Thursday, January 04, 2007

Feminist New Year's Resolution

(No, this is still not my New Year's story post. That one is coming later.)

There have been many times in my life when I've pondered the question of how far one must go to assist a person who is suffering. Specifically: is it ethical to go out to eat instead of sending my money to help feel starving people elsewhere in the world? Is it ethical to rent videos and buy clothes I don't need and essentially be a consumer when I could instead donate my money to Amnesty?

Whenever I get into this discussion with other people, they give me a list of reasons why it is perfectly reasonable to not substantially alter one's living arrangements in order to help others. Often, these reasons touch on whose responsibility it is to help (never ours - always someone else's). Other times, the reasons are related to whether or not our donations of money, food, etc. would make a lasting difference (generally, I'm told, it wouldn't).

But it's pretty clear that this is crap, isn't it? I mean, either we help each other, or we don't. The reason we don't give until we have to give something up is that we don't want to. We would prefer not to see our own responsibility. I am just as guilty of this as the next person.

So my resolution for 2007 is to be more responsible. I'll start by doing a whole hell of a lot more to aid humanitarian efforts in Darfur.

I've been reading around in the feminist blogosphere recently, and several of the bloggers have gotten into a big fight over trans, porn - you know, the kinds of issues that feminists have been arguing about for decades. But none of these blogs seem to be focusing on global issues or human rights.

This has been a criticism of white feminism for years and years. It's not so much a race thing as it is a national thing: as "first world" feminists, we are not always concerned with or even aware of what is going on in the rest of the world. And when I do a quick circuit of the major feminist organizations in the U.S., they are focused on reproductive rights (not just for American women, but still).

And I just can't take it this time - not when women are being raped and slaughtered with their children. It's not that feminist theory is unimportant, it's that I keep thinking of the divide between a privileged feminism and a desperate feminism. And if we're arguing over porn and trans, if we're focused narrowly on reproductive rights in the face of a fucking genocide, then it's a privileged feminism, indeed.

I'm not saying that feminists shouldn't be arguing about these things. I'm saying that right now? We should all be working together to save our sisters and brothers. Why the hell isn't this a feminist issue?

I am pointing the finger at myself as much as at anyone else. It is already much, much too late.


Anna said...

I would say for one thing that it is sometimes kind of tricky to assume that what someone spends their time talking about on the internet is always a good indicator of what they care about in their real lives. I mean, I could spend all day looking at videos of those little pug dogs who can say "reye ruhve roo" on Youtube, but that doesn't mean I don't spend the rest of my time doing more worthwhile things.

Secondly, I would say that while I wouldn't consider my situation to be anything even comparable to lots of people all over the world, in Darfur or otherwise, these arguments about "trans" are not abstract differences of opinion about feminist theory to everyone. I know the interweb brouhaha you're talking about and I see that as a lot of people (on both 'sides' of the dispute) who have never walked a day in my shoes talking about how maybe we all need to agree to disagree about whether or not I deserve to exist as a human being on this planet. Not comparable to the situation in Darfur, but not something I am willing to totally write off either.

But then I also think most transwoman feminists I know practice some form of what you call "desperate feminism," anyway.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Yea, Anna, you have a point, and I did think about transwomen feminists practicing desperate feminism when I wrote that post. I think that the argument about transgender and who should or should not be included into different gatherings/spaces or use which restrooms - much less given the right to exist! - should be perceived as an embarrassing waste of time by those very feminists who most adamantly deny transpeople's full humanity. It's one thing to argue for one's physical and cultural survival or for someone else's physical and cultural survival. It's another to argue for the oppression of another human being because (as we saw in those threads) certain people feel they are justified in their anger at men to contribute to MTF oppression.

And it's some kind of weird third thing to have the luxury to argue twisted feminist theory to defend oppression instead of putting that energy to good use to lobby congress to intervene. (Yes, you made a good point, too, about the internet not being the be-all, end-all of who we are and what we do.)