Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is Feminism Deaf to the Women in Islam?

Emmeline  Pankhurst
By Gramfan

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Feminism is defined thus:

Date: 1895

1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests

Who can ever forget the iconic cover of "The Female Eunuch", by Germaine Greer?

It was everywhere when it was first published in 1970.

It was virtually the next best thing that had happened to women since Emmeline Pankhurst and her Suffragettes worked to get women the vote. So we were told.

And certainly you cannot deny the benefits and progress that have come from these two women, and the many others who have taken over the baton and changed the lives of millions.

Many of today's other famous feminists are living very comfortably on self-earned wealth: fine with me, it's well-deserved.

They have turned their politics and activism into income sources by working in journalism and other media.

People listen to them.

They have power, enormous power.

Camille Paglia is but one of many whose opinions are highly respected, and it is easy to see why.

Germaine Greer is still going on strongly about all kinds of issues.

Gloria Steinem is another member of this esteemed crowd and there are also very many not-so-famous feminists.

These feminists are in almost all professions from politics to pianists, parents and yes, prostitutes - the oldest "profession" of them all!

Then of course there are the other women in the world who don't occupy this rarified space but who have decided, and yes, it is a decison now, to become home-makers and mothers. Some of them decide to resume successful careers and some chose not to.

But I wonder if we all really received so many benefits from all these feminists? Some of us didn't.

With all that is good and liberating in human progress there are often side effects and "unintended consequences". Sadly there are goals that have not, and will not be achieved.

Certainly many of us get equal work for equal pay nowadays but not all of us. Then there are those who chose to be wives and mothers, who are often scorned, or looked down upon, for their choices.

They had jobs, but feminists weren't satisfied; every other woman had to get one too. So they opened fire on homemakers with a savagery that still echoes throughout our culture. A housewife is a "parasite," [Betty] Frieden writes; such women are "less than fully human" insofar as they "have never known a commitment to an idea."


Housewives, not men, were the prey in feminism's sights when Kate Millett decreed in 1969 that the family must go. Feminists do not speak for traditional women. Men cannot know this, however, unless we tell them how we feel about them, our children, and our role in the home.

Men must understand that our feelings towards them and our children are derided by feminists and have earned us their enmity. Whether or not this understanding garners men's support, traditional women must defend ourselves because the feminist offensive is, most essentially, a breach of solidarity with us, a disavowel of the obligation to honor the Women's Pact [that religious celibates, professional women, and homemakers respect each other] that women in the movement owed to us (Source).

Oh yes, this site has more. Feminism today goes on and on, intellectualising and re-defining feminism to the extent where it is almost too difficult to follow, let alone comprehend.

Quite frankly I am more interested in the practical day-to-day realities. I take the two definitions at face value and I note it doesn't specify any nationality,political allegiance or religion.

1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests

It is true a lot of this has happened in the West but rather than have Greer et al espouse "intellectual yada yada" I would rather see these women get militant again and do something to help their long-suffering sisters who live in Islamic countries, and who can but only dream of the lifestyle many of their famous feminist sisters enjoy.

All too often I see stories of honour killings, rape, female genital mutilation, subservience, domestic (and other) violence, forced marriage and utter discrimination perpetrated against women in Muslim countries and now also in the West.

Some women are getting hymenoplasties and buying repair kits before they marry.

Some are being recruited as homicide bombers.

One is punished for drinking beer, others face lashings or stonings.

An Australian Islamist tries to justify polygamy for everyone.

There are women who suffer terribly from acid attacks quite frequently.

Women in Gaza are not allowed to ride motorcycles, and Somali women are being scrutinised when wearing a bra!

Where's Germaine when you need her, or would this make her happy I wonder?

And recently we have the on-going case of Rifka Bary who, as a minor, cannot chose her religion, and could become a victim of honorcide for apostasy. If she is sent back to her parents her fate is unknown. If she is allowed to remain alive the Islamists can deny honorcide even exists. This is happening in the USA now.

Yet in spite of these incidents feminists like Naomi Wolfe manage to defend discrimination towards women in Islam and it then takes a compassionate feminist, Phyllis Chesler, who has actually lived in a Muslim country, to sort it out for her!

I know many feminists, and women in general, can be fearless fighters.

Code Pink, for example, have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan. True, they are an anti-war movement, but perhaps, just perhaps, they could have drawn some attention to the women who live and suffer in the war zones they are so adamantly against.

They could have easily added one more mission statement to what is on their website which mentions "social justice".

Indeed, any other anti-war group could easily have done the same. I know they do not define themselves as feminists per se, but why not do more?

Could they not have met with Malalai Joya and offered some help?

Indeed, could not some of our famous feminists, female politicians and celebrities who spend so much time choking on their own venom over Sarah Palin have done the same? Are they afraid?

Or are they simply not interested in the women's issues of today because they think it is another culture and therefore they shouldn't interfere. They know it isn't right but they can turn a blind eye to it, even as it happens under their noses, in their own countries.

It's a cop-out.

The improvement of the condition of women in Islam is, to me, a far loftier goal than getting to wear trousers, getting equal pay, getting an abortion on demand, and having a man treat a woman more like a man! This was definitely an "unintended consequence" for me: trivial as it may seem.

I am much heartened by the fact that progress is being made, albeit in small steps.

Kuwati women in parliament refuse to wear the veil.

An Egyptian Cleric wants to ban burquas and other facial coverings.

Honor killing or Honorcide is getting more attention.

Lubna Hussein got a lot of media attention over her sentence for wearing trousers.

Najwa Bin Laden and her son, Omar, wrote a book about their husband and father, Osama, and seem to be fearless about it. They have provided a fascinating insight into this man.

I think the real "feminist"heroines now are the ones who have literally put their lives on the line, not only for women in Islam but for the world in general.

Their goals and committment are what is truly deserving of our respect and support.


I am referring to women like Dr Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Supna Zaidi, Irshad Manji and women like them.

There is another one who would have possibly made it to this list: Neda Soltan.

Tragically she cannot, but in spirit she can inspire so much. I feel she deserves a mention among these brave, dedicated and fascinating women.

This is my challenge to todays feminists. Use your power again.

I am "just a Mom". I do not have your platform and power.

This is indeed a most worthy cause to support and fight for.

("Gramfan" has been 'blogging since 2002. She is "just a Mom" of two grown-up sons, and helps her husband of 38 years. She has occasionally written pieces for other 'blogs, and posts comments. She now writes exclusively for Muslims Against Sharia).

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