This can be seen in Rebecca Karls essay on “Slavery, Citizenship, and Gender in late Qing Chinas Global Context.” Karls essay asks the central question — why, as women grew more prominent socially in the late Qing era, did they also increasingly be referred to as slaves? (Karl 216). Karl argues that the idea of nationalism during the era is critical to understanding the gendered rhetorical trope of slavery. Her historical analysis underlines Scotts central argument: to fully understand Chinese social history, including nationalist politics, also demands an understanding of the conceptualization of women and the real, material status of women within the nation. According to Karl, elite Qing women often had a role in the primary political discourse. But male and female advocates for Chinese freedom against Western imperialism frequently made a literary analogy between female slavery in the domestic sphere and national slavery in the political sphere (Karl 221).
The need to understand how gender relations are perceived to understand macro economic and political history is also clearly manifest today: consider how the role of women in the Middle East is often used by Westerners as proof of the inferiority of Islamic culture, while Islamic fundamentalists make so-called appropriate behavior and dress of women a rallying cry for their ideology.
The use of women as a symbol in the political discourse often has tragic political consequences, as manifested in the use of rape as a weapon during nationalist wars in the Baltics and the enforced conformity of women to fundamentalist rules when the Taliban were ruling Afghanistan as a way to fight Western imperialism. Even while the West continued discriminatory practices within its own borders, examples such as these were used as a point of critique of foreign nations by Westerners. Gender is thus not clearly about a male vs. female struggle, but is instead, in Scotts words, a way of articulating power relationships, not just between male and female bodies,.