My problem with feminists

Note: I have edited out once sentence from this post because I think I expressed myself unclearly.

Actually, I have many disagreements with feminists. But I don’t consider them to be a homogeneous group. I know they come in all stripes. I really appreciated one professor in the women’s studies department; she was an anthropologist, and really looked at a lot of issues in the context of the society in which they occur. She was also well-aware of the ignorant and self-righteous nature of many American feminists; we had a very good discussion of people like Alice Walker, for instance. Also, I once got appointed to “the Chancellors committee on the status of women” as an undergrad. I was a “non-voting” member—I almost got taken in with the personalized letter from the chancellor. I attended a couple of meetings, but I was very busy student; and they didn’t often hold meetings when I was free; also, a room full of career feminists—I mean people who have made feminism their calling in life—can be very scary to a hijabi girl, no matter how defiant her face may seem.

Anyway, I digress. My point is that I recently came across the following comment from a liberal blogger:

Pass the hookah with the genuine Afghan™ opium hand-picked between the virgin thighs of oppressed girls in burqas. poppies… poppies… poppies…

First, let’s consider all the frames which this statement is evoking:
Afghan women are oppressed. The Burqa is primarily responsible for their oppression. They are virgins, which is apparently a bad thing. They have thighs which are virgin; this image points to lust, either the authors’ or of the ‘oppressors.’ They are picking poppies, an action which is supposed to evoke the failure of US policies and the criminality of Afghans. Bottom line: Afghan girls are exotic, oppressed, and dangerous/criminal.

In case you are concerned: I am NOT a Taliban sympathizer. I think they were an ignorant, inexperienced bunch. They were radicalized due to their sever upbringing in a war-torn environment. They threw out a thousand years of scholarship regarding Islamic sharia. And, they did prevent women from the rights, privileges and dignity that Allah gave them in the Quran.

Feminists also take away the dignity of Afghan women. To cast someone as exotic, oppressed, and a threat is not helpful to anyone, lest of all women themselves. I couldn’t right a thesis on this, it’s common sense: if you want to be helpful, build bridges, the sort where you are ready to walk over to the other side, try to understand them in their place, and then come back with greater understanding. Least of all, don’t turn people into caricatures.

23 Responses

  1. eloquently put!

    I wish you did respond to the woman who posted that sentence–but of course we can’t truely learn till we’re willing to understand. (As such, your response to her may have meant nada)

    In Kathy Bullock’s book “Reconsidering the Veil” she mentions how characterizations of women in the Muslim world as oppressed because they wore the veil began at the same time Europe began to colonize the Middle East. Also, literature and art from that period done by Western males depicts sexually attractive women peering out from behind their veils or relaxing inside a harem (barely ever clothed of course).

    I feel that a lot of feminists (not all and maybe not even most) approach Muslim women and the Muslim world in just the same blind way.

    I’m glad you wrote this blog entry. I’m trying to decide whether or not I should google that woman’s qoute and then post the url for Peripheries there. Wouldn’t she be flattered? =)

  2. I didn’t respond to her because this was an “aside” in her comment. And she’s a liberal, not a lefty. There’s a difference I think. I don’t like to see myself in defensive positions where I have to prove things.

  3. totally agreed !!

    somehow all these things feminists do make me think, y cant they just go out and help instead of publicizing someones misery.

    sometimes i wonder if there is a saidst side to it .. but i guess .. i am far from the topic now 🙂

    nicely put up :).. all points fer the post !!

  4. The Muslim world casts all Western women as whores and our way of life as “immoral” while lusting after the very same and more in their Paradise. I would say promoting misery and ignorance in this life while wishing for 72 virgins and all the trimmings in the next is the height of immorality as well as hypocrisy.

    Women have the right to dress as they want, the right to education, right to work, reproductive rights, right to worship or not to, right to be free of the Muttawa, right to testify, right to inherit, right to vote, etc. Until islam allows these things for women, it is just a repressive, barbaric, death cult, and an example the civilized world would rather not follow, thank you very much!

  5. Thanks for your comment anonymous,

    I think it would be a mistake to think that all Muslims think Western women are whores. I do not 🙂 There are a lot of us who are able to look at “the West” as a large and diverse group. But I don’t think the vast majority of us think Western women are whores, although I think some Muslims, who have little contact with “the West” probably think there is immodestly in Western culture. I think there is a lack of modesty in both “the West” and Muslims.

    Obviously, I believe Islam is good an beautiful. I would try to answer your concern about virgins, but I think I’ll wait until you explain this further, so that our conversation could be more useful to you.

    As for your list, I can try to explain some of this now: Women have the right to dress as they want (check), the right to education (check), right to work (check), reproductive rights (if this refers to contraceptives or abortion where the safety of the woman is endangered then check), right to worship or not to (check), right to be free of the Muttawa (check, except in certain countries where it def. needs to be worked on), right to testify(check), right to inherit (check), right to vote (check).

    All of these things are okay. In fact, Muslim women voted 1400 years ago. It wasn’t a ballot, but the earliest Muslim leaders, including Muhammad, peace be upon him, sought the pledges of women (bey’ah). The problem is that current situation of Muslims is that they are either following some corrupt mixture of secularism and cultural practices, or they are practicing very radicalized and politicized Islam that is very different from traditional sharia, which isn’t healthy for any society.

    I’m afraid I elicited your heated comment because I said I had a visceral dislike with feminists. This has little to do with my judgments of their moral behavior. It is caused because of their approach to me and my Muslim sisters. In fact, my professor whom I referred to earlier, was awesome not because she shared all my ideas, but because she could respect me and my decisions.

    Also, obviously I would disagree with you that Muslims are a repressive death cult. This is precisely why I feel we need to build understandings, get to know one another; because there’s nothing deathly or cultish about me.

    Have a beautiful day.

  6. Thank you for your response. On what planet is this idealized version of islam that you refer to being practised? There is not ONE islamic country that allows the list of rights I have stated. Not one. These rights ARE allowed in secular western countries.

    If I am correct then it easier to practice your form of islam in Canada or the U.S. than in any islamic country because we believe in seperation of church and state and the sanctity of individual freedom.

    Most of these things that you profess to believe in are NOT allowed in any islamic country. Odd that – isn’t it?

  7. It’s actually an irony and a blessing Anonymous, because Muslims are forced to reevaluate their practice of the religion through interaction with Westerners. That doesn’t mean of course that Muslims should accept everything that western feminism promotes, because the movement clashes with Islam in many respects. Islam is about a lot more than women’s rights. It is a spiritual path and it defines the purpose of our lives.

    I think you are mistaken in looking at the Muslim world as a monolith, and in using very unqualified language. For example, “There is not ONE islamic country that allows the list of rights I have stated.” Actually, my mother was born and raised in Pakistan, she had all of these rights. She voted, worked at polling stations, inherited property, earned an MA. Now that is not to say that Pakistan isn’t flawed. Many Pakistani women live in dire poverty and in situations where they can be exploited. That needs to be fixed.

  8. “That doesn’t mean of course that Muslims should accept everything that western feminism promotes, because the movement clashes with Islam in many respects.”

    Yes, of course it does. Feminism sees things like amputating someone’s hand for theft as contradictory to human rights – don’t you?. How about stoning for adultery? Death for apostasy? These elements of sharia are against EVERYTHING we stand for. Equality, dignity and freedom of and from religion is what makes our civilization, frankly, a superior place to live.

    Oh, are you really holding Pakistan up as the model for islam?

  9. how did “Now that is not to say that Pakistan isn’t flawed. Many Pakistani women live in dire poverty and in situations where they can be exploited. That needs to be fixed.” get translated into “holding Pakistan up as the model for islam”??

    All this characterizations are getting… mundane? Islamic civilization=big ugly tyrant;
    Western civilization=the paragon of dignity and equality.

    please. let’s move beyond the superficial ‘east vs. west’ theories shall we?

    lastly, Sara lives in the U.S. doesn’t she? I don’t think her point is to say “Islam=good and west=evil”. And from what I gather through this blog (correct me if I’m wrong Sara) does she think that Islam and West are incompatiable. (Feminism perhaps, but hell Catholics and many Christian leaders have issues with the feminism movement as it is now.)

    blogging and debating are one thing but understanding–it goes beyond the urge to respond, post, accuse, respond. just be brave ‘nough to understand, you know what i mean?

    peace y’all and don’t hate 😉

  10. shessh I meant “And from what I gather through this blog (correct me if I’m wrong Sara) she doesn’t think that Islam and “West” (and supposed Western ideals of freedom, dignity, equality) are incompatiable.”

    it took a while for the thing to post so I didn’t realize my typo(s?)

  11. I’m just tired of sanctimonious young women in hijabs looking down their nose at me. I will rephrase what I said earlier:

    Many muslims cast Western women as whores and our way of life as “immoral” while lusting after the very same and more in their Paradise. I would say promoting misery and ignorance in this life while wishing for 72 virgins and all the trimmings in the next is the height of immorality as well as hypocrisy.

    Don’t you find the whole 72 virgins thing odd? Where do all these virgins come from?

    Finally, I am tired of the hypocricy of muslims and islamic nations when it comes to freedom. You live in freedom yet complain about feminists, but if a feminist went to saudi to open a church, she would be executed. Seems to me you are complaining about the wrong thing and the wrong country.

  12. Anonymous seems to be a typical westoxified moron with little knowledge about the issues. Are you an attention whore, anony ? As for femenists, they’ve made their countries a great place for woman havent they ?

  13. “I’m just tired of sanctimonious young women in hijabs looking down their nose at me.”

    And where do you see this blogger young woman in hijabs—namely Sara—looking down at you? Or is the very act of her wearing a veil, like vegans not drinking milk, make you feel ‘looked down upon’? I’ll say this: Sara treated you a whole lot nicer than I would have, had the subject been about black people.

    “Many muslims cast Western women as whores and our way of life as “immoral””

    Ah, so you’ve done some sort of survey of the billions of Muslims in our world? Or perhaps some ethnographic research by visiting those areas—hell, have you even visited more than one Muslim country? Or perhaps you’ve turned to the Arab channel and seen what they say about our women?

    “Finally, I am tired of the hypocricy of muslims and islamic nations when it comes to freedom. You live in freedom yet complain about feminists, but if a feminist went to saudi to open a church, she would be executed. Seems to me you are complaining about the wrong thing and the wrong country.”

    Seems to me you’re missing a vital point. Sara can complain about feminists and the west because these are the subjects pertinent to her (or so it seems obvious to me from this blog). Just because she doesn’t complain about Saudis on this blog (considering they are not relevant to her place and time) doesn’t mean she approves of what they do.

    There’s hypocrisy in America and Americans when it comes to freedom too—and if Sara living here wants to complain about that, why the hell do you care? Or rather why DON’T you care when Christian ministers and priests preach the life of a homosexual as “immoral” or when they call an American woman who wants to get an abortion “immoral”?

    There is an implicit argument in that paragraph that seems to suggest “Sara’s not American, how dare she complain about our country while living here, even though the Muslim countries are doing blah and blah.” For that I can only bring the words of Hughes:
    “You are white—
    yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
    That’s American.
    Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
    Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
    But we are, that’s true!”

    Peace, from “the other anonymous”

  14. “Anonymous seems to be a typical westoxified moron with little knowledge about the issues. Are you an attention whore, anony ?”

    Thank you for making my point for me. No doubt you hate Jews as well. Like i said…

  15. “Or perhaps you’ve turned to the Arab channel and seen what they say about OUR women?”

    Our? That you think this way indicates how fundamentally different muslim and western societies are. The real question is; can they co-exist?

    Seems unlikely given the (at least) two identifiable men on this thread, one refers to women in the possesive and the other called me names(I am an African American woman who hates Bush, opposes the war and believes in equality between men and women)

    I am sorry if i have insulted anyone, and this will be my last post, but muslims must understand that there is a terrible divide happening between “believers” and the kuffar. I fear the future will be catastrophic if we cannot come to terms with our differences – for they are very real.

  16. Hi everyone 🙂

    Sorry I’ve been away from your heated exchanges of rhetoric. I think it’s time everyone take a break, go walk outside, play in the snow. Ask more questions too.

    Sara

    p.s. that wasn’t a guy saying “our women.” I think it’s a gal. It would be helpful if all of you anonymous-es get yourselves user names, it only takes a minute.

  17. “Seems unlikely given the (at least) two identifiable men on this thread, one refers to women in the possesive and the other called me names”

    eeeek! I’m a woman! a gal! a female!
    i meant ‘american women’ by ‘our women’

    peace

  18. Get over yourself anony, frankly you havent made any points. As for hating Jews, I guess this is your way dealing with criticism aimed squarely at you.
    I am so tired of ignorant losers like you foaming at the mouth about Muslim woman. Dont start something you cant finish.

  19. drproctologist seems to have an anger issue. I checked out your blog dude and, unsurprisingly, you DO hate Jews (along with just about everybody else). Hate, hate, hate – it seems to be the muslim way…

  20. You know anony, I’ve been willing to think that you may have the best of motivation, that you may just be curious, worried, and earnestly interested. Can I ask that you not insult anyone else, other commenters? thanks.

  21. …yet it’s OK for your fellow muslims (drproctologist)to call names? Is that what is widely known as “islamic hypocricy?”

  22. No you’re right. But do you have to call me a hypocrite? Also, did you see the other anany’s comment? Can you respond to what I’m saying or she’s saying?

  23. Flan–“Anonymous” — If you really believed in anything you were saying, and weren’t here solely to antagonize the blogger, you’d at least attempt to put a name behind those words.

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