The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire

A varied collection of essays and notes delving primarily into globalization and militarization with a feminist lens. Her intro section definitely gets you thinking, prompting us to become “curious about curiosity and its absence,” using the example of “cheap labor” that we unflinchingly toss about without questioning who makes the labor cheap and how. She demonstrates the reliance of authoritarian regimes (South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam) on women to fulfill low-wage jobs that attract Western investment, using Nike and Reebok as the poster-children of globalization, moving their factories as soon as the women workers unionize or strike for better working conditions and protection from assault. I found it refreshing to hear that she was somewhat late to a feminist awakening, blithely toiling away in studying and teaching international political science without thinking about the gendered view. Spontaneously rejecting (or seeing through) the leaden walls of our acculturation seems to me to be about as hard to accomplish as waking up one morning and being a fluent speaker in a foreign tongue.

Being curious takes energy. It may thus be a distorted form of “energy conservation” that makes certain ideas so alluring. Take for instance, the loaded adjective “natural.” If one takes for granted that something is “natural” – generals being male, garment workers being female – it saves mental energy. What is deemed natural hasn’t been self-consciously created. No decisions have been made. The result: we can imagine that there is nothing we need to investigate. We can just feel sympathy with women working in sweatshops without bothering to figure out how they got there or what they think about being women sewing there.