A few days ago I read this criticism of Western feminism, Unpacking Feminism’s Backpack, where the author brought up several points also mentioned in another blog post, Why I’m Leaving Feminism. The authors say either they themselves or others they know don’t feel safe or welcome in mainstream feminism. I’m sorry to say I’m part of the problem; I was telling Rick just today that I’ve been disappointed in how Western and white most of my Women’s History Month posts have been. I’m not familiar enough with women advocates in other countries to be able to highlight them here on the blog, and that’s something I definitely want to change for next year. Acting as if privileged white feminists deserve all the credit for women’s advances in the last 50 years marginalizes women of color and poor women, who often suffer the worst injustices of a patriarchal society.
A summary of the recent Women in the World conference where women in the developing world were given the spotlight is by Christina Hoff Sommers, Tina Brown’s Post-Feminist Summit. She writes, “The stars of the summit were activists from the poorest regions of the world. And the spirit was not self-pitying and anti-male but self-confident and serious.” After describing some of the speakers, she says:
All quite exciting — but here is where the “cutting-edge,” “extraordinary,” and “absolutely central” come in: Unlike most women’s conferences in the United States, this one was politically inclusive. Liberals and conservatives made common cause. Bill and Hillary Clinton were honored guests, but so were Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch. With few exceptions, there were none of the standard feminist denunciations of men, capitalism, Western colonialism, or even the Bush administration. In fact, two prominent members of the Bush administration were speakers: Condoleezza Rice and Dina Habib Powell. Empowering women through entrepreneurship was a central theme of the conference.
Maybe conferences like Women in the World are the model for how to make feminism more inclusive. Perhaps Western feminists need to get out of the way and listen to those struggling for equality in developing countries.