Response to: Discovering Feminist Students in the Middle East, Jan. 2017

My response to a classmate sharing Deborah William’s Discovering Feminist Students in the Middle East, and asking several pointed questions.

Have you ever read, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi? Or listened to the honeyed voice of Shohreh Aghdashloo reading Anita Amirrezvani’s The Blood of Flowers? Your article by Deborah Williams instantly pulled me into the vortex of the memory of these two powerful books. If you haven’t read them… I recommend that they to be added to your “to be read” pile.

Now onto your questions.
You have asked, “Why do you believe in some cultures that an educated woman is considered a threat?”

I’d like to argue semantics here. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a women’s birth must culminate with a husband and childbirth. Except in a scant few matriarchal societies . In other words, it’s not so much a matter of some, because powerful women are threats in the majority of cultures versus powerful women being the norm in so few. Education is power. Power to know. Power to choose. Power to change. Men are biologically disposed to be more physically powerful than women, that is why violence towards women is more common than violence against men. So women must use their intellect. When a women has neither physical ability nor intellectual know how than she remains powerless.

Then you ask, “Has anyone ever experienced anything similar to this?”

Things people have said to me:

  1. “Boys will be boys”. Muddied, loud, curious. Acceptable for the boy, not for the girl.
  2. “Men are here” (a Man gesturing to his own height), “Women are here” (gesturing to some lower height)
  3. “Women do not belong on the job site” Builder to a female interior finish carpenter.
  4. “Do you have children?” Program manager to job interviewee

This list is not exhaustive.

And finally you ask, “Why is the *word* feminist to some, considered negative when all it truly means is equality?”

Feminist means more than equality. It means power. It’s a paradigm shift that even women have a difficult time understanding. And maybe its more difficult for women in America today to understand because the current generation doesn’t recognize that we are still not equal. That the fight is not over. Not here. And certainly not across the globe where women are still struggling to attain the rights that we ourselves have so recently won. I think to that some women are afraid. They do not want to lose their place, or the authority they think they have, or the rights they think they cannot lose. They equate feminism with being anti-feminine. Feminism means equality yes, but it is not that simple it is complex and varied and wrapped up in our own human failings, religion and politics.

What do you think? Is Feminism a dirty word? (Funny, growing up there were a dozen dirty words you couldn’t say in front of your parents or at school… that wasn’t one of them)

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