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A Minor Reflection

Inspired by: Free Muslim Women… To Wear Whatever Caroline Overington Says They Should by Rawand Al-Hinti, on New Matilda; further comment from As Australian Muslim women we don't have to be told what we can wear by Lydia Shelly, at the Grauniad.

It's intriguing the way women who wear modest clothing and follow the rules of their religion are automatically marked down as "oppressed". It's equally intriguing none of the concern for such women extends to the women who are members of fundamentalist Christian sects, or even to women in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities - two groups where the oppressive and overtly misogynist and controlling nature of such dress codes are pretty clearly reinforced by scriptural interpretations which point to the intended nature of such things. (If you've never heard a Fundamentalist Christian preacher holding forth on some of the more openly anti-women parts of the letters of Paul... well, firstly I'm sure there's an example of same somewhere on YouTube; and secondly, you've missed one of the clearer statements of anti-woman hatred in popular religious discourse). For the Fundamentalist Christians and the ultra-Orthodox Jews, it's clear the subjection and limitation of women and women's agency through these dress codes is a feature, rather than a bug.

By contrast, as far as I can tell, mainstream Islam[1] is fairly egalitarian in practice, even though it comes (in the same way that Christianity and Judaism do) from a set of guidelines formulated aimed at tribal groups in the Middle East. Certainly there's been a lot of work done by Islamic people (and with Islamic people) in creating sporting gear, swimming gear, fashion-wear, personal protective equipment, uniforms and so on which both comply with the requirements of modesty codes (which makes such clothing suitable not only for Islamic women, but also for women in Fundamentalist Christian groups, and for ultra-Orthodox Jewish women; as well as for secular women who feel self-conscious, in this age of constant scrutiny over personal defects, about putting their bodies on public display), and which allow freedom of movement and action, as well as participation in the wider mainstream of society. The "modest fashion" movement is, in effect, about breaking down the current divide between clothing which allows one's body to remain a private thing (as opposed to clothing which requires one make one's body into a public spectacle), and fashionable clothing. To my mind, this can only be a good thing.

I should note, as a fat woman, and a woman on the autism spectrum, I'm in favour of all women (regardless of their religious identity or lack thereof) wearing whatever it is they feel most comfortable in. If this means wearing clothes which you feel are functional and practical - you do you. If it means wearing clothes which make you feel feminine and attractive (however you define this), then, again, you do you. If it means wearing clothing which covers your arms and legs, and wearing a covering of some kind over your head (whether that be a baseball cap, a fancy hat, a kerchief held in place with hair clips, or a full scarf) then you do you. To my mind, "liberation" comes from being able to do what you want to do and need to do, without having to worry about whether or not your clothing is going to cause a hazard or a scandal while you're doing it.

[1] This is not necessarily the Wahaabi Islam preached, practised, imposed as a state religion in Saudi Arabia by the Saudi royal family, and actively evangelised elsewhere by Saudi oil money (a code followed by, at most, 5% of the people of a small region world-wide is not really representative of the whole of Islam, any more than the Jehovah's Witnesses are representative of the whole of Christianity).

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Current Mood: cynically amused cynically amused
"What Makes A Woman?" by Elinor Burkett - Comment and Response

Found here:

Okay, first thoughts about the first few paragraphs: this comes across as very TERF-y[1] at times.

Further thoughts on reading more of it: actually, come to think on it, this is not only a wonderful example of trans-exclusionary feminism, but also a wonderful example of the sort of feminism which makes me want to say "if this is feminism, I don't want to be identified as feminist!"

Read more... )

I agree with this writer there's a lot of work men need to do on the way masculinity is defined and presented (and if she'd pointed out the complete lack of enthusiasm for the job demonstrated by the majority of persons identifying as male, I'd have agreed with her even more). But quite frankly, I don't see that attempting to lock transwomen out of the definition of "women as a whole" is a good move to get this work started. Trans identity is already gatekept by the medical community and the psychological and psychiatric community, not to mention the trans-erasing radical feminist community. I seriously doubt mainstream feminism needs to step up to the plate.

[1] Trans-Erasing Radical Feminism - the sort of feminism which basically states flat out that transwomen aren't "real" women because they weren't born with the correct genitalia.
[2] Can I just say, I have to wonder about when organised feminism became, by default, a movement intended solely for those women who were considered attractive by men?
[3] This can include things like requiring the permission of her husband, if she's married, or of her parents if she isn't - this for a fully functional adult with no mental illnesses or developmental impairments.

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Current Mood: disappointed disappointed
An Open Letter To Helen Garner, on Ageing, Invisibility, and Thing-dom

Dear Ms Garner,

Letter below )



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Current Mood: cranky cranky
We're Doing Feminism Wrong ... AGAIN

Frank O'Shea has his knickers in a twist at Independent Australia: Feminists desert female Aussie PM

I'm not sure what to be more irritated by from that article - whether it's the accusations of a lack of groupthink on the part of feminists, the unstated (and inaccurate) assumption that all women are active feminists, the notion that being part of a minority grouping means you're part of a seamless association that never has internal disagreements (and the imputation of such status to both the Indigenous and Jewish communities - both of which, I'm pretty certain, have a lot of internal political wranglings which can get extremely passionate and divisive), or just the level of sheer bloody-minded wrongness involved in the whole thing from go to whoa.

So, back to Feminism 101 stuff again, for the benefit Mr O'Shea:

1) Not all feminists are women. It is possible to be feminist and not identify as being a woman.
2) Not all women are feminists. It is possible to identify as being a woman and not identify with feminist aims or goals.
3) There is no One True Feminism. There is no entrance exam to become a feminist.
4) As a corollary of the above, not all feminists share the same goals, or agree on the same ideals. About the only central, core ideals that the majority of feminists agree on are that firstly, there is no reason why women should be treated as different to men in a legal, moral, political, economic or financial sense; secondly, that this is happening in the world at present; and thirdly, that this should be changed.

So, addressing various contentions in Mr O'Shea's article as they land:

Mr O'Shea is upset that some women are campaigning (rather nastily) against Julia Gillard, decrying her lifestyle, her gender, and various other things. So, see my points 2, 3 and 4 above. The women who are raising these posters are under no obligation to support Julia Gillard (or any other female-identified politician) simply because she is female. We're under no obligation to all believe the same things, simply because we are female. To insist that this is the case is to insist on the existence of an essential point of moral and political difference between women and men (women must all think and vote as a seamless bloc; men are allowed to hold differing opinions). Which is contrary to the spirit of feminism.

To be clear: I don't agree with those women, Mr O'Shea. But I do agree they have the right to make fools of themselves in public, just the same as I do.

Mr O'Shea contends that surely Ms Gillard has a right to expect that feminists and organised feminism will come to her defence, and also contends that this isn't happening. Possibly Mr O'Shea isn't reading the same blogs I do. I found the link to his article on Hoyden About Town (an Australian feminist blog), where the contributor who posted the link to Mr O'Shea's article pointed out a list of eight articles which are tackling just this very matter. There's a further three of them in the automatically generated "Related Posts" section at the bottom of the article.

There are a lot of posts about this very matter on the Aussie feminist blogosphere, pointing out the nature of the problem, pointing out how very gendered it is, pointing out how very discriminatory it is and so on. However, for some reason or other, these sorts of articles don't seem to be making it into the mainstream media. Now, could this have anything to do with the "gatekeeping" function the mainstream media (and particularly the mainstream media in Australia, with its heavy concentration of ownership) tends to reserve to itself? That there aren't newspaper articles in the Herald Sun, the Australian, or the Daily Telegraph, written by prominent feminist writers, and blasting the editors of the Herald Sun, the Australian or the Daily Telegraph for their selection of material regarding the prime minister... why, that would almost suggest that the mainstream media are actually privately owned properties, with their own editorial controls, where a deliberate selection of material is undertaken in order to present a situation in a particular fashion. Yes, there are problems when this happens, but I'd argue the problem isn't necessarily one that feminism and feminists can be blamed for.

Feminists of many stripes, however, will cheerfully agree that the lack of feminist opinion in the mainstream media is a feminist issue - it's emblematic of the way that the kyriarchy (the interweaving of systems of oppression to ensure that the oppressing class remains in charge) manipulates the way the world is, such that contrary, minority, or dissenting voices are silenced and marginalised.

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