Monday, July 23, 2007

Feminism vs. Muslim Women?

I have often wondered why some of the most vocal critics of America’s involvement in Iraq are some of those who would have the most to loose under Sharia law. Where would the ACLU,, and assorted gay rights groups be if they were forced to live under Sharia Law. I don’t understand why some of these groups don’t make a common cause with those fighting for the same rights in Iraq and the Middle East.

For example, under Muslim law, women have very few rights. While most citizens in the Middle East have very little influence over their government, many women are in even worse shape. How often have we seen articles in the news about honor killings? How many female genital mutilations are performed in the Middle East without the consent of the girl being exposed to this barbaric practice? How many girls are sentenced to prison because they were raped?

I recently read an article in the Weekly Standard from May of 2007 by Christina Hoff Sommers that ask some of these same questions. She asks why there aren’t more demonstrations here in the United States to help women in Muslim countries. Ms. Sommers points out, “[d]uring the 1980’s, there were massive demonstrations on American campuses against racial apartheid in South Africa. There is no remotely comparable movement on today’s campuses against the gender apartheid prevalent in large parts of the world.” Ms. Sommers argues that while the, “…condition of Muslim women may be the most pressing women’s issue of our age...” too many feminist groups today are focused on attacking the United States and not on examining the condition of women outside of the U.S.

I did a random sampling of feminist groups in the United States to see if Ms. Sommers was being fair in her characterization of these groups. Very few of the websites I visited talked at all about women outside the United States. In a domestic violence study on the Center for the Advancement of Women, the group mentions talking to what it considers a diverse group: non-minority, African-American, Asian, Latina, adult and teenage women. Since the study does bring up religion, I was surprised there was no mention of Muslim women.

A more prominent group, The National Organization for Women (NOW), list as their top priorities: Abortion Rights / Reproductive Issues, Violence against Women, Constitutional Equality, Promoting Diversity / Ending Racism, Lesbian Rights, and Economic Justice. “Global Feminism” appears as bullet point five under “Other Important Issues”. You will be happy to know that at number four in this same category is “Fighting the Right”. Under “Global Feminism” the most recent article is dated October of 2006. I did a quick search on Google for “honor killings” and found articles on CNN, The Christian Science Monitor, and other sources much more recent than that.

However, not being active in any of these organizations, maybe I was missing something. Going back to the homepage for NOW, I looked to see what the most pressing issues facing today’s women are. The first article was “Breaking News: Cleavage on Display”. This insightful bit of reporting was referring to Hilary Clinton’s “brazen step” to wear a low neckline. Here is the link to the story if you think I am making this up. And this was the headline as of the writing of this article.

There are feminist movements active in the Middle East. Occasionally American feminist will try to help these movements only to be attacked by organizations such as NOW. In her article, Ms. Sommers points out that these movements are gaining some momentum, and that they don’t like what they see in their American counterparts. A 1998 book quoted in the article said that some Iraqi women’s advocates don’t like what they see as trying to divide men from women, and separating women from their family.

In her article, Mrs. Sommers points out, “A reviewer of Irshad Manji’s manifesto celebrating Islamic feminism aptly remarked, ‘This could be Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.’ Ipso facto, it should be our fondest dream.” American Feminist should take a step back from the political parties and look at their own ideals. If women’s issues, and especially all women’s issues, are what their organizations are about, how can they not support an effort to provide women in the Middle East with a stable democracy to live in? Are feminist in these groups so against the Republican party and George Bush that they would want the women of the Middle East to live in conditions they would never, ever, dream of here in the U.S.?

To drive the point home, the cover of The Weekly Standard with Ms. Sommers article shows three women who are coverd except for their face and their hands. The center woman has some hair showing on the top of her head. The caption for this cover is "Government agents in Tehran warn a woman about her clothing and hair during a crackdown to enforce the regime's dress code, April 22, 2007." Is this really the environment that NOW wants women living in?

1 comment:

Jayne d'Arcy said...

I read this the first time it was posted and honestly didn't know what to say. I've never been a feminist, nor have I paid much attention to my own rights as a woman. I'm a majority, not a minority, in a way, so I'm not downtrodden or being exploited.

I also have a rather acid view of today's feminists (I tend to feel Limbaugh is rather correct in using his Femi-nazi label for some), and so I am also a bit of a traitor.

I don't see American Feminists supporting the rights of women more, not just in Iraq, but in other parts of the world where women are just viewed as baby factories and sex toys.

Once again, this is something else that makes me disgusted with my own gender. I think your view is correct - womens groups here in the US aren't focusing on what they should - women getting killed, mutilated, and more because it's considered normal.