I love Tumblr feminism but it is so damn West-centric.
I realise, I realise perfectly, that women get raped and murdered and tortured in the West too. And I am in NO WAY undermining any of that. But feminism is such a complex issue and I’ve come to realise that feminism for one woman is not feminism for the other.
For one woman, feminism is the right to wear the tightest, shortest clothes and not be degraded or attacked for it. For another woman, it is literally the right to be born. No feminism is more or less “valid”. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that your rights are any less important. But feminism is so layered, and I find that–at least on tumblr–much of feminism’s other sides aren’t talked about as much.
I can only speak reliably for women of my own country.
It is honestly dangerous for me to be out of the house, alone, after a certain time of night. It’s risky for me to get wet in the rain because I’d look “sexy” and therefore I’m “asking for it”. In the burning heat of summer, I have to think twice about wearing anything short or sleeveless or in any way comfortable, because it would be “indecent” of me. It’s dangerous for me to wear a skirt, or a dress, unless I’m moving from a car to an indoor area, I’m cat-called on my way to college when I’m literally just wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, it’s dangerous for me to enter a taxi alone because I’m at the driver’s mercy, it’s dangerous for me to turn a man down because I could literally HAVE ACID THROWN ON MY FACE, and when I talk about issues like rape, powerful men in powerful offices in the country literally try to blame anything else but the rapist, including (and this is what an actual politician said), “spicy chinese food that gives men fire”. In my country it’s illegal for pregnant women to do a sex determination procedure because most people, when finding out that the unborn child is female, abort her. Doctors take bribes and do the test anyway. Aborted female foetuses are often fed to stray dogs or thrown into sewers. Female babies that are born are often murdered. There are places where local village councils don’t allow women to own mobile phones because it would give them too much freedom. Women are pulled out of school–children!–and young college students, to get married, because a woman’s only job is to give birth to a boy, and why not start right after her body is able to carry a baby, right? Martial rape isn’t against the crime, because some lawyers and judges literally can’t wrap their head around the fact that married women can be raped by their husbands. Lesbians–they’re not even allowed the freedom to have sex. (Section 377). Trans women, are of course, not even considered human beings.
And as bad as the women in my country have it, I realise that I am, in fact constitutionally, granted SO much more freedom than women of other countries. The law gives me the right to wear what I want, go where I please, drive a car, be alone. The law gives me freedom, even if my society does not. As a cis, straight woman, I am not considered an abomination against nature. And therefore when I read about the lives of women in countries worse of than mine, I am reminded that I am, in fact, endlessly privileged. My nationality grants me equal status with a man, my parents–progressive and feminist as they are–give me freedoms that even some of my friends don’t have (such as the freedom to choose the man I marry), my education and financial status give me the freedom to dream of what I can be in the future. I am lucky.
Feminism for women in my country is when a girl’s father tells me, “I’m going to educate my daughter like a boy, I want her to become a government servant.” I don’t think, how dare he choose a profession for his daughter, she has the right to choose! I think, wow, he’s giving her an education.
Feminism for a woman in my country is when I tell my Australian cousin that, “it’s actually getting MUCH better. Child marriage has reduced.”
Feminism is when I have to explain to a New Zealander that, my father doesn’t force me to do anything. He doesn’t dictate the clothes I wear or where I go, or who I meet. I listen to him because I love and respect his judgement, and I know that when he looks at the crop top I’m wearing and asks, in badly-hidden surprise, “You’re wearing that?” it’s not because he has a problem with me showing skin, it’s because he’s terrified of me getting raped or killed. And when I talk about boys with my mother, it’s not because she’s forcing me to get married at the age of 18 to a man of her choosing, it’s because I have a crush and I want someone to talk to. That is more than what I can say for over 50% of my friends.
No “version” of feminism is inherently more valid than the other. But Western feminism tends to discuss issues like equal pay and sexualisation in media, which are literally so far out of the issues women from less liberated societies face. And I believe that those women deserved to be acknowledged as well.
Feminism should be about all women, of all backgrounds, otherwise we might as well not bother.