HEGEMONIC FEMINISM, NEO-LIBERALISM and WOMENOMICS: “EMPOWERMENT” INSTEAD OF LIBERATION?

Hester Eisenstein
  hester1@prodigy.net
  

Abstract

In this essay I reflect on a sample of a relatively new literature that has emerged in recent years on the growth of “womenomics” and what Adrienne Roberts has called “transnational business feminism.” Are these developments a triumph for the influence of feminist activists around the globe? Or do we see them as yet another classic attempt by the agents of capitalist globalization to contain the energies of women and turn them to the advantage of the bottom line? I look at some examples of TBF on the part of Goldman Sachs, Unilever, Levi-Strauss, and the Nike Foundation; at the debate among feminist scholars over whether neoliberal feminism is “really” feminism; at the rise of the concept of “empowerment;” and finally, at some elements that TBF leaves out of the picture, including the neoliberal assault on social reproduction; the extreme exploitation of women workers, from Walmart to Export Processing Zones; the retreat from class analysis under neoliberalism; and the continuing effects of “structural adjustment” on countries in the North like Greece subject to the ravages of the international financial order. I conclude with a call to the international male left to be as welcoming and as creative toward the ideas and the activism of the international women’s movement as their corporate adversaries.

feminism - neoliberalism