or the lack of it.
Conchita Wurst and Dana International
I’ve now heard this argument being made a hundred times: Conchita Wurst is nothing special because Dana International has already won the ESC years ago. I simply have to disagree. It’s not that I have anything bad to say about Dana International or anything; the problem is the comparison made.
If you forget the promotion, the interviews and everything else and just look at the performances there is one striking difference. What you see on Dana’s performance is a normatively acceptable woman. Even if you know that she’s trans, and even if you’re transphobic, it’s easier to look pass that (if for some odd reason you really have a need to forget about her identity). So most people SEE a woman even if they KNOW she’s not cis. (And I do consider transwomen just as much women as ciswomen, I’m just trying to think this through how your average, not very ‘transeducated’ person could see this.)
And here comes my actual point: when you look at Conchita’s performance you SEE it is not a person of either normative sex, or at least appears that way, and thus you KNOW it is not a person of either normative gender. So to people with strong, for example, religious views or just very limited views on the diversity of gender, it’s almost impossible to look at Conchita and to not be confused. Conchita’s performance FORCES people to reflect on the relations of gender and sex, and I think that’s the special thing with her.
Another pervasive issue I find with mainstream American liberal feminist crowds is the emphasis on prioritizing and advocating against societal ills they find to be solely female burdens, which hardly speaks to the realities of women in the third world.
My friend Khadijah (she’s Somali and has practically identical politics as I) and I were catching up a few days ago and came to this conclusion together after agonizing on ways to vocalize our displeasement with the bourgeois implications that if it isn’t primarily a woman’s problem, it won’t be alloted valuable discourse. This is why issues like gender inequality when discussing sex accrues more relevance than sweatshop labor in many mainstream feminist circles and activity.
A very prevalent example in which this approach fails is with the current case of Malala Yousufzai and Nabila Rehman, two Pakistani girls who’ve recently caught the attention of American audiences.
Malala’s case, sadly- though to no fault of her own or other women and girls who’ve been victimized by the Taliban is one that’s incredibly easily digestible, not only to neoliberal imperialists who now have a popular face they can attach their justifications of warmongering enabling to, but also liberal feminists who can dissect and compartmentalize Malala’s narrative into a consumable and self congratulatory we-are-saving-these-helpless-brown-women-from-their-brutal-male-counterparts tale. Her tragedy has been reduced to a simple one, women being hurt by men and doesn’t complicate the oppressive man vs. oppressed women dichotomy that so many binarist feminist movements operate on. Its the same wildly absurd reasoning that dubs politicians like Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice heroes and feminist icons of their generation of women, though the foreign initiatives they prop up and support are no less brutal than their male counterparts, but by the virtue of their womanhood, they are to be lauded as role models and given uncritical praise.
Nabila Rehman, the nine year old girl who traveled thousands of miles to tell her harrowing account of losing her grandmother only to be met with five of 430 senators is a different story. Her loss, as well as thousands of other Pakistani women and girls (and Yemeni, Afghan and Somali women and girls, in fact) is one that diffuses the male/female binary; it complicates many foundational aspects of liberal feminism.
Drone warfare, as well as state enforced sanctions, resource extrapolation in poorer nations, etc are not explicitly and exclusively feminist issues (since men and boys are hurt/killed as well), so by virtue, it doesn’t take space on the bulletin board. That’s what insufficient, negligent and narcissistic feminism looks like. That Iraqi women can be economically disenfranchised after American invasion, or Somali women are afraid to leave their homes due to fear of being hit by aerial strikes, or that Iranian and Eritrean women have to worry about providing basic necessities for their children and these hardships are not solely experienced by women and its not taken as seriously as other feminist endeavors. This alienates much of the suffering women face globally.
I’ll be frank- my feminism doesn’t necessarily exclude men, due to being a agglomeration of different elements and recognizing that factors such as capitalistic exploitation, foreign policy and political repression are indiscriminate of gender, despite women encountering them as disproportionate rates. And I never quite understood the need for it to either. This is where American, especially white American livelihoods taking credence and providing the blueprint to which feminism as a global movement is formed around can get dangerous. It excludes, if not directly contributing to the oppression of women in the third world and imperialized nations. It matters that Black and Latino men make less, on average than white women. It matters that non combatant Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, Somali and Malian civilian males have died in the name of imperial feminism.