Bill Easterly, the doyen of aid bloggers, just “came out as a feminist.” He talks of development aid in terms of “paternalistic fantasies.” He reco
mmends switching places with any person you’re engaged with to better perceive the power dynamics at play. ”Reciprocity is really at the heart of equality.”
This blog’s reader(s) know(s) that it is largely through learning about feminism that I have arrived at a better understanding of social power dynamics, and in particular the ways that people who benefit from unequal power dynamics tend to justify and reproduce them. And I have also become mildly obsessed with the practice of reversing roles in everyday situations in order to help see through the presumptions created by those unequal power dynamics. I don’t say this to suggest that I’m ahead of Bill Easterly (what!) or to suggest that if he’s doing it then I must be doing it right (never!) – it’s just sort of exciting to see similar moves taking place on the much grander stage of Aidwatchers. And it’s another reason why Bill Easterly is kind of awesome.*
If, through the magic of trackbacks and probability science, someone follows that post here and isn’t convinced that feminism has anything to teach them, I strongly recommend checking out I Blame the Patriarchy, a blog that manages to not only discuss the possibilities of a privilege-free world but to create an environment where those privileges do not exist. The blogger discusses patriarchy in terms that make it very easy to extrapolate from gender privilege to other forms of privilege.
Patriarchy isn’t an imaginary Mean Man Guild, but a global social order based on the fetishization of domination and submission, to which he himself is unwittingly subject.
That idea should, I think, blow every aid worker’s mind. Whatever, I won’t speak for anyone else: it blew mine. The blogger is also wicked entertaining to read.
Easterly’s post raises a question for me, though. There is feminism and there is radical feminism.** The former recognizes and seeks to reform the implicit structures of power. The latter (as I understand it) says fuck the structures of power, we’re going to completely dismantle them. We don’t analyze them for the purposes of reform, we analyze them for the purposes of doing away with them. The ‘radical’ means taking nothing for granted. So my question is this: what is the ‘radical’ feminist take on foreign aid?
I suspect, as I rambled on about in my last post, that it requires taking seriously the abrupt end of foreign aid. The institution of foreign aid produces and reproduces inequality, and that will never really go away. ”I wish you would all just leave” is a sentiment that I’ve heard and seen expressed in some candid moments, and maybe
those people are right.
* Yet another reason is that in the same post he comes out as reasonable non-Kristoff-basher.
** See I Blame the Patriarchy for explanation, defense, and instantiation of this view.
Previously, on Hard Consonant: