Tuesday, May 15, 2007
And the right embraces feminism
As many of you know, I have begun [tentative] work on my dissertation. I have a basic research question and chapter ideas...the details will be worked out later. I am analyzing how Muslim women are demonstrating democracy to Western audiences. I've long thought it peculiar that every time the media, government, military, average right wings attempt to "prove" democracy is happening in Iraq, they show full color pictures of women. Women voting. Women reading. Women walking in the streets. So, I'm looking at a variety of cultural forums to see what the average American “sees” when they see democracy "working." There are lots of examples. Media stories, “chick lit” written by Muslim women, blogs my Muslim women… It has been fairly obvious to me that we (the West) would rather see women in the media as brown male bodies are either (a) scary or (b) dead. Moreover, there is nothing more democratic than liberating women, right? (And who better to liberate women than America? America! We’re SOOO liberated, we should definitely share our skills!) Up until now, I argue that this manipulation has been rather covert. In fact, being the generous critic that I am, I've even considered that the media (maybe) didn't realize that they were doing it. It makes sense that because of our suffrage history, they would be eager to use oppressed groups to prove democratic success.

But the public discourse took a turn today. A more overt turn. You can tell that the war is going poorly when the right has to turn to feminism.

Ladies and Gentlemen...I present you Oliver North. In all his "feminist" glory. Check out his article-- "US Presence in Iraq Promotes Muslim Feminism."

"No culture can truly celebrate mothers, unless they first respect women. In the United States, women hold top positions in government, law, academia, business, and even the military. Democrats claim to be the favorite of America’s women. Indeed, polling data shows that upwards of 55 percent of American women vote Democratic in national elections. And Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, insists that Democrats care about "women’s rights." Unfortunately, if Ms. Pelosi and her Democrat Party allies have their way, 650 million women around the globe may well be abandoned to the most misogynistic abuse imaginable at the hands of radical Islamists."

You know what I love? I love that he uses " " around women's rights.

It gets better....

"The masters of the mainstream media routinely report on Islam’s violent Sunni vs. Shiite sectarian divide — most evident in Iraq. But scant attention has been devoted to the number one target of radical Islam: Muslim women. Nor do the potentates of the press bother to identify the principal protectors of Muslim women today: the Armed Forces of the United States."

Indeed. Protectors of Muslim women. Protectors.

You know what has gotten "scant attention?" The fact that both Iraqi women and female soldiers within the United States military are suffering under the patriarchal structures of post-invasion Iraqi society and the United States military. Oh and someone should tell North that the perspective of both Iraqi women and female soldiers have been largely excluded from the debate about Iraq in the corporate press and in the government. And don’t even get me started on the idea of “protectors.” Cultural relativism anyone?!

But better still....

"Thanks to young Americans wearing flak jackets and helmets, hundreds of schools have been built for Muslim girls, millions of women have the right to vote, scores of female health care clinics have been opened, and hundreds of thousands of women now work, have their own bank accounts, use cell-phones — even serve in elected office. But all of these advances may soon stop if our Congress insists that “the war is lost” and U.S. troops must now come home."

I'm pretty sure he just listed using cell phones as a sign of liberation. I'm pretty sure this whole article is ridiculous and offensive. But I hope that the right keeps on keeping on. You go. You make these arguments. You use those women as pawns. I can only hope that the general public (and many feminists) start to catch on. My dissertation is going to be rich. RICH.

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Anonymous Long Lost Minny Pal said...

Holy hell. If I had only known that a cell phone would liberate me, Id have purchased one years ago! No wonder I now feel so free, so strong, so equal. Funny how technology is the sign of enlightenment...

You will have a rich diss and I will be right there beside you - supporting you as you "protect" those liberated, working-girl-ish, Muslim women one word at a time.

Yay for "women's rights!"

Blogger Matt said...

I may be waaaaay off base in saying this, but at what point in time do you have to stop and ask not if viewing the liberation of women in Iraq as a good thing, but instead a sk whether or not its a Western thing.

Meaning, there is such a giant religious and cultural divide between traditional gender roles in the US versus the middle east. Is "liberating" women in Iraq really just us "westernizing" the population instead? And what about the broader implications in terms of the impact on culture or traditions? What right do I have to sit back and say "well here in the US of A, women can do X and Y, so I think you should be able to do that, too!"

Do we start making the same arguments for more segregated populations in the world then, too like quechua women in Peru or mapuche women in Chile?

Just a thought.

Blogger kristen said...

No, Matt...you are on a similar wave length to me...I don't think I would go as FAR as you. However, I do think that there is a problem with cultural relativism currently. And in the name of "democracy" we often over look a lot of positive treatment of women throughout the middle east. And we certainly overlook the mistreatment of women in democratic countries.

I do think, however, there are certain agreed upon rights that everyone should have but I have a hard time linking those to demo OR christiantiy OR capitalism--all of which we are bringing to the Middle East in an attempt to "liberate" women.

It is a tough issue, though. One that many feminists grapple with and I'm begin to think that we grapple with it incorrectly.

Blogger bethany said...

I think my cell phone has made me less liberated. People keep CALLING me! Although I guess it does mean I don't have to go home to check messages...

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