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this is what a feminist looks like: william easterly

May 6, 2011

William Easterly, professor of Economics at New York University and author of The White Man’s Burden, was recently interviewed about feminism and development by Gender Across Borders.  Easterly refers to the interview as his, “coming out as a feminist,” and his candid responses are already ruffling a few feathers.

On paternalism in aid,

A lot of discourse in aid is often about helping women and children. Aid agencies offer this appealing image of innocent women and children that are helpless and need our help. But who is the “we” that is implied by that? Our help. Who is at the other end? If you go through a bunch of aid brochures online, I bet that in the vast majority of them you will not see any adult males. You will only see women and children. Even just in the sheer visual imagery we use in aid, it’s really about rich, white males indulging their own paternalistic fantasies for rescuing non-white women and children….

There’s a very powerful incentive to use that imagery for campaigns. They’re about the victims being women and children, but we’re covering over a lot of stuff. We rich white males – speaking as a rich, white male – are trying to alleviate our own guilty conscience not only toward the poor of the world, but also toward women in our own society. There’s still a lot of sexism and discrimination in our own society. We move the gaze away from that inequality and toward another remote part of the world to indulge our paternalistic fantasies.

On portraying female victims,

One thing I’ve learned from other people is the idea of reciprocity. Any time you’re portraying a victimized woman in the Congo a certain way, turn the tables and try to think how you would feel if you were that woman and someone in a rich country far away was portraying your story. If you don’t pass that test – if you say, ‘no I would hate that,’ then you shouldn’t do it. Reciprocity is really at the heart of equality. It’s incredibly important for us to hang on to that.

Read the full interview here:  Saving the Second Sex or How Aid Fails Women: A Conversation with William Easterly.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jackie Farah permalink
    May 6, 2011 8:25 pm

    I’d like to go back to your blog on “bad aid” so I can pass it on to some other interested people. How do I get there?

    Thanks for your gracious awaress, writing, and connecting.

  2. May 7, 2011 7:40 pm

    Hi, Jackie: Thanks for reading about Elizabeth’s work. Here’s the link to blog post you’re looking for:

  3. May 7, 2011 8:52 pm

    You’re one step ahead of me, R.B. Thanks again for reading, Jackie!

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