I don’t work on reproductive health and rights on the international level, but I have worked on the national level and think that there’s obviously much work to do that could definitely make us “a better defender” for women’s rights internationally. Just last week a UN committee called the U.S. out for failing to address severe racial disparities that exist in reproductive health care.
So yes, we need to improve our conditions at home, but first there needs to be just a general recognition that these real problems exist rather than continuing to hold ourselves up on a pedestal as this champion of women’s rights, coming to save “the oppressed women” from “uncivilized” countries, and as Kavita said, which has been happening in the midst of this guise of fighting terror. One example is female genital cutting. While, as Michelle mentioned, the U.S.’s efforts to assist countries in getting the practice banned definitely isn’t a bad thing, what about recognizing that our own practices of “vaginal rejuvenation” or “labiaplasty” isn’t that far off? Yes, the two are still very different and I certainly wouldn’t say labiaplasty would be on the president’s top list of issues to address. I’m just saying is just the identification of certain problems that may be just as immediate here (such as the UN’s recent findings) as other countries and not placing ourselves in the superiority seat is a first step. And putting ourselves to a higher standard from that perspective will allow us to avoid the moral high ground and come from a less condescending and invasive place.