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Feminism Friday: that “why are Western feminists such cowards about atrocities in other countries?” lie

Shorter Pamela Bone: feminists are such cowardly hypocrites for being against FGM and rape in war whenever any culture does it instead of just specially castigating Islamic societies where such brutalities occur.

I posted over at Hoyden About Town a few days ago with more background to Bone’s article about how she bravely spoiled a literary evening by insisting on asking the keynote speaker, Professor Germaine Greer, a question about Darfur that had nothing to do with literature. I also noted how real live feminists are actually supporting and financing the efforts of grassroots organisations in cultures with traditionally oppressive traditions, to reform those traditions without having to reject the entirety of their culture, exactly along the lines of how abolitionists gradually persuaded Western societies that the Biblical verses traditionally used to support slavery could be set aside as incompatible with the larger tradition and without having to reject Christianity entirely.

Persuading people that rejecting harmful cultural traditions doesn’t mean having to reject cherished positive cultural traditions is the only way that has ever and will ever work when proposing great social change. (Well, that or bloody conquest which totally eradicates the traditional cultural hierarchy, but given the civilian casualty rate and forceful property acquisition habit in bloody conquest, how is that really going to help oppressed women rather than harming them more?)

Columnists such as Bone ignore the genocides and rapes of Rwanda and the Congo as they point to Darfur as some sort of particularly Islamic excess of brutality, just as they point to genital cutting in Egypt and ignore it in Burkina Faso. There is absolutely no need to especially denounce Islam qua Islam for practises which shared by many groups and which are oppressive to women no matter what religious/tribal/cultural justification is made for them.

Note: title changed as per Helen’s suggestion in comments.

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

6 comments on “Feminism Friday: that “why are Western feminists such cowards about atrocities in other countries?” lie

  1. While I am absolutely against FGM, I do have to admit that I do not know how exactly how the cultures in which it is practices justify it. I have to admit my ignorance — so how can I condemn a culture I don’t even know?$

    My primary criteria of evaluation are suffering and the opposition to such practices from within the culture. If it exists, then I feel my judgment is validated.

    Opposition from within the culture in question is also my main reason for abstaining from denouncing the culture. It isn’t one particular configuration of beliefs and norms that generates cruelty. All cultures are oppressive. Christianity isn’t as nurturing as we’d like to think. Just look at how the fathers of the church (churches) have debased women over centuries, coming up with newer and newer strategies. Which doesn’t mean that women cannot draw strength from religion. Many of them do and even incorporate religion into feminism as means of empowerment.

    As I see it, it is through a critical engagement with our native cultures and also through openness to outsiders’ perspectives that we can shape them more consciously.

    All cultures and religions have the propensity to enslave people through their norms, but that doesn’t mean we should — or, for that matter, can — abandon them altogether.

    Denouncing islam would be very easy for me, since I am not Muslim. But Christianity is a part of my thinking, even though I do not subscribe to any particular cult and do not agree with all the tenets. Just as I cannot cut out Christianity from my consciousness, a Muslim cannot simply condemn and forget their religion and culture. Condemnation leads nowhere. We need to think from within our cultures and reach beyond them… yet without getting out.

    I hope my argumentation isn’t too murky.

  2. Please could you change the title of this to “Why are cowardly Western feminists not opposing atrocities in other countries?” or something, and copy it to the FAQ section? Because this seems to be proliferating and proliferating… I’m just reading some commenter banging on about it on BBC World…

  3. Title changed, Helen. This is an op-ed rather than an FAQ, but I can link to it from some of the FAQs.

    I’ve been looking for a link to a report on that group of idealistic but finger-wagging feminists who went to Egypt to stop FGM in the 70s, and ended up making people even more intransigent about it as a signifier of an anti-colonialist mindset, because the finger-waggers ignored any local expertise and culturally sensitive advice. Anyone got one?

  4. Part of the problem is that some feminists are so liberal that they automatically take on the “its a different culture” attitude (and therefore its not our business to criticize) point of view everytime something is mentioned ranging anywhere from arranged marriages of young girls to old men or fgm, to honor killings and casual selling of female babies and children into prostitution.

  5. [Repeated post with added gratuitous insult deleted. Welcome to the permanent moderation filter. ~ tigtog]

  6. You sure about that Dee? Or is that just what Rush Limbaugh told you?

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