Sunday, October 08, 2006
Colonialism and feminism posted by Richard SeymourThe excellent blogger brownfemipower (via Chabert) writes, and cites:
“Even as the Victorian male estabilishment devised theories to contest the whims of feminism, and derided and rejected the ideas of feminism and the notion of men’s oppressing women with respect to itself, it captured the language of feminism and redirected it, in the service of colonialism, toward Other men and the cultures of Other men. It was here and in the combining of the languages of colonialism and feminism that the fustion between the issues of women and the culture was created. More exactly, what was created was the fusion between the issues of women, their oppression, and the cultures of Other men. The idea that Other men, men in colonized societies or societies beyond the borders of the civilized West, oppressed women was to be used, in the rhetoric of colonialism, to render morally justifiable its project of undermining or eradicating the cultures of colonized peoples.” Ahmed, Leila, Women And Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate pg 151
Yes, indeed, colonialism and feminism have a long history of intersecting in such a manner that feminism of the metropole (i.e. colonial feminism or feminism used against other cultures in the service of colonialism), is absolutly implicated in the violent subjugation of brown women across the globe.
Ahmed continues:Broadly speaking, the thesis of the discourse on Islam blending a colonialism committed to male dominance with feminism–the thesis of the new colonial discourse of Islam centered on women–was that Islam was innately and immutably oppressive to women, that the veil and segregation epitomized that opression, and that these customs were the fundamental reasons for the general and comprehensive backwardness of Islamic societies…Veiling–to Western eyes, the most visible marker of the differentness and inferiority of Islamic societies–became the symbol now of both the oppression women (or, in the language of the day, Islam’s degradation of women) and the backwardness of Islam, and it became the open target of colonial attack and the spearhead of the assault on Muslim societies. (pg 152)
In other words, a “feminist” understanding of veiling has been used as an excuse by multiple Western countries over multiple generations to incite and JUSTIFY violence and imperialism against multiple Islamic (i.e. brown) countries.
Precisely - and it is also a means of a racist, misogynistic society externalising its own inherent antagonisms, and of using that projection to police minority communities within that society. It is not exactly amazing, but certainly worthy of attention, that when struggles by women, and gays, and black people for social justice are actually successful, the ruling class finds a way to appropriate those successes in its discursive strategies - so suddenly, an attack on Sudan would be anti-racist, a defense of black 'Africans' against 'Arabs' (who also happen to be black), while an attack on Iran would be about liberating gay people and women etc.
Something else brownfemipower writes, addressing those who would appropriate feminism for imperialism, bears repeating:
FUCK YOU and your god given “feminist” right to blow up our countries.
FUCK YOU and your “feminist duty” to save all us helpless brown women.
FUCK YOU and your miserable “life saving” bombs that poison our earth for generations at a time.
FUCK YOU and your “right” to criticize everything but your own damn selves.
FUCK YOU and your arrogant belief in your own freedom–even as school girls are raped and shot to death execution style. Even as women are tied up to the bumpers of cars and dragged to their deaths. Even as your precious white men are looking to “use you until you bleed” right on the internet for the whole world to see. even as women are shackled to beds to give birth. even as your bombs blow up little girls as they sleep and melt the skin off of MOTHER’S CHILDREN. Even as your soldiers rape your own women. Even as your precious white men rape rape rape and rape more of the women you send them out to save.
Also worth reading this.