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HOW NOT TO SAVE MUSLIM WOMEN-paternalistic western feminism.

https://religiondispatches.org/how-not-to-rescue-muslim-women/


The article eloquently describes the 'paternalistic' nature of Western feminism and it's 'white savior' complex. The western media and human right groups have come to sensationalize this view of Muslim women as being oppressed, victimized and discriminated against by their religion and the traditional societies they live in. Muslims are viewed as being collectively ignorant and hostile of liberal ideas such as equality and freedom and incapable of treating their women equally. Muslim women are associated with concepts such as early marriages, childbirth and abuse and the problem of gender inequality is laid at the feet of their religion, disregarding the issues of poverty and authoritarianism etc. that aren’t only limited to the Islamic world only.

To truly understand the profound challenges Muslim women face in their lives, the focus must be on “the global economic policies that impoverish them, the national policies that render their families vulnerable, the class politics that deprive them of dignity, and the military interventions that undermine their security (Abu Lugod)."

I'll share a very interesting and reflective excerpt from the article here.

"When the white knight knows so little about his damsel in distress, how does he expect to rescue her? When she turns around and tells him to call her “Ms.” and to stop telling her what to do, will he be outraged at her ingratitude? When she says she’s quite happy wearing a traditional outfit, thank you, but could she please get maternity leave, will he snort in disgust at his charge? When she wraps her head in a veil and stands up for her Islamic prayer, will he throw up his hands at her inability to throw off Islamic slavery? When she says why thank you for your help, but I need my husband out of Guantanamo and my son out of your Musharraf’s jail, and then I’d like to open a Qur’an school for girls—what will he say then? When she says she’s got her own ways of effecting the revolution, and it doesn’t involve selling out brown men to America, will he decide against trying to rescue her after all?"

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15 comentários


I agree the western feminism sees only Muslim women's dressing, culture and then generalize it for all Muslim women rather than focusing on other factors. I think I have an article related to this issue where one women was interviewed about her difficulties being a Muslim women and then she said stop blaming others for my dressing (wearing Abaya or Burqa). I love what I wear and I do it with my own will not because someone else made me do it. There are other serious issues for a Muslim women and Western feminist consider those too if they are really worried about Muslim women's rights and difficulties.

Curtir
Respondendo a

Thank you for sharing this. It's as simple as this. Rather than forcefully imposing the narrative that all Muslim women are oppressed, why not let them speak for themselves?

Curtir

There are various social factors that affect the life of any individual. You rightly said that it is never just religion and culture. Race, Class, Poverty, and Politics are few of them. Western feminism has reduced the experiences, voices and issues of Muslim women to the religion and culture only that negatively impact the lives of Muslim women in a way that other problems faced by them are ignored.

Curtir
Respondendo a

All of these factors are equally important in understanding the exploitation and oppression a person faces. But associating this image of oppression with the person and perceiving it to be caused by one single factor is where the problem lies.

Curtir

Despite the west considering themselves better than everyone else, I believe it is the extremeist factors in our society that have failed to represent the true picture of what it means to be a Muslim. The real Islam, as far as I know, was founded on the financial support of a businesswoman. One of the holiest woman in Islam, the Prophet's wife was known to be the most educated in a diverse range of subjects. However, I believe the extremist factors have contaminated the flexible, liberal and easy religion that Islam is and how women are no less than men if not more in this religion.

Curtir
Respondendo a

You are right. The extremist factors of our society have greatly restricted women in all fields and contributed to this stereotypical image of both Muslim women and Islam. However, the thing to realize here is that the agency of these women and their ability to represent themselves and speak for their selves is being overlooked. They are only being viewed in this restricted stereotypical image of helpless oppressed women who can't escape the shackles of their oppressive religion and tradition and thus need to be saved.

Curtir

I believe that paternalistic western feminism can be countered when eastern and muslim feminists will participate actively in discussions with them and create a powerful and positive image of muslim and eastern women. Also, west views oppression as it wants because of the lack of participation by third world women. (it was also mentioned in a reading)

Curtir
Respondendo a

Rightly stated.

Curtir

Unfortunately, the West has always viewed oppression and injustice from its own lens. It has always considered its own social, political and economic system as the best and tried to make everything fit within that. Reminds me of how certain pictures were recently floating of Afghan woman wearing Western clothing in the past compared to women in Burqa now. And the point to prove was that this in itself signifies a decline in women's rights and increase in oppression. But who actually defined empowerment with Western fashion and oppression with covering up for example?

Curtir
Respondendo a

The real hypocrisy comes when they claim their feminism to be beacon of choice but when some women choose something that does not conform with their ideals it is labeled as oppressive and even banned (like the headscarf ban in France Denmark etc.). So it is freedom of choice only as long as all women choose their standards.

Curtir
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