Transnational feminist theory and practice is faced with a dilemma: how should we contest and resist gender-based oppression, while at the same time respecting cultural difference? In her book, Decolonizing Universalism: A Transnational Feminist Ethic
(Oxford University Press, 2018), Serene J. Khader
argues for a way out of this universalism/relativist impasse. She proposes a “nonideal universalism,” arguing that while feminism requires a universalist opposition to sexist oppression, it need not require universal adoption of Western values and strategies. Nonideal universalism answers the dilemma by rejecting the view that there is a single cultural form compatible with feminism, and by focusing on justice enhancement rather than justice achievement. Ultimately, Khader argues that transnational feminist solidarity requires empirical, contextual consideration of the harms of sexist oppression against the harms of imperialist intervention.
Emily K. Crandall is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is a fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics in the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.