White Feminism

Europe’s 733 million people make up 12% of the world’s population. European women make up just 6%. Only 27% of these women consider themselves to be feminists. Why is that? When you ask a woman why she isn’t a feminist, you’ll hear all kinds of justifications and explanations, such as “I’ve never been discriminated against”, “I don’t think feminism is needed anymore”, or “Feminism isn’t really relevant in my life”.

We in the western world need to understand that feminism is not JUST about us. It’s not about our friends and neighbors; our girlfriends, sisters, colleagues, and daughters. It’s about the other 45% of the world’s female population. Being a woman and not considering yourself a feminist or being afraid to use the term lest you be falsely perceived is treasonous. We may think that feminism has nothing to do with us personally. We may be right. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s not about us.

I think my girlfriends and daughters should have equal education, opportunity, say, and pay. But they are not who I’m speaking and fighting for when I get on my social media soapbox. I don’t tweet about child marriage because my daughters are at risk. I don’t post about toilets in India because I have to make the long, treacherous midnight walk risking rape to relieve myself. We can’t be “kinda” a feminist. Either we think, believe, and feel that women have human rights - or we don’t. Not women’s rights, human rights. If we think that every human right men have and are entitled to is a right that women, as humans, should have and are entitled to, and If we believe that human rights apply to every human, not just “us”, then you are a feminist. Feminism isn’t just about American and European women’s right to vote liberal or conservative. It isn’t about closing the wage gap. It’s not about quality day care or maternity leave.

What it is is getting maxi pads to teenage girls in sub-saharan Africa so that they don’t miss school when they are menstruating. It’s ending the practice of forcing girls into marriage with grown men who have essentially paid for them. It is knowing that obstetric fistula occurs much more often to teenage mothers and understanding how preventable this traumatic childbirth injury is with access to even the most basic maternal health care. It’s putting an end to girls being sold by their parents once and then bought over and over again for sex. It’s encouraging and supporting women in their endeavors to earn enough money to ensure that all of their children can eat at least once a day. It’s not being able to bear the idea of one more little girl, no matter her color, culture, country or religion, having her genitalia removed; not even if it’s done by a doctor in a hospital. It’s time for western women to get over and past ourselves. It’s time  to look back at those of us still so far behind and understand that we in our relative position of wealth and health are capable of reaching back and improving another woman’s life.

Voltaire said: “With great wealth comes great responsibility.” I believe the same is true with freedom. The freer you are, the bigger your obligation is to those in chains. I am setting my sights on the day when we only need feminism to ensure that my granddaughters will be paid equally for equal work. What a relief that would be....

Article by Anna Quick Palmer

Anna Quick-Palmer