The Personalist Project

Here's a clip of a BBC host conversing with--no, debating--no, vainly attempting to shut down--Obianuju Ekeocha, founder of Culture of Life Africa. The subject is African women's access to contraception, or lack thereof. In the end, the BBC lady herself gets shut down, though there's no evidence that she notices that.

It's a tired, old story: Wealthy, western progressive with one-track mind apprises third-world woman of what's good for her, and what's good for her always seems to boil down to her having fewer descendants. Still, it's worth watching.*

For one thing, it's refreshing and encouraging to see somebody fight  back. Talk about unabashed disregard for the lived experience of the other! Such persistent indifference or contempt for the approach, the preferences, the desires, the traditions, the whole range of vision of the African women the host wants to "help"! She tries to erase all that subjectivity in one fell swoop by simply labeling her own culture's perspective a "fact."

"When we talk about contraception," she asserts, "the fact remains that hundreds of millions of women don't have access, and should."

Uju's not about to let this one go by:

You're saying "should," but who are you to decide, if you don't mind my saying? There isn't a popular demand, ma'am, there isn't a popular demand.

The host is incredulous:

But it’s a basic human right to have access to it. That’s why I say that they should have access. 

Now, it's true that some things are basic human rights whether or not they're not valued by a given culture. The question is: Is disrupting the marital act via chemicals and barriers one of them? Many western progressives think so, but that doesn't mean everybody has to.

The host is probably sincere when she pleads her case:

But it is part of that cycle of poverty, and dealing with poverty, and overcoming poverty, is it not?

"Well, that’s kind of a western solution, isn’t it?" retorts Uju, undaunted. Most people would probably concede sheepishly that the timing of pregnancy is one of many factors related to financial success, but that would be missing the point. Why assume that financial success is so desirable that it's worth trading away the integrity of your most intimate relationships? Why assume that contraception is the first thing on poor people's minds? As Uju recalls:

If the Africans are brought to the table, and if the Africans are asked, the ordinary people, not some doctor that works for some western organization that is planted in Africa, if you speak to the ordinary woman...she's asking for work, food, she's asking for water, she's asking for basic health care... Why don’t you listen to the people first?

She also refuses to sugarcoat the side effects of birth control and, most especially the widespread tendency of the "benefactors" to neglect to warn the women about the downside. In the west, people are finally talking about this, but Uju describes how

I found myself consoling these women who had been experiencing this side effect that they had never heard of before. No one had ever told them, but someone from a western organization….came and put IUDs into them and told them, “This is what you need to come out of poverty."...That is not the single indicator...what Africans need is education--

The BBC presenter pounces, apparently agreeing--but revealing an awfully stunted view of education:

They do indeed. It’s about education as well, so that they can understand their basic human rights. It’s not just about the West coming and imposing something…

Refreshingly, Uju pounces right back:

These are colonial thoughts, so you better be careful expressing them! According to whom? ... What children are looking for is a way to get into school….My lifeline out of poverty was education; it was not contraception. And there are so many other women who have walked the same path as I have, without ever having to take recourse to some contraception provided by the British government, or the United States government.

Here the host objects:

So you’re speaking—you’re...generalizing, speaking on behalf of, you know, every woman on the continent.

And again, instead of wilting like a humble and pliable charity case, Uju rejoins:

 Well, so are you! So are you. You’re talking about a general solution, when Africa is actually not a monolithic society.

It's startling to see the progressive woman on the side of fundamental moral principles that take no notice of cultural differences, on the side of treating foreign cultures--an entire continent full of them!--as monolithic, on the side of reducing education to indoctrination in another civilization's putatively superior views on love, sex, money, life and death.

Near the end, the host points out that the United Nation puts the number of women without access to contraception at 200 million. There you go: a prestigious international organization, with a number attached, too. Who can argue against authority, against facts?

But as Uju points out:

These are the calculations by the United Nations, but how many of those 200 million women are actually asking for it? There is a difference between what the United Nations now calls the “unmet need” and the unmet demand ...

It's true: if you were transported to an isolated tropical paradise, you might feel an "unmet need" for wifi or Oreos. But you shouldn't assume the inhabitants of that paradise are pining for the same things. You should at least consult them.

After a little more repartee, the host announces, most unconvincingly,

I’d really like to discuss this further with you…

But alas, she's out of time.

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*Caveat: if you're like me, you may need to keep reminding yourself how unimpressive her "arguments" would sound if they were issuing forth from the mouth of an unattractive woman without a British accent.

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Comments (1)

Rhett Segall

#1, Jul 22, 2017 1:15pm

Just honed in on this Devra and it's terrific and important! Hope to share this and its presuppositions with others!

Rhett

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