“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” -Margaret Thatcher, former UK Prime Minister
Feminism in the UK is much like the US. Margaret Thatcher was thought to have “broken the glass ceiling” with her power and position. The UK has a different, more political approach to feminism because there is a higher percentage of women in political positions in UK. One big issue right now in the UK is the Referendum of their membership in the European Union. The feminist issue with leaving the EU is continuing to treat women equal. Megan Stodel wrote an article about the great things the EU does for feminism. For example, the Equal Pay Act that the UK has is enforced by the EU, maternity leave is almost guaranteed to change if the UK leaves the EU, and equal treatment for part-time workers, which in the UK is mostly women (1). There are many other things that the EU does to protect women and promote equality, so with the potential exit of the UK from the EU, women rights’ activists are worried what will happen when the EU is not there to enforce equality.
“We can not all succeed if half of us are held back.” -Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner
Feminism is growing in Pakistan as women are realizing that their voice means something. There have been many laws that have been shut down by groups of women because of their voices. For example, in 2014 the government tried to put a law in place that made a man’s testimony worth that of two women’s. Women in Pakistan go to school and have been holding down jobs where they make their own money for a while now, but gender-based violence, viewing women as property, and the belief that women don’t deserve school or money is still very prominent in their society today. In on of the articles from this week’s readings, Afghan women’s rights are looked at (2). Pakistan is more progressive than Afghan women, but not by much. In middle-eastern culture, women’s freedom is virtually non-existent. Women have the right to school, but school is dictated by men. Women have the right to go anywhere, but as long as the men say its ok. Malala Yousafzai has made huge strides by exposing the treatment of women in these cultures. She is a young activist that understands the importance of women’s rights and speaks about it, in fact she was a target of the Taliban’s for this very reason.
“Feminism asks that women be free to define themselves-instead of having their identity defined for them, time and again, by their culture and their men.” -Susan Faludi, American author and Pulitzer Prize winner
After this class, I think we are all very aware of what feminism is in the United States. Women here have 10x the rights and freedom that the women in the middle east have. American feminism really focuses on women all over the world. Most women, if not all, realize the difference in the way we are treated vs places in the middle east, Africa, Asia, etc. We have a lot more freedom and many more rights, but we are still not completely equal like we should be. There is a huge focus on the sexual abuse that women endure. Rape culture is a large part of feminism because a lot of times the woman is blamed for the rape or the rapist doesn’t get the sentencing he/she deserves. Even the rape culture in America is not nearly as bad as some places. Fran Hosken wrote about the relationship between human rights and genital mutilation, which deprives women the pleasure of sex. This is another part of American feminism (3). We as feminists are very proactive in trying to stop sexual mutilation, sex-trafficking, rape of any kind, etc. I think the majority of American feminism is focused on the sexual abuse that women go through and being proactive in putting it to an end.
I also completed the book review this week, which fits in really well with Unit 6 and I want to talk about it in the “US Feminism” section. I mentioned a certain quote “We wonder where more women are victims of domestic abuse – in Afghanistan or in the United States of America? Accounting for the various language differences, we wonder where more women are referred to as “bitches” and “whores”, in America or in Afghanistan? And where are women greater victims of sexual harassment? And is it not a fact that in the United States of America, the bastion of freedom, that women get paid less for doing the same work as their male counterparts? And is it not White women, not even Blacks, who are the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action programs in the United States of America?”. This is from another one of the readings from this week but it relates to both the book and to a third reading “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” (4)
So in conclusion of my long paragraph above, American or western feminism, thinks the women in the middle-east need saving. Many of them do, but when I say save, I mean they need help standing up for what they want and not for what we think they want. They are covered in veils for religious norms and these women don’t necessarily want to be running around in bikinis. America is not as progressive with gender equality as one might think. It is important to realize that different cultures have different goals. Women have been elected to run countries in other parts of the world, just not in the US- so perhaps women in those cultures think we need saving as we live under a patriarchy.
“We have to stop giving up our position. Because by remaining silent, we allow for the continued abuse and persecution of women worldwide.”- Alaa Murabit, Yemen women’s rights activist
The reason I want to discuss Yemen is because Yemen is considered one of the worst places on earth to be a woman (5). Tawakol Karman was the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after she co-founded the feminist organization “Women Journalists Without Chains” in 2005. The Yemeni government beat and injured numerous women in the streets of Yemen that celebrate the accomplishments of their fellow feminists. Karman and her lawyer had both been abducted and tortured by the government for the work Karman does and the lawyer that is defending her. Despite the hostile and dangerous environment, feminism is extremely prominent in their society. Feminists protest agains the government with 50,000 women showing up to the protests while thugs and government workers harass and attack them. 400,000 Yemen feminists gather outside the hospitals where the injured are taken to express the outrage against the government. The president of Yemen has sent many women to their death beds and we, as fellow feminists, need to help these women. They are making strides towards independence, but not anywhere near the equality they deserve.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” -Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a huge activist for not only women’s rights, but equality for all races. She was a big influence in the civil rights movement and worked hard to touch the lives of girls of color. She wanted to make beauty about something other than a girl’s look. Her work was praised for helping young women to push through the right of woman hood and not necessarily focusing on just the women studying feminist theory (6). Maya Angelou wants to change the world so that it was not a place where simply being born a girl can be dangerous. Her work inspired teenage girls to be their natural selves, organize, become activists, be poets or hip-hop artists in a male-dominated era. Her poetry touched a lot of people’s lives, especially women of color. She paved the way for many black women. She showed women in the South how to not be afraid and how to break the silence.
(1) Stodel, Megan. “Staying in for Women’s Rights”. The F Word-Contemporary UK Feminism. 20 June 2016. https://www.thefword.org.uk/2016/06/eureferendum/. 30 June 2016
(2) Black Electorate Communications. “The Thong vs. The Veil”. 26 November 2001. http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=491. 30 June 2016
(3) Mohanty, Chandra. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses”. Spring 1984. 02 July 2016.
(4) Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Ethics Forum: September 11 and Ethnographic Responsibility. September 2002. 02 July 2016
(5) Various Authors. “Tawakul Karman and the Women of Yemen Who Stand For All of Us” The Left Hand of Feminism. 11 October 2011. https://lefthandofeminism.wordpress.com/tag/yemen/. 02 July 2016.
(6) Care, Jessica. “Maya Angelou, the Feminist”. Ebony. Spring 2016. http://www.ebony.com/black-history/maya-angelou-the-feminist-999#axzz4DE2vhkef. 02 July 2016.