Crap People Like to Say Because it Makes Them Sound Smart and Theoretical and Shit:

“Shari’ah Law is coming to the US!–why aren’t the feminists outraged?”

“Women suffer most when Islamists are in power! We want to protect our women from terrorists! Also, we’re totally going to redefine rape and defund Planned Parenthood.”
“Lara Logan was assaulted because Egyptian men are misogynistic douchebags–but she totally deserved it because what’s such a hot blonde doing reporting in such a dangerous country? She knew what she was getting herself into! It’s like she was asking for it. No, we’re not being racist and victim blaming at the same time–these are facts. What are you, a feminist? Only feminists would think common sense was victim-blaming and facts were racist! You bitches are crazy.”
“It’s a fact that Muslims are from primitive cultures that are anti-woman! But you don’t hear feminists criticizing Islam. They only bitch about oppressed women in this country–goes to show they don’t really care about the state of women… What? Oh, they have spoken about women in other countries? Well, they’re doing it wrong! They’re just talking about the conditions of women in those countries and what movements are fighting to improve them, not the actual cause and root of the problem–which is the evil of Islam! Here, let me show all these women how to not be dominated by men…”
“What do you mean they don’t criticize Islam as much because women are also Muslims? They’re not really Muslim, they’re just calling themselves Muslim because they are oppressed. Why don’t feminists recognize that women who call themselves Muslim have been brainwashed by evil Muslim men and are too stupid to think for themselves/choose their own religion?”
“How is what I just said sexist? I am trying to help these poor women! You’re just too much of a vagina to talk about things you don’t know! I don’t have to know what Islam is to know it’s violent and anti-woman!”

“Of course I’m using religion and culture interchangeably! They influence each other–I don’t care if Islam isn’t supposed to be influenced by culture–it is, and that makes it totally okay for my privileged ass to insult everyone I’m supposedly trying to help by using my own terms. No, I’m not misunderstanding them–they’re misunderstanding me! I’m not saying they’re all terrorists, and they think I am!”

“LOL!! MUSLIM WOMEN CAN’T BE FEMINISTS! That puts the moron in oxymoron. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

The Effects of This in Reality:

I was physically abused for 16 years, and am not out of danger. My two little brothers were also abused. I hadn’t done anything before then because I suspected irrelevant factors like religion and culture would be taken up in the “news” reports, thanks to dumbasses like you. And I was right. This was proven as soon as I began confiding in people. I wanted to protect my religion, a completely innocent bystander. And my mother, who was constantly assaulted herself by the same asshole. I was silent because I knew if I spoke out the blame would be placed on the religion instead of the actual criminal. If that meant I had to go, that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

So, if you’re going to trash my religion, stop acting like you care about my well-being or the well-being of Muslim women. You’re a pretentious hypocrite using my personal pain to push your own agenda by attacking what’s closest to me and promoting hatred against what I am. You are excusing the criminals by portraying them as brainwashed suckers who are not responsible for their own heinous actions. You are misplacing the blame on an entire religion and entire cultures of underprivileged and oppressed people who cannot be expected to live up to your standards while they haven’t your luxuries. You are reinforcing the notion that women don’t count by neglecting to acknowledge that I am Muslim too. You are actively erasing me, and deeming my representation unworthy. I don’t need your help. As a matter of fact, please stop helping me.

It doesn’t stop.

Today a Muslim man tried to mansplain to me that one of my posts overlooked the fact that “men and women are different” and women have “feminine morality” (WTF?!) and that women tend to approach justice from a “care perspective” rather than a “logical perspective,” and scholars have decided when we need prefer the “logic perspective.” And then! Get this: he said that men are more concerned with equality than women are. (No, dumbass, they aren’t. That’s why we are here.)
And then he referred to a study to prove that women are caring and this prevents us from being logical. He did this in an Islamic Feminism group, and he identifies himself as a Muslim feminist.
This is so beneath me. I can’t believe I’m writing about it. If you’ve been reading this, you can probably predict that my reaction to him was, STFU and GTFO! But I couldn’t actually respond that way, because it would “prove” I am overemotional and “incapable of logic.” But of course, if a man responded by punching him in the face, he would be awesomely manly.
I told him things like “this crap is an exploitation of evolution.” and “let’s use ONE study as a blanket over ALL WOMEN. We would NEVER do this to men, because men are privileged enough not to have to represent their entire sex with everything they do” and “God has found her witness sufficient, who cares about anyone else? Not only does this claim that she is inherently different in approaching justice rather than these differences being a social construct, but that the ‘feminine perspective’ is inferior and the ‘logic potential’ (because caring people cannot be logical apparently) should be preferred over ‘care perspective'” and “the differences between men and women have been blown up to a degree to which they do not exist.” We are all viewed as archetypes of masculinity and femininity and not individuals.
You can see that in the entry we were discussing, I used only the Qur’an to dissect what God was telling us–that men and women are equal as witnesses. I threw out the misconception by presenting the actual text in the Qur’an. And so this guy comes along, pulls evo psych out of his ass, and reinforces the misconception through an irrelevant and obscure study, because he could no longer do it with the actual word of God. Men will stop at nothing.

A lot of people accuse feminists of not wanting to offer real criticism or engage in debate. This is absurd, because we argue all the time. We even argue about benign shit and indirectly accuse writers of not writing from approved lists of topic. We jump at every opportunity to argue. Just not with you. Because you, are an imbecile. You will bring up shit that we’ve already addressed and successfully countered to the point of being SICK of the topic, and you will act like you’re a fucking genius and you’ve come up with it for the FIRST TIEMZ EVARS. You will assume that, because we are women and feminists, we have not studied this and critiqued our theories against it. Because women are not capable of logical critiquing! LET ME SAVE YOUR SOUL WOMANZ!
I took the time to tell him–a “feminist”–all this, but if he responds, I’m not going to bother. There are bigger problems. There are actual things to be done.
If you’re a man, please check in your privilege at the door. Because I really, really don’t want to deal with it. Thanks. And thank you to the men who have commented here and are actually in the pursuit of justice.
I will probably be taking down this post, because it does nothing productive being here, and because I just wanted to vent. ‘Cause, you know, I’m emotional like that.

I am leaving it up, because women are fickle.

Religion and Culture, And Things I Shouldn’t Have to Explain

So a few weeks ago I had this conversation online in the comments section of Feministe. This is going to be a snippet of the conversation toward the end, so bear with it. It’s the best way to illustrate my point.
Personal identifies are in bold. The italics are individuals quoting individuals.

Sonia 1.30.2011 at 3:39 pm

@Nahida: I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Islam is largely derived from Judeo-Christian sources and as such it is patriarchal from the origin. The patriarchal influences did not come later, they are built into it at the very core. That it is somewhat more egalitarian at places than Christianity does not in any way mean that it is egalitarian in general or something to look up to.

PrettyAmiable 1.30.2011 at 5:01 pm

Sonia: The patriarchal influences did not come later, they are built into it at the very core.

It’s worth noting that Judeo-Christian religions became MORE patriarchal over time. For example, while reviled by the Roman Catholic Church today, early abortion used to be okay there. As chuch doctrine was interpreted and reinterpreted over time, I would argue that it became pretty steadily more conservative. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened in other religions.


saurus 1.30.2011 at 5:13 pm

This may or may not apply to this thread (seriously).

I think that when we say “Islam”, we aren’t all necessarily referring to the same thing. Some of us may be thinking about the (perceived) core principles and philosophies of Islam, some of us may be thinking about the (perceived) historical practice of Islam, some of us may be thinking of (perceived) current incarnations of Islam, and within these different spheres we are selectively counting and erasing various experiences of Islam in order to fit conclusions which don’t apply well to Islam as a whole, given that it varies tremendously from place to place, era to era, person to person.

I can understand the motivation for emphasizing Islam’s progressiveness and human rights, because (as I’m sure any Muslim commenter knows) any thread involving Muslims dangles precariously over a seething abyss of Islamophobic (and often racist, and US-centric) sentiments and assumptions, and countering every potential conflation of Islam with violence and backwardness is sometimes the only thing that keeps it from tipping over.

This is not to say that praise of Islam is illegitimate, or that anyone with “rave reviews” of Islam is holding back: depending on one’s experiences with Islam and which facets of Islam one is discussing, I’d imagine there’s a whole spectrum of feelings from deeply negative to mixed to glowingly positive, as with all things. But I suspect many Muslims are hesitant to share their experiences and analyses particularly when critique is involved, because they know – all too well – that they must speak very carefully or else their words will be re-purposed as Islamophobic ammunition.

My point (which I’ve come to very circuitously, sorry) is that I think this topic calls for some soft treading, so that Muslim commenters in the thread (or reading along) are not backed into a corner, perpetually defending themselves and their faith against the venerable tide of Islamophobic attitudes. And if Muslim commenters take the considerable risk of discussing their faith, I think it’s important to listen and learn, so that there is room for this conversation to grow, and room to explore all the various facets of Islam without relying upon oppositional generalizations.

In sum, let’s try to be sensitive to the tough position we may be putting Muslim commenters in if we non-Muslims adopt a “critical outsider, looking in, wagging finger” role.

Sonia 1.30.2011 at 5:27 pm

I wonder if we should also tread softly on Catholics when the Pope’s declarations on women and gays come out, or tread softly on Phelps clan, or on evangelical preachers calling for abortion to be banned?

saurus 1.30.2011 at 6:41 pm

Sonia: I wonder if we should also tread softly on Catholics when the Pope’s declarations on women and gays come out, or tread softly on Phelps clan, or on evangelical preachers calling for abortion to be banned?

Oh, good points, all. Islam (a huge and diverse faith) is equivalent to the Westboro Baptist Church (an unambiguous hate group), and recognizing a religion’s diversity and the widespread discrimination against members of that faith is the same as approving every decision made by the Pope (who represents all Catholics, who are all straight men, natch) and the beliefs of every evangelical preacher. Also: taken to its logical conclusions, I think we can all agree that my comment is calling for acceptance of the neo-Nazi movement, media silence on all religion-related violence, and immunity for any crime committed while wearing a rosary. That’s why we should ignore my comment altogether, and instead forge a feminist movement in which we utilize stereotypes and generalizations about Islam to make Muslim feminists feel as uncomfortable as possible in this space. Because that’s the right thing to do.

Nahida 1.30.2011 at 7:48 pm

David: So, did you not read the rest of my post where I said that the U.S. shouldn’t have anything to do with sending troops overseas – wasting the lives of our men and women, wasting the lives of civilians over there, and wasting everyone’s time, blood, and money?

Yeah, I read it. Dude I said it made me uncomfortable, not that I disagreed with you or that you shouldn’t make such statements. This whole thread, with Sonia equating broad theological dictations in Islam to very specific discriminatory words and actions of a few very specific religious leaders, is making me uncomfortable. I’m sorry if I’m snappish but when there’s an underlying anti-religious bias in a thread against a religion that’s beyond misconstrued by both outsiders and its own followers, it’s very hard to remember that people are making statements in good faith. Some guy told me just today that it’s impossible to be Muslim and a feminist at the same time (like WTF) because in his words the two will never be compatible because of “Islam’s origins” and he tried to argue that being calling myself an “Arab feminist” is more constructive. (Note that I’m not even Arab. [And even if I were, I don’t identify with any race.] When I pointed out that I, as a woman, should be able to decide whatever the hell kind of feminist I called myself, he accused me of being sexist against men.) So when Sonia says something like Islam is “patriarchal from its origins”–that’s what it makes me think she means. (I’m guessing with the gender pronoun here, forgive me Sonia if it’s not the one you prefer.) That because I’m of a religion that’s supposedly “patriarchal from its origins” (which I completely disagree with) I won’t be a proper feminist as long as I continue to

Sonia: does not in any way mean that it is egalitarian in general or something to look up to.

“look up” to it.

And when you, David, make statements about what kind of government an “Islamic country”* should have, I connect it immediately–whether or not it’s wrong of me to do so–to the same sense of US centrism.

*This person and I had had a disagreement over the term, which resulted in this entire conversation. I told him a “Muslim country” was not the same as an “Islamic country”–that just because a country has a majority Muslim population does not mean that its government reflects Islam as it was meant to be practiced. Sonia then asked what an Islamic country would be, I began to outline examples of verses that are mistranslated, and there we were with Sonia making an absurd claim out of nowhere about the “origins” and what was “built in” and all my efforts gone to waste. Enter PrettyAmiable’s voice of reason and saurus’s general awesomeness.

You get the idea. This is why it’s so important to me that culture is held accountable for what culutre does, and Islam is held accountable for what it dictates, and the two remain separate. Packing them together is not only oppressive, but it suggests that religion and culture becoming intertwined is inevitable–which, most importantly, is damaging to communities who practice it in that it acts as an excuse to carry out terrible, backward cultural practices.
So you can imagine I have my issues with feminists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I don’t disagree with everything she says. Far from it. And for full disclosure, I might be holding a particularly unfair first-impression-grudge against her because I was introduced to her by a Christian attempting in vain to convert me and convince me that Islam is a sexist religion. (Yes, this is coming from a Christian… man.) The world needs Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She has done amazing things. But I find her ties between religion and culture no more than ridiculous. For example, she’s asserted that while Islam does not prescribe female genital mutilation it encourages the practice by demanding that people marry as virgins and therefore it is at fault. Which, to be blunt, is the most laughable thing I’ve ever heard. On top of implying inaccuracy–virginity has been coveted long before Islam, and FGM predates it as well–it does three things, and they are all extensions of each other: (1) it excuses the criminals by portraying them victims of the religion when they should be held responsible for their own heinous crimes (2) it misplaces blame–I suppose if I told a friend that she shouldn’t do something and then she takes it to a horrifying extreme it’s my fault? and (3) it is highly disrespectful to the actual victim of the mutilation in totally missing the point and/or using the victim’s pain to push a political agenda, and it is especially disrespectful if she has not renounced her faith. There is a difference between pity and respect.
As I’ve said before, I have high standards for society, and I will not hesitate to denounce and reject those who commit unspeakable evils against humanity in the name of anything, including Islam. I am going to hold everyone to the same standards. Holding people to the same standards does not mean everyone should not be aware of areas of their own advantages. That would be too simple. These two things are not mutually exclusive and we should be doing both. I will have no patience for people (like Sonia in the thread) who refuse to at least attempt to keep their privilege in check and instead continue to maintain an ethnocentric perspective. You can’t, in a practical sense, hold everyone to the same standards and expect them to achieve these standards while they are underprivileged. There needs to be an educational system that isn’t classist in practice. Low poverty levels. Democracy. You know, the things you take for granted that make life seem *so* easy. Get off your high horse.
Which brings me to my second point, the “things I shouldn’t have to explain” part of the title. If you do not speak feminism fluently, you are not part of my intended audience. If you are a man who is not a feminist, when I say “patriarchy” I am not specifically talking about you. Get over yourself. If you are a woman who is not a feminist, when I say “patriarchy” I am not specifically talking about the men you care about. I mean, really? There are men I care about too. As a matter of fact, I’m probably not even specifically talking about men. If you need me to explain every time I say things like “predatory men” that I don’t mean all men are predatory or that women can’t be predatory, I am not going to waste my time adding a disclaimer after everything I say just for your sake. And no, that does not work the other way around. You can’t say something like “women aren’t funny” and claim that you didn’t mean all women. No, I don’t think it’s a double standard. Societal condition counts.** Deal with it. If you can’t, feel free to leave.
**And I mean all relevant societal and historical context. I’ve met people who were uncomfortable with hearing certain Arabic phrases because they associate it with war cries. It’s not my problem there are massive parts of history you’re choosing to ignore and massive groups of diverse people you’re going to pretend don’t exist. Women, on the other hand, have never been historically privileged–and are still underprivileged. This is also why “straight pride” doesn’t work like “gay pride.” No, you are not “making it even.” Seriously, people.