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How does coloniality (power, gender, knowledge, being) play out in a person’s everyday life? You may want to consider how these structures work in your own life or someone else’s.

Understanding Coloniality Through Maria Lugones' Works

It is important that a departure from the generic understanding of colonialism be made in order to understand the works of Maria Lugones. Colonualism is generally considered as a phenomenon whereby a militarily powerful nation dominates over a militarily weaker one politically for the purpose of exploiting the natural and the human resources. Maria Lugones had tried to explain colonialism in a totally different context. Her understanding and explanation of colonialism pertains to the age of modernity and its overarching influence on the gender roles. The colonialism which Lugones is concerned about in her works is rather ideological and sociological than the narrative of political and economic colonialism. Her works very meticulously outlines how the change in the mode of production had led to the ushering in of the age of modernity, and how it had consolidated the already existing social order of the dominance of the men over the women, without the use of crude and brutal coercive force. The idea or the conceptualization of colonialism being a form of dominance perpetrated by the Western nations upon the third world has been utilized by Lugones to explain how certain key elements of modernity had been imbibed by the third world since the west and the third world were philosophically, ideologically and sociologically inclined towards those value perceptions (Lugones 2010). In this particular essay I shall be discussing about how this state of coloniality has had its effect on gender roles with specific reference to the strengthening of patriarchy, with an essence of personal experience to substantiate the arguments of Maria Lugones.

As it has already been discussed that colonialism or the state of coloniality in this context is concerned about that of the consolidation of patriarchy in the age of modernity to suit a new socio-economic order with new socio-economic needs (Lugones 2016). Patriarchy is not a novel creation of modernity, rather modernity has redefined patriarchy by redrawing its boundaries. During the early days of Industrial Revolution, the physical force was very much needed by the capitalists for conducting the process of production in the industries. That was used as a justification to confine the women within the domestic sphere. The men sold their labour at the industries to earn the money, hence their labour came to be valued more than the household work which the women did. The women were expected to play the role of nurturers and sustain the capitalist system, without their contributions being valued. Taking care of the household chores, preparing the food on time, bearing children and raising them to champion the capitalist economy, providing sexual and emotional pleasures to their men, were not considered as work, rather a duty (Lugones 2016). Resultantly, the women were reduced to mere beneficiaries hence unimportant, and the men being the providers became more important, along with getting the privilege of dominating over their women as an object which they own. By and large, if one looks into the functioning of the ways of the world, this system is still very much prevalent, in my native country Pakistan, as well as in Saudi Arabia, where I was born and brought up. Unfortunately, despite moving to free and open Australia, the menacing lurk of the patriarchal cultural ethos of Saudi and Pakistan had not left jeopardizing my prospects of living life in my own terms.

The Consolidation of Patriarchy in the Age of Modernity

With regard to the aspect of power and agency, it can de deduced that they are but the prerogative of the men. The status quo of the super-ordinance of the men has been consolidated with the ushering in of the capitalistic model of economy. With regard to my purpose herein, as a Non-European woman, I am likely to face double jeopardy with regard to my agency and my power being overwhelmed, as per the views of Maria Lugones. On one hand, as Maria Lugones says that the very being of a woman in itself poses a lot of impediments, on top of that colonization has imposed two fold penalties on her, for her gender, and for her race. I would like to cite the example of some excerpts from my life in Australia. As it is being a Pakistani, I have to abide by a lot of restrictions which is rooted in our culture, on top of that being a non-white woman, I have to face discrimination for my racial identity and the color of my skin.

I have spent my childhood in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where Islam dominates, dictates and governs every aspect of life. To be precisely correct, the Wahabi version of Islam which is based upon strict fundamental interpretation of the Quran and the Hadith. Every aspect of a woman’s conduct was meticulously coded and defined with a justification that reeked of sexuality and perversions which the women generated and that contributed to the moral corruption of the men. In this regard Fatima Merinissi’s views on the domination of women must be invoked to substantiate the thinking of Maria Lugones. Fatima Mernissi had opined that in Islam women are viewed as having immense potential, hence they must be controlled. The power a woman possesses is essentially destructive if not controlled by a man. Fatima Mernissi, like Maria Lugones had also harped upon the religion to justify the domination of women by men. The men in Saudi had not just moral but also legal guardianship over women in all aspects of their lives. This is hypocritical as Islam is used by the fundamentalists to further their selfish interests and blame the women for it.

Maria Lugones had theorized the instance of Christianizing mission and the entailing dominance of men over women, the dissemination of the idea of controlling the sexuality of women as a civilizing process as a process of colonization of the social sphere. She had cited the example of the Europeans colonizing the American continent and embarking upon a mission to evangelize the indigenous population of the country after Christian and Biblical philosophies (Lugones 2010). The case of Saudi Arabia and the social order that prevails over there can also be explained and defined against the same backdrop of colonization. It was Christianity that had colonized the gender norms in America, in Saudi Arabia the task has been done by Wahabism. The brand of thought tends to relate every aspect of a woman’s action to her piety and the relation of it to men’s conduct. It is more ideological, which has been politicized and institutionalized by making it mandatory for all women legally to wear the abaya and they hijab, irrespective of their religious faith, as long as they are in Saudi (Lugones 2010). The result of it has empowered the men so much that they can got to the extent of scaring women, even girls like me, in the name of instilling morality. However little do they realize that we, the women are always made to compromise with ourselves for the convenience of the men. I would like to quote from Lacquer to relate my experience-‘‘In a world that was overwhelmingly male, the one-sex model displayed what was already massively evident in culture: man is the measure of all things, and woman does not exist as an ontologically distinct category’’ (Lugones 2010).

The Functioning of Patriarchy in Everyday Life

Maria Lugones talks of how the colonial masters view sexuality and how is it related to gender. According to her conception, sexual activities are viewed by the European colonial masters as a necessary act and at the same time reeking of perversion. The functional aspect of sex had in the bourgeois society been described and essentialized as a procreative activity (Lugones 2016). The capitalistic mode of production had its specific needs, it needed more man power to supplement the work process in the industries naturally, any activity that had a utility which did not suit their purpose, were considered as redundant and socially unacceptable. This had consequently led to the vulgarization of sexual activities, depriving it of its inherent passionate nature, which epitomizes the expression of love for the intimate partners. Sexual act too became an act of making the domination of the male heterosexuality over the female, and to balance that the females were made to observe a sexual conduct whereby she strictly belonged to her husband in a conjugal relationship (Lugones 2016). A man could have multiple female sex partners as that would be helpful in exalting the maleness and virility of the man, but for a woman, the same would have been a matter of shame and abomination. The entire of narrative of the gender discourse had been shaped by colonialism in a way which demonized both the men and women of color as sexually aggressive and beasts, and exalting the superiority of the white race which was definitely more civilized than the colonized ones (Lugones 2016).

Over time in the colonies this narrative came to be normalized and that shaped the way sex and sexuality came to be viewed. Talking of my country of domicile, Pakistan, sex is a taboo. The only form of sexual conduct that is socially acceptable back in my country is based strictly on three pillars- essentially heterosexual, within the bounds of matrimonial relationship, and for serving the functional aspect of furthering the future generations (Lugones 2016). It would however be politically wrong that western modernity had been the sole driving force behind such a conception. Yes modernity did play a role in shaping the view, but the dominant religion of Islam was already a part and parcel of Pakistani society and these modern values being in tandem with the Islamic principles, the process of assimilation became easier (Lugones 2016). The values of sexual modesty of a woman, her obedience to her family members, and her subservience to the male members were consolidated by modernity. However, the idea of a physically beautiful woman definitely was shaped by colonial narrative of superiority of the white skinned over the darker ones. The ultimate marriageable woman thus were supposed to have the qualities of being fair skinned, virgin, and above all must recognize the superiority of the men over her since she is created by the God with frailties. Hence she needs a man to fulfill the things she lacked in herself (Lugones 2016).

Life in Pakistan or in Saudi Arabia was definitely not something which was easy for me. Life in Australia was difficult altogether for a different set of dilemma that it brought about. In Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia, the cultural homogeneity did not permit me to broaden the horizon of my thought process. In Australia, when I was exposed to a culture that was relatively open and broadminded, I faced a situation of utter confusion. On one hand my indulgence in a lifestyle which did not match with the values which I was brought up with, I felt like I was being a hypocrite and turning away from my roots, and getting alienated from my family as a result of it. On the flip side the predicament which I had undergone while I was in an emotionally frustrating relationship, it made me rethink whether I should feel guilty about the fact that I am casting my cultural values. My tryst with the feminist discussions at my university campus in Australia, made me realize the fact that the issues of the women of the third world were very much different than that of the Western women by virtue of our cultural difference and the value perceptions which we cherished. As Maria Lugones puts that the Western Feminist discourse is unilinear as it takes into account only the issues of white, upper class heterosexual women (Lugones 2016). That narrative is not appropriate for solving the issues which a woman like me from the third world faces. This necessitates that an autonomous body of feminist thought to solve the issues that the women from the third world faces. Our society is more spiritual, characterized by organic solidarity, not as materialistic as the western society. We value our traditions, our culture and that is a ground for us to claim our individuality and our distinctiveness from a western woman. We do not necessarily hate our traditions, our customs and our culture. The only complain that we as women of the third world have is that our culture not be co-opted by western culture, and also that our culture must evolve and imbibe the aspect of progressiveness from the western intellectual discourses (Lugones 2016).

Thus in the concluding section I would like to say that homogenizing and universalizing the feminist discourse shall not be of any benefit to the women. The category of women is not an organic whole, as there are a plethora of intersectionalities induced by caste, class and racial divisions. The aspirations and the desires of a women vary across societies and essentializing the needs of a woman shall in no way be of any benefit. What is applicable in Australia is not in Saudi Arabia, and what is applicable in Saudi Arabia is not in Pakistan, given their relative degree of societal difference. Therefore, neglecting the specificities in pronouncing what lies in the best interest of the women without letting women decide for themselves shall in no way be of any solution.

References

Lugones, M., 2016. The coloniality of gender. In The Palgrave handbook of gender and development (pp. 13-33). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Lugones, M., 2010. Toward a decolonial feminism. Hypatia, 25(4), pp.742-759.

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[Accessed 29 February 2024].

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