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Monday, 11 March 2019

Why don't white feminists campaign against FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the most barbaric acts happening against women globally. It disproportionately affects women of colour (for want of a better phrase). And yet western feminist campaigns include: banning the word 'bossy', complaining about a pay gap that has been disproven multiple times, moaning because a guy on the street called them pretty, and saying air conditioners are sexist.

Yes, it's all very well to say 'there are different issues that affect women everywhere.' This is correct. Comparing situations that happen in different parts of the world is typically not helpful. One can say that the oppression of European women is not the same as the oppression of African women and that white Anglo-American feminists cannot tackle all of womankind's problems.

Except Anglo-American women, especially middle-to-upper class white women, are not being oppressed. (This isn't to say sexism doesn't exist; however 'oppressed' is a very strong word and in my opinion is too casually thrown around). In the UK and USA, there is no legal right a man has that a woman does not have. In fact, women are typically favoured over men in some legal cases; women typically serve shorter prison sentences than men for doing the same crime, male sexual abuse victims are less likely to be taken seriously (which probably contributes to the increase in men's mental illness), and mothers are favoured over fathers when it comes to child custody laws.

When non-feminists or non-white women stand up and say 'why don't you go and speak for the women being oppressed under Sharia law or the millions of girls who have their clitoris snipped off every year', it's not to sweep the problems of European women under the rug. It's because there aren't any legal or economic problems anymore. The problems that modern Anglo-American feminists complain about are ones that are social, for the most part. Not that they are not issues in and of themselves, but they are issues that can be easily resolved. Cat-calling is a social problem, not a political one. It's not the same as a woman being denied the right to an education, to safe contraception, or to protection against marital rape.

Wealthy white women have historically enjoyed privileges that working class white women or non-white women can only dream about. When Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, she was addressing bored housewives who were 'poor unpaid slaves', lounging in the suburban home their husband had bought for them. The Suffragettes, while brilliant within their cause, were representing a minority of wealthy white women. They weren't speaking up for the issues facing poor or ethnic women. I know nowadays 'intersectional feminism' claims to be for all women, yet I still don't see any mass campaigns like the #metoo or #timesup movements that speak out against FGM or the treatment of women under Sharia Law.

Where's #timesup for FGM? Why don't these white feminists stand up and actually fight for a serious and worthy cause? Is it because it's not in their interest? Could it be that a mass protest against the sexual and physical violence against women in African and Middle Eastern states does nothing to help the noble Anglo-American feminist cause of women not having the right to leave their legs unshaven?

'FGM has been a global problem for centuries, and very little has been done by American feminists to raise awareness, condemn the practice, or combat the stigma surrounding women and men who oppose the practice. When young women do make a statement in not only recognizing this as a worldwide problem, but offering an innovative solution, feminists remain silent.'

'Prove that feminism cares about more than superficial first-world problems. Prove that feminism is willing to focus its time and energy on topics that don’t get Twitter followers or airtime on CNN and MSNBC. Prove that feminism isn’t as shallow as it seems to be.'

'Unfortunately, liberal feminists pick and choose which types of violence against women are worthy of this studiously nonpartisan approach. For example, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honor violence seem not to be considered egregious enough to be taken up by the broader women’s movement. Instead, these barbaric violations of human rights don’t make it onto progressives’ radar. Rather, they’re excused or ignored by feminists because the perpetrators inflicting the violence tend to have brown skin.'

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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