The End of a Decade: International Feminism and the Media in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Megan Neary, Georgia State University
What became known as Women’s Liberation at the end of the 1960s was not simply a movement of radical young white Western women. In fact, women from multiple identity groups in the U.S. and many other societies took part in this renewed feminist project, which received early recognition in the United Nations’ first conference on women in Mexico City in 1975. This project extended into the 1980s and 90s and led on to the surge of a feminist “third wave.” If the struggles of these decades demonstrated that the personal was political, they also revealed that it was global as well as local. Women of color, indigenous women, immigrant women, and postcolonial women collectively produced new identities and politics as “third world” feminists, in both the “first world” and “third world” and later the “global North” and “global South.” In turn, the impact of their demands and initiatives reshaped the feminisms of white American and European women. While the outlines of this narrative of globalizing feminism have become familiar to students of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies in the early twenty-first century, the actual contours and dynamics of this “wave” deserve deeper historical study. This poster will give an outline of the scene of American women’s involvement in “global feminism” leading into the 1985 NGO Forum and United Nations End-of-the-Decade Conference on Women held in Nairobi, Kenya. Particular emphasis will be put on the controversy surrounding the realities of representation that were debated in both the local and international press. By looking at the coverage of this women’s conference by the international and local media, and simultaneously engaging in the historiography of the “third world” in the long global 60s, I will try to answer questions about the ideologies and realities of “global feminists” in the 1980s and 1990s. This poster will feature ongoing Ph.D. dissertation research about the UN’s Decade for Women and the conference and NGO meetings in Nairobi, Kenya.
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