Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pandagon, Feminism, and cultural relativism

It seems that I'm getting a lot of traffic because of a comment I posted on Pandagon in reference to an article that said headscarves for Muslim women were a sign of patriarchal oppression.

I'm glad that it stirred up some interest, as the over 90 comments following mine possibly indicated.

Essentially, western feminists claiming to speak for Muslim women is a game that's been going on for a long time. Both in India and in Algeria the wives of the white colonizers took an intest interest in the oppression of Indian and Algerian women and wanted to liberate them. A book people may have heard of, about the Algerian struggle for independence, "The wretched of the earth", by Frantz Fanon, about Algeria, talks about this in the very first chapter. The French did extensive sociological studies about the status of Muslim women and what could be done to change the situation, i.e. make Algerian women into French women with dark skin.

But they rejected it, even though it may have meant their "Liberation" into the mainstream of European society, and kicked the French out.

It's especially ironic that in a time when the U.S. is occupying two Muslim countries that there would be calls from U.S. women against head scarves. Do we want to "civilize them" too? After all, that's what the concern over the welfare of Muslim women came out of. The brutes were too backward to recognize basic rights for women, so the thinking went, and therefore they needed to be educated into the values of universal rights, which never, ever, concealed a European agenda behind their front of compassion.

If we're not educating the brutes, our little Muslim cousins, as they were sometimes referred to, then I think Muslim women have the right to decide for themselves whether their situation is oppressive or not.

No comments: