From Militant to Military: The Ambivalent Politics of Liberal Feminism in the American War on Terror

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Author: Liao, Amanda
The widespread use of feminist, human rights, and international development discourse for justifying military intervention is part of a long and storied tradition of imperial feminism – a tradition which is deeply embedded into the normative Western ideologies of neoliberalism and modernization. However, the narrative of feminism that has been appropriated by the US military in order to justify the war on terror is that of liberal feminism; it is a discourse of feminism that privileges a white, middle-class, Western audience. In other words, it is blind to the historically disproportionate experience of oppression faced by women of colour. On a global scale, liberal feminism undermines the agency of women’s movements in the global south by assuming the universality – as well as the superiority – of Western human rights discourse. This paper will examine how the liberal feminist discourse became a dominant narrative in the war on terror. It will also analyze the implications of that dominance – both global and local.
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