• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


'First World Problems'

The way some people respond to posts about issues that affect women.


November 9, 2014

This was "Art Deco"'s comment on last week's post. I often see this objection in comments on articles and blog posts addressing issues that disproportionately affect women.

First, I have to agree. The post was about catcalling, not about being stoned to death, or bombed, or foraging through garbage for food.

Of course, almost none of the posts on IHE discuss the problems of people in developing nations. Not because we don't care, but because that isn't what this site is for. We are here to discuss issues faced by highly educated people. Unfortunately, few very poor people have the luxury and privilege of an elite education.

But we rarely see these comments on posts or articles about academic salaries, for example, or the relevance of college athletics. Somehow, it is just women's issues that are considered too trivial to take seriously.

I have never served in the armed forces, never been in a war. I read a lot, and I have lived through some experiences that help me imagine what war might be like (assault, living with a violent alcoholic, volunteering in a homeless shelter where there were shootouts) but I have not had the experience. When I worked with Vietnam vets, and with torture victims, my job wasn't to explain their experience to them; to assume I knew what they had been through because I had read some books and had suffered a bit myself—it was to listen to their experiences with respect and to understand that they were the experts on their own lives.

When you have a lot of women telling you that something is a serious problem, try believing that it is a serious problem, one that you might not understand because it is outside of your experience. Catcalling may not rank up there with murder and rape, but it is a form of terrorism. It's purpose is to keep women in line through the exercise of unequal power. If that statement seems overly dramatic to you, consider that it may be because it hasn't affected you—and that your not having experienced something doesn't make it less real.

(This should go without saying, but just in case—this post is NOT addressed to all of the men who already get it.)


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