what has already been outline in the paper. “In many of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries (Germany, UK, Japan) part-time employment constitutes as much as 45 % of women’s total employment. In other countries, the percentage is anywhere between 35 % to 45 %.” It is important to understand that almost half of the workers in the part-time sector are women. This statement clearly identifies that most often women have part-time jobs. Part-time jobs are temporary jobs most often seen in factories where a number of people work to create the number of good that the manufactures needs and after all the work is completed the part-time workers are then laid off. For example “In Bangladesh, in a garment unit, women work without a holiday and put in long hours of overtime without getting any compensation for it. Night work, which is legally prohibited in Bangladesh, is a common feature.”
The issue is that women exploitation is not only occurring in bad conditioning jobs in the developing nations, but it also is occurring in relatively good conditional jobs in the developed world. For example “In 1997 it was calculated that women’s in non-agricultural wage is a per cent of men’s in some countries, 89.0 for Sweden, 75.0 for the USA, 63.0 for Canada, and average 74.9.” The figures shown above are still, continued today most notably in Canada.
Another relevant issue in the working places most commonly in the developing nations is ‘gender hierarchal’. Gender hierarchy places males as the superior gender over the female in the working place. Similar to example above in Bangladesh you will have the manufacturer owners, managers, supervisors to be predominantly male, and women as assembly workers. Women complain about the poor working conditions and long hours of work, which leads to occupational diseases, which only means loss of job for these women. There are many repeated cases of sexual harassment inside and outside the premises. Women are vulnerable and sensitive in the working place only because of the uncomfortable atmosphere the corporation’s, manufactories, and their male peers are creating. The complaint of sexual harassment is not a new problem, as it has existed for a long time however, nobody seems to do anything about it. This is timely relative to my next argument on how globalization has negatively affected the lives of women, through the rise of women trafficking and other illegal business and actions towards women.
Women Trafficking/Mistreatment of Women:
In this part of the essay, I will talk about how globalization has exploited women in the global arena, other than the labour force. This part of the essay will draw on the high rising popularity of women trafficking all over the world. In addition, this part of the essay will look at other ways where women are marginalized and mistreated. First things first, women trafficking is the illegal use of women as prostitution to make money. So, why has there been a drastic rise in women prostitution and what is making these women drawn to this terrible field? “Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty 70 % are women.” In this case, women are the most volatile people of poverty. Women have constant pressure on them to provide food, and shelter for their family. All these traits were once the responsibility of the husband or the men, but unfortunately when looking at third world countries it is hard to feed a family with only one supplier. Women go into the workforce thinking that they will start getting respect from the male counterparts; however, that is not the case as seen in the earlier part of the essay. Once relieved from their manufacturing duty they look to other means to provide the necessities for their family, in this case; prostitution. To better understand the negative effect of globalization on women I will look at how globalization has affected women trafficking/ prostitution at a domestic (national) and international level.
The Domestic of Women Trafficking:
As outlined above women are limited to the number of jobs or ways to provide for their family and one of the other alternatives is prostitution. “Prostitution is quite visible in tourist hotels “sex tourism” takes place for the most part in “Exotic” Third World countries as a form of bringing foreign exchange and to sustain the image of their country as an appealing vacation destination.” As seen in the quote above sex tourism is just another way the nation enriches its flow of profit and enhances its popularity as tourist city. The women used in this disrespectful manner are left to die with contagious sex diseases.
Furthermore, trafficking in women has become “a very lucrative business, third in size after the trans-national illegal trade in arms and drugs. It is believed that the global sex trade constitutes a substantial part of worldwide irregular migration and labour migration.” During the era of globalization the rise of selling and the demand for drugs and arms has magnificently increased, however it will not be surprising if women trafficking overhauls both these fields In the future. Globalization has created this mentality of greed and self-interest. As long as nations are making maxim amount of profit and the cost of the lives and risk of others it is all right.
In addition, Globalization has enriched the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ “Trafficking of women from the Dominican Republic ranks the country as the fourth biggest supplier of women for prostitution in foreign countries, following Thailand, Brazil and the Philippines.” Women in the third world countries in this sense have become the means to an end; they are treated as instruments used in unthinkable ways. National governments in the third world countries see this as a great opportunity to export its women as products to developed nations were they are used as sex slaves until they are disposed of. “According to a CIA report in 1999, each year 50,000 of women is brought into the U.S to work in sex industries, the operational of foreign or allied troops produce particular forms of prostitution which has been tolerated and regulated by local government.” In this case, women’s lives and bodies are used as a mean for political friendship between the US and its “friends” in the third world nations. Nations worldwide are acceptingly approaching women trafficking as a norm that leads to the international market of women trafficking.
The “Internet Virus” (International Level):
Moreover, as stated above women trafficking has increased in high demand domestically and internationally, we see national governments exporting women internationally in exchange for profit or elimination of their debt. Another way of exploitation of women is present through the technological advancement of the Internet. The internet has done a great job in terms of exploiting women to their fullest in exchange for maximum amount of profit. “In regards to the relation between the sex industry and the Internet industry it is argued that the Internet industry is heavily dependent on the sex industry, thrives on it and looks to it for innovation. Four million people, mostly women and girls are reported to be trafficked each year.” It makes one wonder when the internet was created who would have thought that it would have played such a key role in spreading and encouraging women trafficking/prostitution.
Now, I just want to state some empirical evidence about pornographical and sex sites on the internet. The results are unthinkable “every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography. Every second 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography. In that same second 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the U.S.” This shows that one of the main reasons why the internet has seemed to be running all this time is through the maxim amount of interest and profit in pornography. “The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. 2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion.” The figures are astonishing; pornography has become the main image of profitable business and continues to surge in interest globally. “The amount of pornography on the internet can be difficult to fathom. A total of 4.2 million websites contain pornography. That is 12 percent of the total number of websites. In addition 1 in 4 search engine requests are pornographic.” It is important to note that women in most cases are ‘victims’ in the eyes of feminist theorist and ‘movie stars’ in the eyes of sex industry. Moving away from the exploitation of women in the work force and in women trafficking and prostitution, in the upcoming section I will talk about how women are trying to establish their authority in the global world and what are they doing in terms events, movements to eliminate the stereotypes.
The Rise of Women:
The theme in the first two parts of the paper was focused on showing the exploitation of women and their vulnerability of being mistreated and misinterpreted. In this part of the paper, I will show that women are in fact not vulnerable to men and they can present their voices and ideologies. As the classic pro women slogan goes “If men can do it, then so can we.” This part of the paper contains two terms in women empowerment/movement and feminism. Each of the two terms has helped increase recognition of women on the national and international level.
The Importance of Women Movement/Empowerment:
First, I will generally define the distinction between empowerment and movement. “Women’s movement is organizing women explicitly as women to make social change. Women’s movement recognizes that many mobilizations of women as women start out with a non-gender-directed goal, such as peace, antiracism, or social justice, and later develop an interest in changing gender relations.” In other words women movements are another way for women to express their feelings and thoughts through protests, petitions etc. The first initial step for successful movements lies in social, racial change for women, which then leads to the empowerment of those ethics and ideologies in the social realm. Women empowerment has “three approaches: (i) integrated development; (ii) economic development; and (iii) consciousness raising and organising among women.” Furthermore, women need to come together and create movements that focus on the three approaches to be successful in causing change for women.
So what are the main goals of women empowerment? The goals are “to challenge patriarchal ideology (male domination and women’s subordination); transform the structures and institutions that reinforce and perpetuate gender discrimination and social inequality and enable women to gain access to, and control of, both material and informational resources.” Women empowerment gives confidence and strength to women to fight for their rights. One way to establish this authority is through the education system of schooling. An example is the “Self- Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India has been successful in unionizing informal workers in India and establishing a university to train women to become leaders.” This is a positive aspect towards women as they increase their numbers in the education system and gain degrees from higher educational institute that they can use to illustrate the voice of women internationally, and they can be a part of global community of women empowerments. This leads directly to my following section of feminism.
Who or What is a Feminist? And it’s Importance to Women:
When looking at the term of feminism, one can quickly make the judgement that it is looking at an issue from a women’s perspective or the claim that it is always women who are the feminist. However, these claims are not true. Men can also be feminists and hold feminist perspective. In fact, feminist mainly target for social changes, and practise their beliefs in a variety of organizational context, from women’s movements to governmental (IGO) and non-governmental organizations (NGO) issues. “Feminisms main goal is to inform of all or part of the agenda of mixed-gender organization such as democratization.”
In terms of governmental issues feminist have successfully been a part of several UN programs. One of those programs was The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the 4th United Nations-sponsored World Conference on Women in 1995. During the conference, they displayed the famous slogan “‘Women’s rights are human rights.’ This commitment to the full panoply of human rights for women as human beings-including the right to work, own property, get credit, education and reproductive self-determination- raises social awareness about the magnitude of the problems facing most women in the world today.” The atmosphere of the conferences is positive and attractable for the media, as you have many different national representatives supporting this cause. However, at the end of the day when the leaders return to their nations, the conference is just a photographical memory and the same problems discussed at the conference continue on its planned course as schedule. “The process of globalization must be reshaped so that it is more people-centred instead of profit-centred and more accountable to women.”
One of the other ways in which feminist are involved in are NGO’s. One of the most successful missions is the Women Working Worldwide, The Clean Clothes Campaign, Label Behind the Label, and DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era). The DAWN program is great in the sense that an international problem on women rights is finally being addressed appropriately by and international organization. Through the DAWN program “NGOs are working to protect the rights for factory workers and strive to improve factory conditions. These NGOs incorporate consumer education as a part of their advocacy network in order to raise public awareness about the inequalities that exist in developing nations.” The NGO’s is the stepping stone in the process of distributing awareness to the negative effect that globalization has caused with the creation of sweatshops, intensive, hard, labours working conditions. By doing this, it creates pressure on factory owners to increase labour wages, and provide better working conditions in order to satisfy its present/future consumers.
In conclusion, I will say that globalization has made the lives of women worse rather than better as we often times see in the form of media and other social forms. Therefore, my projected argument at the beginning of the paper stands. As anticipated in the paper women in the era of globalization have been exploited, diminished, and eliminated by TNC, Manufactories, and by their National governments. As outlined in the first part of the paper exploitation of women in the work force has continued in terms of failing to attain jobs with high or full time status, working under male dominance authority, and most importantly gaining wages at poverty level. All these factors engaged women to pursue other professions in which they can gain greater profits to feed their families. As stated in the paper the flexibility of job attainment for women is limited, therefore the alternative career job that they can pursue to gain money is women trafficking and prostitution. As stated in the paper, once the women were involved in women trafficking there was no way out. The only thing that could save them was death. The national governments of the third world nations were more than happy to export women as slaves in exchange for profit or elimination of their debts. For the last part of the paper, I outlined that women took matters into their own hands and fought to erase the dark cloud that has been casted upon them by globalization. Women created women movements, empowerments to regain their place in the international world alongside the theory of feminism, which brought these issues to the attention of the international political realm such as UN and NGO’s. The rights of women and the role of women has been slowed down due to the rise of globalization, but I believe that if we continue to mistreat our women in this manner then the future does not seem bright for humanity.
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