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I love my right to free speech. The fact that American feminists are able to use free speech to spread messages of equality is amazing in a world filled with such prejudice. As a feminist, I see the platform I have as an educated woman as a powerful thing; I take that power seriously.
It has been troubling to see that many modern feminists do not take this role so seriously. I am sure we all remember the “pussy hats” that made their debut at the Women’s March earlier this year. I was also troubled at the copious amount of news coverage Emma Watson’s Vanity Fair photo got in the conversation of feminism. Feminists are making their mark in the world and our voices are being heard, but on all the wrong levels. I believe that society is so worried about the feminist voice being heard, that everything we say must be made national, native to our realm of feminism. This is a misguided goal. My fellow feminists, we are failing in our attempts.
As a feminist I see the point of arguing over the correctness of certain social issues when it comes to feminism. However, more serious problems exist in the world today that the modern first-world feminist fails to recognize. One particular injustice that harms an innumerable amount of women worldwide is Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C). According to Unicef data, FGM/C refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of female external genitalia or injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. More than 200 million women worldwide have undergone FGM. A perhaps more well known injustice is the practice of child marriage. 1 in 3 women in developing countries will be married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 before the age of 15. This is injustice that should be recognized by intersectional feminists across the globe. Topics like the examples above should be at the epicenter of feminist efforts.
Out here in the States, I guess the right to show some under-boob and wear a pussy hats are more serious topics.
I do not underpin the rights of feminists, I just believe there are certain places we should focus our efforts. It is absolutely amazing that women are able to speak their minds on a large scale. However, our country’s feminists are actively drawing attention to the wrong problems. Should we care about wage gaps? Absolutely. Should we perhaps worry a little more that 200 million women have their genitals mutilated against their will? Absolutely. We have the privilege in America to pick and choose our fights, other women in developing countries do not. It is our responsibility to use our privilege to raise other women up, not ignore them while we build ourselves higher.
Focusing efforts on helping developing countries with women’s rights issues does not undermine the issues we have here at home. The way I see it, empowering other women around the world that we recognize as marginalized does not indicate neglecting our own women. We have so much power as a nation of women. If we extend a hand to others it raises us up, only strengthening our own power back home. I am sorry if I offend anybody, but the pussy hats are incredibly stupid to put any effort into the movment whatsoever. Do not allow yourself to exhaust your efforts where they are needed least.
Although not widely advertised, there are programs and websites dedicates to helping these efforts. Girls Not Brides is an online effort that offers information and support for child brides. We should start focusing more on spreading news of these efforts.The U.S. is not completely indifferent to these issues, but the lack of coverage and widespread support hinders us. The only solution is focusing on what matters. Boasting “free the nipple” garb and growing out leg hair in the name of feminism is only a Band-Aid that helps at a low level.
Feminists in first-world countries have the tools to spark major change, we just need to learn how to use them.
Allec Brust can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and online at @allecbrust.