Women's Rights and Cultural Differences

Studies in Practical Philosophy 4 (2):111-133 (2004)
The rights of women in fundamentalist Muslim countries has become a cause celebre for many North American women; however, the problem of how to balance respect for women's rights and respect for cultural differences remains in dispute, even within feminist theory. This paper explores how U.S. feminists who are serious about supporting the struggles of women across cultural borders might best adjudicate the seeming tension between women's rights and cultural autonomy. Upon examining 4 representative approaches to this problem, the paper argues that the seeming choice between respect for women's rights and respect for cultural differences is a false one and that both goals are advanced when global-minded U.S. feminists build on the insights of marginalized cultural groups to reflect critically on their own moral authority and their own communities' complicity with other women's oppression.
Keywords Women's rights  Global feminism  Chandra Mohanty  Uma Narayan  Susan Okin
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