Right off the bat, my Red Burqa take gets the business from Bitch | Lab: here, I will respond and rebut in kind (that is, with the same love and respect):
April 3rd, 2006 at 5:23 pm
Oh. Well. There are a lot of issues going on, but real quick:
Do you think that women in blue states should run around steroetyping everyone who lives in poverty in the deep south as the epitomy of what it means to be oppressed?
In other words, would someone in NYC be “cool” if she had an advertisement of a woman symbolically portrayed as southern white trash, laying splayed on the floor beaten, a man over her slinging a beer can in one hand and a clenched fist coming down on her again. Text reads:
Women of the Blue States unite, this is what your fate will be like if you don’t unite against sexism in the Blue states. This is what your government is turning into: the guy in the wife beater tee-shirt and you will be the black and blew trailer trollop getting slugged.
Acknowledged and so noted, Miz Bitch…but still, I don’t really think that that was the goal of TennGW to smear Arab women or Muslims..it was to raise interest to the basic notion of women’s rights under attack here in the US of A. I do cede that the use of the burqa is well over the line and pretty uncool..but that does not erase the stated goal of those who support anti-abortion and other anti-sex laws in the US, which is to reduce women in the US to third class citizens.
Of course, the sensibilities of Arab Muslim women who do resist the more misogynic and brutal laws and customs of their governments while retaining their right to express their religious beliefs should always be respected..and I am totally in favor of Islamic feminists who attempt to emphasize the more progressive elements in Islam (as I would any attempt from within to transform an institution into something more humane and equal.
My point here, however, is that it’s one thing to criticize the misplaced sensibilities of TennGW’s ad from a perspective of winning over other groups of women..it’s something else to excessively bash them as racist, elitist, and White supremacists for their apparent lack of sensibility to Islamic women. For them, the context is to defend women’s rights here in the US, not to reach out to Islamic women as part of the greater world feminist movement. That’s hardly what I’d call “Western imperialism” in any way.
Besides…how many of those professed “Islamic feminists” would be willing to openly support the goals and objectives of groups like TennGW in supporting reproductive rights for women…or would that be too “Western” and “imperialistic” and “elitist” for their conservative sensibilities?? As to use your analogy, not all red-state women are or should be cracked on as “White trash” (and that would definitely be a serious example of class and race bigotry)…but the fact remains that many red-state women do indeed reject openly and defiantly the progressive agenda assumed in “blue-state” feminism. Do thier sensibilities have to come before the principles of defending the freedom of women who are under assault from the broader Right..the same Right to which those same red-state women continue to support with their votes??
Similarly, just because there may be a few Islamic feminist women who use the burqa as a means of challenging Islam from within does not erase the basic fact that the majority of those women who defend the burqa tend to be staunch traditionalists (if not fundamentalists) who would reject even the most basic of feminist theory as “gender feminists” and who would ally with the most reactionary forces to maintain their privileges. Should attempts to win these people over trump basic defense of the most fundamental rights of equality here???
Completely silent are the voices of women in red states. Women in red states are positioned as having no feminist consciousness, as having no agency whatsoever, as being — effectively — incapable of speaking.
Now, thrown in there a scenario where it’s racial stereotyping of southern poor black women and men.
That’s what people are on about.
It comes — at least I assume — from deconstructive readings of imperialist feminism made by the likes of Gayatri Spivak, Mohanty, and others.
No one says you must ask permission.
They DO say: can’t y’all be a little less fucked up about they way you choose to represent those “brown Others”?
It’s a complicated issue, and arguing against the misappropriation of symbols from other cultures — demonizing as much if not more than the US govt has already — is wrong is not the same thing as saying, “Oh yeah, your religion is like so totally cool.” [/BL]
That is more than fair, especially in the current situation…that’s the very reason why my critique of them is based on principles of radical anti-imperialism and internationalism rather than mere cracking down on their religion. Just because Islam may be the only institution in th Middle East that is opposing US interventionism in the Middle East does not take away or cancel out legitimate criticism of their base conservative social mores…any more than it would with Judaism or Christianity or any other organized religion which uses the power of the state to enforce their rules.
To make it all hit home, what happens when feminists in blue states tell women in red states that their lives totally suck? A lot of those women say, “You know what, fuck you, you elitist snobs. Im’ sick of you assholes stereotyping us. I’m sick of you mocking our language. I m sick of you making fun of our culture, our food, our mores as somehow low class.”
And the possiblities of actually building a women’s movement that sees our liberation as bound up with their’s, as pithy as that is, kind of falls by the way side as some variants of feminism literally encourage women to side with the very things we on about, defending it and their identies against assaults from people who send off the vibe that they really do think they are incredibly superior to your ass.
Again, Miz Bitch, so noted and acknowledged. But..I would say that the better way of engaging those who may not agree with our principles is NOT to suck up to their conservative values to the point of undermining progressive values; we’ve had enough of that with the DLC and the antiporn feminist movement (and what good that has done, too). A much better way is to use the ideas of full equality and respect for difference and diversity, combined with a focus on the institutions and foundational theories that generate and enforce inequality and injustice, to win over those suspectable to right-wing populist ideas to a more humane agenda. And I’m not just talking about just a women’s movement, either; I’m talking about a radical movement against all inequal institutions.
Before we can tackle the world, though, let’s first address the struggle here in the US, where much of the battles will have to be fought, since here where is the bulkwark of world imperialism and White supremacy and reactionary social policy resides.
Not to say that TennGW wasn’t overstepping it a bit..but the reaction just made it that much worse.
That’s only my view…to each his or her own.