Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23.1 (2002) vii-ix
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Sue Armitage for the Frontiers Editorial Collective
The articles in this issue of Frontiers cover a wide geographic range and an equally wide variety of theoretical approaches. Nevertheless, they are strongly linked by a concern with gender equality: ways of measuring it, ways of achieving it, and the costs of its absence. This is not a new theme in feminist scholarship, but as these articles resonate with each other in this issue we learn some new things.
First, Laurie Wermuth and Miriam Ma'at-Ka-Re Monges tackle the issue of comparability. In "Gender Stratification: A Structural Model for Examining Case Examples of Women in Less-Developed Countries" they propose a structural/materialist sociological model to facilitate comparative measurement of gender equality in a rapidly changing world. Impelled by the dangers to women in traditional societies of global socioeconomic penetration, the authors first construct a taxonomy of types of societies and types of gender stratification. Illustrating their model with analyses of increasing gender inequality in three less-developed countries—Kerela, Malawi, and Cambodia—they conclude with a set of specific policy recommendations. Their article both warns of the increased gender inequality caused by globalization and suggests some specifically useful tools to fight it.
By way of contrast, the next article considers a historical case of gender equality gone wrong. In " Exporting Democracy?: American Women, 'Feminist Reforms,' and the Politics of Imperialism in the U.S. Occupation of Japan, 1945-1952," Mire Koikari offers a study of American efforts to "enlighten" the Japanese and impose American notions of gender equality on postwar Japan. Koikari's careful examination of the inner workings of U.S. policy formulation, revealing both the astounding informality of the effort (for example, key provisions about gender in the new Japanese constitution were entrusted to the one female member of the American drafting team simply because she was a [End Page vii] women) and its even more amazing ignorance of Japanese culture, makes this a fascinating historical study.
The cost of gender and racial inequity is a theme in the next article, María A. Gutierrez de Soldatenko's "ilgwu Labor Organizers: Chicana and Latina Leadership in the Los Angeles Garment Industry." Basing her work on oral histories and on participant observation, Soldatenko shows that the ilgwu's organizing in Los Angeles in the 1990s was unsuccessful because the union's officers continually undercut the leadership efforts of Chicanas and Latinas within the union. Her interviews make a powerful case for inclusion, but her study ends on a much less hopeful note of frustration.
A more hopeful study of inclusion, Diane-Michele Prindeville's "A Comparative Study of Native American and Hispanic Women in Grassroots and Electoral Politics," follows. Prindeville's study of sixty women political leaders in New Mexico makes a strong case for the importance of the transformative qualities of women's grassroots political involvement. Prindeville finds that because these women entered politics as a way to make a difference for their communities, they viewed their political work not as a means of personal advancement but "more as a personal responsibility or life purpose." Such a perspective, if widely followed, would certainly change the nature of American politics!
Alma Lopez's sometimes startling "update" of some well-known Mexican cultural female figures, with their blend of old and new, seems a fitting complement to the preceding article and to others in this issue.
Yet another formulation of gender inequality and the positive benefits of inclusion is shown in the next article, a literary study by Ranen Omer entitled "'O, My Shehena, who shall live in your tent?': Gender, Diaspora, and the Ambivalence of Return in E. M. Broner's A Weave of Women." Writing in the emerging years of American feminism in the 1970s, Broner grappled with the question of what a return to Israel meant for her, an American Jewish woman. The article sensitively explores how Broner's novel expresses the conflicted feelings of a heterogeneous group of women seeking to find physical and spiritual homes in a young Israeli...