Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Misogyny Magnified

I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, for research. Specifically, I've been focused on biographies and autobiographies of women who were oppressed under the Taliban regime in mid to late-1990 Afghanistan. You might have heard of some of the titles; My Forbidden Face by Latifa, Behind the Burqa by Sulima and Hala as told to Batya Swift Yaqur, and Zoya's Story by John Follain and Rita Cristofari.

Even though the hype about the horrors inflicted upon women by the Taliban has passed into yesterday's sensationalism, these books bring it all back to the surface. All of the stories have the same theme, and quite honestly, I don't know whether to be more horrified or disbelieving that the kind of treatment these women endured happened less than ten years ago and still, to a certain degree, happens today. I would say that these women could be relating tales of things that happened to women in the Dark Ages, but I'm beginning to think the women of the Dark Ages were actually treated better.

What gets me, though, is all of these women claim that the men in their world view women as inferior to men. I have no doubt that this is the case, on the surface. But, really, what seems to be the reality is that these men are terrified of women. They are so afraid of women, and so unable to control their own base animalistic tendencies, that the only way they can cope is to oppress women into near oblivion. How weak these men must be, that they must have their women covered from head to toe so that they will not be tempted. How cowardly these men must be that they fear women to be educated or to hold down jobs because women might (will!) surpass them in pretty much every endeavor. The only way these men can succeed and feel powerful is to supress those whom they fear have the ability to beat them. Women.

Which leads me to wonder what would happen if the women finally reached their boiling point. If they finally decided they'd had enough and chose to rebel, what would happen? Yes, I know that these women aren't armed and don't have the money or ability to become so. They don't know how to fight against the monsters who have such complete control over every aspect of their lives. Heck, many of them have no idea that the way they are treated is not the norm in a good portion of the world. But do you think that if these problems could be remedied, these women would find the strength to fight back? Do you think they could organize themselves to form a cohesive offensive, something big enough to change things forever?

I try really hard to stay away from political topics on this blog because everyone's own opinion is so personal and usually so deeply held, dissent is bound to occur. But if I were Queen of the Universe, or at least President of the United States, I think I would campaign with every ounce of power in my command to find a way to arm these women. Just as we've done with other revolutionary groups, I'd give these women weapons and I would train them to fight. At the end of my war, these men would be holding their balls in one hand while they tried to figure out how to put their burqas on properly.

Can you tell that nothing gets under my skin more than watching the underdog get kicked time and time again?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sympathise. I really do. Women are still oppressed in far too many ways in far too many parts of the world. Even in our so-called civilised, equal society in the West - when has there been even a female candidate for US president? And men still control something like 80% or more of the world's financial resources.

Oppression in certain countries is, of course, far, far worse. Women executed - by their own family members! - because they were raped. Violated - against their wishes, through no fault of their own - and instead of sympathising society condemns them to death. Female circumcision. The murder of female infants in China under a one-child-per-family policy where male children are prized. There's lots more.

(Though there is hope in some of the Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries; a female friend of mine in Jordan has recently completed her masters in engineering and is now working in DC for a while. When I taught at a UK university, the majority of students from China on our HRM MA were women, most of whom were sponsored by employers. Women are beginning to get a better deal in China).

But history tells us some painful lessons when it comes to trying to intervene. I agree: the Taliban was an abhorrent, violent, repressive organisation. Who armed them in the first place? The US, under Reagan, so that they could throw the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Ousting one dictatorship often leads to the installation of another - it seems that the new ruling group in Afghanistan is not vastly different from the Taliban in terms of religious fundamentalism and the treatment of women.

Maybe women wouldn't behave like that. Who knows? But this kind of intervention just bothers me, particularly because of how it's worked out in the past. What I would like to see is much, MUCH more highlighting of what's going on. More public condemnation of countries where women, minorities etc are not treated with dignity and respect. For example, just why does the West keep kowtowing to the Saudis? Are we really that desperate for their oil and military bases that we'll simply ignore the way women are treated and the absence of democracy there?

Apparently so. And that really makes me mad - and very sad.

Thought-provoking blog, Lynn!

- Wendy