Sometimes it’s hard not to diagnose self-hating [whatever] when reading the more vicious reactions to Femen’s protest about Amina Tyler. There’s one by Susan Carland on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site, for example.
It is admittedly difficult for people who have bought into Western liberalism, with its elevation of individual freedom to the pinnacle of human moral evolution, to regard the Muslim world with anything other than baffled contempt.
Oh yes those crazy deluded people who have “bought into” liberalism. (Calling it “Western” liberalism is itself an insult to all non-Westerners. It’s not “Western.” See Amartya Sen for more on this, or Kwame Anthony Appiah, or any human rights activists in non-Western countries ffs.) It’s a pity more people haven’t “bought into” liberalism, because if they had then abuses of human rights wouldn’t be such a commonplace.
And what an ignorant description. She seems to have liberalism confused with Randian libertarianism.
Fighting sexism can only be powerful while operating coherently in its cultural context. Tunisian women often take to the streets in large numbers to protest against what they see as curtailing of their freedom by the government. In Egypt, the group Tahrir Bodyguards, comprised of men and women, was formed to offer women free self-defence classes against sexual harassment and to patrol the streets in order to help protect women against assault in the face of an indifferent government.
Yes, and? Governments do curtain freedoms; groups other than Tahrir Bodyguards assaulted women. In other words, no “cultural context” is monolithic; any “cultural context” includes disagreement and conflict, so what is her point? She dislikes and disagrees with Femen, fine, but it doesn’t follow that she’s any more clued in about the “cultural context” in question than they are.
This would matter to Femen if they were genuinely interested in helping to improve the situation for women in countries like Tunisia, where female employment is low, laws and norms restrict women’s access to employment and mobility, and domestic violence is common. But despite all of Femen’s attention-seeking claims, it is abundantly clear that their outrage is not about feminism. It is certainly not about women’s advancement in the Middle East. This is prejudice, racism and imperialism, dressed up in the apparently scant clothing of women’s rights.
And that’s where she gets just plain vicious. How the hell does she know that? Imperialism? On the basis of what? She sounds unpleasantly similar to the anti-abortion fanatics who have been flooding the discussion of the Savita Halippanavar inquest on Twitter with endless dark accusations of not giving a shit about Savita but simply wanting abortion, for its own sake.
Moreover, it is apparent that Femen’s outrage isn’t even about Amina. For all the scrawling of “Free Amina” on their adamantly bared breasts and the fulminating against threats of stoning and incarceration in a psychiatric asylum, little of this is based in reality. Amina’s lawyer, herself a Tunisian women’s rights activist, has confirmed that Amina was never in a mental institution (she was being kept at home with her family), she was not charged with any offence, and even if Amina were to be charged, the maximum sentence would be six months in jail for public indecency, not stoning.
So that’s all right then? Six months in jail? For nothing?
So, if not for Amina, or women in the Middle East, who is this protest for? In truth, it is just a convenient vehicle for organisations like Femen to reveal their true, Islamophobic colours. This was about the arrogant belief that a certain breed of feminism is the ultimate goal and that anyone who disagrees is to be aggressively condemned, dismissed and scorned – including the very Muslim women who work day after day against sexism in countries like Tunisia.
Says Susan Carland, revealing her true, liberalismophobic colors. It’s not “arrogant” to think that a particular way of doing things is better than others; Carland herself is arguing just that. She’s chosen the wrong one, that’s all.