Week 14 Post

After completing the readings it encouraged me to critically analyze the feministic traditions of both cultures. This made me think about the ways women are perceived in the Islamic culture, but why was there such a debate to force our Western European traditions upon them? I understand there are a lot of restrictions women have in Islam, particularly through veiling. The fact that women have to be veiled at all times makes a strong statement about how men perceive their women. It is very degrading. Through this restriction comes no freedom or sense of self worth if they are only to do what is told of them, pretty similar to a slave. Their duties are to take care of their men and children and to look after the house. I’m almost positive Islamic women don’t bother themselves with some of the things Western cultured women look at as necessities. For example simple upkeep to us is bathing daily, having our hair done and simply looking presentable. However, women in Islamic cultures are lucky if the bathe more than once a week.

It’s sad to know that women in some cultures are still treated this poorly and treated as objects…but wait? If you take a close look at how “liberated” women are here in the Western cultures, you can find several similarities. Its clear what the obvious freedoms women have such as being able to go and work as well as the man, choosing to be independent and not have a husband at all if they want, and the ability to speak their mind, but what about beneath the surface. Women in western cultures also are not forced to marry and take care of the children and look after the house but in a way women are still controlled through social norms. Women are still inferior to men in no matter what culture you’re in, it’s sad to know how dominant men are even with the great advancements of women. Once women do marry they are still expected to be the primary caretaker, clean the house while still maintaining a job on top of all of that.  If you take a look at our popular culture (music, magazines, TV shows) look at how women are portrayed. They are treated like objects; they always have to behold a sex appeal about them for the entertainment of men. If they are not portrayed in that manner then they are showing some superficial trait. So my question is what makes our Western culture norms so much better than Islamic norms?

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14 thoughts on “Week 14 Post

  1. I don’t think it’s so much of a matter of whose norms are better but rather who’s words matter. As a well-developed nation we tend to see ourselves in a position of power giving our words and ideas more power than they perhaps deserve. Just because we are a very powerful nation does not mean we have the right way of doing things.

    In general, the degradation of women in all societies is a true pity. Women should yet still are not on level playing fields as men. While we have gained huge amounts of ground there are still many ways in which we fall short. When discussing Islamic culture and women being forced to wear veils, I think as a society we have our viewpoints that tend to lean toward veils as taking away the rights of women. Through our eyes yes this would appear the case, telling women what can and cannot be visible is controlling. I do believe though in one of the reading we had it said that veiling was also seen as quite the opposite. It gave these women privacy from a public world. But, who really is to say what is right. I think the only authentic voice in the matter is that of the Islamic women who have to wear the veil.

    You mentioned something else interesting about Islamic women not caring about the things Western cultured women do such as having our hair done and simply looking presentable. While I don’t believe that Islamic women disregard their looks entirely, it seems possible that they have quite a different set of values. I could almost see that as a blessing in disguise. Western culture puts a lot of emphasis on looks and “putting our faces on.” As we saw in the film about the salons, the native women did not wear a lot of makeup. They were informed by their teachers who came from America about this ritual. But, by not being constantly consumed with looks more time is available for raising their children. And, while this might seem like a sentence I have to believe the mothers do not mind looking after their kids.

    The whole idea of which cultures’ norms are better is a really interesting question. I think there are definite negatives to both sides that are simply the product of highly patriarchal societies. Hmm.

  2. I agree with the last comment in that it doesn’t seem to be about what makes our western culture norms so much better than Islamic norms, but which practices and beliefs work best for the women in them. Globalization and a surge in technology have allowed for a more publicized debate over the treatment and appreciation (or lack of appreciation) towards women worldwide. The most common debate that has emerged has been the one of East vs. West, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. There is an obvious relationship between the Islamic faith and the veiling practice of women, however the enforcement of veiling has has multiple reasons behind it besides being a religious custom. I disagree with some of your remarks about Islamic women not bothering themselves with simple upkeep such as bathing. This is far from the truth, and although this could be the case in some communities, Middle Eastern countries on the whole are far more developed than the West give them credit for and a belief that they are so barbaric not to keep up with necessary hygiene is somewhat backwards. Underneath the veil, it is believed women can maintain dignity and respect for themselves and their appearance. However, the noticeable interest in Western style has driven Middle Eastern women to add individuality to their look through the application of makeup, quaffed hair and beautiful scarves. The progression however is slow, and the West cannot expect that enforcing their cultural and fashion-related norms on the Middle East will happen overnight, or that it won’t be met by repercussions.
    You bring up a good point that women in the West are still not truly liberated in society. They still have the traditional responsibilities to keep up as well as holding down a successful career, however the progression women have made over the last fifty years has been phenomenal and the most that has ever taken place in such a period of time. It would be interesting if we could know the status of women in society in another fifty years time, as I’m sure Western women, as well as their Middle Eastern contemporaries will have advanced a significant amount.

  3. Our cultures are very different in many ways but I do notice that no matter what country you go to, men are always more dominant. It has been this way forever and I don’t think it will change anytime soon. Watching the video, it pained me to see how badly those women are treated. To be afraid of even going home because your husband may beat you for something so insignificant like wearing lipstick. Women are constantly controlled by men. In our country, women are still seen as inferior. Although things are more discreet, we still continue to fight for equality amongst the other sex. A mans masculinity is threatened by strong women and when this occurs they may seek dramatic solutions. This is not fair.

    Learning how to cut and dye hair was, in a way, a rebellious attempt against male dominance. Although that was a brave thing to do especially under their circumstances, it can be very dangerous all at once. This reminded me of a video I watched called, “The Stoning of Soraya.” This woman was killed in her country because a man’s word is worth so much more than a woman’s word within those middle-eastern countries. It seems that conditions are worse for women the less economically and politically stable the country.

  4. I recognize the great difference between western culture and islamic culture and feel we are much freer as a western culture. However, I do agree that we are part of a male dominated culture and women are often objectified. I am not sure if this is attributed to the value our culture puts on male dominance or our society as a whole in relation to media related influences, such as lyrics, televisions shows such as bridalplasty or other demeaning shows. I had not previously been too aware of the treatment of Islamic women but I do not entirely agree with your statement regarding Islamic women not keeping up with their appearance. Although they are required to be veiled, like women of many other cultures, I feel they would still like to feel “womanly” and keep up with their appearance behind the vail. Although there might be a different level of importance placed on this up keeping, I would expect some level of need to take care of themselves.

    cool post! I like the photos. 🙂

  5. I as well would have to agree with some of the comments already made. As seen through the video watched last class, the woman who are required to wear the veil do not seem to be uninterested in their looks, appearance and bathing. I think that the limited access to things such as make-up have made for this understanding of woman in the east not caring for their bodies. I’m not sure if this was apart of the readings, movies or one of our discussions, but we had talked about how woman who chose not to wear the veil, in order to shower would be hidden in bags and carried to the public bathroom. I as well liked how you brought up this idea that woman in the west are also controlled and policed in different ways in regards to their bodies, not exactly but similarly to the veil and woman in the middle east. I thought of the idea of body hair and how woman pay good money and time to get their arms, legs, eye-brows, upper lips and private parts waxed bare, which nowadays is seen as more attractive and sexually appealing.

  6. Interesting question, I agree with the other comments that it is not so much a question of whose customs are better but more of a question of perspective. Taken at face value, it seems obvious that the goal of any liberating movement would be freedom from oppression. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s all too often the case that one restrictive regime is replaced by another. What would a world with truly liberated women look like? It would still be just as diverse as the world today. I believe that if a woman finds comfort in the cultural tradition of veiling than it is unjust to force her to remove it, at the same time, if a woman is suffocated by the veil it is monstrous to force her to wear it. I believe it is naive to think that all Western women are liberated and free. There are extremist religious sects within the United States which force women to wear a certain type of modest dress and occupy a certain role within the home. The important thing is emphasizing personal choice as a matter of individuality instead of trying to speak for other people. I believe that once you try to speak for someone else, even if your intention is to help them, you are still denying them agency. I believe that it is only through open dialogue and cross cultural understanding that any sort of liberation can be achieved for both women in the United States and abroad.

  7. Ahhhhh preach. Seriously, everything you just said about still objectifying women who are “liberated” is something I completely agree with. I am always so frustrated that people who believe that since women in our culture can vote and have jobs, they are no longer facing injustices and prejudices.
    And although many of the commenters diagreed with your usage of the phrase “what makes our Western culture norms so much better than Islamic norms?” I think you are right. I believe most Western people believe that we have gender issues figured out and that the Islamic culture is “behind in the times.” However, as you pointed out – aren’t both cultures discriminating women in one way? I’m not sure which one is preferable.
    In the Islamic culture, you explained that women are not treated the same as men. However, it seems that the Islamic women are aware of this.
    In our Western society, it seems as if very few women actually are aware that women and men are not equal. The fact that some women feel that it is acceptable and correct that we be in a “post feminism” state just indicates how unaware people are of the gender hierarchy that still exists. I think your post does a great job of pointing out how women in Western societies are unaware of the true circumstances of their “liberated” women.

  8. I feel that our Western norms aren’t better than Islamic norms. Recently I watched a youtube video of a news program that discussed veil and how women of the Islamic culture felt about it. Of the three women who were apart of the discussion, only one woman, who chose to live an Americanized lifestyle saw placing a veil over her face as degrading and restrictive. The other two women sighted wanting to veil themselves due to religious belief. Of course all of these women were American so therefore they had a choice to wear what they wanted to wear. I think the reason why we feel that women who cover there faces feel so restricted is because we as Americans can’t imagine having to restrict ourselves period. Of course I can’t imagine every Islamic woman loving the fact that they have to live under certain conditions and restrictions however some women don’t have as big an issue with covering their faces as we think they would.

  9. Last semester we did a project for my Queer Theory course in which we took pictures of different individuals and asked college students who they would put in order of who has the most power to who has the least power.. and then who was the most normal to the least normal. We were interested in power hierarchies within sub groups. We included people such as Obama, Little Wayne, Asian girls at a club doing drugs, an interracial couples getting married, and gay couple with a baby and a Muslim woman fully covered in a burka. In almost ever situation people put the Muslim woman last or second to last in the power scale and the same for normal. People said that these women had little to no power and were forced into wearing these clothes by their husbands and cultures, and most said they were not normal.. to them.. because they rarely see women dressed like this. I really thought these answers were interesting.. no one seemed to consider that a woman would want to dress this way without being forced and only a few mentioned that this outfit would be extremely normal in another space. What I learned most was that many people, including myself, don’t really have much knowledge about this particular culture.. and that many of our views of them are influenced by our own western ways of thinking ( similar to the way the women in the beauty salon thought what they were doing was “CURE” for the women). I think most people could get less biased information on this culture if they were taking a college course with a particular focus. Yet, lots of individuals won’t have this option. I think it would be beneficial for everyday people to expand their knowledge as best they can before coming to certain assumptions and judgments about Muslim women.

  10. This post really makes me think about the different ways in which women are treated in both Western and Eastern cultures. Of course we are not forced to wear a veil and stay at home and support our men but American women are put in certain positions where men are dominant over them. For example women in the U.S are told that they have to portray a certain image, be a certain size, wear certain clothes, pretty much make sure we are considered presentable at all times. Women in Eastern countries however are forced to not worry about themselves. I believe both cultures demand a lot from women but they just go about it in different ways. As far as women being forced to wear the veil it is not necessarily negative to all of them. Some choose to wear it and want to follow the religious traditions of the culture. The problem only comes in when thinking about the women who don’t want to be “forced” to do something. This topic isn’t a matter of which culture is better but when will choice become an option for women? When will the time come when we can be dominant over our own choices and lifestyles.

  11. I do not believe that it is correct to assume or assert that Western culture norms are better than Islamic norms or vice versa. Evidently, every culture has its strengths and its pitfalls, yet most people seem concerned with making their own culture seem better in every way. I believe that each culture should be less preoccupied with the shortcomings of other cultures and more concerned with their own unresolved issues. In the end, scrutinizing other cultures and pointing out their flaws will not make our culture’s problems disappear. Therefore, we should refrain from hypocritical criticism and trying to change other cultures and instead focus on solving our issues. While clothing restrictions imposed upon women in Islam may seem like a form of oppression to Americans, the objectification of women in America may seem like degradation to others. Hence, each culture should take it upon itself to reflect on and correct its possible hindrances. Lastly, I believe that although women may still be expected to be the primary caretakers and housekeepers by western society, women should refuse these conventional roles if they do not want to fulfill them. It is true that these expectations are still in place, but women are not forced to abide by them.

  12. I agree that women in a majority of countries are still currently oppressed, despite definite strides towards equality. The veil, however, should not be the only signifier that marks the oppression of women in Muslim societies. As we saw in Josey’s comment, it is a common misconception that women who wear the veil are automatically forced to wear it. The readings outlined the fact that women sometimes choose to wear it, seeing it as a way that they can protect themselves from strangers and public situations. This is also shown by people who chose to wear the veil outside of their Muslim country. For example, women who view the veil in the United States are still seen as oppressed.

    We can not make the assumption that one culture is better than another, but this is typically what we do. Western ideals are still seen as better, more liberal, more empowering, etc. but we are clearly not a perfect society either. Women are oppressed in the United States, for example, the fact that women still do not make as much as men do given the same qualifications. This plays into the notion of colonial feminism, the idea that women from the United States think they are freeing Muslim women by telling them not to wear the veil, when they in fact are just imparting their values on them. This was shown in the movie, where the women who came to Kabul spoke in ways that were very ethnocentric. I agree with Josey that expanding knowledge before passing judgement on the status of women in foreign countries would be extremely helpful.

  13. I think that men are always going to be dominant. Even thought women have come a long way from many years ago. I feel that different cultures have different ways of showing their beliefs and customs. For example, in the video we saw in class about Islamic women and them taking classes in a salon, showed women bringing their children to the class and still having to go home and cook and clean for the family. Women in our society are always expected to look nice and shave or paint their nails or look clean. However, this may not be the case in other parts of the world. In less fortunate countries, people may not be able to shower everyday and may not have enough money to keep themselves looking “presentable.” Even in our society, keeping up with looking good all the time can be expensive. Whether it is buying make up or nice clothes can all add up. I feel women are under way more pressure than men to look a certain way. I also agree with some of the other comments that in other countries around the world, women are still oppressed and not treated equally as men which is sad to think about.

  14. On its surface, western women are more free and liberated from the social constraints that Islamic women have, but in its social core, we’re all constrained to similar social norms. Western culture just does a better job at concealing it. Islamic women are imprisoned in a sense because they have to veiled. Western women are imprisoned in that we have to reveal. Our senses of imprisonment is just different.
    In tangible aspects, women are more free in the West. It’s not like we have to walk around naked. No one’s forced to do anything. For Islamic, unless you want shame and death, there is no choice. We have more freedom because we have a choice in how we dress. When it comes to social norms though, it’s upon the individual to follow it or not. There’s no law that will prevent or make you do something. There are social norms everywhere you go, so all people are molded to it one way or another.

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