We’ve all heard, or maybe even ourselves employed the expression, “first world problems.” It’s often thrown in at the end of a “complaint” as a clichéd reaction or ironic addendum. “Argh! I have to start work at 5:30 tomorrow morning! Oh well, first world problems I guess!”
However this expression, albeit trite, is derived from the truth that in many ways our Western lifestyle and mindset leaves us incredibly out-of-touch with the pain and suffering of those in less economically developed countries.
This detachment has not exempted the feminist movement. 2017 saw ‘women’s issues’ pushed to the front of the papers – the 2017 Women’s March, the #metoo movement and the increased push for corporate and political gender quotas to name a few. Whilst there is often a lot of noise coming from ‘social justice advocates’ the action’s they take towards improving conditions for women are not proportionate. I am yet to hear of any huge improvements or changes that occurred following the 2017 Women’s March. It seems that wearing the label “feminist” or “social justice advocate” is just another feather in the cap of the elite – and has become more of a fashion statement than a true political movement.
Yet the back pages of the paper, in the ‘World News’ section, are filled with stories of shocking affronts to human rights and importantly to feminists, women’s rights. In 2014-2015 more than 2000 Nigerian women (including girls) were abducted by Boko Haram. Many of these women were forced into marriages with members of Boko Haram, or coerced into suicide missions.
Just recently in May 2018, a 17 year-old girl in the east-Indian state of Jharkhand was set on fire following a brutal rape. This was preceded by an earlier event in the region where another teenage girl had been raped and burned alive.
In Iran, 29 women were arrested whilst protesting the enforced dress code, for appearing in public without headscarves. The bail for one of the women detained was set at more than $100,000.
These stories are not only women’s rights issues, they are human rights violations. They are the real hurdles for feminism – not the lack of female executives in the banking industry. This isn’t bitching about gender quotas, or debating whether it’s appropriate for girls to play with Barbie dolls. These are life or death – real world battles – that women are facing globally. Where are the true feminists on these topics? Where are the Clementine Ford’s, the Cathy Areu’s or the Kathy Griffin’s speaking out on women’s rights issues in Nigeria or Iran? Where are the women willing to look past themselves, to look past the fame, exposure and popularity grasps of the modern western feminist movement to advocate for the rights of women who have no voice?
Let’s clear away some of the ‘junk’ feminism from our TV screens, from our Newspapers, from our Facebook News Feed. Let’s become advocates for real and serious change in our world, and start focusing on the true inequalities and human rights issues that are still part of the struggle for a large number of women globally. Let’s stop focusing on our “First world problems.”