Bananas, Beaches, and Bases
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When it comes to gender stereotypes, it is clear that despite advances in modern society, Western culture loves defining the roles of both men and women. Whether it is simply the role of hegemony within the larger framework of society or the fact that women cannot escape their childbearing roles, Western society continues to see the female and male as decisively defined in their roles and actions. While gender stereotypes work well for defining Western culture, one cannot help but wonder what happens to these ideologies when they are placed within the context of another culture. Does the politics of feminism still exist, or are women in Third World cultures being exploited as a result of their inability to understand their position in society? Cynthia Enloe considers these issues in her book, Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics.
Enloe and Bananas, Beaches, and Bases
Enloe predicates her book on the assumption that as labor becomes more commodified in Western civilization and is transferred to the Third World—where it can be undertaken in a more cost effective manner—the transfer of gender roles from Western society to developing countries will be the end result. Although Enloe does not see this reality as disturbing, what she does find disheartening is the fact that as labor roles are transferred and gender roles more strictly defined, women in Third World countries are being marginalized and exploited as a result of male dominated politics. Enloe makes this argument in light of the growing tourism economies in developing countries.
Women in the 1980's
“By the mid-1980s, the global tourism business employed more people than the tourism. These employees were servicing an estimated 200 million people who each year pack their bags and pocket their Berlitz phrase books to become international tourists”. Women who once toiled in the fields or weaved baskets for a living are now finding themselves working in the tourism industry to meet the governments need to fill these positions. In short, because the government needs tourism to survive, it has become reliant on women to fill positions in the tourism industry. While this reality has become part of mainstream tourism in Third World countries, what Enloe is able to expose is that women are not just used to change linens and to serve meals; rather their government is using them as a “natural resource to compete in an international market.”