If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend that you click to the IWF home page, which links to a fine essay by Akinyi June Arunga of the Inter-Region Economic Network Liberty Institute in Kenya. (Click onto our XX-Files entry, Cold Sweat.) Arunga found herself sharing a taxi last September with a bunch of rad-feministas gathering to protest the World Trade Organization’s meeting in the Mexican resort town of Cancun:
“…I asked them why they saw free trade as a threat to the poor’s chances at wealth creation. They pointed at the huge hotels of Cancun and one of them said, ‘Look — look at all this. I was in Cancun in the ’80s and this place was very indigenous; now, it looks just like the United States, no different. I can hardly recognize it at all! Look — there’s a McDonald’s, and a Burger King. Oh, my goodness, even Gucci! Cancun has disappeared under the [North American] Free Trade Agreement that they signed with the U.S.!’
“They were disgusted, but I looked around and saw opportunity. I wished that we had such hotels in Kenya, where we have wonderful beaches and many pleasant people who would benefit enormously if the tourism industry flourished, as it does in Cancun. I said, ‘I’m sure that the people of Cancun are happier, since they have jobs and hence money to buy food, clothing and shelter. They meet people from around the world, and can easily sell their goods and services to these visitors.’
“The women snapped back that Cancun workers were paid barely livable wages. Puzzled, I asked, ‘So you would like to visit Cancun and see more indigenous people in their indigenous clothes, living in their indigenous huts, farming in their indigenous methods, and eating only their indigenous food?’
“To my horror, they said, ‘It would be better for the environment and for cultural diversity!’ Like many other globalization protesters I’ve encountered, they seemed to believe that Mexicans and other poor people don’t want the same conveniences of life that they themselves enjoyed: running water, permanent homes, affordable clothes and food, leisure time, cars. They preferred things to stay ‘exotic’ — underdeveloped and poor.”
Yes, First World feministas care deeply about Third World women–as long as they’re hand-grinding corn, hand-weaving cloth, and otherwise functioning as picturesque background adornments for the tourist fantasies of the First World.
I was in the area around what is now Cancun myself back in my student days. Cancun was actually built, not by U.S. capitalists as the rad-fems seem to think, but by the then-deeply socialist Mexican government, which was desperate to bring some cash-generating tourism to this desolate and underpopulated part of southern Mexico. Back then, there was nothing for miles around but humidity, rocky beaches, scrubby underbrush, and mosquitos. Few people lived there, because few people, male or female, could scratch out a living, even if they could stand the heat. I suppose you could have called that sort of thing cultural diversity. But to me, it didn’t even look exotic. At least nowadays, there’s a significant number of women in Cancun for the rad-fems to wring their hands over because they’re wearing shoes.