While going through the readings this week I had very mixed emotions. There is so much controversy surrounding Afghani women, religion, and feminism that I found it difficult to really nail down what the issue(s) is. I found the article The Thong Vs. The Veil to be very interesting and helped me to shift my perspective. Before I did any work this week, I probably would have agreed with the women the article first discussed. They were U.S. women who have read or seen the mistreatment of Afghani women and are completely outraged. Believing they have it better than the Afghani women, the U.S. women wanted America to protect the rights of the other women too. And why wouldn’t they? They weren’t allowed to drive, work, or go to school. These are basic rights that everyone deserves.
However, the article also talked about what life was like in Afghanistan in the 70’s (before the Taliban took over). The country had a constitution that gave women full equal rights without discrimination. I was so surprised! You always hear about how awful women have it now, yet never hear about how good they had it before. I asked a few women in my life if they knew anything about women’s rights in Afghanistan before the Taliban and not a single person knew. Not a single one! Instead, they talked about how horrible it was that they were forced to cover themselves up.
While I understand why they thought that (media), I was really sad that they did. I have a few Muslim friends whom I’ve talked about this subject with. While all of them wear hijabs, no one forces them to. They wear their hijabs for religious reasons of their own choice. Many, many people believed it was because they were oppressed but that simply isn’t true. This doesn’t just apply to Muslim women in the U.S either, the same goes for Muslims all over the world. While I’m sure there are exceptions, many women choose to cover themselves up all on their own. Yet, many U.S. women still believe they are being oppressed.
The article Under Western Eyes by Mohanty summed this reasoning up perfectly. They discussed how Eurocentric assumptions reinforces the idea that people in the western world (U.S.) are more evolved than those of the third-world (Afghanistan). These assumptions cause the western world to believe that their way of life is the best, and if others don’t live up to the same standards they are lesser or are in need of being saved or helped. In reality, many of these women don’t need saving, they’re just different.
The paper Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others offered some good ideas on how to combat this one-sided way of thinking. What we need is an appreciation of differences. The author wrote, “We are products of different histories, expressions of different circumstances, and manifestations of differently structured desires.” If we are products of such different things, of course we’re bound to be different. We should stop trying to force everyone to adhere to our standards and learn to celebrate the differences.
Abu-Lughod, L. (2002). Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others. American Anthropologist, 104(3), 783-790.
Mohanty, C. T. (1991). Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
The Thong Vs. The Veil. (2001). Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=491