Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?
∙ Author’s discomforts led her to reflect on why, as feminists in or from the West, we need to be wary of this response to events and aftermath of 9/11
∙ Specific focus on minefields of obsession with the plight of Muslim women ∙ Remains critical of anthropology’s complicity in the reification of cultural difference
Cultural Explanations and Mobilization of Women
∙ Focus on question of why knowing about the “culture” of the region, and particularly its religious beliefs and treatment of women
∙ Goal of recreating an imaginative geography of West versus East, us vs. Muslims, cultures in which First Ladies give speeches vs. others were women were burqas ∙ Blurring of separate causes in Afghanistan of women’s continuing malnutrition, poverty, and ill health, and their more recent exclusion under the Taliban
∙ Divide between civilized people throughout the world whose hearts break for women and children of Afghanistan and the Taliban/terrorists who want to impose their values ∙ More recently, women in Afghanistan can leave their homes and attend school ∙ Plight of Egyptian women focused on the veil used as sign of oppression but gave no support to women’s education Don't forget about the age old question of The Eastern Front primarily consisted of what?
∙ Sociologist Marnia Lazreg offered vivid examples of how French colonialism enlisted women to its cause in Algeria (looked to transform Arab women and girls) ∙ Girls made to invoke gift of a share of this world, where freedom exists
Politics of the Veil
∙ Although women no longer had to wear burqas once the Taliban left power, most were reluctant to show their skin and enjoy being modest
∙ Burqa was local form of covering that Pashtun women in one region wore when out ∙ Can be a form of “portable seclusion” by enabling women to move out of segregated spaces while still observing basic moral requirements of remaining modest/protected ∙ Many women were so used to the burqa that they gave little thought to it (just like we give little thought to wearing a nice dress to a wedding…)
∙ While Taliban were in power, veiling was imposed on everyone as religiously appropriate (so now women might still choose to do so)
∙ New Islamic modest dress is the hijab, which is for good respectable women from strong families who are not forced to make a living selling on the street
∙ Veiling must not be confused with lack of agency (it originated as a way for women to commit to being moral and having honor for their family) Don't forget about the age old question of What is Shadow?
∙ Veiling is not always a lack of freedom, even if it’s associated with Iran or the Taliban
∙ To be critical of the celebration of women’s rights in Afghanistan is not to pass judgements on any local women’s associations
∙ We should look closely at what we are supporting and look carefully at why ∙ 2 big issues
o Acceptance of the possibility of difference (can we only free Afghan women to be like us or might we have to recognize that they have different goals?)
o Vigilance about rhetoric of saving people because of what it implies about our attitudes (must not push anything that others may not want)
∙ Unclear whether and in what ways Iranian women have made gains and whether the increases in literacy, decreases in birthrates, presence of women in the professions, and feminist flourishing are because of or despite Islamic Republic If you want to learn more check out What is the function of rRNA?
Don't forget about the age old question of Why shouldn't humans start breeding when they are sexually mature?
∙ Be aware of differences, respectful of other paths towards social change that might give women better lives (does equality have the same meaning everywhere?)
∙ Never seems to be a parallel demand for those who study secular humanism and its projects, despite violence that has been associated with it in the past
Beyond Rhetoric of Salvation
∙ The goal should not be to “save” other women by enforcing our own beliefs ∙ We must have respect for differences (different from cultural relativism) ∙ More productive approach is to ask how we might contribute to making the world a more Don't forget about the age old question of What is periodization?
If you want to learn more check out More than half of the private sector companies in the United States go out of business within how many years?
just places (where certain values have an appeal and there is room for discussion) ∙ Goal is to make lives of both men and women better
∙ First step in hearing wider message is to break with language of alien cultures ∙ Our task is to explore what we might do to help create world in which Afghan women can have safety and decent lives