Human Rights Don’ts

It is likely that my posts on this blog will follow a few fairly predictable themes. (Unless I revert to form and forget to post, in which case the theme will be: “For crying out loud, how old are you? I know there are snacks over there, but honestly, you are so disorganized.”)

Theme 1 is what we will call “things people should stop saying to me at parties when I mention that I am interested in human rights work.” This category includes the following:

(A) Pompous open-mindedness. “Of course, most people think that female genital mutilation is gross, but I understand that it’s cultural.” I don’t care if it’s cultural, or how understanding you are. Some things are not okay. That is one of them. You are just trying to impress me with your out-of-the box thinking. It is not working. Please stop.

(b) Bizarre Self-hatred. You know the type. When you tell them about, say, the Burmese military junta’s brutal violence towards political dissidents, they reply “Yeah, that’s terrible. But, of course, we Americans are in no position to criticize. I mean, President Bush doesn’t believe in evolution.” Don’t get me wrong: I am all about evolution. I live near the Natural History museum for a reason, people. However, I think we can all agree that comparing it to death by torture is going a wee bit overboard. While this may seem like the polar opposite of Pompous Open-mindedness, it’s actually pretty much the same thing: an attempt to impress people with your wryly self-deprecating cosmopolitanism. Trust me, it sounds a lot less impressive out loud than it did in your head when you were imagining me swooning with joy at your cultural sensitivity and immediately beginning to make out with you. (Yes, you)

(C) Telling me about their Victim Crafts. Yes, that bracelet/tiny blank book with a leaf on it/crocheted vest is very nice. No, I don’t really care that it was made by a victim of AIDS/Human Trafficking/Even More Human Trafficking. [She’s talking to you, Polaris Project. Just because you fancied up your website and removed the god-awful gift shop doesn’t mean we don’t all remember the wall art made by trafficking victims out of the wings of butterflies that had died natural deaths. – Kate] The assumption that developing countries are really just large girl-scout troops, and that therefore the key to their salvation is the mobilization of large scale craft projects is completely baffling to me. And don’t start with me on that “self-sufficiency” stuff. If it were helping them towards self-sufficiency, it wouldn’t be a “beautiful handicraft made by a victim of sex trafficking.” It would just be a sweater. And it wouldn’t be a “handicraft,” it would be a “product.” All that those crafts say to me is “Victims of human rights violations have nothing better to do.”

Amanda Taub

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