Sunday, May 25, 2008

Overheard in Chicago #2: DARYL and JOEY

A coincidence: While Emma was out of town, I had two unrelated but quite similar conversations about GIRLdrive and our stance on international feminism. We've touched on this issue a few times (Siman from Phoenix had a lot to say about it), but it has not come up in a while.

The first conversation I had was with Daryl, a 25-year-old behavior consultant for an organization providing services for people with autism. She works in Berkeley but was in town for a conference, and I met her randomly at the tail end of Saturday night. When we got on the topic of the very American story of GIRLdrive, Daryl had a lot to say. "Our struggles are nothing compared to what international women go through," she commented over an Old Style. "I know you guys are trying to figure out where American feminism is headed, but in my daily life, I feel fine. I feel like I can say what I want and do what I want for the most part." Although tentatively identifying as a feminist, Daryl made it clear that basic human rights were her priority--and not necessarily sweating the "small stuff."

The next day, I heard something similar--from a boy. Joey, a twentysomething dude from Humboldt Park, Chicago, was in a car with me and happened to ask me why I moved to Chicago. I told him, and he had a similar reaction to Daryl's: "When I think of what needs to be done in terms of feminism, I think of other countries. It's all relative."

What do you guys think about this issue? Should GIRLdrive go global? Or is the search for feminism via a Chevy Cavalier a very specific American trope? Tell us your thoughts.



Noble Savage said...

In a word: No. Telling a woman that her situation could be a lot worse and chastising her for not thanking her lucky stars she lives somewhere where apparently only 'small stuff' exists is incredibly narrow-minded and patronizing. They might as well have patted you on the head and told you that candy canes grow on trees and you better run along and get yourself one before it's too late.

By addressing feminist issues within the United States or other industrialized countries, we do not minimize those women in nations where their struggles have not surmounted as much. By making ourselves stronger and resolving issues that affect OUR lives, we free up time and resources to then be used helping others fight their own battles. Swooping in and 'saving' women in less fortunate situations isn't what they need -- they need role models, ideas, inspiration, resources and organization. Getting the word out and igniting a fire within women to change their own destinies is far greater a tool than wringing our hands and beating our chests about which are the greater injustices.

SJ said...

I'm not sure I can say it as eloquently, but I agree w/ Noble Savage. It's not selfish to fight for yourself, it's effective. I would go so far as to say it's the only effective way to create real change and that prioritizing feminist struggles in any kind of elsewhere (another country, class, etc.) to the exclusion of the struggles in your immediate life is a way of avoiding the place where the stakes are highest and the chances of success are greatest. In my house, in my job, in my country. That's the first place I should be fighting. When you make gains here, you not only improve your own life but set a powerful example for everyone else who knows you. There will always be greater injustices, and that doesn't make the smaller ones matter less. I like GIRLdrive's focus just the way it is :)

apaperbackwriter said...

Gah! Comments like this infuriate me, and I'd take a two-pronged approach with these guys.

1) Big, bad things happen to women within our borders, in our backyards, in our neighborhoods. I find this so obvious, yet I always hear people saying the REAL problems for women happen far away, like the Middle East. I still know people who have had the shit beaten out of them by their husbands or boyfriends. White middle class girls, even, who are supposed to have it so good.

2) I'd say that little things matter, like words or perceptions. When I go to a comedy show, say, and hear comedians making cracks about domestic violence and people laughing, I find it incredibly offensive. I know that they're just words, images, perceptions, but when you actually see the dark side, the concrete results of these little things, like jokes, it adds up, it really does.

Something just tells me these boys don't have their eyes open.

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