Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Muslim woman needs a liberal feminist, like a fish needs a bicycle

Second-wave feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, in a classic moment of 2 dimensional political analysis offered the following quote in reference to Hugh Hefner, "He's such a jerk. He's so pathetic. ... Now's he's going around with four young women in their 20s instead of just one. It's sort of Moslem, actually." [Published in the New York Observer]

Charming, Gloria. So "Moslem" is the benchmark of all things misogynist?

This construction of Islam as the convenient foil to feminism [read western feminism] is getting really tired and old. Surely, Gloria must have some clue as to how completely problematic it is to use Muslim women as a prop in this way only to make a point. And surely, someone in her circle might be able to let her know the ramifications of this type of thing. Not only is she erasing the space from which feminist Muslims speak, she is also serving to construct a dichotomy in which any place that is "not Muslim" is good and egalitarian and anything that is "Muslim" is misogynist and savage. This is a familiar imperial trope that serves to over simplify the struggles of Muslim women and erase the complexities of the struggles of all other women.

Baby, you still have a long way to go.

21 comment(s):

  • thank you for writing this! it makes me feel better!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/18/2005 09:40:00 AM  

  • poor title, as if it represents all of "liberal feminism." Hell yes we DO need feminism in the community. I dont give a * what Steinem says, nor does she reflect upon feminism as a force for change and positive help.

    By Blogger Leila M., at 12/18/2005 09:42:00 PM  

  • Not surprising Gloria S. would what she did. Liberal feminists don't know s*** about Muslims or anyother group. Useless to waste time on them.

    Gloria Steinam is a major and very important force in feminism.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/18/2005 09:54:00 PM  

  • Basically this little article uses the same sweeping generalization and misrepresentation of Gloria S.'s ridiculous comment.

    I would suggest anyone who considers blanket statements about ANY subject to take twenty minutes out of your life to check in with the myriad of femeninst positions on spirituality, religion, and the Third World, etc... Femenism is by no means one thing. That is a very "male-centered" way of looking at it. As if to say all critical discourse on the humanity of women is a "thing" and anything else is just general human stuff. Femenism IS humanism. Unless of course you don;t think women are human.

    Sa'diyya Shaikh's article in "Progressive Muslims" (One World, ed. Omid Safi) is a good place to start. Luce Iragaray on women and mysticism is also very good.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 06:17:00 AM  

  • My post was not at all a generalized critique of feminism as a whole. I am a feminist myself, a graduate student of women's studies and have been an activist in feminist organizations for over 10 years.

    Liberal feminism, of which Ms. Steinem is indeed a leading voice, is but one point on a vast spectrum of feminist theory and politics.

    The title is a spoof of a famous comment that is largely attributed to Ms. Steinem, "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle". This statement, and the one I spoof at the end of the piece, "You've come a long way, baby", are the classic taglines of second wave feminism of the 1970's.

    Third wave feminists, and post-colonial feminists have long critiqued that period for not extending the analysis to consider issues of race, class, colonialism, etc.

    This admittedly irreverant blog was meant to follow in that critique.

    By Blogger itrath, at 12/19/2005 11:39:00 AM  

  • The vast spectrum is not all that vast - given that the liberal end is very large and popular especially amongst non-people of color people.

    Much of the publications are geared towards what you call "second wave feminism." The "third wave" has not been able to get its voice heard because of the way "second wave" dominates the discourse, both in academia, and in activist circles. (This is parallel to how the dominant class dominates social change politics, and do not allow significant challenges to their power - maybe, if you are willing to act and do as told.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 12:02:00 PM  

  • The vast spectrum is not all that vast - given that the liberal end is very large and popular especially amongst non-people of color people.

    Much of the publications are geared towards what you call "second wave feminism." The "third wave" has not been able to get its voice heard because of the way "second wave" dominates the discourse, both in academia, and in activist circles. (This is parallel to how the dominant class dominates social change politics, and do not allow significant challenges to their power - maybe, if you are willing to act and do as told.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 12:03:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the clarification itrath. That wasn't clear from your post, though the puns were.

    As to anonymous, I guess our definitions of vast are different. If you're talking about the women's studies section in Barnes and Noble, than you may be right, Though I would say that that also depends on where the B&S was. Since book stores tend (always?) separate black studies or socalled minority studies form everything else, then you would be missing the crazy amount of books written by african american and latino women. Not to mention Women of Middle Eastern decent etc... If we're just talking about what is presented in colleges as feminism or labled in book stores as feminism, than that certainly bast. However, if we are talking abou tany writing that recognizes the radical idea that women are human (to paraphrase Wadud) well than we have quite a colorful library. Pales in comparison to some other subjects, but hardly shallow.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 12:35:00 PM  

  • You really don't have much contact with people of color communities do you, barak? And I can see just from your writing that you are a White Man.

    I'm sorry but you White liberals just don't get it, you never will.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 12:41:00 PM  

  • Well, that's a very good way to dismiss everything I just said. Not to mention you could tell a lot easier that I was/am a white male simply by looking at my picture. That is such an unprovoked comment. And WAY presumptuous. I've presented my "credibility badge" before so I;m not going to do so now, as far as my contact with "people of color communities."

    But in case you were momentarily mesmerized by the color of my skin and happened to misguide your attack on me, I'll just reiterate that I wasn;t saying much more than that femenism is a subject that is quarantined from other subjects in such a way as to make it appear to be more singular than it really is. My reference to B&S is simply to show a worse case scenario. There are definitely currents in femenism that miss the mark big time. Second-wave femenism's off the mark assumption that women are all rich bored housewives is only one example.

    On the whole I think my writing read more like someone who simply couldn;t type or spell, regardless of my skin color.

    However, on another note, Anonymous I think you owe this best friend of yours a major apology. You judged that I was a white male correctly, but the lable of white liberal is very far off for reasons I can't tell you, because they are secret. So let's get wiht the apologizing. And don't skimp on the hug either like you always do! No half hug half pat on the back.

    Now let's have it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 01:24:00 PM  

  • No White Man can be my "best friend." Go say your crap to your fellow Whiteys - don't need it, give those people your hugs, deal with the racist attitudes of your Whitey community. You don't know shit.

    Feminism = White Women taking the best jobs thanx to their White brothers. And keep Black sisters at the bottom, while they cry crocoddile tears.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 01:35:00 PM  

  • Well, that settles it. We are NOT going continue being from here on out! All those fowers I wasted on you.

    Truth be told, I say my crap to my fellow whiteys all the time.

    And you're right! Feminism DOES equal white women taking all the best jobs thanks to their white brothers and just because you say so! Well done! I knew feminism equaled something and I just couldn't put my finger on it...

    Now that that's cleared up. . .

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 01:48:00 PM  

  • Correction:

    ...being (friends)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/19/2005 01:49:00 PM  

  • B.A.,

    Is feminism only one thing? Of course not -- that's what is being pointed out. I mean, consider bell hooks' writings on women of color in the feminist movement -- you have read at least some of them, right? Right?

    As for the article: it isn't a generalization, unless you consider pointing out something that's both widespread and deeply rooted a "generalization." The domination of the feminist movement by white middle class women is well documented (again, read bell hooks.) That doesn't mean that white feminists, as women, have nothing to offer, nor does it mean that there's no there there when it comes to POC feminist discourse -- but that's not what's being discussed.

    To be honest, it feels like you're attempting to obscure the issue.

    - A mixed-race feminist who continues to sing the miscegenation blues, who continues to figure out her role within Islam, and who prefers to remain anonymous for now (whew).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/21/2005 12:54:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the repsonse. Again, I am really not obscurring any issues. I was saying in brief that women's studies are dominated by white women (and men) in part because academia refuses to acknowledge women writers labled as "black studies" to be in fact women's studies.

    Do you see what I mean. I don;t disagree wiht anything you have said (for the most part). My attack is on what is presented as "women's studies" is missing HUGE sections of latino writing and other "minority writings" because those are considered "other" whereas white femenist writings are considered "the norm."

    You keep arguing with me and calling me all white etc, is missing my point. I'm saying again that it is f!!!ed up to not see women writers segregated as only "black studies" included in women's studies discussions. I'm not just talking about bell hooks, she's one of the few (only?) people of color allowed into the tight-knit clique od "femenism." Surely Assata's writing are women's studies. Surely Audrey Laude, Sojourner Truth, Iris Jacobs should be consider under the umbrella of femenism. AS WELL AS the depts. they normally fall into.

    It's a criticism of white (mis)understandings of inclusivity.

    Do you get me now? Do you still want to battle me here? Again, I'm saying what is normally considered to be femenism (by whites [and a few mistaked people of color]) is missing HUGE selections of writing because they are considered too "nuanced."


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/21/2005 07:12:00 AM  

  • I wanted to say one other thing.

    All this talk is fine and the latest article on white privelage is SOOOO important. And yet, put all that aside and I see that I am still going to have to work on my aunts and uncles who still think that black people are animals and destroy their own neighborhoods because they are stupid. That black people can't "rule themselves." And that people on the little South Philadelphia street I lived on said to not go around the corner, because it was "mixed." That sh!t is INGRAINED. So I continue to work on my community, and will keep up on the debates as well.

    I make no claims to know what is right for any community other than my own (even there I'm a little hesitant). Trying to get some people to hear me who otherwise go about their days being thankful they moved to suburbs for reasons they aren;t so public aboutaccept around "the holidays."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/21/2005 07:33:00 AM  

  • Barak,

    Both in this thread, and in the thread about the liquor store, you seem to keep coming back to this business about overcoming racism in your community. While that work is important, it's not what the conversations were/are about in these threads. Pull up a chair and listen, and maybe you'll learn something about views of feminism (not to mention Islam) that aren't the same as yours.

    ps: please don't say "but we're agreeing," you know what I'm talking about. listening instead of throwing in yet another comment is what's called for here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/21/2005 09:56:00 AM  

  • The other thread was talking about working in communities so I addressed it there. I didn't have a chance to "keep coming back to it" because it was the first time I mentioned it. In this thread it sort of popped up because of the piece on Christmas read in tandem with the piece on white privelage. I brought it up again, because it is on my mind right now. So thanks for the tip, but you know, basically...

    First. Ten of the 15 comments posted are between me and you. Roughly half of those are you telling me in some form or another that I will never get "it," I don;t know anything about "people of color communities," and that I should stop speaking. All very founded comments.(?) I think everything I have said thus far, with the exception of misunderstanding the intent of the original post, has been fairly decent responses to what you have brought up. It's not as if I would have been going on and on if you werent right there with me. I said my two-cents, was adequately checked and addressed by the author. Then I addressed your comments on the third-wave, which I agree with (And I will def. say it again), yet differed slightly. Correct me if this sounds contrary to a message board thus far.

    If you really want to keep running wiht this, let me get over this cold I'm catching and we can continue, if you disagree with what I have been actually saying, I'd love to hear it and if it's something I feel I have missed I'll SERIOUSLY check it out wiht as much humility as I can muster. If you want to call me out on sh!t that I personally address and try to understand minute to minute, and all but beg the people around me to point out to me, well than you may find yourself up against something you aren't familiar with. You may frame me anyway you'd like but...

    Though since I don't know you I'm not willing to make such claims as easily as you are.

    PS- I am surrounded by Muslims (african-american, pakistani) who don't think like me on a daily basis. I listen to them ALL the time, because I ask them what they think all the time. I don;t think once have I ever said they should be a certain way. Or in anyway inferred that what they believe is wrong. I'm too busy listening I guess. So again, if only you actually knew...

    PSS- please don't bait me anymore. As you can see I'm much too vulnerable and I need to move on.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/21/2005 10:53:00 AM  

  • Barak - not all the anon. comments are being made by the same person. (They are saying similar things - but individually.) There are actually three or four different individuals on this thread who have posted as anon.

    So no, it is not just between you and one other person. It is between you and at least three other persons.

    And yes, I agree with the last anon. poster - "listening instead of throwing in yet another comment is what's called for here."


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/21/2005 11:06:00 AM  


    A HINT....if we find out the difference between sight and insight, we will surely find some logic to lots of riddles...DON'T U AGREE?

    Almighty Allah's knowledge is limitless and His power to plan and to execute His plans is infinite. He is also the Creator of man and his deeds. This does not in any way make man fatalist or helpless. He has endowed us with the power of mind in order that we may have the freedom and ability to think, plan and choose our own way of life. But our limited sphere of knowledge and power makes us fail to understand fully or discover Allah's wisdom and justice in what He creates or does. So we should accept in good faith and satisfaction all that Allah does, as our knowledge is limited and our thinking is based on individual or personal considerations, whereas He is Omniscient, All-Seeing, All-Wise, Almighty - His knowledge and Justice are not limited or encompassed by the narrow horizon or sphere of man's knowledge. Allah's timeless knowledge anticipates events, and those events take place according to the exact knowledge of Allah, without forcing man to take any course of action, whether good or evil.

    So man bears responsibility in so far as he enjoys the freedom to think and behave. Destiny, in so far as it concerns man's behavior, does not bear any hint of coercion. In its Islamic import, it denotes the happening of things according to Allah's exact infallible knowledge.

    By Blogger sara, at 12/26/2005 12:09:00 PM  

  • Well, I'd like to think of myself as someone with an interest in gender studies (although more leaning towards to masculinities). I'd say you'd have to be a pretty dumb student of the subject not to be aware of the issues surrounding postcolonial and black feminism, whether you've read bell hooks or not. And if you are a Muslim interested in gender studies, you'd have to be dead!

    The only evidence of ignorance I can see around here is anti-white sentiment. Its a barrier to intelligent debate, and if you don't believe in the value of that, why the hell are you here?



    By Blogger Julaybib, at 12/27/2005 12:19:00 PM  

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