I’m privileged to be able to wear pretty much whatever I want (except for places that require dress codes for presentation or cultural events like funerals wear dress is associated with ritual). I live with my husband and we both work and pay bills together. I’m free to go out without him, drive a car, hang out with men besides him and I could leave him if I wanted at any time, initiating a divorce on nothing more than my own free will. I’ve seen and heard stories about the suppression of women in Islamic culture and at first I was appalled at things like female genital mutilation and child brides. But in light of the reaction at the recent WISCFI conference in Washington, DC, I’ve realized that I haven’t been listening very well.
You see, I’m not an Islamic woman and so I don’t have any authority to speak about Islamic culture or the customs and traditions which define women’s roles in their religion. I’ve decided I’m going to take the advice of great feminists like Rebecca Watson and Amanda Marcotte and “shut up and listen.” I had reasonable objections to practices that seem to harm women and promote misogyny, like acid attacks and honor killings, but I’m just a white US American, so I don’t actually have anything to say on the subject. I checked my privilege and decided to listen to Muslim women.
Turns out, a lot of Muslim women find no problem with these practices and are really upset that non-muslims are portraying them as oppressed when they aren’t really oppressed at all. They are happy to adopt the rules and dictates of their fathers and husbands. Who am I to question that? Who am I to assert that they are following cultural and religious pressures that they have been conditioned to accept under the guise of honor? That would be so privileged of me! So I’ve decided I will just shut up and listen from now on, because I’m not authorized to speak about such things happening to women a world away.
- Three posts on CFI about the Women in Secularism Conference – May 17-19 (richarddawkins.net)
- East African Muslim women on female genital mutilation: ‘We were not meant to enjoy sex. We were supposed to be machines to have babies.’ (blogs.independent.co.uk)
- Female Genital Mutilation: A Painful Practice (whatmakesyouroar.wordpress.com)
- An Open Letter to the Center for Inquiry (rawstory.com)