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The Marriage of Sexism and Islamophobia; Re-Making the News on Egypt

[Online Real Time Sexual Harassment Map of Egypt; Image by Harassmap.org] [Online Real Time Sexual Harassment Map of Egypt; Image by Harassmap.org]

I find myself intermittently infuriated and nauseated by the news coverage of the sexual assault on a female CBS reporter in Tahrir Square during the celebrations the day that Husni Mubarak resigned. This coverage has ranged from the disappointing silence of Al-Jazeera to the blatant racism of Fox News. What actually happened that day to Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for 60 Minutes, is not yet known and I have no interest in speculating over the lurid details of a sexual and physical assault, particularly while the victim remains in recovery. In this post, I want to focus on how much of the coverage of this “affair” has revealed the ways in which female bodies are a site that marries Islamophobia to Sexism. This marriage, in turn, reproduces one of the most enduring colonial tropes; the native (and in this case, foreign) woman who needs to be rescued from uncivilized and misogynist men.[1] Cue the- oh so civilized and feminist military invasions and/or occupations of British controlled India, and US controlled Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to being a discourse that is used to legitimate war, this use of female bodies (and increasingly, gay bodies) as a mark of civilizational status has also been cynically mobilized to continue colonial projects in apartheid South Africa and contemporary Israel.

[Flyer Templates for Protests in US Universties. Images by standwithus.com]

But let’s get back to Tahrir Square. Or actually, to New York City, where in the subway on my way to class, a woman with pursed lips was reading the hyperbolic NY Post, which many consider the perfect subway reading material because you can pass the time without fear of getting engrossed and missing your stop. For two days last week, the Post (which is owned by the same parent company as Fox News) ran the same picture on its front page, with an only slightly modified headline.

 [Front Page of New York Post. Images by New York Post]

These headlines may be composed of only one and three words, respectively, but in fact they are highly coded and dense messages that convey multiple layers of meaning. What we “read” in them includes statements such as 1) Arab men are sex crazed animals 2) Blonde and beautiful women should know better than to surround themselves by these sex crazed animals, 3) See? Those revolutionaries you were celebrating are all potential rapists- they hate women. The use of the words “animals” and “beasts” to describe the male protesters at Tahrir square, who are all rendered potential rapists within this discourse of the sex crazed Muslim/Arab mob, highlights what is perhaps an uncomfortable truth about political discourse in the United States today. In the contemporary US, it is socially acceptable to vilify Arabs and/or Muslims, just as it is OK to be outspokenly racist against this group of people. We have seen the normalization of this racialized discrimination in many instances, most recently during anti-Muslim discourse unleashed over the planned Islamic center near the World Trade Center Site.

The coverage of the vicious attack against the CBS female reporter also reveals how sexual assault can be packaged into a commodity in order to sell both newspapers and Islamophobic/Sexist ideologies. Perhaps more critically, it reveals how the assault of a white woman by brown men demands international attention, while the daily assaults on brown women by brown men and on white women by white men almost never constitute “news.” Immediately after word of “the assault” broke, right wing commentators gleefully used it as evidence of how they had been right about Islam, about the dangers posed to the “free world” by the Egyptian uprising, and how somehow, this female reporter got what she deserved and /or should have known better. The vitriolic commentator Debbie Schlussel perhaps said it best . . . “As I’ve noted before, it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are. In fact, it kinda warms my heart.  Still, it’s also a great reminder of just how “civilized” these “people” [or, as I like to call them in Arabic, “Bahai’im” (Animals)] are; . . . And yet they still won't admit that THIS. IS. ISLAM. Lara Logan was among the chief cheerleaders of this "revolution" by animals. Now she knows what Islamic revolution is really all about.”[2]

Even Bill O’Reilly, that staunch feminist who was sued in 2008 for sexual harassment in the workplace and later settled the case out of court, chimed in, asking the question, “Is the danger to women journalists in the Muslim world worth the risk?" For her part, as if revealing a secret she was privy to because she is a woman, fellow right wing commentator Michelle Malkin said of the attacks on Logan: "It's monstrous, and as many women in particular will tell you, this is business as usual for many parts of the Middle East.” In fact, what most feminists (male and female) will tell you is that sexual assault and sexual harassment has much less to do with culture or geography than it does with the uneven distribution of power (and the normalization of those power relationships) within patriarchal societies. Meanwhile, the US State Department continues to issue statements urging the Egyptian government to find Lara Logan’s attackers. While The US State Department is, arguably, only doing its job by trying to protect its citizens and reporters, we should hardly rush to commend the state department’s stance on women’s rights. After all, Egyptian activists have been fighting for years against the sexual harassment that was pervasive under the US allied Mubarak regime. Furthermore, America’s most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, is not exactly known for its belief in gender equality or equity. The messages, again, are unspoken but clear: The US State Department will not tolerate gender discrimination and violence by its enemies, but it will tolerate gender discrimination and violence by its friends. Similarly, the United States will use the plight of women to invade Afghanistan and Iraq (once those regimes stop playing nice with the Americans), but will remain silent about increased levels of violence and discrimination against women in US occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, and within the borders of United States itself.[3] 

Sexual harassment and abuse is a problem for many women in the Middle East. In fact, it is one of the most effective ways of regulating and policing gendered codes of behavior in countries such as Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But as anyone actually interested in furthering the cause of bodily rights can tell you, sexual harassment and abuse is a problem for women and a technology of gender policing (which too-often has violent results for gender variant people) not only in the Middle East, but also in places like Europe and North America. Furthermore, sexual assault is not what would “naturally” happen when a woman appears within a large group of Arab men (a subtle way of blaming the victim), just as sexual assault is not what “naturally” happens when women begin joining traditionally male institutions such as the US military, where a CBS report has revealed that one in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in uniform. The stark differences between the reporting on the sexual assault of a US journalist and the seemingly endemic (and seemingly condoned) sexual abuse in the US military highlights the cynical ways in which women’s rights have been used by sexist and patriarchal institutions and societies to bludgeon other sexist and patriarchal institutions. In the case of Egypt and the larger Muslim world, it speaks volumes as to the racist deployments of the culture concept. As Lila Abu Lughod has pointed out, while culture is highlighted as causality for racially (and culturally) coded groups of people, for differently coded peoples culture is spoken of as something innocuous that you can step in and out of, like a pair of pants. Therefore, while the sexual assault of Lara Logan can be attributed to the “misogynist culture of Islam,” the sexual assault of 1 out of 3 women wearing the US military uniform is always only the result of deviant behavior by deviant individuals. While rampant[4] domestic violence in the Arab world is due to the devaluation of female life within Arab and Muslim “culture”, the fact that there are approximately 4.8 million instances of domestic violence a year in the United States says nothing about that society. While the vicious sexual assault on a female reporter can be used to discredit a popular and democratic uprising, the 600 rapes and/or sexual assaults that occur on average every day in the United States should not invite us to critically rethink the state of our union. This is not the logic of feminism or justice or human rights. It is the logic of racism, sexism, power, and war.


[1] Gayatri Spivak has most famously analyzed this colonial trope, coining the term “white men saving brown women from brown men.”

[2] On the other end of the spectrum, Nir Rosen, a journalist known for his courage in reporting the news from the Middle East in a tenor almost unheard of in mainstream media, revealed in a series of tweets about Logan the level to which misogyny is normalized across the political spectrum in the United States. However, the disproportionate attention his comments have received when compared to the just as, if not more offensive comments of Schlussel or O’Reilly highlights the ways in which the very real problem of misogyny and racism in the media has been hijacked politically to discredit “unpopular” stances such as Rosen’s strong record of being against the policies of Israel and against the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

[3] For an extremely provocative rethinking of the ways in which violence against women is discursively constructed to promote US interests, see Lila Abu Lughod, “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?”

[4] There a are no reliable statistics on the rates of domestic violence in the Arab world, and in fact most studies that use statistical analysis urge readers to assume the numbers are much larger due to the fact that much physical and sexual abuse is not reported.

29 comments for "The Marriage of Sexism and Islamophobia; Re-Making the News on Egypt"

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I think that it is also important to note that this particular assault was obviously organized by the same thugs that Mubarak had been using to attack the demonstrators. Probably the objective was to intimidate foreign journalists and at the same time draw the sort of western reactions that this article comments on. In short this was a highly organized political act and not simply spontaneous "bestiality". I also understand that Ms. Logan was rescued by a group of some 20 Egyptian women.

David Seaton wrote on February 21, 2011 at 02:23 AM
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Thank you so much for this articulate and well argued post. As someone who shares your views and has been utterly disgusted by how the issue has been presented, I am grateful for your voice.

Rafia Zakaria wrote on February 21, 2011 at 09:31 AM
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I agree completely with this. I wrote a similar article last week for the Huffington Post, and the comments re: Muslims & women that people made following the article are very disturbing, to say the least.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-newcomb/blame-the-muslims-violenc_b_824008.html

Rachel Newcomb wrote on February 21, 2011 at 09:42 AM
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I think that it is also important to note that this particular assault was obviously organized by the same thugs that Mubarak had been using to attack the demonstrators. Probably the objective was to intimidate foreign journalists and at the same time draw the sort of western reactions that this article comments on. In short this was a highly organized political act and not simply spontaneous "bestiality". I also understand that Ms. Logan was rescued by a group of some 20 Egyptian women.

David Seaton wrote on February 21, 2011 at 10:10 AM
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Schlussel's f'd up statement also hints at something deeper: that Logan in fact 'asked for (and deserved) it.'

nadya wrote on February 21, 2011 at 02:16 PM
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Men, both domestic and foreign, who objectify, use, and abuse women are, I fear, little better than animals ... whose owners neglected to have them vaccinated against rabies. Has nothing to do with Arab/Israeli/Black/White/American, etc. ... it has to do with the outright support for or 'look the other way' tolerance of these disgusting bullies and thugs. So it really matters not the racial or ethnic origins of Ms. Logan's attackers. It has to do with a belief that one segment - in this case gender - has the power of life, death, command, and use of another: what passes for men, over women. That it can arise from any quarter is exemplified by two words: Abu Ghraib.

Sharoon wrote on February 21, 2011 at 06:37 PM
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Just the response that I was looking for! Right-on, to the point and absolutely mind opening. Thank you!

Leil-Zahra Mortada wrote on February 21, 2011 at 07:39 PM
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Seriously. It's stunning how much, even amongst my friends and people who I thought were a hell of a lot more enlightened folk, Islama/Arabaphobia is surfacing right now in the midst of all of this. Thank-you. This is SUCH a helpful tool to help combat all the essentialist bigoted crap. <3

Dana wrote on February 21, 2011 at 08:17 PM
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@David,

I don't think it matters who perpetrated the assault. The identity of a perpetrator should not be used politically by detractors of the uprising or by its supporters. As for those who were able to stop the attackers; I believe that the fact that people from all strata of society (including Egyptian soldiers, apparently) stood up to these thugs is more important than whether or not they were all of one gender.

Maya wrote on February 21, 2011 at 09:33 PM
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Wonderful response to some truly horrendous reporting of this event in the US media. Thanks, Maya.

Yahya wrote on February 21, 2011 at 09:37 PM
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You missed Bill Maher's contribution to this issue: http://www.zeropartypolitics.com/2011/02/bill-maher-using-lara-logan-sexual.html

Tina Abcar wrote on February 21, 2011 at 09:39 PM
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Your classic deonstructivist Marxist analysis here with the proper assessments of racism and commodification of sexual assault blah blah are actually only underscoring what the real problem is here, why Nir Rosen was forced to resign; why Al Jazeera remains silent; why their stock is lower as a result.

And that is the insistence of the left on trying to turn the media into some kind of political instrument, and therefore that rage and that hysterical belief that it is supposedly already such an instrument -- which is what led Lara Logan to be objectived as a target of hatred in the first place.

http://bit.ly/fe8vnf

You seem to suffer from the same problem as Nir Rosen and Jillian York (or they inherited it from you or other Arab bloggers): you can't validate this story as it indeed occurred while the whole world was watching. It was a story of a news reporter trying to get the story legitimitely and independently; that was not accepted by the mob who was the first actor to objectify something here. Several dozen people assaulting you in the middle of a revolution against a dictator propped up by the U.S. is not the context of the 600 rapes in the U.S. taking place not as political statements.

The inability of you -- and Al Jazeera and others -- not to accept this story for what it is and your rush to find some moral equivalency in the U.S. or some "critical Marxist theoretical" treatment is truly unseemly.

Catherine Fitzpatrick wrote on February 22, 2011 at 02:38 AM
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@Catherine. Marxist? I think I’ll leave that one alone because, despite the history of how the labels “Marxist” or “communist” have been used in the United States to silence political dissent and to scrutinize unpopular opinion or people as somehow “unamerican”, its quite obvious that, perhaps unfortunately, this piece has very little Marxist analysis in it.

Your comment makes the very problematic claim that the “real” problem of the ways that female bodies are mobilized within discourses of racism and war is in fact the grand plan of the leftist media to somehow politicize the news. In fact, The news is always politicized (and commodified) and cannot by definition be unpoliticized. That is why, on fox news and on other news channels such as CNBC, what passes for political “facts” are in fact political opinions. and, as i made clear in my post, the use of female bodies as symbols of their male counterpart’s civility or barbarity is something that cuts across the political spectrum.

Are you perhaps worried that Arab bloggers will, as if we carry some disease (or perhaps you mean that we are the disease) continue to “infect” non-Arabs with the radical notion that Arab peoples are deserving of justice? Am I a carrier of the dangerous diseases of feminism, democracy, or human rights? Will I transmit these disease (or this genetic mutation) to passive readers via the insidious form of writing on a blog dedicated to critical analysis on issues pertaining to the Middle East? Perhaps sadly, that is now the way that ideas disseminate, and your ideas of my abilities to infect others with notions of feminism, justice, or critique are grossly exaggerated and are akin to badly written sci fi.

Maya wrote on February 22, 2011 at 06:34 PM
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I am critical of the objectification of women's bodies for political purposes. That includes using the assault on Lara Logan to to delegitimate the Egyptian revolution or Arabs en mass or using sexist comments made by a pro-Palestinian and anti imperialist journalist to delegitimate critiques of US Israeli policy. The issue is not that people want to talk about and highlight the very real problem of assaults against female gendered people everywhere in the world, but that they cynically do so for reasons and in ways quite more elastic than simply "defending women". As a feminist, I find it insulting that gender based violence is only important enough when it be used to shore up other forms of injustice.

Maya wrote on February 22, 2011 at 10:51 PM
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So, rape is not part of islamic culture? What about circumcision of girls? What about legalized pedophilia (a 50-year men marrying 8-year old)? What about incest and sexual abuse inside the family? Read your own authors "The Hidden Face of Eve". What about the laws that allow brothers to kill sisters if the sisters behave "inappropriately"? Is that NOT part of the islamic culture? What is it then?

Middle East wrote on February 23, 2011 at 03:49 AM
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Rape is part of EVERY culture. That is Maya's point. Sure, it's part of Islamic culture, but it's also part of Christian and Western Secular culture, part of Jewish culture, part of Hindu culture...

The problem is patriarchy, not a particular patriarchal religion.

Flewellyn wrote on February 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM
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@Middle East: Rape and sexual violence exists across the world. It’s not related to any particular culture more than others. In fact, all of the things you listed exist or have existed in different cultures at various times. Circumcision used to be prescribed for women diagnosed as hysterical in the 19th century United States, for example. Spousal murder rates in U.S. military families today are much higher than rates of family murders in Muslim societies. And incest and sexual abuse is rampant in the contemporary U.S. as well. By your logic, we should then say that rape, incest, sexual abuse, and husbands killing their wives are all part of American culture.

But in all these cases, the culprit isn’t some vague notion of culture: it isn’t about “Islamic culture” and it isn’t about “American culture.” The problem is patriarchy and the linking of sexism and violence, and that problem is not unique to any one culture, including “Islamic culture,” whatever you mean by that.

Lara Deeb wrote on February 23, 2011 at 12:38 PM
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@Lara Deeb "By your logic, we should then say that rape, incest, sexual abuse, and husbands killing their wives are all part of American culture." -- By saying that you are NORMALIZING and hugely oversimplifying what is going in Africa and Middle Eastern countries. You conveniently ignore the fact that the crimes against women in many islamic countries are perfectly legal. Incest and pedophilia are illegal in States and have always been. In the Islamic countries they are still part of the culture. You say circumsision was practiced in the US: how many women were circumcised? Is there statistics? Did they do it voluntarely? Are you sure every patriarchy is the same, lasts for the same amount of time and has the same consequences? Let's face it, there are other factors too: climat, for example - maybe it is to blame too. I am sure that the picture is much more complex and patriarchy per se is not the only one to blame.

Middle East wrote on February 24, 2011 at 02:56 AM
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Its interesting to note that while we may point out to the racist undertones to a gender politics analysis, and how it is being used to sell headlines. we are seldom attuned to reading the hidden agendas. women's bodies have been the site of politics for determining social orders and justification of a certain political racial order, since time immemorial. what this analysis fails to incorporate is two things; that is one, the situation and phenomena of a mob. mob behavior has been known to have the potential of exhibiting the most violent and aggressive tendencies known to human psyche the situation at hand needs to be analyzed for vulnerability of the victim (physical give aways of her identity, blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin tone) marking her clearly as an outsider, and so minority, and thus vulnerable and the possibilities of an easy escape by the perpetrators. This is not a new situation. it could have happened anywhere, where men are gathered in masses to celebrate a success or in a war situation. in both the situations men are exhibiting their heightened sense of aggression, celebrating their 'potential' most often read by men (as well as women) as synonymous to virility, and what better way to show it than reinforcing their masculinity against the opposite(culturally constructed)...the western media is acting under an array of forces including he american zeal to reinforce its unique citizenship status. thus in this context understanding the changing contexts of citizenship also becomes important to understand the supposed racist analysis of a occurrence. Citizenship is most reinforced when it is pitted against "the other" and so america constantly needs, in the wake of increasing globalization, an enemy to reinforce its superior, unique citizenship. and this enemy, now is the islamic world. symbolic islam, that is, the identity of being islamic when imposed on a non-freind non-ally country only, while effectively masking the ally countries who may be islamic but are benefiting it! this should explain the differential standards it maintains for different countries

Smriti wrote on February 24, 2011 at 05:54 AM
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@Flewellyn Patriarchy as such is not a problem - the picture is much more complex. Is every patriarchy the same? Does a patriarchy always take the same direction? Are the consequences always the same? Obviously not. Patriarchies are not the same just as people / men are not the same. The real question is: why are certain patriarchies so persistent and so predisposed to violence? And don't blame poverty and the lack of education - they are the effect, not the cause. In other words, by blaming the concept of patriarchy alone you don't uncover the real root of the problem.

Middle East wrote on February 24, 2011 at 08:24 AM
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@Middle East, whatever the name means, you seem to have very little appreciation for history and how by your logic, humanity, all humanity is doomed. I do not want to sound patronizing at all, i promise, but if you would like to make such strong cultural assertions that border on bigotry, you really need to have a much stronger handle on historically horrendous practices the world over, not least in Europe and the United States. You and I and others are right to point out horrendous things happening to women in the Middle East (which happens you be your name) or the so called "Muslim World" today, but rest assured that the causes you are giving (i.e., Islam) speak of a very narrow historical and causal spectrum, let alone analytical rigor. I understand your frustration, but I can't help but notice a very thin knowledge base behind it.

The issue is not that Muslim-majority or other societies are free or full of injustices against women (or other groups), now or historically. The question is: what are the causes? When Muslim-majority societies had females leaders in business, politics, and even war sometime ago, Christian Europeans were for centuries putting their women in chastity belts when they went to war, based on their interpretation of Christian values. That, and other more repugnant atrocities against women to this day, do not condemn Christianity or Christian-majority societies as the cause.

Muslims who were saying this then (that Christianity is backwards and doomed) sound as narrow and abridged as you do now, by way of a set of claims.

I took this time to answer because i'm taking what you are saying seriously, but I implore you to read about other histories, other times, and about what is happening today the world over before you condemn a whole culture. This approach should have died with the anti-semitism of the Nazis and the racism associated with enslavement. I will not descend to more particular historical examples from history. I have no interest in absolving religion, being an atheist myself. But I have an interest in not providing superficial and narrow analysis.

I know you do not realize or think it, but what the assertions you are making are potentially very dangerous. The fact that you do not know this is even more troubling, Middle East.

Samir M. wrote on February 24, 2011 at 12:31 PM
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@Samir I happen to live in the Middle East, if you need to know.

I didn't give a single cause yet, I've been very careful on that, I've been mostly aksing questions: but you are giving no concrete causes either - I wonder why. And you don't answer any of my questions.

"Christianity is backwards" - I can't argue with the arabs on that one. They have a point.

My assertions are not dangerous to anyone but people who think like me, belive me - to the rest they are mainly painful.

Many approaches should have died with Nazis, but they don't.

I understand your urge to be politically correct, polite and vague. I can't afford this luxury. And please, don't assume you are the only one who reads books. That's real narrow and arrogant too.

Middle Eash wrote on February 24, 2011 at 01:11 PM
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Oh, we have no disagreement then. So you're not singling out Islam or what you call "Muslim" societies. Scrolling up led me to this observation. If you misrepresented your views, or if I misunderstood, then that's that.

If we all spell out the obvious, that all monotheist religions are not free of really problematic views on women/gender (let along homosexuality and transgender), then we would actually start focusing on history, conditions, etc. (it does not mean we don't look at how religious codes are used here and there by patriarchal societies).

I did not think i was the only one reading books because then Amazon would be out of business. I'm talking about books that show how equally problematic all other societies are in different ways, now and historically, when it comes to women, a kind of reading that precludes singling out any particular "society." But it appears we do not have a disagreement after all, because you "didn't give a single cause yet."

And I promise you i'm not trying to be politically correct. I just wasn't convinced with what i thought were your assertions. I critique all religious codes equally on the question of gender, and beyond. Singling out is narrow and hypocritical unless it is very specific, and about usage and interpretation rather than about essence and doom.

You say you like in the Middle East. That's great. I don't.

Samir M. wrote on February 24, 2011 at 01:34 PM
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I am an atheist too and I wish more people were. You are saying that cultures/societies are equally problematic but by saying that you dismiss the depth of the problem (I refer to the status of woman, of course). By saying "other cultures are not better" you justify and normalize the existing situation. I understand that it may be useful in the political discourse, but it doesn't bring a real breakthrough.

Middle East wrote on February 24, 2011 at 02:41 PM
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I am afraid you are reading too much into my comment, Middle East. I am not saying that because atrocities occur everywhere throughout time, this means all are equal. I'm saying that because no one culture has a monopoly over atrocities of any kind (as culture), singling them out is wrong/narrow.

It is one thing to condemn Nazism, it's another to condemn "German culture" to eternity. It is one thing to condemn the extermination of tens of millions of native Americans by early settlers, it's another to condemn "American/Christian culture/society" for eternity.

On women's issues, much is condemnable in the region and beyond. And it should be--and is being--addressed.

It's best if we try to be part of the solution to this problem, not add another problem of cultural bigotry. I'm not trying to be politically correct here either. Fuck that shit. I would like to combat both sexism and bigotry. They are and will always be on the wrong side of history.

Samir M. wrote on February 25, 2011 at 02:40 AM
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Thank you Maya for great post. Many people will disagree with your article. Reason for that is simple: They don't want to agree, and not because they don't know the truth. So it is useless arguing with people whose intention is to distract readers from the focus of the problem.

KK wrote on February 25, 2011 at 03:17 AM
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Many of the comments in this section highlight what many anthropologists have been saying for years, that "culture" is being spoken of as "race" once was. In this analysis, cultures are considered causal effects of people's behaviour, culture in fact breeds and determines behavior intrinsically; just as race theorists once argued about the "characteristics" of the negroid, oriental, or asian races. both race theory (then) and culture theory (now) are applied unevenly to "explain" why some peoples were less civilized (then) or are less liberal and modern (now). Culture, like race, is constructed as trans-historical and immutable.

just an addition to this conversation ;)

Maya wrote on February 25, 2011 at 12:41 PM
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I think this post I wrote about what I and others witnessed when Logan was attacked, will provide useful information. Saludos http://temorisblog.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/rape-women-stripped-what-really-happened-to-lara-logan/

Témoris wrote on March 05, 2011 at 09:26 AM
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Thank you so, so much for this article.

I am a feminist, I live in France and am extremely concerned with these same issues you're talking about, in the context of my country. Sexist violence and inequalities are rampant in France, in all segments of the population. However people, the media, and the politicians only ever talk about women's rights as a tool for racism, and especially islamophobia. Sexism is only ever mentioned when the hijab, polygamy, excision... This is done to justify racism, islamophobia, restrictions of immigration, and war in Afghanistan. Not out of concern for women. Anyway, you have written all of these things much better than I am able to. Again thank you so much for this great article, voices like yours are highly needed. We can't let feminism be co-opted by colonialism. Just one thing I think would be worth correcting: you say "it reveals how the assault of a white woman by brown men demands international attention, while the daily assaults on brown women by brown men and on white women by white men almost never constitute news." I think you're missing the just-as-daily, if not more, assaults on brown women by white men. One of them just made the news a few days ago: DSK, a French politician who was also the head of the IMF, got arrested for allegedly raping a woman in NYC. She is Black. The media, politicians and pretty much everybody in France is making extremely offensive comments, either victim-blaming, euphemistic, or just plain denial... He is being turned into the victim, a woman who is a former Minister actually said last week that he is known to have a "vulnerability" to women's charms and therefore was lured into a trap. people have been called his arrest "untolerable cruelty". he has been called a "seducer". a French elected official has said he would stand in "solidarity" with DSK who is "finding himself in difficulties". The headlines of the newspapers are "DSK's nightmare". One of them even said "DSK, culprit or victim?" I read in an article how "it's going to be hard for him to get over this". Oh, really? What about the woman? It makes me so angry. Anyway, sorry for the rant. Just saying, you should really include in that passage of your article the assaults that are committed by white men on brown women. They are extremely numerous, they are very often not talked about or denied or not taken seriously, the perpetrators are probably much less punished, as well. Plus, they are quite a good reminder of why not to believe white men when they say they want to rescue brown women from brown men. What they really want is to have these women for themselves. They want brown women to abandon one patriarchy for another. It makes me think of these awfully sexist white French men who were demanding from women who wear the full face veil in France to take it off so that they could "see their beautiful smile". The whole point was not that muslim women be free to wear what they want, which would be the feminist stance. The point was that white men be free to enjoy muslim women's bodies. What was disturbing them was not that women be coerced into wearing the veil, it was that a group of women were made unavailable for them to ogle at, flirt with, etc.

Ira wrote on May 18, 2011 at 12:37 AM

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