Posts Tagged ‘Muslim

23
Dec
11

The Feminist Post

I’ll admit, I’ve been avoiding doing this post. Feminism is such a broad, complex, and controversial topic that I know, even as I’m writing this, I’m going to be struggling to cover even the most basic points. Nevertheless, this is a topic I’ve been wanting to touch on for no small amount of time, and with the ever increasing number of feminist issues being brought up and examined in our society, I figured it’d be best to try to tackle a few of the more primary elements of feminism, capitalism, and communism.

 

Now deciding exactly where to start when discussing feminism is difficult- after all, with feminism pertaining to the treatment of women, one would technically have to start at the very beginning of human history. So, for the sake of simplicity, let’s deal with the feminism that we’re all probably most familiar with.

Now I’m assuming we’re all fairly familiar with the basic evolution of the feminist movement that we’re taught in school. In the decades following the end of the American civil war, women get it into their heads that they ought to have the same basic rights as men, most notably, the right to vote. After a long struggle, women achieve this right, and then nothing happens for a long while.

World War II rolls around and, with most of the men off fighting in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific Rim, women took their places in the factories and plants, demonstrating that they were just as capable as those they replaced. To an extent, the workplace opened up for women. Nevertheless, gender rolls remained more or less the same, with women (largely) in the kitchen and men in the office. Not until the 60s and 70s are the issues of gender inequality really addressed, with women at long last (permanently) opening up the workplace, political office, etc. Indeed, so momentous were the achievements of the 60s, 70s (and to an extent 80s) that today the exact direction of the feminist movement is yet unknown.

See, there’s the core problem that I want to discuss here- at least, it’s part of it. It’s the attitudes that people have towards feminism today, be it the tiny but vocal “men are evil” fringe-group of feminism (as much as it pains us, we have to admit that such people do exist) to the anti-feminist ramblings of Pat Robertson and his ilk.

Pat Robertson: Basing his ministry on the hope that God will once again speak through an ass...

But neither of those extremes quite compares to what I believe to be the single greatest threat to the feminist movement: apathy.
The prevalent idea on Feminism seems to be that it has served its purpose, and that modern day feminists are either “female-supremacists” or are focused on minor issues. And that perspective doesn’t seem to be without basis either- from my research and conversations, the majority of feminist activism falls into one of two categories, (1) attacking minute issues of gender inequality or stereotyping or (2) attacking gender inequality in other countries.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong in attacking contemporary gender inequality- after all, inequality, regardless of how small, is still inequality. Take, for example, one of my personal peeves- high heels.

Yeah, I'd like to buy a shoe that's an affront to the laws of physics and basic human anotomy...

Now there’s nothing about the high-heeled shoe that is remotely natural or practical, and yet it’s seen as proper for both the workplace and for formal occasions. Again, nothing- nothing– about this design is useful, in fact, it’s straight up damaging– and that’s just from wearing the things. Try to imagine the equivalent for a man; imagine a shirt that both restricted all major movement and deformed your spine. Despite this flying in the face of reason and basic human dignity, this shoe is marketed to women as an acceptable, nay, essential part of one’s wardrobe.

An issue of women’s rights and dignity? Absolutely. But does it compare really to voting or being able to work the same jobs a man can? Not really.

As for the question of gender inequality in other countries, certainly it does exist and exists on a level on which feminism ought to be involved. The problem here however is the issue of culture. Too often I hear feminists railing on the hijab (head covering worn by Muslim women) without fully understanding the dynamics behind them.

Despite the hijab (or fuller covering) being required in a few countries, the vast majority of Muslim women wear head coverings because the choose to. In certain areas of the world, such things are simply part of the culture, and criticism on this from is shortsighted and patronizing. Indeed, the equivalent would be women from a culture with little to no clothing (certain tribal people in the Amazon, for example) criticizing Western women for wearing shirts.

 

In short, you can see why people have difficulty getting behind the contemporary feminist movement. With the issues being addressed either (comparatively) small or outside of the West (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m focusing here on western feminism- other places in the world have different approaches and issues), feminism and issues of women’s rights really don’t seem all that relevant or important.

 

Now of course, that simply isn’t so.

Granted, while the individual points touched upon by contemporary feminism may seem, when looked at in isolation, “nitpicking”, but let’s add all this up for a moment. You’ve got certain expectations placed upon women by culture to buy and consume and struggle to meet an unattainable lifestyle, be it a standard of beauty, some kind of “perfect” balance between work, family, and self, and so on. Take all of this, every role model presented to women, from the time they’re born on; every hobby or activity meant to be “girlish” or “womanly”; and then compound it with every depiction of female life hurled at us from advertising, television, music, film- you name it. The end result is one warped perception of femininity.

 

Like so

And despite this general issue of the degradation of femininity, I honestly don’t believe that could get behind the contemporary feminist movement either- not for a lack of belief in gender equality, but simply for the fact that the feminist movement, like many movements in society, is stuck treating the symptoms rather than the disease. And what is that disease?

Objectification.

The turning of people into commodities. Perhaps the best way to explain it would be to take a brief look at an offshoot of feminism.

Now I’m not exactly sure what to name this particular perspective- suffice it to say that it’s a brand of “feminism” actually embracing the use of women as sex objects or the like. The basic line of thought is “Hey, if feminism is about empowering women, then what’s more empowering than the ability to use our bodies or our sexuality for our own gain?”. Of course this is completely ridiculous- one could just as easily claim that a black man or woman performing in a minstrel show for money is “empowering”. You can’t sell yourself, you are yourself- at least, that’s how it ought to be. But we live in a capitalist society where anything that can turn a profit will turn a profit, regardless of the effects to human dignity.

And obviously I don’t need to get too into detail about the mentalities that arise out of objectification. For men, women are subhuman- they are, as the word suggests, objects to be had. The Communist Manifesto itself discusses the abuse of women arising from the capitalist system.

“The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women… Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives. “

And this is merely the male perspective. Consider the effects this mentality has on women, being taught from their infancy that they exist to be used, possessed, and sold.

And it’s not that the contemporary feminist movement is not aware of this issue, however, with capitalism seen as the only option for society, the idea that anything more can be done than superficially building up a counter-culture (hey- that’s still an important element of the movement) is unfortunately not even considered (a sweeping generalization, but you get the idea). At the end of the day, if true gender equality is to be met, then objectification must be destroyed, and objectification is a production of the capitalist system. It seems a great tragedy that still today we have to be told that human beings are not objects to be bought or sold, or to be used to sell cars or cologne or food or clothing. Human beings are not things which can be possessed. Human beings are meant for freedom- in the end, that’s what feminism is truly about: freedom.

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10
May
11

Racism’s Back (Not That It Ever Went Away)

There are bad times ahead.

As the world economy further deteriorates and promises of middle-class prosperity wither, an angry, frustrated public is seeking desperately to find a scapegoat. Convenient targets who can take the blame, and let people prove to themselves that it’s not the system that’s at fault- that they can, if they work hard, be one day rich and happy and famous and secure. And so once again the poor, the powerless, and the different become the targets of a disappointed middle-class, more ready to believe that immigrants and ethnic, national, and religious minorities have conspired against than to accept that the system is somehow flawed.

Yes, it’s yet another post about racism, but it’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

Not to long ago, I found this clip on YouTube.

In short, it’s nearly five minutes of an angry man attacking “Chicano bastards” for “ruining neighborhoods” and “working for less” and a number of other bigoted charges. Right from the start he claims that “The invasion of illegal aliens has caused more misery for the American people than any other race.”. And who are the “American people”, he mentions? They are, as he puts it “The producers- the white people…”. At one point, he even states “We know they can be rounded up… How many Jews did the Nazis round up?”.

But his bigotry is by no means limited to Hispanics, there’s plenty of racism to go round.

Here’s a clip of him attacking the Muslim community in the US:

And another, disparaging the struggles of African-Americans:

Now you might argue “Sure, these videos are disgusting, but it’s all just one nut-case. The internet gives even the worst of us a platform.”. Granted, they’re all videos of the same bigot, but I chose to use them for a reason. At the end of each video, there’s a brief admonition to not provoke his followers as they are “legally carrying weapons”. Problem is, what’s “provoking”? This guy is provoked simply by the fact that some people aren’t white, American, or have “correct” religious views. In short, as crazy as this guy is, he and his followers are armed, and with an ideology based on racism, if that’s not a threat worth mentioning, I don’t know what is.

And Grady is by no means an isolated incident. There are plenty of militant racists out there, made all the more dangerous by the fact that they don’t actually believe themselves to be racists. Take for example, the case of a major German banker, who lost his job after making anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim remarks. Further, rampant Islamophobia has become common in Europe, with many Europeans questioning the ability (and indeed, legitimacy) of Muslim immigrants integrating into various nations. In fact, prejudice against Muslims has become so open, that France has actually banned veils covering the face, a form of modesty among some Muslim women. Other European nations plan similar laws. And it’s not just Muslims feeling the brunt of racism in Europe, Roma Gypsies have been repeatedly expelled from France, and in other countries, the Roma face violent persecution. This is, in sum total, government sanctioned xenophobia.

And what can we do about it?

On the whole, people have tried espousing a philosophy of extending compassion and building understand, and to extent, it works. Racism is rooted, after all, in man’s survival instinct- we’re terrified of the strange because what we don’t know might hurt us. When racism stems simply from ignorance of the group being discriminated against, breaking down barriers and building mutual knowledge is the principal weapon against prejudice. But what about racism in a modern age, when simple ignorance is no longer an excuse?

I grew up in Syria, a country that, after spending a few centuries being stomped on by imperialist boots, was unceremoniously dragged into the modern era. Even now, there are parts of the country where farmers and Bedouin are living lives identical to those their ancestors lived thousands of years ago. These people, many of whom are illiterate, who’ve had no education, who’ve been exposed to no news of the outside world except through what state-controlled media decides, who’ve never seen Ijanib (“foreigners”) before, still treated me and my family with hospitality, generosity, and warmth. When my family moved to Syria in the early 90s, right after the first Intifada had taken place, our landlords were Palestinians. They, of all people, had a right to be hostile to us. What did they do instead? They babysat me and my little sister. They had my family down for visits.

Now what racism in the West? In Europe and America, there is almost unlimited access to news, media, books, and information about other cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities. At any point in his or her day, a racist can go on-line, or go to a library, or even just walk down the street and find information about someone different, or better yet, someone different. At any time, a person can open his or her eyes and realize the self-evident equality of all human beings.

But they don’t. Despite all opportunity, racists choose to be racist.

And I’m tired of it.

At what point does a person stop being responsible for the ignorance- the willful ignorance– of another? With every book, article, essay, declaration, and manifesto written about human equality, with every documentary, movie, and play, with every website, advocacy group, and movement- if the sum of the equality movement and all logic and reason cannot convince them, what can we do?

Only this: In the old racist- he or she may be ignored. Hopefully, whatever poison’s still pent up in them will die with them. In the case of the ignorant, we have to reach out a hand- they certainly aren’t going to. But in the case of the institutional and militant racists, the line has been drawn. They choose to ignore every calm and collected call for understanding, and nothing will convince them otherwise. For these people, ready to persecute and kill in the name of bigotry, there can be no response but that of violence. There is only one way to deal with Fascists, and it is to introduce their heads to the pavement.

25
Apr
10

Continued BNP Fascism

Linked here is a BBC article describing the BNP’s (British Nationalist Party) continued campaign against immigration. Like most Fascist and nationalist organizations, the BNP is attempting to gain public support through the vilification of a certain group (in this case, immigrants) and the propagation and proliferation of lies about how this group will upset the status quo (a popular BNP claim is that immigrants will somehow destroy British identity and culture). Now it would be remiss of us to immediately discount every theory a Capitalist or Fascist organization brings forward, so let us examine some of the positions held by the BNP.

Major BNP Positions (as stated in the BBC’s “At-a-glance: BNP general election manifesto):

Economics:

Cut public spending on immigration, asylum, EU membership and foreign aid, which the BNP claim accounts for more than £40bn.

Perhaps the only understandable point the BNP has here is its reluctance to be part of the EU. If group doesn’t feel that it is being adequately represented, there’s no reason it should be forced to participate. It’s there, however, that understanding ends. For an immensely wealthy and powerful first world country to wish to cut spending on immigration, asylum, and foreign to less fortunate countries is twisted and unjust- especially considering that many of these countries were once brutally colonized by the British.

Crime and Immigration:

Halt immigration – in particular from Muslim countries – and deport illegal immigrants. Allow legally settled and law-abiding minorities to remain but review citizenship grants awarded since 1997.

Again we have the issues of discrimination and bigotry. The BNP would have an end to immigration despite the fact that many of the countries immigrants originate from were once conquered, colonized, and exploited for centuries. The fact that immigrants are now streaming into the UK in search of better lives isn’t merely a natural phenomena, it’s poetic justice.

Deport foreigners convicted of crimes in Britain, regardless of immigration status, ban the burka and building of mosques. Deport radical Islamist preachers.

It is perhaps here that the Fascist reality of the BNP is most evident. Regulating a specific religion or community (in this case, Islam and the immigrant/Muslim community) Fascists attempt to maintain the traditional social order and status quot.

Review the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to remove unnecessary bureaucracy from police duties.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, keeping the BNP’s other political stances in mind, one can’t but help be suspicious of this proposal. Fascist and authoritarian regimes can only remain in power with an extensive police force- there’s a fine line between removing bureaucracy and removing accountability.


Social Aspects:

“British concepts” of civility and courteousness to be taught in schools, along with British history and English, Irish, Scots and Welsh culture and tradition.

Ah, what counts as a “British concept”? Do naturalized immigrants influence at all what counts as a cultural concept? Would this be the contemporary concept, or an earlier one? Should it even be the government’s role civility and courteousness?

Free university education to students who have completed community service.

This actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea- depending on what the BNP defines as “community service”. Are we talking about a month of picking up litter from the sides of roads or years of backbreaking labor poor and proletariat youth will have to undergo as a result of being unable to afford university? Either way, considering the BNP’s other policies, it probably isn’t worth it.


Healthcare:

Cut waiting times and service difficulties by relieving immigration burden upon the NHS.

Last time I checked, a sick Anglo-Saxon’s life isn’t any more valuable than a sick Central Asian’s. The Hippocratic oath doesn’t have limits on race and nationality.


Politics:

Bill of Rights guaranteeing basic civil liberties, repeal 1998 Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Considering the attitudes of the BNP, you probably shouldn’t look forward to their concept of “basic civil liberties”.

Other Aspects:

Ensure National Lottery funding spent on projects enhancing British culture. Introduce formal bank holidays marking patron saints days of all UK nations.

Again, since culture is always in a state of flux, proposals that the government should be responsible for instituting a set, state culture seems dictatorial. As far as banks go, I’m sure the workers wouldn’t mind the days off but why should those days mark some saints? What’s that saying about non-Christian religions in Britain?

Please note that in the interests of space, I have not published every position held by the BNP. I do seriously recommend that you study their full list of proposals and positions or even visit their website. Know your enemy.