Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why are there women who want to turn back the clock?

I'm all for this kind of looking back, if only to do what should have been done in the first place, when this amendment became a major national issue and then was dropped like a hot potato. Women, on average, still make less than men do. Any sort of family leave longer than three months is laughable to many corporations and businesses all over this country. Women should not be judged by their anatomy, and yet it keeps happening again and again. It has gotten to the point where women are turning on themselves when they ought to be working together to fight all this crap - working moms vs. stay-at-home moms is a case in point.

No, I'm talking about women who seem to be channeling some of the worst elements of prejudice and reactionary thinking. Women channeling Father Charles Coughlin, Henry Ford, various ayatollahs, mullahs, and imams who share an oppressive rigidity in their world views, Louis Farrakhan, any prim and proper matron who told you to keep your ankles crossed and refrain from smoking in the street...you know, women who buy the idea that the world needs to be one homogeneous museum of a planet in which everybody knows their places and stays there, quietly. They then take that idea and do their best to sell it, sounding like robotic Stepford wives and looking worse.

Women like this one:

She was a round-faced young woman with doe eyes and a pretty smile who was among several fluent English-speakers recruited by the students after the takeover. She had spent part of her childhood in Philadelphia while her father had worked on his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and she had fully absorbed the language. In fact, when she had returned to Iran as a young girl, her English had been better than her Farsi. At Amir Kabir University, she was formally a second-year chemical engineering student, but she had long since grown more interested in the turbulent postrevolutionary politics playing out on campus. She had been raised in a Western-style home but had embraced the distinctively political Islam taught by Ali Shariati and others, who subscribed to the traditional leftist belief that capitalism was, at its core, the systematic exploitation of the weak.*

Nice to be able to parlay a skill into a prominent role in assisting a cause. Nothing wrong with that. And there are a number of things wrong with what people have done with capitalism. Any -ism practiced without some sort of conscience indeed risks becoming an end in itself for those who decide their own personal fortunes are much more important than anything else.

There is such a thing as balance, however. And this was a woman who helped tip the scales.

...Here was this woman whose English was so fluent, and whose accent was so American, that she obviously had lived in the States at some point. She seemed bright and articulate. Why would she want to embrace this fundamentalist crap that denied her gender equal status with men? Why would she want to drape herself in dark robes?

"Why are you doing this?" he asked her.

She looked back at him, startled.

"Look at your status as a woman in this society...(w)hy would you want this?"

...She launched into her rationale for traditionalism, how it was, in fact, liberating for women. She and her revolutionary sisters were actually much freer than women in the Western world, who remained enslaved by the twin satanic values of commercialism and sexual exploitation. "I believe in the fundamentals of Islam," she said. "And my faith requires women to do this."*

The modern world can indeed be frightening. Increasingly, there are fewer hard-and-fast answers for everyone's basic questions concerning survival, education of our children, care for loved ones, job security, trust in the powers that be. For women, things are both better and worse. What better way to solve all of these problems for yourself than to embrace a tried and seemingly true set of rules? Retreat from the uncertain world.

For this particular woman I am talking about, her retreat led her to power. Initially, it was power over a small number of people, power that she had no hesitation in wielding.

The chubby, black-clad young woman launched immediately into a rant: "You are here to see the evidence of the plotting and spying your country was doing in Iran...your CIA has...the Great Satan in 1953...and it was the CIA and SAVAK that tortured and killed..." Timm tuned her out. She had heard it all a hundred times on TV. Standing before this round-faced, diminutive, arrogant yet familiar young woman who was holding her son prisoner, Timm felt all her fear drop away. She felt rage. She was here to see her son. She had nothing whatsoever to do with the things Ebtekar was going on about. She was a mother from Milwaukee who wanted to visit with her son. Timm started to cry, and then she started to scream at Ebtekar, woman to woman.

"You don't know what it's like to be a mother! What would your mother do if you--you can't be any older than my son is! And you've got a mother someplace. Underneath all that shit that you are wearing there's got to be a human being someplace. You've got a mother. How would she feel if you were locked up in a strange country someplace?"

She called Ebtekar cold and heartless.

"You don't even behave like you're human," she said. "Even these guards with their guns talk to us like real people."*

Nilufar (now Massoumeh) Ebtekar, a translator and spokeswoman for the Students Following the Imam's Line, or the 1979 American embassy hostage takers in Tehran, became a vice-president of Iran. The wearing of the hijab and the continued oppression of women in her country have apparently not affected the views she held well over twenty years ago. Why should it? She has attained power for herself with the help of her adherence to these views. To use the power she has attained to enact real change would be a blow to the legitimacy of her traditionalist beliefs. It would acknowledge that women are people with legitimate rights, rather than beings who are said to have nine parts of desire, and, because of this, they need to be covered up and hidden away, unseen and unheard.

Having read Mark Bowden's latest, and then seen Ann "Coughlin" Coulter negating the existence of the Jewish people shortly after finishing his book, I can only come to the same conclusion about Coulter that I have about Ebtekar.

...I turned on the TV in my hotel room and was startled to see Ebtekar's wrapped face. She was being interviewed on a split screen with a BBC announcer and Iran's new Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, talking about how proud everyone in Iran was of her, even though Ebadi was awarded the prize for work opposing the oppressive regime Ebtekar so ably represents and defends.

The announcer asked the Iranian vice president how she, as a woman, could defend a regime that forbade Ebadi to travel to Stockholm and receive her award without permission from her husband.

If Ebtekar squirmed, it was only for a split second. She smiled and segued smoothly into a recitation of the gains women had made under Iran's Islamic regime.*

Why do some women feel the need to turn back the clock?

Because, sadly, they must feel that doing so is the only way for them to gain power and attention for themselves. What is even sadder is that their opportunism has the effect of harming many, many other people who could use their consideration and compassion. It does indeed make us hesitant to consider them human, if only because they feel that many other people are not deserving of that consideration.

It is also why I ask all those who are reading this to boycott Coulter's appearance at Tulane next Monday the 22nd, and urge many, many others who might even remotely consider the possibility of attending to stay away. The less of an audience the woman has to speak to concerning her narrow views about government, religion, and other subjects, the better. Please contact these people to make your views known as well:

Tulane University College Republicans - the sponsors of the event

The Tulane events calendar has a telephone number that can be seen here.

all quotations from Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah

1 comment:

Cold Spaghetti said...

Conservative feminists argue that the postmodern feminist movement is too phallocentic -- that it's push was to show women could do all that men could and that ultimately, this form of "equality" simply argued that women could be like men.

And they have a point -- because as rah-rah as I am about being equal to my male peers, no matter what, we are fundamentally different. I am a woman, which means I do very special and unique things that that only women can do. Namely, I have babies. And yes, women can have babies and still do all that men do. However, because our equality movement focused on us changing to be them -- the world did not change to accommodate our unique needs. You pointed this out well -- laughable maternity leave, for example. Add to that the daycare nightmare, that part-time career work is rarely available (let alone a "40 hour week" -- who doesn't work more than 40 hours anymore?), and that woman get about 3/4 of the pay as a male colleague... and well, staying at home doesn't seem as much a choice as a prescribed and expected path. Women wouldn't have to "chose" one or the other if our work-worlds were structured to be welcoming of families.

The system sucks for men, too. I wonder how many Dads would cut back on work hours if they had the option (without loosing benefits or career opportunities)?

Getting back to the initial point, none of this is in support or related to the Ann-tichrist. She is a misguided, arrogant, overprivileged twit. I have serious concerns for her health as I suspect she must suffer from extreme oxygen deprivation to the brain. The point was really that some very educated and aware women argue that by going back to "fundamentalist" traditions, they are honoring what women ARE -- saying that modern women honor that they can be men, which does not respect the unique qualities of being female.

It's an interesting argument, and they have a bit of a point when you think about it.

Of course, I've got my own ax to grind on the issue... as I spent time pumping breastmilk IN A BATHROOM in a School of Public Freakin' HEALTH. So much for the quality example left by institutions that know better.