Twisty Faster writes:
I Blame the Patriarchy - European Honky Dudes Whacking Wives At Alarming Rate: I say this because our racist conceits are more thoroughgoing than we care to admit. As I have oft opined, Americans display a notably high tolerance for the suffering of others, especially when those others are brown. Like white dudes and their birthright of male privilege, Westerners are indoctrinated from birth with a sort of first-world entitlement. This allows us to keep “exotic” cultures at arm’s length, to luxuriate in a cavalier unfamiliarity with their strange, primitive ways, and ultimately, to think of them as ideas rather than people, as less real than we are, and therefore less important. My own unscientific, blog-centric survey, based on the much-lower-than-average number of comments generated by posts that focus on violent misogyny in “third-world” countries, is that even seasoned patriarchy-blamers are rather less outraged by ritual stonings in Pakistan or mass rapes in Rwanda than they are by Dove soap’s attempt to pass off skinny white models as fat girls.
A lot of very good comments ensue about how women are represented in developing countries and the relation to women's rights in the West and matters of imperialism, colonialism, and violence. Most of the commenters understand why Western feminists commenting on developing countries can be a bit of a minefield. I'd like to point one very important thing out, though, at least regarding the usual subject of Western handwringing.
Someone pointed out earlier that women's rights are a point of conflict between the West and the Muslim world. I'd like to emphasize that this is very much a two-way street. Hypocritical Western powers/media/etc use women's rights as a bludgeon against extraneous interests of the Muslim world. This has caused a lot of the Muslim world to regard women's rights as an instrument of Western domination---a totally predictable effect. A lot of progress that might have been made has been retarded by this perception.
In the media, women's lives in the Muslim world are treated like some form of prurient horror show---in relation to the lives of Western women. I mean, we see an unrelenting parade of misery. All of my family comes from that part of the world, and, truth be told, there isn't much more misery there as far as I can tell as there is here. Not THAT much more misery, that's for sure, and in some cases perhaps less (options for women vary a lot by class and geography). And, unfortunately, even Western women who consider themselves feminists contribute to this, such as, for instance, people like Irshad Manji.
What it does is provoke resentment about the West, even for women. Women in my family can do nothing but shout at the TV in frustration when the plight of women in their countries is used essentially for propaganda. I remember in a CBC TV report about Pakistan (perhaps more than one), some of the women were speaking Urdu, but the translation captions were deliberately skewed to make things sound much closer to Western stereotypes than what was actually said, and some important sentences were simply glossed over. It's hard to see this as anything but propaganda, and a lot of the Muslim world resents the hypocrisy and associates feminism with it. And, in any case, it necessarily obscures the search for solutions.
Of course, I am not denying that there aren't problems. Big problems. But I can presently count few successes brought about by foreigners, even women, in addressing these concerns. The best successes are typically brought about by the women who live there, on the ground. That doesn't mean necessarily that successes can't come from outside, or at least support and honest advice can't come from outside. But we haven't really seen it that often.