The real war on women
April 24, 2012 Leave a comment
It’s not the Republican Party, it the routine and vicious institutionalized misogyny throughout the Middle East. Mona Eltahawy writes a powerful essay on the matter in Foreign Policy. A sampling:
But let’s put aside what the United States does or doesn’t do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.” What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse…
Not a single Arab country ranks in the top 100 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, putting the region as a whole solidly at the planet’s rock bottom. Poor or rich, we all hate our women. Neighbors Saudi Arabia and Yemen, for instance, might be eons apart when it comes to GDP, but only four places separate them on the index, with the kingdom at 131 and Yemen coming in at 135 out of 135 countries…
It’s easy to see why the lowest-ranked country is Yemen, where 55 percent of women are illiterate, 79 percent do not participate in the labor force, and just one woman serves in the 301-person parliament. Horrific news reports about 12-year-old girls dying in childbirth do little to stem the tide of child marriage there. Instead, demonstrations in support of child marriage outstrip those against it, fueled by clerical declarations that opponents of state-sanctioned pedophilia are apostates because the Prophet Mohammed, according to them, married his second wife, Aisha, when she was a child.
Yowza. And there’s plenty more of such cataloging in this essay. My favorite part falls under her “So what is to be done?” conclusion:
First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women. Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman.
Well, alright, then. This is the part where I’ll come out and say that seeing a woman in a headscarf generally just angers me when I see it. Sure, it may very well be her own individual choice, but to me that headscarf (and that’s only 1/10 the anger I feel at seeing a woman in an actual veil) is the symbol of a culture that brutally and systematically abrogates the rights and dignity of women. In that sense, it’s not okay. Again, for the individual woman I understand that she may be in a social/cultural/family position where she really does not have a lot of choice short of a radical break with her family and culture. That said, I refuse to accept that a culture that insists that women’s sexuality is something dirty and corrupting to both women and men deserves my respect. Now, if the status of women throughout all the head-scarf wearing cultures was not as abysmal as Eltahawy catalogs, I might feel differently. Until then, no cultural relativism for me.