Food, Part 3. Rethinking Western Women Privilege

This is a painful and sensitive time for American women. I know my readers aren’t reformists, or hold any belief in the system– but just this once you wanted to see a woman win because it was the right thing, and because she was competing against a fool.

So I want to try to express a theory that I’ve held for many many years, and I hope it can make you feel a little better.

One of the reasons I think that American women have taken this so hard is because there is a strongly held belief in the West ( by “west” I mean America, Canada, Australia and some parts of western Europe–U.K. France, Germany, the Nordic countries) that western women have it better than most other parts of the world. I put it to you that this is a myth. This is propaganda that you have been drip fed.

Why would you be fed such lies? For lots of reasons, but mainly to impose humility and gratitude upon you. (How dare you complain! Disgusting, when you’re so privileged! Look how bad THOSE women have got it. Now shut up and make me a sandwich).

But it is lies.

I argued in my previous post that women’s biology isn’t enough for men to be able to oppress us. They require a well-oiled political regime. Censorship and propaganda are important, and the propaganda you’ve been fed is that western women are privileged and better off than women around the world, especially third world women.

The notion that American women have it better dovetails neatly with nationalism and possibly racism too– which is not coming from the women, but is the purpose of the propaganda itself, to encourage the notion of superiority.

And this is why the election result is so galling for women who have an awareness of patriarchy. Because if American women can’t make it, then what hope have other women around the world got.. the thinking goes.

I had to wait until I began my series on food before I brought up this topic, because I thought it would be difficult to get my point across. There’s no point having a theory if you can’t express it, so the best way I can put it is like this:

90% of third world women are self-reliant. They have sophisticated methods of horticulture in place. Most make their own clothes, sometimes even from plants they’ve cultivated and grown themselves.

Western women ALL depend on a food supply chain system invented by men. How does relying on men for your food and essentials make you privileged over women who depend on themselves?

Well it doesn’t.

It’s really important to consider this. If the grid goes down most women in the world will be absolutely fine. I keep talking about the witch-craze (and I’m going to keep talking about it) because this was crucial in usurping the means of production and getting women to rely on men for access to food. It was also a way of getting women to report on each other and become handmaidens. The Soviets applied the same tactic. People would report their neighbors to the KGB only so that they themselves wouldn’t get taken away. In France and Germany there were villages with not a single female left. This is a western phenomenon.

And the reason I want to say this, is because it might make you feel better to know that you’re not the measure of how well women are doing in the world.

India has already had a female president. South Korea currently has a female president. Vietnam currently has a female president. Radical feminists understand that having a female president is not generally a measure of how well women are doing within that country– but it can be.

Many women around the world don’t need maternity leave or childcare. They just take the kids with them. I once watched a documentary by some western journalists who were “horrified” that a Columbian coffee bean picker had her kids with her and they weren’t in school. What smugness! The kids were having a great time running about, helping their mother. These disgusting journalists tried to make her feel ashamed that her kids weren’t in school.  In the West kids are forced to go to school for many years only to finally be told they’re too stupid to get a proper job. Even in Japan, which is not “western” but is developed, I know many mothers who take their kids to work.

The U.S has one of the worst maternal mortality rates (42nd by ranking in order of how safe it is to give birth) in the world because doctors basically kill women in hospital .All those female lives, gone because of medical intervention. There are only two countries left in the world without paid maternity leave: the U.S is one of them. While everyone’s on the trans merry-go-round, this fact is being neatly overlooked.

In addition, women around the world have looked at western feminism (libfem) and rejected it. Because to them it means letting fathers take care of the kids, or leaving their babies to work. All the “gains” western women have fought for have been useless. Now we see women paying child maintenance for kids they’re barely allowed to see. We see women aren’t allowed to leave their kids at home because they’ll be charged with neglect.

What I’m saying is, other women have a lot of power around the world and in their respective communities. FGM in the third world is now the “in vogue” thing that is being drip fed to western women by the media so that they turn a blind eye to all the young women getting FGM to “neaten up” their vulvas in their own countries. The fact that western women are ASKING for FGM is not a measure of their choosy choice privilege, but a measure of how their minds have been bound by the patriarchs.

I have been studying and working with women from around the world for many years. I am still in touch with the women who I lived in a dormitory with in the Netherlands who were studying the same masters degree as me. Women from: Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, China, Taiwan, Ghana, Sudan. Two of the Muslim Indonesian women had small children back in Indonesia but had left them by choice to study abroad. We discussed many topics, including women. I lived in Russia for one year and talked with women there.

It’s complicated. American women are brilliant and have come up with the most advanced feminist philosophy I have ever come across. But time now to branch out. Let’s begin looking at what other women are up to, not as observers, but as sisters. An Indian woman has recently published a book damning Ghandi’s pedophilia. She believed she was the first person to ever do so. I drew her attention to Mary Daly, and pointed out that she had already done it. The Indian author thanked me and asked about her books. Instead of being convinced of our privilege, let’s ignore the tropes that men tell us about what is going on around the world. Let’s not only look at wealthy third world women who are working for some government organization. Let’s look for women deeper at the grassroots … and maybe we can ask them for help.

Edited to add: The Nordic countries, while seeming egalitarian today, have carried out the most lobotomies on women by percentage of the population. The most dangerous place for women was Sweden. Lobotomy is still practiced on women in the U.S and the U.K. It has been outlawed in Japan and Russia because it’s fucking barbaric  on humanitarian grounds.

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6 thoughts on “Food, Part 3. Rethinking Western Women Privilege

  1. Hi Cherry, what a wise and true article this is. I agree with all of it; the idea that liberal feminism in the West has not succeeded in meeting women’s needs, only piled work upon work; the truth about FGM; the re-bounding of gender-neutral family laws on Western women; the relative independence of women in some countries (I would emphasize West Africa with its small-trader culture); the forced economic dependence of women that still exists in the West; and to me most important, the need for radical feminists to look out to the rest of the world at this point for practices that do support and benefit women.

    I would like to add a couple of cautions though: one is that I do give western feminism credit for increasing world understanding of domestic violence. I think it is less normalized everywhere now.

    And I am alarmed at the extent the spread of capitalism is entrenching western-style exploitation of women in the”rest” of the world. One method has been the use of NGOs handing out money to “develop” agricultural economies. The money gets handed to the “head of household” – women’s dependence is increased. Family farms become devoted to profit-making crops rather than subsistence crops, and the man takes the profit while the crops are sold, leaving no food for the family table as before. Men are trained to use modern farm equipment by the NGOs; women are taught health and housework. Women are brought in as a reserve workforce into wage jobs where they underearn and no longer have time for home-based subsistence. Their countries are seduced into debt to capitalist banks, and repayment requires monoculture and polluting industry where women as well as men labor. So much damage has been done to these helpful traditions for women with the introduction of Western money.

    The fields of feminism in economics and Women in Development address these changes. They are not happening invisibly. For all women, the patriarchal tactic remains to force economic dependence as the main means of propping up the marriage/private sphere system.

    Anyway it’s great to see you back and in such fine form, Cherry. Take care.

    • Thank you for the feedback.
      To the issue of western women helping foreign women with domestic violence, I would say the following:
      Years ago I went with a group of mumsnetters to the Feminism in London conference. A speech was given by a Congalese woman called Marie-Henri. To give you an idea of how powerful her speech was, it was later censored by a U.S livestream broadcast online. It couldn’t be found. Her lengthy speech was fired out like a poem.
      She had taken group of feminist delegates over to the Congo, arguably the worst war zone on earth. And what they observed was the following: every atrocity they had seen in the Congo, they had seen in the U.K. British women were facing exactly the same kind of violence as Congalese women. When we consider that two women a week are murdered by their spouses in the U.K… we might begin to imagine how they are murdered. And the answer is, they’re murdered in the same sadistic fashion as women in war zones. Western men hide the death toll from us, and they also hide the way that women die. When I heard “two women a week are murdered in the U.K” I imagined a brief stabbing in the kitchen, or a quick strangulation. But after hearing the delegates speak at the London conference, (who had seen both) I realized British women were being brutally tortured just like women in war zones, before finally being killed. What these women had seen in DV shelters in the U.K was state legitimized torture.

      So I really would question the overall effectiveness of western women going abroad to teach about domestic violence– not to say the women who are involved in this aren’t dedicated and sincere. They are. But when women around the world have got more to teach us than we’ve got to teach them, we have to step back.

      More on the Congo: one of the atrocities taking place there is rebels cutting off the hands of women. I had known for years that this was happening to Congalese women. What I only found out recently was that the Belgian colonizers were the ones who introduced this practice into the Congo. If a slave didn’t make enough rubber they would cut off his hands. In one image I saw, the Belgian soldiers had cut off the hand of a 5 year old girl after killing her before delivering the hand to her father in punishment for not making enough rubber that day. Oh believe me— it was western men– white guys, who introduced the concept of cutting off peoples hands in the Congo. Do Congalese women want white women over there helping, given the history? I’m not sure. Marie Henri had invited the group of British feminist delegates to go with her– so obviously in some cases Congalese women do want to create connections and awareness with western women. So I would say, if a woman from the country in question has personally invited you then it can be useful. I don’t know why Marie Henri thought it would be beneficial to take a group of women to the Congo– but she felt it would be.

      There are other historic events we must be aware of . For example European missionaries were horrified that the Japanese divorce rate was so high (Japanese women would marry for a few years, then divorce). They made Japan ship shape by insisting on strict divorce laws that trapped women in marriages for life. In the context of DV one can be certain that Western men created the problem in Japan. Previously women would have just left.

      Russia was once described as one social commentator as being ” a land of single mothers”. This certainly tallies with what I have seen. A throwback of communism is that each individual is able to have a small apartment of their own. While violence against women is rife in Russia due to the pornography, there are practical ways that Russian women can be independent compared to western women with children.

      • As far as I understand it, pornography only arrived in Russia after communism collapsed in 1990, and they could no longer control its influx. I will research into this more. I’m pretty sure western pornography was one of the main western imports once the regime collapsed. Russian men just ran with it and now Russia is porn-drenched.

      • Finally, after thinking about this more, I think it would be useful to see domestic violence and child sexual abuse statistics by country. Hard to quantify because so many women stay with the violent spouse and so on.
        What we do know is that spousal violence and child sexual abuse is rife in America and the UK, therefore I really do question the validity of western women going anywhere to deal with DV, before putting their own house in order. Why would they do that? Go abroad when there’s such a terrible DV problem in their own countries.

        Germany is now the brothel of the world.

        Dworkin once called childhood sexual abuse America’s way of grooming women. I noticed she specifically said America, and I know she had lived abroad. I would not be at all surprised if it transpired that this atrocity was more prevalent in America compared to other countries. If there are any worldwide figures on this I would be interested to see them.

    • It might even be that western women feel confident teaching women in foreign countries about DV because they’ve got The White Man on side.

      Western men in their own countries, are committing the same atrocities as men in war-zones, and yet nobody realizes this, or makes these connections. And they’re happy to confront men in third world countries….
      Western men, of course, are also very happy with the trope that they’re not committing atrocities themselves and are happy if western women’s attention is elsewhere rather than at home. It does smack of superiority.
      I’m not at all blaming the women. I’m wondering whether women who are in such a shit situation, should be helping women abroad anyway. You can’t help anyone if you don’t first help yourself.

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