Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two "Half the Sky" Items

Our Wichita DSA reading group discussed Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl DeWunn'a Half the Sky, a very valuable and eye-opening survey of the oppression and subjugation of women in the developing world. The book has some flaws, but no one can deny it is an eye opener.

Here are two items from my RSS reader.

1) Grab and Run Weddings in Kyrgyztan from the International Campaign Against Honor Killings, via Mick Hartley

Since Kyrgyzstan gained its independence in 1991, there has been a revival of the ancient practice of 'grab and run' weddings.

A third of all marriages in modern Kyrgyzstan are kidnaps. Typically, a man abducts his bride by force or deception, enlisting his family to break her resistance to the wedding through hours of persuasion. If successful, the next morning the bride will sit quietly in a curtained-off area wearing the traditional white wedding headscarf and an imam will be called in to marry the couple.

The Kyrgyz phrase ala kachuu describes this process – literally, it means "grab and run". Some brides are kidnapped by strangers, others by men they know. Some escape after violent ordeals, but most are persuaded to stay by tradition and fear of scandal. In Muslim Kyrgyzstan, where virginity is revered, a girl who has been kidnapped and then leaves is considered to be tainted. If her family refuses to allow her back home because of the shame, she has few options. With their purity in question after a night spent at a man's house, many women accept what they believe is their fate.

2)13-year old school girl refutes post-modernist apologist for women's oppression

Terry Glavin writes

Alaina Podmorow is 13 years old. She wrote this article in response to a masters' thesis by the University of British Columbia's Melanie Butler, Canadian women and the (re)production of women in Afghanistan, an eruption of "post-colonial feminist theory" that sets out to attack actually-existing feminists who do real work for their real, living sisters in Afghanistan.

A snippet of Podmorow: No one will ever tell me that Muslim or any women think it’s ok to not be allowed to get educated or to have their daughters sold off at 8 years old or traded off at 4 years old because of cultural beliefs. No one will tell me that women in Afghanistan think it is ok for their daughters to have acid thrown in their faces. It makes me ill to think a 4 year old girl must sleep in a barn and get raped daily by old men. It’s sick and wrong and I don’t care who calls me an Orientalist or whatever I will keep raising money to educate girls and women in Afghanistan and I will keep writing letters and sending them in the back pack of my friend Lauryn Oates as she works so bravely on the ground helping women and girls learn what it is to exercise their rights. I believe in human rights so I believe everyone has the right their own opinion, I just wish that the energy that was used to write that story, that is just not true, could have been used to educate a girl in Afghanistan. That’s what the girls truly want. That’s what the Women in Afghanistan truly want. I have a drawer full of letters from them that says just that.

Butler's thesis, which is sadly typical, could well have been produced by the software program Postmodernism Generator, which spews out random text from recursive grammars. Here's a snippet of Butler: In their bid to help Afghan women. . . some feminist groups have failed to distance themselves from the discursive mechanisms that manufacture consent for women’s oppression in the name of Empire. Building on Krista Hunt’s analysis of feminist complicity in the War on Terror (Hunt 2006), this essay draws attention to Canadian feminists’ role in (re)producing neo-imperialist narratives of Afghan women. Focusing specifically on the NGO Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), it shows how their use of feminist rhetoric and personal first-hand narratives, together with national narratives of Canada as a custodian of human rights, add to the productive power of the Orientalist tropes they invoke."

More on Alaina and her comrades here. How to support their work here.

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