TW: Child marriage, rape and some pretty sad statistics
I’m not a fan of the term ‘white feminist’ but it’s important to acknowledge that in the Western world this type of feminism is the norm. In the media and equality movements in our society, issues surrounding already very privileged women are prioritised over issues affecting women of colour, transgender women, women outside of the United States of Great Britain, etc. This isn’t to say that Free The Nipple or catcalling aren’t important, neither is anyone suggesting that if you’re a white feminist you might as well go buy a Meninist hoodie and sell FHM subscriptions outside the Playboy mansion instead: for me, I simply want to strive to be as inclusive and intersectional as I can.
After all, my blog is very ‘white’. Most people have the tendency to focus on issues closer to home aka everything I’ve been blogging about for the past 18 months. I love people being able to laugh and relate to my posts, but at some point we have to look at the global picture again, with our serious hot-doctor-from-Holby-City-about-to-break-some-sad-news-to-the-family faces on and remember that for many women in the world life is shit.
Child marriage is a thing. And it’s a topic that Jesse my illustrator and I feel very strongly about. There are currently 700 million living women who were married as children. I honestly didn’t realise the scale of the problem until I started researching. I blogged a few weeks ago about how tough it was to be a feminist at a wedding, seeing the bride being walked down the aisle by her father, wearing a three thousand pound dress and carrying a bouquet of flowers which looked a little bit like she’d stolen them from a graveyard, before flinging them at the guests to predict which one would marry next, but at least she had a choice. Her wedding may have looked like a Pinterest package holiday but at least she chose to get married. 15 million under 18s every year don’t.
15 million is equivalent to the population of Cambodia, or 167 Wembley Stadiums at full capacity, or every single person that follows Adele on Instagram, all married off nonconsensually, before they’ve even reached adulthood.
That means that 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married off before 18 years old and 1 in 9 before 15. When I was 15 I was worrying about how short I could tie my school tie without looking like a twat, but most of these girls will never wear a uniform once married, forced to drop out of school, denied the opportunity to gain skills and
qualifications. The poorest girls will grow up to become the poorest women, contributing to the number of illiterate women in the world, which stretches way over half a billion. It’s sad how the combined population of the US and UK don’t even come close to that figure yet, other than the occasional Comic Relief video, the focus of our gender equality refuses to settle anywhere other than us.
Not only are these girls removed from schooling, but they’re exposed to a world of unwanted pregnancy, risk of STIs and abuse from husbands who are usually much older. A quote from the charity Girls Not Brides says ‘child brides are more likely to describe their first sexual experience as forced’. My heart hurts.
Every Friday night I whip out the 4oD and stick First Dates on, or read #Vixswipes (omg just realised it’s Vix Swipes not Vixs Wipes oops) document her Tinder journey, completely oblivious to how lucky I am to be able to choose not only if I want to be in a relationship, but who I want to be with, and when I want to be with them. I forget this is a privilege.
And where is the media? Have they become so complacent with the global situation that these statistics don’t matter anymore? Are they purposely trying to present feminism as a petty, westernised concept in order to prevent people supporting it so they can keep Katie Hopkins and Bobbi Brown in business? Or, to confront the elephant in the room, is it because virtually all of the countries with the highest child marriage rates are countries in which the residents are not white? Because I can’t help but thinking if these were white girls, if this was happening down the road in Portsmouth instead of Niger, then the news would be all over this. Black Lives Matter.
But the news isn’t all over this, so we have to be instead. I want to talk more about global issues in real life, across social media and on my blog- even if these posts get half the views because they’re not my usual ‘LOL I’ve got a tampon stuck up my bum again’ post, they are so much more important. These are the type of issues I want to scrunch into a paper ball, set on fire and throw at the #FeminismIsCancer tag because LOOK at all the women who need our help, look at all the women who your anti-progressive attitude is affecting. We may be white feminists sometimes, we may indulge in misogynistic pleasures like Fetty Wap lyrics a little more than sometimes, but ultimately, this isn’t reflective of the feminism which is yet to help so many.