I am pretty sure, that anyone who have ever had a debate about feminism also had a conversation or two (or three…) about situation of women in developing countries. This type of conversations can play out in few different ways.
- You might hear argument: “Why are you complaining, women in other countries have it way harder than you.”
- If you take a stand and condemn the fact that “others have it way harder than me” you might hear: “Feminists are imposing their western values on third world countries, destroying their culture.” You might also earn a badge of imperialist, racist, immoral destroyer of traditions around the globe.
- However, if you do not take the stand you might also be called “privileged, ignorant coward”.
The choice of where you want to stand is yours and if you are white, your choice is even harder. My intention is to help people understand why all of the above arguments are wrong and no matter what people say, feminist should support their sisters abroad, in places where it is really hard to live as a woman.
Being a woman in Europe or America is not easy, we don’t have it perfect here yet, but we did come a long way. Compared to our grandmothers we live great lives. We have opportunities that women never had before: we have access to education; we can read or write whatever we want; we can own property; we can open bank accounts or leave the house without our husband’s permission. In fact, we don’t have to have husbands in the first place. We have a choice. That thing we take for granted, choice is a dream of women in many countries. Freedom in my country and lack of freedom in different countries can and does exist in the same time, both situations don’t exclude one another. Lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia is not a reason for me to sit quiet and be content; it is a reason to act, or at least to be enraged.
I would like to argue that we have moral responsibility to take clear stand on what’s happening in other places. Oppression of women in developing countries is not a fictive problem of hysterical ladies in The West. Secondly, we do not destroy cultures and traditions with our feminist ideas. If someone feels that feminism poses a threat to their culture it means the culture is misogynistic and its oppressive parts have to go! We shouldn’t be scared of criticizing cultures others than ours. If we cannot accept oppression of women at home, why can we tolerate it abroad? Isn’t it hypocritical? White men are not the only one who can oppress women. If we don’t realize it, our sisters in many places will be left alone in their struggle and it’s a pity, because we, women in The West, have enough power to support them.
To prove that discrimination of females in developing countries is not an idea of white, western feminist I would like to give few examples of women from around the planet speaking out about injustice they face.
Great example comes from Iran. Just recently Iranian women have rocked facebook upside down by posting pictures without hijab in public places. It is a crime in Iran to uncover your hair and women are often punished for it. The page “My stealthyfreedom” has given a voice to voiceless women of the country, who are forced to sweat in hijab on every sunny day in Iran, whether they like it or no. Obviously there are women in Iran who chose to wear hijab, but it doesn’t mean the government should push all women to veil themselves, some might simply choose to remain “immoral” and it is not government’s job to send them to Allah.
Recently we heard about four Saudi princesses who claim to be under house arrest since 13 years. They are imprisoned by their father, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. They are denied basic human rights, yet, we remain quiet. It is enough for King Abdullah to ask for respect of his religion and tradition and we all quit fighting for freedom of women in Saudi Arabia or other Muslim countries. How much longer will we sacrifice women in developing countries for sake of political correctness?
It gets even worse when abuses of women in different cultures are knocking on our door and because of tolerance we disarm our social workers, police officers and other officials who should protect potential victims of abuse. If we are not going to openly talk about flaws in traditions that cause men to abuse women we are not going to help anyone.
This article is one of the examples of how mainstream media beats around the bush and avoid the truth about one of the worst form of child and women abuse, FGM. In the article you will find no proper explanation of why girls are subjected to such cruelty. Honor, virginity, religion – all these terms are pushed somewhere in the shadows. Readers are informed about existence of this problem in UK, but receive no direct information of why people do it and not even who are the people who do it. FGM occurs in Muslim countries, but author preferred to write: “FGM is most common among some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities.” We are so terrified of offending people, that we willingly ignore suffering of women, our sisters.
People who support struggles of women in third world countries are often called “imperialist” who spread immoral western ideas. However, it is worth noting, that individuals who make such comments are usually those who benefit from living in conservative, patriarchal societies, or are religiously influenced to believe that women are inferior to men and need male guidance to distinguish between right and wrong.
Women deserve equal rights, choices, and opportunities, irrespective of where they live. Let’s stop ignoring each other and let’s support our common fight for world where all people are free to be who they truly are. To hit the last nail I would like to quote Taslima Nasreen, poetess from Bangladesh.
Written by Inanna