Feminism outside the West

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sadsmile123

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Feminism outside the West

Postby sadsmile123 » Thu Mar 30, 6:43 2017

Hello everyone,

I have a fairly touchy subject, and that is exactly why I find it important to talk about it. I do not intend to offend anybody. Please tell me if you find the question offensive or a relevant topic or both.

I've met a woman named Sarah in a small town in North England, who told me she came from an Arab country (she did tell me which, but I don't remember it myself now) and was completely rejected by her family after she had rejected her upcoming arranged marriage at an early age (to an older man) and said she did not believe in Islamic traditions. She said that it was common to ban people for these reasons, because although normally apostasy means that people who change faith are actually condemned to death (of course only in Muslim countries), in practice families normally ban the heretics and stop any contact to them (whether to the mother, the siblings, anybody). This girl I met lived separated from her parents, her sisters and her brother. They did not want to speak to her because she had rejected the Islam. She lived with her Irish grandma, but not seeing her family was a real shock for her. When she told me her story, already 10 years had elapsed since her last contact with the rest of her family. She was forced into a destitute state for not complying with laws. When the grandma had her birthday, they came to visit the grandma, but acted like they did not know Sarah, her own birthdays were ignored, her letters unanswered.
Now, the story may sound very narrative, but it is an actual event. It shaped a woman's life, drastically.

There are of course traditions, like the burqa, where it is arguable whether it is discriminatory or empowering (probably depending on whether it is their choice or whether they are forced to wear them), but then there are also excessive laws that should not be imposed on anyone: Infibulation and clitoridectomy are still forced on girls by fathers and husbands today. there is disturbing evidence (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ ; https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/06/what-is-female-genital-mutilation-where-happen ) on how families even bring their daughters from Europe to Arab countries so that they can legally do these on the small children, who are still young and unable to talk for themselves, and incur high risks for their physical and psychological health. This is genital mutilation, and even worse, as it supports the sexual pleasure of men.

I was shocked when I heard that feminism does not protect the rights of women's suffering in Muslim countries, maybe out of political correctness or cultural diplomacy. If women do not agree in those countries with the system, they are threatened to remain silent and cast out, much like the "Fallen Angels" in Victorian society. If women do agree with it, they are promoted as examples of right behaviour and kept into their place. I mean how often have I heard that feminism fights for the freedom of the women from the oppression of a patriarchal system. Wollstonecraft was appalled that the Enlightenment would not treat women equally to men. She was equally appalled of women who liked and protected the patriarchal system. How come now that when there is such a tangible threat to women, where those who oppose the system are even threatened, feminism is complacently silent? It used to fight for freedom from the oppression of patriarchal institutions. I think my point is apparent. I think this is a serious matter, even more, due to the growing globalisation. What do you think about it?

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby lexiewalt » Thu Mar 30, 7:18 2017

This is indeed true, and FGM is particularly appalling. There is a website "world pulse" which is fighting for women in these situations.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby Aum » Thu Mar 30, 12:48 2017

You've fallen into the trap of taking one example of something and thinking it applies to all feminists. That's kind of a non-starter for discussion.

There are some places in the world that first wave feminism has not yet reached, maybe will never reach, or maybe it will reach in a way that westerners can't proscribe. There are colonial implications in critiquing western feminists for not entering other countries to spread feminism there. We can provide alliances, support and maybe even some modeling, but we can't insert our values everywhere.
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby sadsmile123 » Fri Mar 31, 5:20 2017

Hi Lexiewalt! Hi Aum!

First, thank you for replying! I find it helpful to have a conversation about it. I cannot see enough movement . I would not agree with what you said earlier, maybe because I have not understood it, completely:

Aum wrote:You've fallen into the trap of taking one example of something and thinking it applies to all feminists.


I am not sure what you mean with one example: if you mean one way in which women visibly suffer, I have provided three of them, a number which normally makes up an argument: set impositions on arranged marriage, apostasy, and female genital mutilation, the latter of which may be still arguable in part (you could say that it ought to be allowed to have a clitoridectomy just as Jewish circumcision if women want to, but even there, they are forced to, which is a different matter altogether); if you mean only one example in terms of people (as in "Sarah", but not other women), that is only true if you think that laws and traditions apply only to her, which I think you aren't arguing; finally, if you mean that only one example of feminism does not support help for these women, I haven't heard of any branch of feminism that does support them yet, and maybe that is why I'm here asking you what can be done for those who want to help these women.

I think that doing nothing means complacently accepting what they are doing. Having an opinion does not have to be bad: that is the difference between perspectivism and relativism. If things take a natural turn, these women can die. This is why I don't understand why I cannot see any protection for women who are not allowed to speak. Wouldn't you help them if they were in a shark tank, or would you let it take a natural turn? If you put culture before set impositions on freedom, death, and physical integrity of women, then I think you are doing a bad job as a feminist, which is a harsh and a cruel opinion, especially in a feminist forum, but it is sadly logical. I would argue that feminism needs a branch with recognition that can protest against these injustices. I haven't seen any yet. Maybe they exist, but are not much active or visible.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby rowan » Fri Mar 31, 9:38 2017

I"m confused where you think feminists aren't doing anything? But as Aum says, western feminists must follow the lead and support the feminists within said countries, not take the lead.
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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby melsbells » Fri Mar 31, 13:05 2017

The original post is ignoring all of the feminist action that has emerged from outside the west. Female Genital Mutilation was first brought to 'Western' awareness by people within countries where it's practiced. One of the leading advocates has been Waris Dirie, from Somalia. Things that immediately come to my mind about non-Western feminists are bicycle protests, driving protests, women refusing marriages, speaking out & changing laws & enforcing laws about talaq, and being a piolot.

Postcolonial Feminism, might be worth looking into, but mostly, try to find what's already happening outside the West (that doesn't mean Feminists in western countries are excluded from being of support, just excluded from taking on a false white-savior/modern-colonialism role).
Here's some stuff from quick google search of non-western feminism.
Feminism and Islam: The problems with applying western feminist values to non-western cultures by Tasnuva Bindi
Although feminists should speak out against practices that infringe on the rights of women, when we criticise other cultures and speak on behalf of the women who reside within those cultures, we are also assuming that those women have no will of their own; and ironically, we run the risk of denying them agency (one of very things we fight for!)

7 Ways Western Feminists Can Support Women in Developing Nations - without festishizing by Elizabeth Enochs them This one is obviously a stereotypical digestible Internet list, but the author seems to honestly realize that
as a white, American feminist, I feel like I can never truly know the struggle or needs of non-Western feminists.

Non-Western Feminism: a list This is a tumbler and by far the best find, with lots of resources about feminism in various places around the world and some questions about the roles Western Feminists can take on in regards to Non-Western Countries, mostly written by non-Western voices.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby Sonic# » Fri Mar 31, 14:54 2017

^ And just to add, when I hear that there's a feminist issue in a particular area of the world, I make it a mental habit to spend a couple of hours searching for feminists from within that area who are currently working to address it. I read whatever articles or copy they may have online, and learn about the issues from the perspective of their feminism. Because while of course I object to a lot of practices for the harm they do to women, I am not in any good position to change those practices. I don't know the culture. I don't know what motivates women to practice particular things.

I've read about feminists in Islam before. Here are two more articles for introduction:
http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles ... 747543.htm (Randa Abdel-Fattah, a general representation of why she needs both Islam and feminism.)
http://www.npr.org/2015/08/14/428984586 ... ak-at-home (two feminists on applying feminism in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan)

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby sadsmile123 » Sat Apr 1, 9:56 2017

Hi melsbells and Sonic! Hello everyone else reading!

I have read your replies and the articles they refer to.

First, thank you for sharing the links on feminism in Arab countries, especially in mellsbells'(s) article I could find an a virtually unlimited ammount of articles. I do agree that probably the west should not force people to act in a way and not in another. I just think that we should provide the means for oppressed minorities to advocate their rights. It should be a recognised feminist stance for women to be helped if they are forced to comply with discriminatory laws. If they want to comply, they should be able to decide, but forcing them to do so is a different matter. When I look back at history's most horrifying acts of mass discrimination (like the Holocaust, crusades, or King Leopold II's tyranny) I am not as horrified by the identity of who was discriminated, as to the means they used to achieve this (killing, torture, mutilation, horrid experiments, gas chambers etc...). It is the means, not the minority's identity, that matter. It is by the means used that we should judge.

If post-colonialism protects domination of suppressed people in terms of current or past western colonies, then I question whether post-colonialism is the appropriate approach for this debate and whether it is properly considered in terms of its purpose. If post-colonialism is supposed to help discriminate, then it is either inherently evil or misunderstood. I would understand if you used post-colonialism to criticise often dubious western wars on eastern ground despite western conflicts of interest, but we are talking about ways to achieve women's rights. Helping somebody has a purpose on its own. I don't care about issues correlated to image (in mellsbells'(s) second article and Sonic# 's first article, this was called "victimising"). It sounds more like the right argument for discrimination, but a bogus argument for needed help. If image doesn't matter to you, then simply help them without thinking of how you may look afterwards. If feminism halted for every threat to its popularity, positive or negative, much of it wouldn't exist today. I think we have the capabilities to help them, and we should do so. I found it particularly helpful that in the seventh reason in Enchos's article there was a list of organisations. I have looked at a few. I'm not sure how much they do, but they seem legit.

I think the proper use of post-colonialism, as melsbells'(s) article hints at, is the opportunities we leave to eastern women who want to live their culture, freely, that is without restrictions. I suppose it's a fair argument and should be considered especially for their treatment in our society. I found, however, the article too much centred on the burka and their treatment on western soil, sidelining actual female treatment in the east, which is the issue of this debate. Freedom means having the choice between doing so or not.

If eastern women nowadays do not advocate any change in the East they are called „feminists“ by the east and west, even if they talk down visible issues, some of which already mentioned. If they advocate change they may be called „feminists“ in the west, but traitors, heretics or criminals in the east. It is an unequal treatment, which does not mean eastern conservative women should be treated worse in the west, but it should be acknowledged that subversive women in the east are shushed and treated less than equally. They are given less space in the media, if any, and forced to comply by systemic oppression reflected in harsh customs and laws promoted by the state, the community and their own family.

As a western feminist, one is not legitimised to look down on them and "victimise" them, as mentioned. It is also certainly important to leave them the possibility to change for themselves as a proper change has ultimately to be wished for by themselves, but I think eventually if the society has built a totalitarian system of centralized opinion and does not allow them to act, women won’t be able to do so in the first place. The whole process of communication is disrupted. They are prevented from an awareness (through media), intention (through systemic oppression), reaction (shushing down activists, imprisonment and/or violence), from an audition by other people (omission of information in public media), their understanding (talking down what is already known, mislabelling it) and their reaction (again, oppression, violence and imprisonment). It is a vicious circle that promotes only itself.

As patronizing as it may sound, I think feminists ought to help them expressing themselves without being blemished by eastern totalitarian regimes. One way of doing this concretely may be by providing them with a platform for anonymous or public participation. Another step would be information, to educate on important issues based on facts and sound reasoning. Although it cannot be argued that women and men in Arab countries are left ignorant, the institutions at the moment favour such a development. One problem, for example, may be that anti-establishment websites are banned in countries like Saudi Arabia, where people are actively asked to report these to the government (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_ ... by_country). Also, you cannot trust a fair opinion if the media is strongly biased to muddle with relevant information on a topic. Their government invests too much on public opinion that they would allow any subversive trend to develop (see again last reference). Altogether, I think that identity culture should not prevent us from using moral judgement and help people when that is needed, nor let our actions be governed by identity politics, instead of situational reactions based on the faced injustices. First and foremost I would not call it "condescending" or "victimising" if feminists try to help eastern women express themselves and gaining the rights to do so in their system.

Sorry people, but I have to write a term paper. I will be offline for a while and look back next weekend if it is ok for you.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby Pikachu » Sat Apr 1, 11:18 2017

Western Feminists are too scared of looking "colonial" so don't take the lead role. Middle Eastern women are scared of getting murdered so besides a small handful of extremely brave activists are not empowered enough to take a lead role in these issues. Western governments won't put pressure on them because they have the oil.

So basically no one takes the lead. What does being a western ally involve exactly? Cheerleading in between blogging about manspreading and sexist video game characters? Being with them "in spirit?" And what right does the West have to complain about genital mutilation anyway when it's legal in the west? So we can't even say that it's morally wrong. The only thing you can tell them is that it's morally wrong to take it as far as some of them do.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby sadsmile123 » Sat Apr 1, 19:09 2017

Hi Pikachu!

thank you for joining the discussion! Nonetheless, I think you are being a bit harsh towards modern feminists. There are many useful causes of feminism as there are many unsolved issues among the sexes. I think this forum is already great in order to talk about important issues, and you have competent people who can talk about topical subjects with solid, academic evidence. I don't think all feminists want real equality, but then again, feminists show they are not angel-like creatures, always claiming the right thing. I think they want their claims to be evaluated for what they really are. Some claims may be more useful than others. I also think that one day when future generations will look back at the gender debates, they will have a broad spectrum of discourses that they may use in their own culture.

As to activism: to be honest, even if I am boasting about things that have to be done in Arab countries, probably I wouldn't be brave enough either to go there and, without a plan, without knowing the language, just randomly protesting or building an unplanned initiative and losing my life. I wouldn't make it a black-or-white issue. I think there should be down-to-earth grassroots initiatives, feasible even in the country one lives in for everyone to approach. Even though it is a difficult issue, it could, for example, start with a simple protest or building up a community as a safe space for those issues to be talked about. If it is well-advertised, especially because of recent migrat waves there should be many people interested in telling their story. I think for now it would be at least reassuring if initiatives against oppressive systems in the east had some recognition by feminists and were not instantly condemned as postcolonial failures. I think there are many ways in which people can contribute. It's just a matter of creativity.

Good night, everyone! I will try to stay out of the forum until next weekend to finish my term paper. ^^ Bye!

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby Aum » Wed Apr 5, 15:38 2017

Pikachu wrote:Western Feminists are too scared of looking "colonial" so don't take the lead role. Middle Eastern women are scared of getting murdered so besides a small handful of extremely brave activists are not empowered enough to take a lead role in these issues. Western governments won't put pressure on them because they have the oil.

So basically no one takes the lead. What does being a western ally involve exactly? Cheerleading in between blogging about manspreading and sexist video game characters? Being with them "in spirit?" And what right does the West have to complain about genital mutilation anyway when it's legal in the west? So we can't even say that it's morally wrong. The only thing you can tell them is that it's morally wrong to take it as far as some of them do.


What solution do you suggest? Western women who don't even know the local culture, language, or specific problems go into those countries and start telling the women how to organize social movements? They don't need us for that, they already know how to do it.

You're making it seem like western feminists are copping out, when really they are simply addressing problems locally. You change the world by changing the world around you.

Again, it is seriously problematic to suggest that feminism starts and ends in the west, and that the west holds all the keys. Many of the worst Middle Eastern countries used to be liberal democracies, like Afghanistan and Iran. There are a lot of women still alive who were alive during those days adn know what it means to have freedom. They don't need us to tell them. Then western powers sponsored coups of the most right wing factions to take over the countries, and those factions suppressed women's rights.

So it's ironic that you're calling on the west to go save these women when it's the west who put them there in the first place. You don't see any hypocrisy in that?

We can help the nations of the world by dismantling the patriarchy RIGHT HERE. The same imperialist patriarchy that keeps playing chess by sponsoring dictators and creating wars to serve our violent social machinery.
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby rowan » Wed Apr 5, 18:44 2017

Aum wrote:We can help the nations of the world by dismantling the patriarchy RIGHT HERE. The same imperialist patriarchy that keeps playing chess by sponsoring dictators and creating wars to serve our violent social machinery.

:firework: :rainbow: :firework:

spot on
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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby sadsmile123 » Sat Apr 8, 9:42 2017

Hi Aum,

I think as well that there is a cultural barrier. However, I wouldn’t make it a black-or-white issue, where either you dictate them what to do or ignore the thing, altogether. I think there are degrees between these two extremes. That’s why I advocated means through which they can express themselves. These are auxiliary means to help them be an active part of the discourse in terms of needs they perceive and changes they advocate. I don’t see any problem with that. I don’t think, as you said, that the west has all the keys, either, never claimed it, but it certainly has better means than middle-eastern countries. We have enough wealth, liberty, and education to be able to provide adequate resources.

Also, I do agree that the west has led wars, sold weapons, and favoured militias in other countries, but I would not delegate all problems imposed on middle-eastern women altogether on western politics. I think needs better distinctions between imposed discriminating customs and about the specific country that adopts it.

I don’t see the reason to put this problem into an ideologic perspective either, when there are concretely people who need help. If the system prevents you from caring for other people, than that system is simply wrong. Again, I think if western feminists don’t address the matter, through their passivity they are indeed complacently - as you said - "copping out", which would not be a problem if it wasn't a culturally mainstream attitude of western feminists: suffocating any western woman concerned on the treatment of women in the middle east and condemning it as a discrimnating measure.

Certainly, there are still patriarchal issues in the west, but I don’t think that the sex divide is seen as clearly here as in middle eastern countries. Let’s not confuse the two issues: these are two different kinds of what you subsume as "patriarchy". I have provided you already with vivid and real examples of patriarchy, which occurred to a person in present-day Saudi Arabia. We are not talking about gender wage gap, abortion or what is perceived to be sexual abuse, there the consequences of sexism are on a completely different level. Feminists should look at and reflect on what they have already achieved in order to search ways to promote in other countries the same or similar measures to the same or similar problems women used to face. Making people aware of women’s conditions and providing a platform for these women should be two essential steps towards a solution.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby Aum » Sat Apr 8, 12:32 2017

It's pretty straightforward. Feminists in other countries can form alliances with the west if they so chose, but they would still remain the leaders of their own respective movements. Our presence, our knowledge, our insights, our human resources... they should all be by invitation only. The west is largely influenced by white colonial culture, even in the so-called post-colonial era (which I find trite considering we are still invading places). I read an interesting article recently that I will try to find, about how white people affected the camp at Standing Rock when they showed up to "help", only to cause a lot more problems because they wouldn't listen to the leadership of the native elders.

Our idea in the west of "helping" has caused so many tragedies, and our entitlement about it is embedded in who we are as a people, even our most liberal and educated. Our biggest problem as a people is that we don't know how to shut up and just listen. We have big challenges when it comes to deferring to non-white peoples when they ask us to let them show us what needs to be done.

IMO, given something like Standing Rock, we have no business trying to "help" countries in the Middle East or anywhere.
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby sadsmile123 » Fri Apr 21, 19:00 2017

So, what if single individuals ask for help because they are not allowed to speak ou, and cannot lead an argument themselves. Is that enough of a legitimation or do you need an official institution in that country to legitimize your doing?
I don't know of any sexism or discrimination done in Standoing Rock and would say that argument does only apply as far as to show possible failure of people unsuccessfully standing for another culture. it does not deal with extensive discrimination of a foreign culture one has to operate in.

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Re: Feminism outside the West

Postby Enigma » Mon Apr 24, 14:27 2017

I have a couple of concerns with this conversation.

A: the assumption that western feminists aren't concerned about human rights violations outside of the west and that we're doing nothing to spread awareness. This is absolutely not true, feminists are very concerned about rights violations in these places as well and regularly spread information on these problems.

B: the assumption that eastern feminists don't exist or are helpless. You really should look into this further. There are tons of women doing amazing work in these areas. An obvious example would be Malala Yousafzai.

C: I'm hearing a lot of criticism and not a lot of constructive criticism. If you believe Western feminists should do more what do you suggest?
"Human beings are amazing... we might be horrible, horrible, but we're wonderful too. Otherwise, why go on?"


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