What changes people?
I’ll give you an example. The Sudanese woman who decided to wear trousers, and when the world rallied to her support, she doesn’t get the lashes. It is this kind of unbending persistence. Human trafficking — girls kidnapped and then forced into prostitution — that is economic exploitation. That can be eradicated by going after the traffickers, by providing education and eradicating poverty. Where women are put in veils, where their genitals are cut, where there’s “honor killing,” where half the population may not go outside without a male guardian — that cannot be dealt with only by talking about poverty. You have to tackle those principles.
I’ve asked other feminists this question: Why are women’s rights always the ones up for negotiation?
Yes, isn’t that interesting? Women are mainly oppressed by their own fathers, their own brothers, their own mothers-in-law, their grandmothers, so it’s the most intimate kind of oppression. Another thing: Western feminism still defines the white man as the oppressor, but right now it’s the brown man, the black man, the yellow man. When you tell them, “Stop oppressing your women,” they’ll tell you, “Don’t impose your culture on me.” It would have been fantastic if, when [President] Obama went to Cairo, he [had said], “We have taught the white man that bigotry is bad and he has given it up, at least most of it. Now bigotry is committed in the name of the black man, the brown man, the yellow man, whatever color.”