Recently, the famous Somalian women’s rights activist, feminist, author and speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been in the media for saying that western feminism is “Trivial BS”.*
Although, after reading the article and identifying what SHE said (in quotes) and what the AUTHOR said (not in quotes), it turned out she didn’t really say that at all, it still made me think…
Is western (i.e “my”) feminism trivial BS?
Well, I thought, to be honest, you can say almost ANY issue in the west is trivial BS compared to what goes on elsewhere. I’ll be the first to say that some of our worries and concerns are total trivial BS, we are after all, the “worried well” and we are so, so flipping lucky.
I mean, come on, #firstworldproblems.
- Worried about too much sugar? In some countries they don’t even have food!
- Worried about what school your kid goes to? In some places the one school they have is a 5 hour’s walk away and costs half the family’s monthly income.
- Worried about your health? In some countries life expectancy is only around 40 years old.
- Worried about your career? Speaking in world terms, you are damn lucky to even have a job.
- Worried about where and how to birth? In many places in the world a woman has a 1/100 chance of dying during pregnancy and birth (that’s 100 per 100,000), compared to a scant 4 births per 100,000 (sorry I cannot do the maths) here in Spain.
- Worry about some half-naked ladies on a man’s shirt? In some places women cannot leave the house without a male escort and are basically bought and sold by their families to other older men. In some countries women’s’ genitals are mutilated. In some countries women can’t vote, or own property, or divorce, or have the right to see their children if they do…
Really, thinking about it puts our daily worries in to sharp focus, and makes our “struggles” sounds like trivial BS.
So why, why do we still need to worry about feminism?
I thought about it and I came up with a few reasons that it resonates with me personally.
1) The gender pay gap. Why in our society do men earn more than women for the same job and same hours?
2) The sex and porn industry. Women being taken advantage of here, big time. Not nice.
3) Pregnancy and labour. There is a long way to go here. I have lost count of the women I know personally that have been treated with disrespect during this moment in their lives. 90% episiotomy rate here in Spain. This has to stop.
That is just my tiny list, at this point in my life. If I were younger I might be concerned about sexist banter, or date rape, or online trolling. If I were older it might be the fact that no women over 45 is shown presenting the news, that we “disappear” after a certain age.
Are these issues trivial BS? Compared to FGM and total submission to men, yes. But one doesn’t cancel out the other. We can still be incensed at FGM and also believe that women and men should receive equal pay.
So, in answer to my own question, yes western feminism is trivial BS compared to the rest of the world’s problems! And thank god for that, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here contemplating it, I wouldn’t have my own laptop, or free time, or the luxury to think and write and educate myself. Ironically, that’s all down to feminism past (thanks!).
But then, equality will always be worth contemplating and striving for, however BS-y it seems, however privileged we get, it will always be worth thinking about bringing us all up to the same privilege rather than leaving some down there, with less pay, or crappy vaginal scars or negative body images.
Lastly, I’m absolutely all for improving quality of life for women and girls (and men and boys, as it happens) around the world. And I also believe that charity starts at home.
* I had a little look around the articles that were published online and it was funny ‘cos a) they were all EXACTLY the same copy b) She didn’t actually say that western feminism itself is BS, she was actually criticising the uproar about the scientist who wore the shirt with the half-naked women on it.
If there are poeple wondering what on earth #shirtgate was all about, i.e why did those hysterical feminists go crazy about a shirt and make a man (a really clever man) apologise, think about this: gollywogs were on jam-jars when I was a kid…now they are not. Why? because they are a racial stereotype that we didn’t need. People (black people and white people) didnt like it. Perhaps if they were still around now, and a scientist came on air with a shirt full of gollywogs, perhaps a viral internet petition would have started and perhaps he would have apologised. So yes, as Ms. Ali says, uproar around a shirt can be seen as trivial BS, and on the other hand another stereotype publicly stood up to. #justsaying
PS Thanks t katrinaelsi for providing her wonderful photo entitled “Women at Work” for free on the Creative Commons.