This is a cliche that crops up a lot on the right: Western women have it easy. Nothing like the women in Saudi Arabia. Or the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Or the militant ISIS group telling Iraqi women not to leave the house.
So when you look at stuff like that around the world, isn’t it pathetic that American feminazis think they’re oppressed? Oooh, maybe they don’t get paid enough! Oh, maybe some guy flattered them and they complain they’re harassed! Or some women in comics are written too sexploitative! How shallow feminists are to waste their time complaining about that shit when other women in the world experience real suffering.
This criticism is not, I should note, unique to the right. Flying Close to the Sun, Cathy Wilkerson’s memoir of her time with the SDS and the Weather Underground in the 1960s, emphasizes how when Wilkerson and other leftist women brought up “women’s liberation” (as the term was back then), they’d be mansplained that it was absurd to think the problems of women compared to the problems of the Vietnamese, black Americans, etc. So feminism went to the back of the bus.
The obvious flaw in this argument is that American feminists have written and protested plenty about the rights of women in the third world. Ms. magazine covered the Taliban when they weren’t on anyone’s radar. The only time I see conservatives bring up those issues is when they can use them to bash Muslims or feminists (of course I don’t read every conservative magazine and website, so it’s quite possible some right-winger out there has brought it up). But I do remember when one UN conference considered condemning honor killing and similar customs as unacceptable, even when tradition and custom says its OK, one American conservative women’s group (sent to the conference by the Bush 2 administration) objected: Why, that’s like saying tradition and custom are bad!
I brought this up because of a related post by rape apologist Rebecca Cusey on Maleficent. It seems star Angelina Jolie intended the ripping off of Maleficent’s wings as a rape metaphor, part of her own campaign about the rights of women (or lack of same) in the third world. The article quotes Jolie as saying “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence—that the shame is on the aggressor … We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes … I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged and institutions that protect us.”
If that’s not taken out of context, I strongly disagree with Jolie’s sunny view that women can count on our institutions to protect us. Sometimes, not even 14 year olds. Yes, it’s better here than Saudi Arabia, but the US is not a “safe country.”
But for Cusey, Jolie is a breath of fresh air into the stuffy feminazi cloisters, ready to “talk about rape, but not in the Western-centric, man-blaming, feminist-professor way of the chattering classes.” Instead of criticizing men for rape, “‘Maleficent’ baffles victim-centric American feminists because instead of merely a story of victimhood or vengeance, it goes beyond both to become a story of rising above abuse and choosing to be better.”
So the message Cusey wants to take is what, women should just rise above such trivialities as prosecuting rapists? Or turning to police? Maybe accept the rape as God’s gift? Is she trying to imply, like George Will, that in America, it’s all the woman’s fault?
Or is she trying to equate actually prosecuting rapists with what Maleficent does in the movie? Because in the movie, Maleficent’s response is to target her rapist/wing-destroyer’s daughter, not the man himself, which is why she has to choose to be better: What she does is unfair and evil. Would Cusey say the same if, say, Jolie had directly gone after her attacker (who after call comes to a bad end—it’s not like he gets off with forgiveness)?
I’m not sure I want to know.