By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta
I just saw the most problematic image on Facebook. It was a photo of four blonde female pilots in combat gear with the caption, Hey Taliban, look up in the sky! Your women can’t drive, but ours CAN!
Despite the issues I have with militarism, or this country’s campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m all for cheering for female pilots (yea, bada&& flying ladies!). What I can’t just can’t stand by and let slide is this “your women are oppressed, but ours are awesome” rhetoric, a rhetoric which only illuminates how–both actually and metaphorically–racism, xenophobia, and imperialism so often play out on women’s bodies around the world.
To me, this photo represents how blithely and blindly women from the Global North allow ourselves to be used as (actual and metaphorical) weapons of war against women from the Global South. In fact, that offensive caption isn’t significantly different from comments I’ve been hearing this week like, “These are countries where women have very little value.”
Sadly, the place where I’ve been hearing such phrases isn’t on some conservative TV program or website (where I think that all-woman pilot photo originated), but rather, on the PBS film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, a well-publicized neo-liberal “odyssey through Asia and Africa” hosted by everyone’s favorite white savior New York Times reporter, Nikolas Kristof.