CSW 2010: Why This U.S. Based Feminist Gives a Damn

This week marks the kickoff of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a 2-week, woman-focused conference that takes place annually at the United Nations (UN). Basically, this means that for the next two weeks, THE principal global policy-making body will be dedicating itself exclusively to the pursuit of gender equality and the advancement of women. Pretty exciting stuff, right?!?!?

*Cricket Chirp* *Cricket Chirp*

Wait….what? You’re not falling over in your chair with excitement about this event? Come to think of it, where’s the buzz around the domestic U.S. feminist blogosphere? Shouldn’t we all be as excited about this as we are about, say, Lady Gaga? Can’t help but pull a Hanson here and ask…”Where’s the love“??? (for C-S-dubs?)

Although it’s disappointing, I’m not too surprised when I hear folks express apathy/cynicism towards the UN in general and the CSW in particular, especially since I myself have harbored those same kinds of feelings towards the UN in the past. It can seem like with all the acronyms and jargon being used, many delegates don’t want members of civil society to get involved, or that they are creating a deliberate barrier for non-UN folks to get to the content. It can also sometimes feel like the progress being made there isn’t real or important, since things. move. so. slowlyyyyyyy. sometimes.

But I’m one U.S.-based domestic feminist who is now sold on the importance of these two weeks, and I’ve worked with many international advocates who are as well.
Here’s why.

First of all, documents that come out of these meetings are often used by women on the ground to fight for their rights. Even though this year’s CSW will adopt a declaration rather than an outcome document, they will still be affirming important principles that women can use as reference points to hold their governments accountable. As a domestic advocate, I can appreciate the importance of empowering women to stand up for themselves, so I support this process for them.

Secondly, the CSW is an opportunity for U.S.-based feminists to connect with international feminists and see the intersections of their work. I can think of so many examples of women’s issues that transcend the international/national distinction, and I have truly come to believe that CSW is a fantastic opportunities for real feminist activists to come together and parse out these issues in a way that is truly beneficial for the world’s women. My experiences working on these issues at home and abroad has convinced me that systematic oppression of women comes from the same basic source, no matter where it happens, or in what cultural context. As the president of the NGO where I work pointed out at a UN event last week, “at the heart of both empowerment and equality are a person’s fundamental right and ability to control her own body including her sexuality.” I’ve found that this is true both in the United States, and abroad. So have others, like Michelle Goldberg.

Lastly, I support the CSW because it is supportive of movement building. As Jessica put it in her recent Washington Post article, “this isn’t a zero-sum game, and we can fight for our rights while fighting for women internationally as well…It’s time to do away with the either-or mentality that surrounds domestic and international women’s rights.” I completely agree, and in my eyes, the CSW is an excellent starting place for that, and it’s my hope that over the next few weeks, feminists from all corners of the globe will discover more of their shared interests, common experiences, and great shared potential.

I’ll be attending the CSW on and off for the next 2 weeks as part of my day job, and I’ll be covering the main goings on, as well as a few side events, for Feministing as best I can. You can also get updates from an international team of Inter Press Service journalists here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the next two weeks as well. Are you bored by the UN? Impressed? Intimidated? Disillusioned? Cynical? What are your hopes and expectations for this year’s CSW? Leave your impressions and experiences in comments, or just email me at Lori@feministing.com with your thoughts. And let’s together make sure this crucially important world conference on women gets the attention from U.S.-based domestic feminists it needs and deserves.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • Auriane

    Thank you so much for posting this. Given the fact that fundamentalist Christians are influencing elections and laws in Africa (among other places where they’re seeking to convert easy prey) I think it’s important for us to do our part to ensure equality around the globe.

  • Taylor

    I interned at the U.S. Mission to the UN at the tail end of the Bush Administration in the Economic and Social Affairs Department. While interning, UNIFEM and several NGOs were preparing for this annual week in March. As an insider, I cannot tell you how many hard working women and men there are out there who are dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights at the international level. When I was there, the Security Council had just passed Resolution 1820, which mandated that rape was considered a war crime, and therefore punishable offense. Thanks to this internship and all of the wonderful people I met, I am focusing my studies in political science on women, and why women’s political participation, particularly in the developing world matters. The UN and the international community have a long way to go, but there are people out there who have committed their lives to making sure that women are considered stakeholders economically, politically, and socially.

  • linecaro.wordpress.com

    Just wanted to say I really appreciate your point about domestic and international issues being intertwined.

  • Dawn.

    The UN is a problematic entity, but I respect it and believe in the goals of this conference. One of the most important things I think feminism, as a movement, needs to achieve, is utilizing the very real intersections between U.S. domestic feminists, European feminists, international feminists, and third world feminists. As Jessica said in WaPo: we can fight for our rights, both domestically and internationally. We can no longer work in silos if we want a real revolution.
    Thank you for bringing CSW 2010 to Feministing, Lori. I’ll be looking forward your posts about goings-on and developments.

  • partenope

    I used to work for them. From my experience, the only bodies it cares about are the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The attitudes towards UNIFEM and UNICEF are really dismissive.

  • Sara Perle

    If you have a twitter account you can also follow people tweeting the main events as well as parallel events and government side events with the hash tags #csw54 and #csw2010.

  • Courtney

    Fantastic post Lori. I will be very interested to see the next two weeks through your cautiously optimistic eyes. Thanks for bringing us inside.

  • niivala

    This benchmark from the UN (Unifem?), circa 1980, is one of the best tools I’ve found anywhere for beginning an analysis of women’s oppression anywhere and it goes something like this: “Women do 2/3 of the world’s work, earn 10% of the world’s income, and own less than 1% of the world’s property”. It pretty well sums up the power of the patriarchy compared with all the women in the world.
    I do look forward to more from the United Nations’ women.