In the U.S., our society leads us to believe that we deserve a very privileged life. Yet, around the globe, there are different societies in which women are held to different standards and ideals than women in our society. Our society has grown to accept the belief that our culture holds the only correct cultural norms.
As Lila Abu-Lughod stated in “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others,” our society’s version is the only correct culture versus any atypical culture, such as with the Afghan female culture. According to Abu-Lughod, the main cultural issue is related to the way Afghan women live and dress and how the U.S. wishes to change it, especially when concerned with the Hijab and Burqa. Personally, I asked a few of my Afghani female friends why they wore their Hijabs and was surprised to find out that, for the most part, chose to do it because they wanted to. Abu-Lahgod mentions that the “Taliban did not invent the burqa, It was the local form of covering that Pashtun women in one region wore when they went out” (Abu-Lughod), to point out that the Burqa existed before the Taliban took over, and “Perhaps it is time to give up the Western obsession with the veil and focus on some serious issues with which feminists and others should indeed be concerned” (Abu-Lughod). By explaining that “the West” mainly focuses on “the veil” more than other more important issues, Afghan women use it to prove that regardless of their religion or their choice of clothing, and how it contrasts those of “the West.”
In The Black Electorate article “The Thong Vs. The Veil,” the article discusses how women in the U.S. project their concerns on Afghan women and their mistreatment. “It was interesting to see women lament over the plight of Afghanistan’s women, women who now want the U.S. government to ensure that the rights of women are protected in the newly-constituted Afghanistan” (The Black Electorate). This article shows us that women in the U.S. are worried about these other women’s safety, and as Congresswomen Juanita Millender McDonald stated, Afghan women weren’t treated as negatively as they are currently by the Taliban. This article pointed out how the U.S. women have “a very selective memory when it comes to defending women’s rights” (The Black Electorate). Before 1997, women were treated equally until the Taliban overtook the country, which changed the life of those women through restrictive oppression. McDonald points out in this article that “any future government of Afghanistan will not be sustainable unless all elements of Afghan society are included, especially its women” (The Black Electorate), in which it is stressed that the U.S. needs to help by getting their gender equality in Afghanistan.
Through “Women Making $70 Feminist Shirts in Factory Paid Under a Dollar an Hour” by Dayna Evans, I learned that a company in Mauritius was making shirts, which said “This is what a feminist looks like” that was paying the women working there a dollar an hour to make these shirts, which are sold for $70 each. Personally, I was outraged by this. These people are promoting feminism through their merchandise, yet they don’t live it through their unequal treatment of their women workers. These workers are being paid “a quarter of the average monthly salary in Mauritius” (Evans). When asked about it, the company simply said that they would look into it.
What this week’s articles made me wonder was whether or not feminism can be enforced on a global scale. Theoretically, I believe that everyone should be equal, but in many cultures and societies, that is not the belief or the case. Every person, place, culture, etc. is different, and no one can impose their beliefs on others. It is a tricky scenario, but I wonder what the rest of society thinks.
Abu-Lughod, L. (2002). Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others. American Anthropologist, 104(3), 783-790. doi:10.1525/aa.2002.104.3.783
Mohanty, C. T. (1991). Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
The Black Electorate. (2001). The Thong Vs. The Veil.