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» Gender Apartheid from Dispatches from the Culture Wars
Sandefur links to this post about the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia and many other countries that wonders why the West has not been as adamant in opposing this as they were in opposing apartheid in South Africa (aside... [Read More]

Comments

m.

violence against them is so much a part of patriarchal culture,i guess its considered unremarkable. i worked with a slum domestic violence outreach program earlier,and it was tragicomic when we interviewed women.

"do you face domestic violence?"
"no"
"does your husband hit you?"
"yes".

they themselves thought it was the man's prerogative to abuse them. that it was nothing worth speaking about, or considering as violence unless they had to be hospitalised for it.

the really sad thing, was that most of these women couldnt just up and leave their husbands, so you couldnt discuss very progressive or radical ideas with them. because at the end of the day, they had to walk back to those chains - and the most awful thing in the world has to be being shut up again after a glimpse of freedom!

anashi

It's awful. I wonder how long it will take women to finally wake up to the fact that most men don't care about our suffering and are very willing to perpuate it or ignore it. My own father, who was in Desert Storm, witnessed the beating of a woman on the streets of Saudi Arabia. They were beating her with whips. He couldn't do anything, because he had been told by his commanders to ignore it.

anashi

The US has lost all of its moral highground by continuing to do business with the Saudi Arabians. I can't even beginning to describe how fucked up their Saudi government is. My father told me about how the Saudis had children in their army and that there only purpose was to pleasure the troops. And the US knows about this. Fuck. It's disgusting. Nothing is worth dealing with this kind of evil.

a nut

anshi - it's no different than why a military port in Thailand exists to begin with and why the sex trade business is booming there, too. Both are equally disgusting and wrong, but S.A. isn't the only country that uses it's young children for sex.

will

I would guess that it isnt viewed as being so horrible because it is allegedly religiously based. Who are we to judge their religion? Who are we to judge their culture? Perhaps that is the thought.

But you are correct. The treatment of women is appalling.

We shouldnt turn away from it because it is allegedly religiously based.

As a somewhat related note, I have wondered about the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Feminist blogs that you have linked. Doesnt the Church teach women to serve men and not allow women to have any vote in how the Church is run? How is that related to feminism? Do we turn a blind eye to that because it is religiously based? That Church is growing extremely quickly and has been very effective at mobilizing the vote. Is that a concern?

hafidha sofía

I imagine it's due to several reasons: part of it is that Saudis justify this as living their religious beliefs; another is that the US itself has a lot of work to do in regards to the protection of women's physical safety. And of course there is the political reality of Saudi Arabia being an ally to the US.

The Happy Feminist

You know, I think that the religious angle may have a lot to do with the reticence of the idealistic set on this issue, especially kids on campus. Because it's an extra challenge to have to make clear that you aren't attacking Islam when you criticize the Saudi legal system.

Plus I am sure there are Saudi women who will stand up for this oppressive system because it is after all the system which many have been raised by their own families to believe is right and good. Whereas I doubt there were black South Africans who defended racial apartheid.

The Happy Feminist

As for Mormonism, I don't know as much about its views on gender as I should, nor am I as aware of the Mormons being politically active on the national stage. So I don't know much about it, although obviously I would like to learn more and am thus linking to at least one Mormon feminist blog (Feminist Mormon Housewives) and a blog by an ex-Mormon feminist (Self-Portrait As . . . )

I am concerned by any religious group that seeks to impose its religious views on others -- the ones I am most familiar with are Focus on the Family and various Christian Reconstructionist groups. I also feel for the children of American families who teach the subordination of women, but there has to be protection for families to impart their values to their kids (however wrongheaded I may personally find those values) and at least for the most part American girls grow up to have legal protections in the event they decide to break away from their family's faith. I also think it is appropriate to critique those values from the outside.

michelle

Of course religion gets a free pass for violating women's (and other) human rights. As much as we'd like to think that we have a secular culture apart and uninfluenced by our religion, we don't. As long we continue to grant Christian, Jewish, and Muslim denominations carte blanche to determine women's (and gays, people of the "wrong" color, etc.) status to be less than men's, abuse will continue and women's status will improve only marginally. As long as any patriarchal religion (Islam or other) remains outside criticism, the root of women's inequality cannot ever be addressed. For that is where it lies. The core founding principle of the patriarchal religions is that women's sexuality must be controlled and placed in the hands of men (husbands, fathers, priests, or mothers acting in their stead). Women cannot be trusted. Their minds cannot be trusted, their bodies (sexuality, physical workings) cannot be trusted, their emotions cannot be trusted, their version of reality cannot be trusted. This is spelled out quite clearly in the religious texts. The creation myths dictate this status. The laws spell out the degree to which women's sexuality, and subsequently, bodies, lives, choices, children, wages, must be regulated. These founding principles are not changed by the existence of kinder, gentler versions of Chritianity, Judaism, and Islam.

And that is why gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia will never be considered an important issue. It must remain feminist, not mainstream. To question the Muslim view of sexuality and women would open up the possibility of examining the underlying view of women in Christianity (as they are founded on the same principles; they differ only in the degree to which their tenets are enforced). That is far too dangerous. The status of women anywhere else in the world cannot ever be criticized too harshly by our governments or media; to do so would rock the very foundation of our culture and political structures.

As a former member of a Christian denomination that did indeed treat its female members as inferior to men, I am hurt by the attitude of liberals who believe that "there has to be protection for families to impart their values to their kids (however wrongheaded I may personally find those values)". Such an attitude fails to protect us. My experience wasn't extreme. For that, I could look at the women and girls who run away from Hutterite colonies every year, usually recaptured and dragged back to be beaten and married off to older men against their will. That's in Canada. Neither they nor their American sisters "have legal protections in the event they decide to break away from their family's faith". For far too many women, it is not possible and will never happen. And that's just the Christian side.

a nut

Oh yes, the Mormons. When I visited a friend in Vegas a few years back, I saw they had large gated communities where only they could live. They only helped each other out, as in, their money goes to other Mormons and that's it. My friend attended a Mormon church for a year I think. Once she decided it wasn't for her, other members stopped talking to her completely.

In Refuge (a book), Terry Tempest Williams details her life as both an ecofeminist and mormon. She writes how, when her mother was dying, they waited for all the men to leave the room before praying since women aren't allowed to lead prayer with men present. It was a good book and helped inform me about Mormons.

The book I can't recommend enough either.

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