Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society

Published by University of Chicago Press
Online ISSN: 1545-6943
Print ISSN: 0097-9740
L'A. montre de quelle maniere les premiers textes pornographiques modernes envisagent et mettent en scene le plaisir et la sexualite feminine. Elle passe en revue les livres pornographiques, publies entre 1655 et 1745 en France et en Grande-Bretagne, qui ont connu le plus de succes. Elle porte plus particulierement son attention sur «L'Ecole des filles» et sur l'ouvrage de Nicolas Chorier «Satyra sotadica». Ces deux ouvrages presentent differents recits, destines aux femmes, d'initiation sexuelle
Contraceptives are at the center of countless dramas of "everyday resistance" involving struggles for power between genders and generations (Scott 1985). In most demographic scholarship such dramas are obscured by emphasis on the "big picture" of broad demographic changes. This article is part of the intellectual movement toward the goal of viewing such huge social transformations from the ground on which they occur-the daily lives of men and women-in order to challenge existing demographic descriptions of fertility change that ignore conflict resistance and subversion in the ways fertility is regulated. (excerpt)
In 1901, Broome—a port town on the northwest edge of the Australian continent—was one of the principal and most lucrative industrial pearling centers in the world and entirely dependent on Asian indentured labor. Relations between Asian crews and local Aboriginal people were strong, at a time when the project of White Australia was being pursued with vigorous, often fanatical dedication across the newly federated continent. It was the policing of Aboriginal women, specifically their relations with Asian men, that became the focus of efforts by authorities and missionaries to uphold and defend their commitment to the White Australia policy. This article examines the historical experience of Aboriginal women in the pearling industry of northwest Australia and the story of Asian-Aboriginal cohabitation in the face of oppressive laws and regulations. It then explores the meaning of “color” in contemporary Broome for the descendants of this mixed heritage today.
Medical tourism in Ireland, like in many Western states, is built around assumptions about individual agency, choice, possibility, and mobility. One specific form of medical tourism—the flow of women from Ireland traveling in order to secure an abortion—disrupts and contradicts these assumptions. One legacy of the bitter, contentious political and legal battles surrounding abortion in Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s has been securing the right of mobility for all pregnant Irish citizens to cross international borders to secure an abortion. However, these mobility rights are contingent upon nationality, social class, and race, and they have enabled successive Irish governments to avoid any responsibility for providing safe, legal, and affordable abortion services in Ireland. Nearly twenty years after the X case discussed here, the pregnant female body moving over international borders—entering and leaving the state—is still interpreted as problematic and threatening to the Irish state.
“Fertility tourism” is a journalistic eye‐catcher focusing on the phenomenon of patients who search for a reproductive treatment in another country in order to circumvent laws, access restrictions, or waiting lists in their home country. In Europe, the reasons why people seek reproductive treatments outside their national boundaries are quite diverse, in part because regulations differ so much among countries. Beginning with four examples of people who crossed borders for an in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment with gamete donation, this article provides some insight into these transnational circumvention practices based on material from ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Spain, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. In all three countries, gamete donation is made strictly anonymous. Clinical practices such as egg donor recruitment and phenotypical matching between donors and recipients serve to naturalize the substitution of gametes and to install social legitimacy through resemblance markers with the prospective child. In comparison to other areas of medical tourism, which are subjects of debate as a consequence of neoliberal health politics and international medical competition, mobility in the area of reproductive technologies is deeply intertwined with new forms of doing kinship. For prospective parents, it holds a promise of generating offspring who could pass as biogenetically conceived children. Therefore, IVF with gamete donation is mostly modeled after conceptions of nature. Through anonymity and concealment it creates forms of nonrelatedness that leave space for future imaginings and traces of transnational genetic creators.
There is an emerging consensus among public health advocates that combating obesity is best done by restructuring the environment rather than by stigmatizing individuals. Although feminist scholars have not been major participants in debates over antiobesity policy, recently there has been a move toward adopting the environmental account of obesity as a feminist solution because of its potential to respond to health inequalities along race, class, and gender lines. This article aims to trouble the embrace of the environmental approach by feminist scholars, however, and to resurrect and redirect feminist criticism toward attendant problems of moralism, backlash, and the surveillance and rehabilitation of poor women of color. Despite its overwhelming popularity among policy elites and health researchers, I argue that the environmental account of obesity is not likely to promote structural change and broad redistributions. Rather it makes problematic assumptions about the relationship between health and fat and about the efficacy of intervention strategies, masks moralism with health discourse, and legitimizes punitive, ineffective, and patronizing interventions.
Although the empowerment of women is a prominent goal in international development, feminist development professionals, activists, and scholars remain deeply dissatisfied with the limited extent to which women's empowerment is actually achieved. Their experiences and analyses raise questions about the connections and disjunctions between discourse, institutional practices, and everyday life. A major effort to reform development aid guided by the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness raises new questions about the place of gender in development practice. Drawing on recently conducted research on women and development in Kyrgyzstan and using a range of institutional texts, we interrogate how development professionals and activists engage with the aid effectiveness discourse. Our analytic approach, institutional ethnography, shares with work on governmentality an empirical focus on practices undertaken by diversely situated people and how these practices constitute a particular field of action. Institutional ethnography directs analytic attention to the operation of texts as local and translocal coordinators of people's everyday activities. The product of this coordinated work is what we call, in this case, the development institution. For those concerned about women and development, we see the usefulness of making visible how global governance is accomplished in both enactments of and resistance to institutional practices, but in ways that do not necessarily benefit women.
Along with a handful of other nations in the developing world, Brazil has emerged as a top destination for medical tourism. Drawing on the author's ethnographic fieldwork in plastic surgery wards, this article examines diverse factors - some explicitly promoted in medical marketing and news sources, others less visible - contributing to Brazil's international reputation for excellence in cosmetic plastic surgery. Brazil's plastic surgery residency programs, some of which are housed within its public health system, attract overseas surgeons, provide ample opportunities for valuable training in cosmetic techniques, and create a clinical environment that favors experimentation with innovative techniques. Many graduates of these programs open private clinics that, in turn, attract overseas patients. High demand for Brazilian plastic surgery also reflects an expansive notion of female health that includes sexual realization, mental health, and cosmetic techniques that manage reproduction. Medical tourism is sometimes represented as being market-driven: patients in wealthier nations travel to obtain quality services at lower prices. This article ends by reflecting on how more complex local and transnational dynamics also contribute to demand for elective medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery.
Tourists travel to Arkansas' mountain regions to experience, appreciate, and consume multiple aspects of otherness, including sacred sites and pristine and authentic peoples and environments. A largely unexplored aspect of this consumption of authenticity is alternative medicine, provided to tourists and day travelers in search of physical and emotional restoration. Traditional forms of medicine are deeply rooted in women's social roles as community healers in the region and are perpetuated in part because of the lack of readily accessible forms of so-called modern medicine. Contemporary medical tourism in Arkansas has promoted access to folk health systems, preserving them by incorporating them into tourists' health care services, and also has attracted new and dynamic alternative medical practices while encouraging the transformation of existing forms of traditional medicine. Ultimately, the blend of alternative, folk, and conventional medicine in the Arkansas highlands is evidence of globalizing forces at work in a regional culture. It also serves to highlight a renewed appreciation for the historic continuity and the efficacy of traditional knowledge in the upper South.
Over the past decade, abolitionist feminist and evangelical Christian activists have directed increasing attention toward the “traffic in women” as a dangerous manifestation of global gender inequalities. Despite renowned disagreements around the politics of sex and gender, these groups have come together to advocate for harsher penalties against traffickers, prostitutes’ customers, and nations deemed to be taking insufficient steps to stem the flow of trafficked women. In this essay, I argue that what has served to unite this coalition of "strange bedfellows" is not simply an underlying commitment to conservative ideals of sexuality, as previous commentators have offered, but an equally significant commitment to carceral paradigms of justice and to militarized humanitarianism as the preeminent mode of engagement by the state. I draw upon my ongoing ethnographic research with feminist and evangelical antitrafficking movement leaders to argue that the alliance that has been so efficacious in framing contemporary antitrafficking politics is the product of two historically unique and intersecting trends: a rightward shift on the part of many mainstream feminists and other secular liberals away from a redistributive model of justice and toward a politics of incarceration, coincident with a leftward sweep on the part of many younger evangelicals toward a globally oriented social justice theology. In the final section of this essay, I consider the resilience of these trends given a newly installed and more progressive Obama administration, positing that they are likely to continue even as the terrain of militarized humanitarian action shifts in accordance with new sets of geopolitical interests.
Arcachon Bay, on France’s southwest coast, is famous for its oysters. Old postcards of the region, and of its laborers, reflect women’s contribution to the oyster industry since the nineteenth century. Digging deeper, though, we find a rich and diverse history of women’s maritime work that goes beyond the favored selection of images. We find that women were fishing, piloting boats, bargaining with tourists, and even carrying passengers from shore to vessel on their shoulders. This article explores the development of tourism, which initially opened up new opportunities for women but eventually, thanks to the medical and moral templates that came with the newcomers, restricted women’s economic and physical independence on the shores of the bay.
Representations of Shetland womanhood have a place in our understanding of gender relations in this island community but not the place one might expect. Far from conforming to the image of the brazen fishwife and the exploited preindustrial handknitter, women in these occupations exhibited a degree of independence perhaps unexpected in a society so dominated by the farming-fishing economy. Yet the particular demographic characteristics of Shetland—a society in which women far outnumbered men—created a situation whereby women marked out a role for themselves that traversed both private and public domains. The sheer fact of male absence (due to seasonal fishing trips and more lengthy whaling and merchant shipping voyages) created a society with very particular labor characteristics, which gave women a degree of economic and, more significantly, cultural power. This power rested on women’s skills and endurance as domestic producers, their active role in the market as traders and marketers of goods, and their place in the community as possessors of certain kinds of knowledge or cultural capital.
This essay analyzes recent discourse on two emerging representations of women in China, "tender" women (nennu) and "ripe" women (shunu), in order to examine the relationships among gender, body politics, and consumerism. The discourse of nennu and shunu suggests that older, ripe women become younger and more tender by consuming fashions, cosmetic surgery technologies, and beauty and health care products and services because tender women represent the ideal active consumership that celebrates beauty, sexuality, and individuality. This discourse serves to enhance consumers' desire for beauty and health and to ensure the continued growth of China's beauty economy and consumer capitalism. Highlighting the role of the female body, feminine beauty, and feminine youth in developing consumerism, this discourse downplays the contributions of millions of beauty and health care providers (predominantly laid-off female workers and rural migrant women) and new forms of gender exploitation. Such an overemphasis on gender masks intensified class division. This essay suggests that women and their bodies become new terrains from which post-Mao China can draw its power and enact consumerism. Gender constitutes both an economic multiplier to boost China's consumer capitalism and a biopolitical strategy to regulate and remold women and their bodies into subjects that are identified with the state's political and economic objectives. Since consumerism has been incorporated into China's nation-building project, gender thus becomes a vital resource for both consumer capitalist development and nation building. This essay shows that both gender and the body are useful analytic categories for the study of postsocialism.
As part of a feminist commitment to collaboration, this article, which appears as a companion essay to Minh-Ha T. Pham's "The Right to Fashion in the Age of Terror," offers a point of departure for thinking about fashion and beauty as processes that produce subjects recruited to, and aligned with, the national interests of the United States in the war on terror. The Muslim woman in the veil and her imagined opposite, the fashionably modern and implicitly Western woman, become convenient metaphors for articulating geopolitical contests of power as human rights concerns, as rescue missions, as beautifying mandates. This essay examines newer iterations of this opposition, after September 11, 2001, in order to demonstrate the critical resonance of a biopolitics of fashion and beauty. After the events of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush's administration launched a military and public relations campaign to promote U.S. national interests using the language of feminism and human rights. While these discourses in the United States helped to reinvigorate a declining economy, and specifically a flagging fashion industry (as Pham addresses in her companion essay), feminism abroad was deployed to very different ends. This article considers the establishment of the Kabul Beauty School by the nongovernmental organization Beauty without Borders, sponsored in large part by the U.S. fashion and beauty industries. Examining troubling histories of beauty's relation to morality, humanity, and security, as well as to neoliberal discourses of self-governance, the author teases out the biopower and biopolitics of beauty, enacted here through programs of empowerment that are inseparable from the geopolitical aims of the U.S. deployment in Afghanistan.
L'auteur rend compte de ses reflexions sur la politique de l'enfant unique mise en place en Chine il a vingt ans. Les methodes employees furent contraignantes voir violentes pour la population, ce qui engendra de fortes reactions des feministes occidentales. Concernant les intellectuels feministes chinois, leurs voies se font entendre depuis les conferences du Caire et de Beijing. L'auteur confronte le discours officiel sur la liberalisation des femmes apporte par le regime, avec les critiques des feministes qui se battent pour amener le debat sur la scene publique. Neanmoins, etant donne la severite du regime communiste, il est necessaire de savoir composer avec les autorites, afin de voir aboutir les espoirs des feministes quant a l'avenir de la nation
L'A. evoque les debats qui ont oppose, entre 1835 et 1907, partisans et adversaires du Deceased Wife's Sister Bill qui interdit a un veuf d'epouser la soeur de sa femme decedee. Il montre que cette loi s'inscrit dans le contexte de la culture victorienne et reflete certaines representations concernant les relations entre frere et soeur, la consanguinite, la sexualite, la passion amoureuse et l'organisation de la famille. Il revele que ce debat a trouve un certain nombre d'echos dans la litterature anglaise du 19 e siecle, notamment dans l'oeuvre de Felicia Skene, dans celle de Mulock Craik et dans celle de William Clark Russell.
This essay explores how concepts of value and cheapness circulate around the bodies of clients of the Johannesburg-based cosmetic surgery tourism company Surgeon and Safari. I show how the production of a luxurious experience and the mitigation of risk take place within a transnational network enabled by the presence of medical tourism in multiple locales. By placing Surgeon and Safari's activities within the context of the neoliberalization of health care in South Africa, I explore how the division between private versus public health spaces functions as both a technique of valuing clients' bodies and as a process of racialization.
This article explores the historical understanding of maritime womanhood in Newfoundland by examining women in fishing families along the southern Avalon Peninsula from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. It does not talk about fishwives in any popular sense of the word, for these women did not market fish; rather, they produced salt fish for market. And while middle-class observers may have perceived them as coarse and bold, within their own families and fishing communities they were seen as essential partners who contributed equally to family economies. Within a sexual division of labor that assigned vital and complementary tasks to both men and women, Newfoundland fish(-producing) wives carried out hard physical labor at public sites of production. This contributed significantly to the construction of “woman” as essential worker, which in turn had broader repercussions for their status and authority within fishing communities. The participation of fish(-producing) wives changed significantly from the 1950s onward, as the fishery moved from household production to a modernized, and discursively masculinized, industry. Yet the iconic image of the fish(-producing) wife in traditional household production remains undisrupted in the early twenty-first century.
In 1993, a group of women shocked Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, with the news that dozens of girls and women had been murdered and dumped, like garbage, around the city during the year. As the numbers of murders grew over the years, and as the police forces proved unwilling and unable to find the perpetrators, the protestors became activists. They called the violence and its surrounding impunity "femicide," and they demanded that the Mexican government, at the local, state, and federal levels, stop the violence and capture the perpetrators. Nearly two decades later, the city's infamy as a place of femicide is giving way to another terrible reputation as a place of unprecedented drug violence. Since 2006, more than six thousand people have died in the city, as have more than twenty-eight thousand across the country, in relation to the violence associated with the restructuring of the cartels that control the production and distribution of illegal drugs. In response to the public outcry against the violence, the Mexican government has deployed thousands of troops to Ciudad Juárez as part of a military strategy to secure the state against the cartels. In this essay, I argue that the politics over the meaning of the drug-related murders and femicide must be understood in relation to gendered violence and its use as a tool for securing the state. To that end, I examine the wars over the interpretation of death in northern Mexico through a feminist application of the concept of necropolitics as elaborated by the postcolonial scholar Achille Mbembe. I examine how the wars over the political meaning of death in relation both to femicide and to the events called "drug violence" unfold through a gendering of space, of violence, and of subjectivity. My objective is twofold: first, to demonstrate how the antifemicide movement illustrates the stakes for a democratic Mexican state and its citizens in a context where governing elites argue that the violence devastating Ciudad Juárez is a positive outcome of the government's war against organized crime; and second, to show how a politics of gender is central to this kind of necropolitics.
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Jacquelynne S Eccles
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Aili Tripp
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Ratna Kapur
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