"But what about the women in Afghanistan?!?"

A feminist's response to the catch-cry of closet sexists everywhere.


  1. It's not unusual for people (mostly men, to be honest) to respond to feminist activism with the claim that women in Afghanistan (or just the apparently homogenous Middle East) have it so much worse than women in the west, so we would do well to shut up and count our lucky stars. If we cared about 'real suffering', we would be doing more to 'help' or 'save' women experiencing it. (Never mind the subtle implication there that our good fortune comes via the benevolence of western men - we should feel grateful that they don't oppress us in the same way...because they could if they wanted to, so play nice ladies.)

    I'm sick to the back teeth of people who do literally NOTHING to help feminists agitate for equality ANYWHERE using this line as some kind of checkmate to try and undermine the efforts of feminist activists. Aside from the fact it's rooted in gross colonialist ideas of white saviourhood, it completely denies agency and self-determination to the women being exploited by closet MRAs in their supercilious attempts to discredit a movement they find personally inconvenient

    It is inherently sexist and racist to assume that it is the role of WHITE WOMEN to 'save' Arab women from a media led picture of violence and oppression - as if these things are unique to Arab culture and perpetrated solely by Arab men while being condemned universally by their more enlightened white male counterparts. As if the feminist movement across the Arab region (yes, it does exist) isn't also supported and helped by Arab men, countless of whom are invested in the liberation and equality of women. As if terrible crimes aren't perpetrated against women all over the world, every day. As if somehow the legislative recognition of women's rights to safety has resulted in actual safety for all women, not just the appearance of it.

    Bull. Shit. 

    The following is a tweet conversation I had with a guy who occasionally pops up in my feed to try and loftily discredit feminist arguments and ideas. Based on my own impression, this guy is part of a new breed of pretend-progressives who want to appear enlightened while doing none of the legwork of unpacking their own privilege. I have it too - as a white, middle class woman, I understand that I experience immense privilege of race and socioeconomics. I try to do the often uncomfortable work of understanding how that makes my life easier with absolutely no effort on my part whatsoever. I don't always get it right, but failing and being prepared to own that failure is also part of the unpacking process, and it will be lifelong. It's probable that I've made mistakes even in this impassioned rant, and for that I apologise. The fact of my privilege means I can only ever engage with or understand issues of racism and classism from a theoretical viewpoint, so I certainly do not consider myself to be an expert on the impact of colonialist policies and their intersection with sexism. 

    But this guy. Seriously. Fuck this guy and all those other guys who swan about screeching AFGHANISTAN! and THE MIDDLE EAST whenever women have the audacity to talk about how we might also be experiencing endemic sexism and oppression in a country like Australia. Fuck John Birmingham for suggesting that protesting against the insidious nature of victim blaming in a rape culture is a distraction from the fact that 'girls are being shot just for going to school in Afghanistan'. (Note to John: Malala Yousafzai is from Pakistan, not Afghanistan. But same-same, right?) Fuck Helen Razer for constantly shitting on the efforts of feminists to call attention to these things by pandering to the sexist boys club of left wing progressives, joking about shops called 'Rape Couture' and accusing feminists of writing about rape just to make money. Fuck Richard Dawkins for wading into a conversation about a woman's right to not be sexually harassed in a fucking elevator at 4am and sarcastically comparing this to the 'plight' of 'Muslimas'. FUCK ALL OF YOU. You don't care about women, because if you did you wouldn't be exploiting what you claim to see as the 'real suffering' of one group of them just to score points against those ones whose closer cultural and geographical implications annoys you, while doing FUCK ALL yourselves, starting with reading a few fucking key articles about what feminism already looks like as run by women in Afghanistan.

    Anyway, so I wrote these tweets. Mostly, I'm publishing them here because I am still infuriated by the absolute arrogance of a man yet again telling me what is and isn't appropriate for feminist activism to concern itself with while elevating himself to the Upper Management privilege of simply delegating. Fuck you Ramon, you ignorant, lazy piece of shit. 
  2. This is the article that started it. A really searing piece by a NZ writer called Marianne Elliott in response to the horrible 'Roast Busters' story coming out of Auckland. I recommend you all read it immediately. I especially liked how Elliott, using her actual experience as a journalist working in Afghanistan, makes a connection between the commonality of our experiences rather than the differences. 
  3. Of course, Ramon didn't agree. 
  4. "That's like saying, 'Here is a way for me to deflect attention from one issue that irritates me by holding up examples I don't really understand in order to justify wiping my hands of both.'"
  5. So I asked Ramon for some simple insight into what practical, tangible efforts he makes to 'help' a situation he obviously cares so much about.