The White Woman’s Burden
I’m so sick of being told the United States must keep 10,000s of soldiers in Afghanistan in order to safeguard the strides that Afghan women have made. When your feminism becomes a crutch for imperialism, then you’ve invalidated feminism.
But won’t the Taliban roll back the advances of Afghan women? On the contrary, the reason the Taliban are still a force to be reckoned with has much to do with the fact that no one in Afghanistan has made great strides over the last decade. War is about initiative. Afghanistan is the highlands of Central Asia. America had a chance to fundamentally change the culture of Afghanistan by spearheading economic and political development with gusto as soon as combat had initially abated. Unfortunately, Bush Jr. decided to invade Iraq instead, thereby stymieing development, and losing the initiative.
I do not deny that the Taliban regime is the most misogynistic regime on Earth but if you believe that the American military goes around the world liberating women, then you’re a fool. If the American military could liberate women, then Southwest Asian women would be the most liberated on Earth.
Do you know how many women in Haiti are denied education? Do you know how many women in South Africa are raped every day? Of course not, because neither Fox News, nor CNN, nor NBC, nor MSNBC, nor ABC, nor just about anyone else care to tell stories about South Africa or Haiti (unless Oprah’s making the voyage, in which case we’ll get a week’s worth of coverage). Why then, do I have to constantly hear about Malala Yousafzai and honor killings?
Finally, I was talking to a Pakistani friend of mine the other day about the war. I told him I could not believe that grown men, Taliban or otherwise, could find 11 year old girls sexually appealing. Without missing a beat he explained that an 11 year old girl’s vagina feels most like a 7 year old boy’s rectum. How many females are raped every year in Afghanistan? A whole lot. How many males are raped every year in Afghanistan? We’ll never know. But is it any surprise that little Afghan boys who are molested and raped grow up and forcibly marry 11 year old Afghan girls? Is it surprising that one of the myths about Mullah Mohammed Omar’s origin is that he put a stop to the rape of two boys? I don’t think so. If you’re not willing to look at the whole problem, then you’re not seeking to solve it; you’ve an ulterior motive, like imperialism.
In the Pentagon there is a map of the world, and over Afghanistan there is an American flag. Espousing feminism or female solidarity so as to keep that flag there means that the white man’s burden has become a white woman’s burden. Noted literary theorist Spivak once described colonialist propaganda as, “white men saving brown women from brown men,” now it seems those white men with swords, pens, and dollars have white cheerleaders at home.