Journal of International Affairs (JIA): How would you define "Global Feminism"?
Cynthia Enloe (CE): I am a bit wary of the phrase "global feminism," because it implies universalism. I am always curious about local contexts, even if certain values and goals become, step by step, widely shared across diverse societies. I use instead the phrase "transnational feminism" to capture that distinction. There is a complex and everyday process of interactions between local, national, regional, and international feminists. To chart and make sense of transnational feminist alliances and negotiations, one has to hone a multi-level curiosity and a multi-level analytical approach. This is demanding. It almost certainly calls on us to work collaboratively. A specialist in Indian feminists' thinking and strategizing, for example, teams up with a specialist working on feminist research on nuclear arms control. Both share their research and findings with those feminist researchers who delve into UN negotiations.
It is true that some, if not all, feminist strategies, feminist objectives, and feminist concepts over time do seem to become at least somewhat globalized. But this is not a simple trend. It is a complex process. These are contexts and processes are what we should be keeping our feminist eyes on.
JIA: We are witnessing a surge in feminist movements, with #MeToo marking a watershed in the mainstream narrative on gender disparity and violence. At the same time, there are increasing concerns of hyper-masculinity that are failing to attract a proportionate punitive reaction. How do you see these two movements sustaining concurrently?
CE: Feminist transnational movements, or rather, women's empowerment movements that manage to cross at least two or three state boundaries, can be traced back to the 1800s. The most notable were the women-led or women-fueled anti-slavery movement, the anti-military prostitution movement, the peace movement, and the suffrage movement. Because of the work of many wonderful feminist historians, we are learning about each of these earlier women-led movements' activists and thinkers, and about their efforts to build alliances across oceans and state lines.
Virtually every one of these women-led movements was met with local popular scorn and ridicule, and with state opposition. Patriarchal backlash is, therefore, not new. What may be new in the current patriarchal backlash is, first, the increased fear among many men today that women's empowering campaigns are succeeding...