Don’t fall into the ‘noble savage’ trap re women’s rights in Middle East

Sometimes I wonder if you’re not falling into the romanticizing trope of the "noble savage" with posts like this, "Casual Prejudice Against Muslims" (by Weiss). 

The fact of the matter is that in most, if not all, Arab and Muslim countries, women are discriminated against as a matter of course, from citizenship laws to inheritance to paternalistic familial structures and domestic abuse. This is clearly not a purely Muslim or Arab affair, since, with perhaps the exception of Scandinavia, it exists in various degrees throughout the world. But the fact of the matter is that even if it’s often used as a pro-Israel or neocon club to bludgeon Arabs on other, unrelated issues like the Israel/Palestine conflict, that doesn’t make the charge less true.

I look at it as being similar to Soviet charges against US treatment of black citizens. Did pointing out the Jim Crow laws make Siberian gulags or Eastern European oppression any more acceptable? Of course not, although it may have scored Moscow some points in the world arena by pointing out American hypocrisy. At the end of the day, though, the answer to Stalinist accusations of racism should have been the civil rights movement, not a denial of segregation. Likewise, to my mind, the oppression of women and minorities and homosexuals in the Mideast is not directly related to the Arab/Israeli conflict, but it is very important to me, and I don’t see that there’s any contradiction in my struggle to fight for my wife’s right to marry who she pleases, legally own land and work at any job she wants to in Lebanon and her right to return to and live in Haifa.

The internet is bad here, so I didn’t listen to the clip, but I don’t think that the knee-jerk reaction that many people, especially those who don’t live in the region, have to dismiss any and all criticism of Arab or Muslim states and/or societies as hasbara for Israel is helpful at all. In fact, it plays into the rhetoric of Arab states that justifies the emergency laws in Syria and Egypt and censorship laws here in Lebanon, not to mention the shameful treatment of Palestinians throughout the Arab world. For my part, an equitable solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict should be about justice, not about supporting "my side" right or wrong.

Sean Lee blogs from Beirut at the Human Province.

About Sean Lee

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Middle East, US Politics

{ 107 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. doug says:

    Noble Savage writ large?

    Goyishe kop.

  2. Keith says:

    SEAN- To rephrase a point I made on the post you reference, much of the problem in the Middle East is a direct consequence of colonialism and Imperial interference in the internal workings of the Arab countries. US/Israel, for example, has consistently opposed democratic secular regimes, supporting fundamentalist religious groups instead. We don’t know for sure what the Middle East would look like today without British/US/Israel interference, however, I think it fair to say that much of the reason the Middle East appears screwed up is that Britain, the US and Israel intentionally screwed it up. Under these circumstances, I think it is disingenuous to criticize the Arab people for the predictable consequences of OUR POLICY. Also, it serves no useful purpose. Want to improve the lives of women in the Middle East? Then get the US, Israel, Britain and others to stop interfering. Then, perhaps, the people can deal with their problems in a constructive manner.

    • Seham says:

      We don’t know for sure what the Middle East would look like today without British/US/Israel interference, however, I think it fair to say that much of the reason the Middle East appears screwed up is that Britain, the US and Israel intentionally screwed it up.

      Yes, exactly!

  3. Pamela Olson says:

    I don’t think anyone was pulling a noble savage. I just think he was pointing out the hypocrisy inherent in stopping any conversations about the systematic human rights violations committed by Israel and America against Arabs by saying, “But don’t they treat their women badly?” And then going one further by trotting out Saudi Arabia — the worst offender — as somehow representative of Islam. (Believe me, the Saudis think they are representative of Islam, but they’re about as representative of Islam as Avigdor Lieberman is representative of Judaism.)

    It’s a sly trick, but it works. I’ve had friends stop me when I was trying to talk about Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights by saying exactly that: “But don’t they treat their women badly?” As if they understood the complexities of Muslim and Palestinian culture and could reduce it to a blanket accusation that made them unworthy of thinking about.

    I’ve lived in Palestine, I know how women struggle with a long-running patriarchal culture. I also happen to know that things were a lot more liberal ten and twenty and even thirty years ago, before the West destroyed the secular nationalists and by various means (omission and comission) helped bring about the rise of Islamism. I also have grandparents who grew up during the Depression in rural Oklahoma, where women also didn’t have a whole heap of rights. That doesn’t mean it would have been OK for someone to steal their land or kill them for belonging to the wrong religion.

    I personally believe the Arab world will do well to increase the rights of women, which in many cases they are working on admirably, though without much press, because it undermines the narrative of “Arab culture is bad, so it’s OK to kill them in order to try to help them be more like us.” Change is coming. But it will come much faster if it’s allowed to arise internally, voluntarily, empowering women and men alike as agents of their own destiny. If Sweden invaded Texas in order to force Texans to approve of gay marriage, do you think gay people in Texas would appreciate this? Especially if the Swedes came in with ulterior motives and, by the way, would almost certainly lose? It’d just be a huge mess, loss of life, and backlash, not to mention clamping down of minds rather than opening them.

    And yet gay marriage, on its own, will be legal in Texas in the next 20 years. It’s pretty much inevitable. (Not a perfect analogy by any means, but you get the drift.)

    • Seham says:

      Change is coming. But it will come much faster if it’s allowed to arise internally, voluntarily, empowering women and men alike as agents of their own destiny.

      Yes, again, exactly. And the last thing Arab or Muslim women need is for Americans to fuck everything up for them by interfering. It will never succeed if it is tainted by interference from the West who have absolutely nothing to boast about when it comes to women’s rights.

      *Related tangent: I think it’s pretty crazy that the paps can stalk female singers and actresses and take pictures of their vaginas and post them on the internet. Can someone explain to me why that isn’t illegal?

      • azythos says:

        Seham – “*Related tangent: I think it’s pretty crazy that the paps…”

        You write beautifully and think clearly, but that “tangent” on desired limits of censorship remains unrelated; not a tangent.

    • VR says:

      It is remarkable how similar historically all imperialism, empire, colonialism and settler colonialism communicates. That is why I repeatedly use the phrase – they will write about the liberation of these women as epitaphs on their tombstones. Free and liberated, but quite dead. By all means women everywhere should have equal freedoms, but they can hardly enjoy these rights in their graves. It should be clear at this juncture we are dealing first with matters of life and death.

      Lets also be careful that we do not subscribe to cultural condemnation (of the whole) in the zeal to see all sorts of “rights” we take for granted.

      “I’LL TURN YOU INTO ME”

  4. Seham says:

    The problem is that it’s always about demonizing Arabs and Islam when people talk about domestic violence in the Middle East. Rarely is it a pedantic look at what subjugation of women looks like in that part of the world. I can’t speak for why domestic violence happens in the rest of the world, but, in certain regions of the Middle East I would bet that the treatment of women at home reflects the treatment of men by society, or… by occupation forces. And no, that is not a justification of domestic violence but it’s human nature to ask “why” right? How is that everyone knows that domestic violence exists in the M.E. but nobody knows that in Japan 1 of 3 wives are abused?

    link to news.asiaone.com

    I have to question the motivations of the Western media that thinks that reporting about abused Arab women is more newsworthy than Japanese women. As a Palestinian woman, I can’t help but recoil when I hear Westerners talk about the plight of… us. The West has brought so much devastation to us in so many ways that most Palestinian women I know are more worried about so many other things than eradicating male subjugation.

    I can’t speak for all Arab women, but Palestinian women are pretty sharp, and I’m sure once they are liberated they will do just fine working out these issues with Palestinian men. But hell, even under occupation we have 4 or 5 women in the Palestinian government and a couple of female Shariah judges.

    So, thanks for the concern… but can you just please work on ending the illegal occupation of my country that is being subsidized with American tax dollars?

    • Judy says:

      Well said, Seham!

    • annie says:

      I can’t speak for all Arab women, but Palestinian women are pretty sharp, and I’m sure once they are liberated they will do just fine working out these issues with Palestinian men.

      beware of colonialist infiltrating your community w/talk of women’s rights. they did this in iraq, a country that arguably had more opportuniy and equality for women in the workforce than any country in the ME during saddam’s era. so while we touted women’s rights we empowered islamic fanatics and now in iraq women wear hijab instead of western attire/ jeans.

      here’s clinton’s recent remarks at the UN Commission on the Status of Women

      We are consulting with women as we design and implement our policies. We are taking into greater account how those policies will impact women and girls. And we are working to identify women leaders and potential leaders around the world to make them our partners and to help support their work. And we are measuring progress, in part, by how much we improve the conditions of the lives of women and girls.

      This isn’t window dressing, and it’s not just good politics. President Obama and I believe that the subjugation of women is a threat to the national security of the United States. (Applause.) It is also a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations go hand in hand.

      The United States is implementing this approach in our strategy in Afghanistan. As I said in London in January at the International Conference on Afghanistan, the women of Afghanistan have to be involved at every step in securing and rebuilding their country. Our stabilization strategy for both Afghanistan and Pakistan includes a Women’s Action Plan that promotes women’s leadership in both the public and private sectors; increases their access to education, health, and justice; and generates jobs for women, especially in agriculture.

      This focus on women has even been embraced by the United States Military. All-women teams of Marines will be meeting with Afghan women in their homes to assess their needs. Congress has joined this focus as well. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under Chairman John Kerry, empowered a subcommittee charged with global women’s issues that recently held hearings on promoting opportunity for Afghan women and girls.

      yeah, i recall when they hired iraqi women to strip search other women, the policy of embedding themselves into the villages byway of the women of the community. beware is all i can say, be very weary of the colonialist offering trinkets to the women while killing off the men and empowering the hakim and his badr brigades who are anything but ‘liberated’ in their approach to women’s rights.

      it is a diversion from what’s really going on. they raped iraq!

  5. hayate says:

    The article is rubbish. Cleanup your own house before you go playing god somewhere else, even if your motives are noble, rather than suspect, as the style of your presentation (IE: from a typical rightwing propagandist pov) leads me to believe.

    When you are not a mess, then you might have enough standing to criticise others. Until then, you are part of the problem.

    (BTW, it wasn’t just the USSR who was down on american apartheid, it was most of the world, and very vocally so, so to better propagandise your rightwing rubbish in your next spiel, don’t make your 50′s cold war mentality so bloody obvious)

    • Seham says:

      Hayate, this ain’t nothing. Lee, is married to a Lebanese woman, I got into a spat with him a while back when he was nonsensically attacking Hezb. Apparently, his being married to a Shia woman gives him all kinds of privileges in attacking all kinds of natives that he doesn’t agree with. It’s really annoying.

    • hayate says:

      BTW, not all anti-Muslim propagandists are coming from the zionist camp, there are also quite a few among the various american rightwing political sects who are not particularly fond of zionists/Jews and have their own fascists views and prejudices independent of the usual zionist crud one encounters in usa media.

      • hayate says:

        Seham

        “Hayate, this ain’t nothing.”

        There is a lot of american ex-military married to Asian women who view their wives as a trophy. The women isn’t a person she’s a piece of property and the fact they’re married to an Asian woman did not change their american chauvinism one bit. They stilled viewed america/Christian as superior, and Asians as a step below.

        I get your point about lee. Often marrying into another culture does not lead to a better understanding when the one with the power of control is of a small mind to begin with.

  6. syvanen says:

    Sean writes:

    I look at it as being similar to Soviet charges against US treatment of black citizens.

    Those charge hurt. In fact the case has been made the Eisenhower administration pushed for equal rights in the south for blacks because the Communists were so effective in using this issue against the US. Can’t say that I agreed with the commies on this, but one cannot argue against the results. One would hope that those women in moslem countries could use this to gain more equal rights. Then again, maybe the Palestinians could gain their civil liberties inside Israel if we could sufficiently embarrass Israel. Is that possible?

  7. This is really an interesting article. It raises more issues and conflicts that it plans to address. I have always wondered why Islamic practices has clung to the concpet of culture and traditions pertaining to “burkha”/child education/female education/women’s employemnt and bondage labor or serfdom in Afghanistan,Pakistan,Jordan,Egypt to vayring degree. The prophet of Islam destroyed a lot of local customs sometimes according to the Koranic injunctions and sometimes according to his own ideas of what was good for the community. Why today’s Islam fails to emulate his teachings to practice? Taliban was in power in Afghanistan for 4-5 years.In that time it imposed one of the harshest civic laws on the girls and on the women in name of Afghan culture despite it being unsupported by Koran or the practices of the prophet of Islam. These fanatics dont know their own scriptures. In Pakistan one seees rampant corruption and torture on poor disenfranchised community that has nothing to do with the war or poverty ( Somlia was more poor and until now it allowed women privileges and rights not seen in Kuwait/Saudi arab/Pakistan and it was not cruel to its impoversihed starta of the society). Bangladesh is poor than any of these countries but oppression of poor or vulgar display of men’s power on women is not it’s shortcomings)
    War produces illegal needs and it creates local satraps who are illegal.That illegality can only be sustained by oppression and religious perversion by the elite in league with the religious hanger on.

    Religious fanatism prcatised for political gains might have something to do with this. Saudi Arab is the prime example and a lot of muslim countries once had looked up to this country out of confusion in identity, out of need for money,out of need for employemnt. Interstingly saudi arab /pakistan/Egypt/Kuwait are the very countries that have been used by US as doormat. Before Afghanistan was used it used to offer a better forward looking choice for the women.

  8. Oscar says:

    Sean’s article was surprising in its inclusion on Mondo, not because it may or may not be accurate, but because it seemed superfluous to the topic at large — the slow-motion genocide of the Palestinians. Seham nailed it when she said:

    “So, thanks for the concern… but can you just please work on ending the illegal occupation of my country that is being subsidized with American tax dollars.”

    That’s the main event. But when Sean starts rambling about the disrespect Islamic men have for their women, I’m unmoved. In part, because it’s been overdone in the form of hasbaric, Zionist propaganda to dehumanize the Palestinian culture, but because it’s selective and irrelevant to the cause.

    I’m reminded of the infamous NPR report by Sheera Frankel where she followed a group of vigilantes who were attempting to prevent Jewish women from”hooking up” with Palestinian women. Frankel had no comment that what the Israeli vigilantes were doing were akin to white supremacists attempting to prevent white women from dating African American men . . . She seemed to normalize the behavior of these Israeli skinheads.

    So Sean’s piece feels like a lot of white noise. Dude, maybe you have a point, but it’s a lesser point in the context of the genocide of the Palestinians by the Zionists armed with $3 billion of our US taxpayer dollars.

  9. Oscar says:

    Um, a couple of typos in the above. The hook-up was Jewish women with Palestinian men . . .

  10. Seham says:

    ‘Am I Not a Human’: Women under Occupation
    link to palestinechronicle.com

  11. MRW says:

    What about Ultra Orthodox Jewish women’s rights? Why are they exempt from scrutiny??

    • Schwartzman says:

      The old they suck worse argument…. A staple here it appears.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        I don’t get it. Do you honestly think mindlessly parroting what anti-Zionists point out about the flaws of Zionist propaganda somehow constitutes a successful reversal?

        Is this sort of failure to acknowledge human norms and human empathy tied to why Israeli settlers will run over Palestinian pedestrians in their cars numerous times, backing up and rolling over them again and again, as if doing it once was not enough?

      • hayate says:

        “The old they suck”

        How’s that pucker practice going, there, white boi?

        • Schwartzman says:

          huh? I am not down with your slang.

          Is that an anti-gay slur or something? I myself am a heterosexual male, but am a ardent supporter of homosexual rights.

  12. Sumud says:

    The article that Sean Lee comments on is about the grandstanding that occurs in US media about womens rights in the (muslim) Middle East – and how it’s used to argue by intimidation. The hypocritical ignorance of those same people on the restricted rights of orthodox women is on-topic.

    • Walid says:

      What Sean Lee is saying about the treatment of women in the Arab world is true. I said the same thing here last week that in spite of it being used to bludgeon the Arabs, it is nonetheless true and we had a long discussion on it along with the crappy inheritance laws for women. It has nothing to do with Israel as was advanced last week and it has nothing to do with the past colonial history of the area as it’s being said now; it’s part of the Arab psyche that predates Islam and that has a long way to go to change.

      The Arab girls here have taken a personal offense at seeing it aired in public probably out of pride or that they are among lucky women receiving equal treatment at home and haven’t been exposed to any abuse. It’s been less than a decade that women in Lebanon can now open a business in their names or to apply for a passport or to leave the country without their husband’s consent and even if these laws were not rigidly enforced, they were still on the books. The list is very long and although such abusive conditions exist in other countries, it does not excuse the poor state of women’s’ rights that we are discussing, which I believe is what Sean is attempting to do. I remember last year reading Sean’s piece on the very high incidence of mistreatment of foreign maids in Beirut that resulted in some suicides, which no one in Lebanon denies but that no one does anything about. This should tell you how women in general are regarded and I’m not talking about physical abuse that is generally associated with the word, but with the abuse that comes from the accepted inequalities between the sexes. Women are showered with lots of love and gifts but at the same time they have to remember their places and not be outspoken; the man does all the talking and the woman just has to look pretty.

      • Walid says:

        I meant “which I believe is what Sean is attempting to explain.” sorry for wrong word which conveyed the exact opposite of what I meant.

        • Seham says:

          Walid,

          First of all don’t call me a “girl” and second of all don’t speak for me. I am more than capable of speaking for myself and I certainly am not embarrassed about any “dirty laundry” being aired because Arab men don’t have anything to be ashamed of anymore than men in every other part of the world. Also, if your personal experience is that the women in your family have been objectified, showered with presents and expected to sit and look pretty, then don’t project that onto other Arab women.

      • Sumud says:

        I agree w/ you Walid – I meant my comment to be a reply to Schwartzman’s whinge about MRW mentioning the subjugation of orthodox women.

        The abuse of domestic help was an issue in the Gulf (UAE) during the time I was working there also, though it’s probably as much a result of racism as sexism. Emiratis [can] suffer badly from lazy rich-kid syndrome.

      • It’s been less than a decade that women in Lebanon can now open a business in their names or to apply for a passport or to leave the country without their husband’s consent and even if these laws were not rigidly enforced, they were still on the books.

        it’s been less than a generation that American women could open a checking account in their own names or own real property or open a business or get a divorce.
        Something for post-Title 9 American women to reflect upon.

  13. Judy says:

    Seham was hardly defending the status quo, but rather saying that occupation only makes it worse. Do you deny the pressures of WB apartheid and the Gaza siege don’t make it even more difficult to address fundamental sexism as practiced in the culture?

    And Walid, I can’t speak for Arabic women, but most of us who are over the age of 18 regard being referred to as “girls” as highly sexist.

    • Seham says:

      Thanks Judy, I thought it was pretty obvious that I was not justifying the status quo and only talking about my experience as a Palestinian.

      • Seham says:

        “And Walid, I can’t speak for Arabic women, but most of us who are over the age of 18 regard being referred to as “girls” as highly sexist.”

        Yes, for someone who is on here going on and on about the plight of Arab women I would have expected him to at the very least have the common sense to 1) not play the “man role” and explain what is going on with ME and 2) not call us girls. What a total idiot.

        • Walid says:

          Seham, you’re being silly to be offended for being called a girl. You could be a bunny rabbit for all I care but being discussed here is the status of women in the Arab world, not what how others should see you. I was polite in not stating the other options that would have explained your flagrant ignorance of the situation which would be that either you haven’t been living in an Arab society or that you have never been exposed to one outside of it. I am well placed to explain what is going on in the ME since I’m there now and you must be one of the frustrated ones always told to shut up and act polite and here you want to show you have balls. I’d be curious to see how you act in real life.

        • Sumud says:

          Seham & Walid ~ it’s a shame to see arguing when you seem to both agree on the broad issue: that the situation for women in the ME needs to be improved, and significantly. Without wanting to get stuck in the middle, Seham: I don’t think it’s fair to impute that Walid is condoning treating women as trophies simply because he describes it. He’s criticising that practice. Walid: I don’t think you meant to offend but ‘girl’ can be to women what ‘boy’ is to African American men. Language is powerful.

        • Walid says:

          Thanks, Sumud, apologies to Seham for the “girl” thing, no insult or disparaging was meant by it. My criticism is from my hope of seeing it improved. We shouldn’t be comparing the status of Arab women to groups that are worse off to make us feel better and complacent but we should look up to those that are better than us to give us something to aim for. We have to begion by admitting that Arabs are lagging behind other groups. Some are better and some are worse but I don’t like to see Arabs compared to the worse.

        • Seham says:

          Walid, I’m not looking to argue with you because I like to save my energy for arguing with Zionists.

          I have never denied that women’s struggle is as important in the Arab world as it is everywhere else in the world. I feel that as an Arab woman (not girl) who also spends a considerable amount of time in the Middle East both in Occupied Palestine and in the country of my fiancé, who happens to come from a place that most westerners would label as “hostile” to women that these struggles for independence need to be fought on our terms. So while Sean Lee’s sentiments are nice, as an Arab woman I don’t need them. The issue of Muslim women within the context of Shariah law is something that Muslims and Muslims alone need to confront and again, I repeat, that interference from westerners is only detrimental to us as Arab women.

          A lot of work needs to be done in educating my Arab brothers on our struggle and getting them on-board to see the injustices that occur against us, systematically. Can I suggest that you work on yourself before preaching to others about our plight?

          Your insistence to call me a girl when it has already been pointed out as offensive and I have already indicated that my preference is not to be called a girl by you or anyone else smacks of sexism to me. It indicates that you are unwilling to hear what Arab women have to say and you will continue, as a man, to do as you wish. Your insistence that my position regarding about sexism and how it affects ME in the Arab world and how I would like to see the struggle for women to occur also smacks of sexism. Patriarchal Arab sexism, you know better than me, I’m just a “silly girl” type of mentality. It comes off as sexist and incredibly arrogant. It would be helpful for me as an Arab woman if you worked on that.

          Finally, this entire conversation stems from the racism that Phil witnessed in the media and in how sexism in the Arab world is discussed. And he was right, the media in this country is both racist and sexist. I, as an Arab woman don’t appreciate when the western media portray all Arab men as monsters. Those are the men that I love, the man that I will marry will be an Arab, and these are the men who I want to empower to join me in the struggle for women’s liberation. And as an Arab woman who is currently living in the U.S., I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count how many times in my life I have been verbally assaulted by racist and sexist Americans who want to “save me” or give their racist opinions on the status of women in the Arab world.

          Quite frankly, I am sick of it and of the mentality of men that think they know better than me and to be honest, despite what your experiences with sexism in the Arab world has been MY EXPERIENCE AS A PALESTINIAN WOMAN HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY EMPOWERING TO ME. You don’t need to worry about how I act in this world versus the other, I am very proud of how my experiences in Occupied Palestine have shaped me as a woman and helped me find my voice in this struggle—all of which I have only helped me be an advocate for underserved populations in the U.S. It could be the company that I keep both here and in the Arab, I suggest that if you want to be a champion for women’s rights that you not be so flippant when women voice their opinions.

        • Judy says:

          Walid, would you be “silly” if you objected to a solider at a checkpoint calling you “boy?”

          Language has power. It’s absurd not to recognize that. When you characterized Seham as an “Arab girl” the result was to minimize her objection to the conversation.

          I hope you can look at your interchange honestly and see how utterly sexist and condescending it was. Your reply didn’t “smack” of sexism. It reeked. You said in a nutshell: “I already explained this, little girl. I am an authority, and you are a twit for not recognizing that.”

          Your post above is epitome of patriarchal sexism.

          Just as Palestinians doesn’t need well-meaning Western do-gooders to come in an tell them how to run their resistance, Palestinian women don’t need Westerners, or Arab or Muslim men to tell them what to do!

        • Walid says:

          Judy, stop the gibberish about being called a girl or a woman when you see very well that I’m against any inequality towards women. So the word “girl” came out and ruffled some feathers and for which I apologized. Comparing my use of the word to the soldier calling me “boy” at a checkpoint is absurd. Seham was pissed off at me for having said some nasties about Arab men and women and you got pissed off because I got Seham pissed off. You took a small word innocently used and turned it into a tempest. I think Witty is severely missed here for you to take it out on me for no real reason.

          I throw a lot of bricks at Jews when they deserve it but I also throw a lot bricks at Arabs when they also deserve it but if everyone here expects to see only flowers thrown at Arabs, they will be disappointed in me so get used to it.

          Seham, you said, “…It indicates that you are unwilling to hear what Arab women have to say and you will continue, as a man, to do as you wish. Your insistence that my position regarding about sexism and how it affects ME in the Arab world and how I would like to see the struggle for women to occur also smacks of sexism. Patriarchal Arab sexism, you know better than me, I’m just a “silly girl” type of mentality. It comes off as sexist and incredibly arrogant. It would be helpful for me as an Arab woman if you worked on that.”

          You have just described the Arab man as I was portraying him, so you have to make up your mind if Arab men are sexists as you are saying here or noble and gentlemanly knights in shining armor like your fiancé; they can’t be both. BTW, I did not mean to hit back at you but the “idiot” comment was uncalled for and what you got back was from it.

        • Seham says:

          But Waleed, it’s not gibberish to complain about the use of the world “girl.” This is basic, rudimentary stuff about how women like to be referred to. If it was a mistake, then I can accept that, we all make mistakes and I am sorry for calling you an idiot. But to be so adamant about it being a meaningless thing that we are clinging to just to attack you means that you aren’t getting it. Girls are children. Women are not children. I don’t care to continue arguing about the use of the word “girl” with you, but if you are really care about the plight of women –anywhere not just in the M.E. then you should check your language.

          I know that I described the Arab man as you were describing him. I was actually very surprised that you were taking the position that you took about women’s rights and using the language and aggressiveness (your Arab male opinion is more important than my Arab female opinion) that you used. You were doing exactly what you claim to be championing against.

          I have a meeting to go to. Introspection can only help and you did nothing but berate/dismiss my opinion/views towards Sean Lee before I even responded to anything that you have said. As an Arab woman who regularly spends time in the M.E. why are you so dismissive about my views and what makes you think that your views are more valid than mine?

        • Seham says:

          Also, I never made any generalizations about “Arab men being sexist” I have stated that the problem exists with Arab men just as it exists with all other men. And I never said anything about my fiance other than to mention that he comes from a part of the Arab world (jnoub) that many people view as a place hostile to women. I never discussed him being a knight in shining armor and I don’t like to use white terminology to describe Arab men. He is very religious, more so than I am, but he is also an amazing feminist (though he would probably not use that term) who bases his feminism on the strength of women throughout Islamic history, i.e., Sayedda Zainab, Fatima.

        • Judy says:

          Walid, your use of “girl” can be attributed to a mistake, but your attitude thereafter has been utterly sexist. I have admired everything you’ve ever written on these boards, with the exception of your posts today. No need to invoke Witty (or to be as dim as he is!)

          Being able to name yourself is a basic right. For a grown woman to want to be called such is not silly; just as it’s not silly for a grown man not to want to be called “boy” or an Arab born in Ramallah to want to be called “Palestinian.” That’s why we say “African American” instead of “negro.”

          Language has power!

        • Walid says:

          Seham, if he’s from the Jnoub, he has better chance of being Ok by the standards you are describing. I never thought that this area was hostile to women because of their strong religious conviction although if they see a woman scantilly dressed, she may get a few jeers thrown her way but nothing more than that because they are respectful of other people. We’re really on the same wave length but the discussion took off on a tangent. I firmly believe in women.

        • Walid says:

          for Judy:

          Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beatae Mariae semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistae, sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus Sanctis, et tibi Pater: quia peccavi nimis cogitatione verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te Pater, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum Nostrum.

        • Judy says:

          Gee, Walid, you had me at “omnipotenti!”

        • hayate says:

          I sometimes refer to another poster as a boy or a girl when I want to insult them after they posted something I thought was childish. I would not use those terms on posters not acting out.

        • Sumud says:

          :-) Now that’s what i call ‘peace process’, people!

        • Walid says:

          Sumud, it was your intervention that snuffed out the fire but it was as you said; we were really talking about the same thing until the women here decided to take a stand against a word used. I would have wanted to ask Seham before she had to rush to work at what point does the changeover from girl to woman happen; is it at puberty, at the first time, when she reaches 18, when she gets a baby? For some Arabs, marriage takes place at 14; do we call such a person “woman” or would she still be a “girl”. In French, we say of a virgin irrespective of her age that “elle est fille”, she is a girl. In Arabic, we have the same designation irrespective of the person’s age. Back to French, we say of an unmarried woman “une vieille-fille”, an old maid and not an old woman. A lot of brouhaha about a word while I accept and respect their disdain of seeing it used on their goodselves; it takes me back to the youthful days of bra-burnings.

        • Seham says:

          Walid, it wasn’t just the word you used. It was your absolute dismissal of everything that I had to say. You said I was trying to hide dirty laundry because of pride… calling me a girl was just icing on the cake. Here is a very basic that you have to learn about before throwing yourself into the issue of feminism, racism, occupation and all the other injustices that occur in this world: POWER. As a man you are the one with power and us women have to fight against that. So when you tell me that you really do respect women but then dismiss everything that I say because you think I have some false pride, and then you say that Sean Lee has more to offer in this subject than I do because he currently lives in the region and is married to an Arab you are not saying that as an EQUAL to me. You are dismissing me from your male position of POWER. I think that if you use some common sense you can correctly think of when to apply the term “girl” and “women” to people. Obviously, using the word girl (in such an arrogant way and then dismissing what I am trying to say) within the context of a discussion of feminism, race and politics is wrong. Please put your stubbornness aside and realize that this is not meant to nitpick you. It’s just really common sense basic stuff here that you should already know if you are positioning yourself as a champion of women’s rights. You have the power, I don’t. When you dismiss me and my opinions and as an Arab woman on the topic of Arab women and give more credence to a white man… well that doesn’t really bode well for your position as a feminist for Arab women. The problem, Walid, is that men always think they know better than we do and the thing that makes this so crazy is not that it is annoying in and of itself, but since as a MAN you have the POWER it makes both annoying and dangerous. I just really don’t know what else to say about this to make you understand how offensive it is for me as a woman to have my opinions on Arab women completely dismissed as irrelevant while you hold a white man’s opinions up as a gold standard. How can I make you understand that? I’m going to lunch now but will gladly help you work this out when I return.

        • Seham says:

          Here is a very basic word that you have to learn about before throwing yourself into the issue of feminism, racism, occupation and all the other injustices that occur in this world: POWER.

        • Judy says:

          The stand *I* took was really more about your attitude when your misstep was pointed out. You made several extremely snarky statements about what Seham’s life and upbringing “must” be like … suggesting that she’s either spoiled or shut down (and therefore trying to show her big balls on this forum) … so therefore YOU are really in a better position to opine about the situation of women in the Arab world.

          Your inability to let this die a natural death is interesting…. your bringing up girls as virgins, as old maids and as (ever-so-silly) bra-burners suggests that you truly don’t get it.

          Adult females are women. Standards of adulthood may vary from culture to culture. One way in which patriarchal systems have dominated women throughout history (and across cultures) is by infantilizing women. Referring to adult women as “girls” diminishes our adult capacity.

          You’re starting to sound like the feminist equivalent of Witty.

        • Judy says:

          Cross-posted with you, Seham. Well said.

        • Walid says:

          Seham, what made you say I disregarded your opinion? While I may not have agreed with your response to Sean, I didn’t disregard your opinion. From the opening shot, the women here took a stand that what Sean was saying was more or less rubbish instead of refuting what he said. I came along and agreed with what he was advancing because I’m seeing the abuse being taken by women on a daily basis. Perhaps what you had with him in the past as you hinted may have had something to do with your answer.

          I was just checking his blog and contrary to what you seem to be thinking, what he wrote was not an article but an e-mail response he had sent to Phil to comment on the thread of a couple of days back about prejudice towards Arabs. Phil had not accepted his initial commentary on the article but he accepted his reply on which we are now having a discussion. As I had done a couple of days earlier, he disagreed with Phil’s position that in so many words, puts the blame on Israel for the mistreatment of Arab women by their men. I’m saying Arab men need no help from anyone in that department.

          Judy, saying I sound like the feminist equivalent of Witty was more hurtful than being called an idiot; that’s a blow below the belt. But it’s all in good fun.

        • Seham says:

          Oh Walid, I really don’t know what to do with you. I can’t tell whether this is a “pride” thing for you and therefore I should just stop trying or if you really don’t get it but want to eventually get it so I should keep trying. But you wanted to know why I think you were dismissive of me and my opinions so I took the time to check some of your comments…

          The Arab girls here have taken a personal offense at seeing it aired in public probably out of pride or that they are among lucky women receiving equal treatment at home and haven’t been exposed to any abuse.

          I gave my response/opinion to what Sean said. And you dismissed my opinion/response as me being an Arab girl with hurt pride. When you say that I haven’t been exposed to any abuse you are basically saying that I am ignorant to what happens in the Arab world because it doesn’t fit the paradigm you have created for the purposes of this debate. The implication is that what I say shouldn’t be taken seriously because I don’t know what I am talking about, I am only looking to defend Arabs out of pride but not out of any understanding of what the reality is for Arab women. The fact that I am an Arab woman that spends time in the M.E. is of no consequence. My voice does not matter. You are a better feminist than me. Yes sir.

          I was polite in not stating the other options that would have explained your flagrant ignorance of the situation which would be that either you haven’t been living in an Arab society or that you have never been exposed to one outside of it. I am well placed to explain what is going on in the ME since I’m there now and you must be one of the frustrated ones always told to shut up and act polite and here you want to show you have balls. I’d be curious to see how you act in real life.

          Well here you are outright calling me flagrantly ignorant because I dared to disagree with Sean and his intentions or the intentions of the mainstream media in how it relates to Arab women. You are telling me that my experiences as an Arab woman in Arab countries is not enough to put me in a position to have an opinion about anything. You, a man, know better because you happen to be there right now. Nevermind the racism (yes Arabs can be racist too) in presuming to know how my parents treated me and expected me to act. Arabs are a homogenous group of people and our parents treat us all like shit and if I claim otherwise I am an exception and not to be taken seriously, or I am lying to defend the honor of me men. Nevermind the sexist comment about me wanting to show my balls just because I dared to express my opinion. I don’t have balls and you and that’s the whole problem. Your balls are more important than my vagina.

          Unverified, you and Sean appear to know more about what is going on with Arab women than ones here with an Arabic name. Sean is married to one and he is living among Arabs. False sense of pride is at busy work here trying to sweep some ugly stuff under the rug when there is nothing to be ashamed of. Abuse and inequality for women exist in practically every society and country but Arabs here are pretending they have never heard of it. The situation for Arab women may be bad but it isn’t more horrible than elsewhere.

          So now both Unverified and Sean know more about Arab women than me. Again, my opinion is meaningless. I am an Arab, a woman, but I know nothing about the subject at hand. The white man and this other person know better than me. I don’t have a valid opinion about anything, especially not feminism. I got sent here by the Saudis to do PR for Muslim Arab men.

        • Judy says:

          You were sexist, dismissive and condescending…. blind to your sexism (You firmly believe in women!) in exactly the same way that Witty is unable to see his racism (he wants peace!).

        • Judy says:

          Walid, I hope you can hear what Seham is saying… i write this as one who has truly respected all you’ve shared here prior to this conversation!

          No need to beat this horse to death — but next time be more respectful and don’t assume all kinds of things about people’s personal situations.

        • Sumud says:

          In fairness Judy, Walid’s comment about Seham in “real life” was matched – and preceded – by what I think is an equally inappropriate comment by Seham; that Walid was likely guilty of a very ugly behaviour, because he described it:

          link to mondoweiss.net

          I grasp the importance of power in relations but that can’t be used as an excuse or blank cheque along the lines of “i can say what i want because men have more power than women”. Seham, have i misinterpreted the spirit of your comment?

          Reading back over this thread I’m still struck by how much is actually agreed upon. It seems the point of tension is where personal and group intersect. While individual commenters may be personally empowered (fantastic) there really are problems for women in the ME*. Can’t the two narratives co-exist? I don’t think they’re contradictory. Seham and Judy, are you as open to hearing about Walid’s experience of sexism as you wish him to be? I don’t actually hear him saying “all arab men are sexist”, though that is the accusation. His attitude seems to me more conciliatory – and less epitome-of-un-reconstructed-male-chauvanism – that he appears to be given credit for.

          I’ve been mindful of any gender bias in commenting so please don’t assume I’m siding with Walid because he’s a guy and so am I. That is not the case.

          *And this is relentlessly focused on by western media and politicians for propaganda purposes. It irritates me no end that such propaganda ignores the fact women’s lib is a recent innovation in the west – and unfinished business – and that western imperialism and arrogance has been a hugely negative influence in the ME. The actual welfare of women is often incidental.

        • Sumud says:

          I want to just clarify – especially to you Seham – that I’m not ‘having a go’ at you in my last comment. What I was thinking in the background is that posting in forums can sometimes get a little heated, in the absence of normal communication cues such as body language, vocal intonation and eye contact. I have great respect for your opinions, and feel similarly about Judy and Walid.

        • Walid says:

          Sumud, what Seham said about Arab parents treating ALL their kids as shit is true but what she is not saying is that the male children in the family are treated a little less in a shitty manner than the females, especially as it concerns the eldest son that gets the cream of any crop and the rest of siblings have to practically bow when they pass in front oif him; it’s an Arabic psyche or psycho thing and if she doesn’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a good chance both she and her parents were born in the States. A question for Seham: Is your dad known as Abou Seham or Abou- (whatever your eldest brother is named)? The only time a father is called an Abou followed by a female name is when there are no sons in the family but when a son is born after, the female name is dropped from the Abou like a hot potato. Even if Seham were to be the first child born and the family gets another child 10 years later and it’s a male called Fadi, the father will be called Abou-Fadi and not Abou Seham. Assuming she has a brother and his name is Fadi, which one will automatically get the family house, Seham or Fadi and why?

        • Walid says:

          Judy, I too have respect for you as well as for Judy but the ongoing discussion about the misuse of a word left on last night’s bus to Tucson and we have been discussing the level of inequality under which Arab women are living in a very subliminal manner so as to not let on that this is what we are really discussing.

        • Walid says:

          Judy, I meant respect for Seham too, of course. I don’t dare make it any more complimentary or flowery for fear of getting something thrown back at me for beind condescending or something. I don’t even dare using the “G” word anymore and I’m calling all of you females from now on.

        • Judy says:

          Again, I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but do find the structure of this conversaton intersting.

          Couple of comments:

          Sumud: First, it was Walid who came out swinging in the “Arab girls who are spoiled post.” Seham followed up with “idiot” comment. Yada Yada. I don’t equate the two at all in terms of the power to derail a conversation. If you (two guys) do, then I guess it’s another example of men and women responding differently to language.

          Seham isn’t saying she can say whatever she wants because she’s a woman. She’s saying that when Walid discounts her experience as an Arab feminist because she either 1) is spoiled and never dealt with sexism; 2) she was allowed no expression at home and thus shows her power in public inappropriately (read: she’s a bitch); or 3) she’s not there and he is….what he’s trying to say, in the way that men have historically said to women, and in the way that white people have historically said to brown people, and “first worlders” have said to “third worlders”: hush up. I’m a (fill in the blank). I know better than you.

          Pamela and Seham nailed it in their posts above. Walid, I never understood your objection to Seham in the first place and thought your read of her first post was off-base. In the subsequent discussion you displayed some of the same attitude that you were in fact decrying. I hope you can look back and see it, but because this conversation is ongoing, I fear that neither you nor Sumud really *can* see it.

          I think both of you have missed Seham’s basic point: Sexism in the dynamic of occupation in Palestine is best dealt with by the women and society involved. Seham is not denying sexism in the slightest. She’s point out that the “West” uses faux concern for Arab women as another weapon with which to beat the Arab world.

          We all agree there is sexism. We all agree that the situation of women must improve, in Palestine and around the world. Perhaps we disagree on how that can most effectively be achieved in Palestine while under colonial occupation, with daily interference from the West.

          ***One side tangent: My husband of 21 years is Gazan. I’ve lived in the WB for a couple of years in the mid 90s and for a short stint in Gaza (albeit 20 years ago). I’ve always found that a woman’s experience of sexism there was directly related to her own family and where she lived (town vs. village). I knew lots of girls (I taught school) and women socially who were loved and valued, who were educated at great expense, etc. Not all families — most that I knew, in fact, treated their kids “like shit.”

          And for what it’s worth, I was frequently referred to as “Um Leila!”

        • Walid says:

          Hi Judy, I gathered you had no sons. I didn’t either and got 3 daughters that made me very happy but in my current milieu, I’m an oddity of sorts because Arab society says that I should have aspired and done the impossible to have a son to carry the name and all that other manly stuff; I never did because I’m not strong on traditions or folklore. I’m sure you remember from 20 years back on the WB, the pride and joy both parents felt and the carnavelesque atmosphere at getting sons with the slaughtering of the sheep and the baclawa and only muted happiness of having a daughter with a “thank God, she’s in good health” welcoming into the world remark. This is how it starts and then it’s downhill all the way. This isn’t to say that Arabs don’t love their sons and daughters equally but they love them in different ways. The daughter will always be treated like a princess but never the equal of her brother and this reflected in the inheritance laws and how society regards and treats women in general. Perhaps Seham was lucky to have bypassed all of these customs. I would have liked to hear Miss Dee’s impression on this discussion since she’s there now.

        • Judy says:

          Hi Walid. I actually have 2 daughters and a son, but our son is the youngest, and he wasn’t born yet when we lived in the WB. Needless to say, there were no sheep slaughtered in his honor. My husband hasn’t been home in a decade. I do recognize that my son is the only grandson in the family and I do hope my father-in-law gets to see him before he dies!

          The traditions you describe are deeply entrenched. Most societies worldwide value sons over daughters, evidenced by selective abortion rates in countries like India and China. However, it’s not as though those customs must be abolished in order to address he most pressing issues such as domestic violence and legal inequality.

        • Seham says:

          In fairness Judy, Walid’s comment about Seham in “real life” was matched – and preceded – by what I think is an equally inappropriate comment by Seham; that Walid was likely guilty of a very ugly behaviour, because he described it

          No Sumud, you are wrong. I accused him of sexism not because he described what sexism was but because comments he made where he deemed my position as irrelevant and then placed more credence on the opinions of men. I’m actually really tired of repeating this over and over, I copied and pasted the things that Walid said which were sexist and offensive but it seems that you and Walid will only see what your male egos allow you to see.
          I never said “I can say whatever I want because men have more power than women” I said that my opinion as an Arab women carries more weight in this conversation than Sean Lee’s because I am an Arab woman and we are discussing Arab women. Just like if a white and African-American person were discussing racism, the AA’s views carries more weight than the white persons “perspective/observations.” And if a straight and homosexual person are discussing homosexuality then the homosexuals opinion carries more weight than the straight persons.

          Also, I didn’t mean that all Arabs treat their children like shit, it was sarcasm. That’s the Orientalist/Zionist narrative of Arabs—they don’t love their children, they treat their daughters horribly. My father treated us equally and made sure his daughters were accounted for more so than his sons so that we would never be in a situation where we were forced to rely on men in an unwanted relationship.

          Sumud, these comments were offensive. I’m sorry that neither you or Walid can acknowledge that. It is possible by the way to think you’re a feminist but also have some sexism. It’s like people who say they are not racist because their best friend is black.

          The Arab girls here have taken a personal offense at seeing it aired in public probably out of pride or that they are among lucky women receiving equal treatment at home and haven’t been exposed to any abuse.

          I was polite in not stating the other options that would have explained your flagrant ignorance of the situation which would be that either you haven’t been living in an Arab society or that you have never been exposed to one outside of it. I am well placed to explain what is going on in the ME since I’m there now and you must be one of the frustrated ones always told to shut up and act polite and here you want to show you have balls. I’d be curious to see how you act in real life.

          Unverified, you and Sean appear to know more about what is going on with Arab women than ones here with an Arabic name. Sean is married to one and he is living among Arabs. False sense of pride is at busy work here trying to sweep some ugly stuff under the rug when there is nothing to be ashamed of. Abuse and inequality for women exist in practically every society and country but Arabs here are pretending they have never heard of it. The situation for Arab women may be bad but it isn’t more horrible than elsewhere.

        • Seham says:

          Sumud, what Seham said about Arab parents treating ALL their kids as shit is true but what she is not saying is that the male children in the family are treated a little less in a shitty manner than the females, especially as it concerns the eldest son that gets the cream of any crop and the rest of siblings have to practically bow when they pass in front oif him; it’s an Arabic psyche or psycho thing and if she doesn’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a good chance both she and her parents were born in the States. A question for Seham: Is your dad known as Abou Seham or Abou- (whatever your eldest brother is named)? The only time a father is called an Abou followed by a female name is when there are no sons in the family but when a son is born after, the female name is dropped from the Abou like a hot potato. Even if Seham were to be the first child born and the family gets another child 10 years later and it’s a male called Fadi, the father will be called Abou-Fadi and not Abou Seham. Assuming she has a brother and his name is Fadi, which one will automatically get the family house, Seham or Fadi and why?

          I never said that Arabs treat their children like shit, I was being sarcastic based on the orientalism and sexism that I gleaned from your comments. My experience with my siblings and my parents cannot easily be described in the formula illustrated above. We are not a homogenous group of people and I am always frustrated when non-Arabs see us this way, but just plain confused when I see Arabs participating in these generalizations of Arabs. I was always my father’s favorite because I am the youngest, I could no wrong in his eyes and the rest of my siblings, including brother placed very low on the totem pole compared to me. My brother was my mother’s favorite not because of “Arab sexism” but because he always favored her above my father and treated her like a queen. He used to pick flowers from neighbors yards everyday on his way home from school and bring them to her. My father never referred to himself as Abu (insert my brother’s name), other Arabs (friends of the family, some of the older family members) did. I am not immature enough to be destroyed or traumatized by old customs like this, things like that don’t bother me. I used to jokingly refer to my father as Abu (insert my brother’s name here).

        • Judy says:

          It’s crystal clear to me, Seham!

        • Seham says:

          He can’t Judy. Not at all. Sad.

        • Seham says:

          And Walid, to satisfy your orientalist curiousity, yes, both of my parents were born in occupied Palestine. They didn’t learn their feminism as a result of being born in the states.

        • Walid says:

          Seham, for someone accusing me of being an orientalist and a sexist, you’re good yourself at generalzing and shooting those arrows; your name fits you well. My 2 brothers married Palestinians and I have nieces and nephews that are half Palestinians and I have been around enough Palestinians and other Arabs to know what I’m talking about. Your family may have been an exception to the general rule as I was an exception to the general rule in my family being the youngest myself. BTW, I’m not an orientalist; Bernard Lewis is an orientalist. I’m an oriental.

        • Seham says:

          OK Walid. I defer to you. You know more about Palestinians and women than me. I’ll go back to the kitchen now. Enjoy your conversation about Arab women with Sumud.

        • Sumud says:

          Well this thread has become a man vs woman conversation, rather grim. I think it would be better if we spoke as *people* not genders. That’s what I’ve tried to do and it seems to have been thoroughly misunderstood.

          I have commented on statements by both men and woman critically. Despite that, rather than actually *hearing* me, I’m now dismissed on account of being a sexist, egotistical man. My gender appears to be heard before my opinion, rather ironic given what Walid is accused of.

          Judy ~ you criticised Walid for making snarky comments (Seham’s “real life”), but didn’t criticise Seham for her equally snarky comments (objectified women, showered w/ presents), that actually came first. What’s that about? It’s the reason I am asking if a different standard is being applied as to what men and woman can say.

          I am aware that Walid’s ‘girls’ comment came first – if you recall I pointed out it wasn’t a good thing to say. I didn’t read their conversation last week – so have stayed out of that part of the conversation.

          I agree that Walid was [initially] dismissive – but I also see he apologised and tried to engage in dialogue, which was largely ignored in the rush to educate him about his transgressions. I witnessed the same “You’re wrong and here’s why” attitude that he was accused of. Not equality and mutual respect, but a man vs woman event.

          I also agree that sexism needs to be, and can only be solved by the actual people on the ground – and that such sexism is grossly exploited for propaganda purposes in the west. Especially on the last point I stated that on multiple occasions. I don’t know how that was missed.

          Seham ~ I do understand what your objections are – that you felt Walid was discounting your opinion on account of you being a silly girl. I understand this 100%. My question about saying what you want because you’re a woman was really directed more at Judy, though I phrased it very poorly, I know. The question related to what I saw as unequal responses to equivalent behaviour by you and Walid.

          I object strongly to your “male ego” comment. You object to being stereotyped as a girl or arab women – well I object to being stereotyped as a male [chauvinist]. Please tell me based on what comments you came to such a conclusion. Is it merely that I spoke in defence of [some of] Walid’s statements – or is it particular statements I made? If it’s the first then I respectfully ask you to consider if you aren’t holding a few sexist viewpoints about men yourself. What I said in defence of Walid was on account of unfair treatment, not our common gender.

          I also tried to make some sense of and reconcile the personal vs group (Palestinian, arab) experience. So you and Walid have had different experiences and have different opinions on sexism. I do not understand why you can’t both say “OK this is your experience and it’s valid for you”. It’s not like you’re arguing over how to interpret a single common event. You’re different people in different countries even. Does one person have to be right and the other wrong? For the third time you agree on a lot. What don’t you agree on?

        • Judy says:

          Sumud:

          Seham and Walid don’t really disagree about the existence of sexism in the Arab world. They disagree about whether or not Walid participated in that behavior in this thread.

          Judy ~ you criticised Walid for making snarky comments (Seham’s “real life”), but didn’t criticise Seham for her equally snarky comments (objectified women, showered w/ presents), that actually came first. What’s that about? It’s the reason I am asking if a different standard is being applied as to what men and woman can say. (Quoting Sumud from above)

          Walid began by grossly generalizing arab women as being showered with gifts and being seen and not heard. Seham responded by saying… “if that’s your experience… fine, but don’t generalize it.” No foul there whatsover.

          Look Sumud, I just now read Walid’s comment above what I posted this a.m.:

          I don’t dare make it any more complimentary or flowery for fear of getting something thrown back at me for beind condescending or something. I don’t even dare using the “G” word anymore and I’m calling all of you females from now on. (Quoting Walid from above)

          Maybe he thinks this is cute, but personally it shows a continued lack of respect and belittling of our position, as did his extensive latin apology yesterday. I let it slide yesterday, even though I found that sarcasm offensive. Instead I responded with a light reply hoping to end this. You responded that it was a great peace process (though it didn’t feel that way to me). Walid anointed you the great peacemaker, but continued to spew gibberish about the use of “girl.” He was and is clearly uncomfortable with being corrected about this.

          Now today Walid has pronounced that he chosen to refer to us as “females” even though both Seham and I clearly expressed a preference to be called women? Do you think that is *funny*? If you don’t see the passive agressive nastiness in this post, you need your eyes checked.

          Someone who has been called out (rightfully) on being disrespectful doesn’t continue the disrespect if they really “get it.” It’s arrogant.

          Can you imagine an African-American asking not to be called “negro” but instead “African-American” and Walid responding, “No. I’ll call you colored?” It’s unthinkable.

          See it or don’t. If Walid is serious about respecting women, he’d leave the nasty sarcasm out of the discussion and show a little humility. He has apologized but his subsequent arrogant “gibberish” and stubborn inability to let it go are what stick with me.

          We all come to this forum as women, men, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, Palestinians and other Arab nationalities. We can all learn about the experience of others but that does require some openness and humility.

          I can’t speak for Seham, but I’m about done with this conversation. Have a nice day.

        • Walid says:

          Sumud, Seham wants her pound of flesh inspite of my repeated apologies to her and my mea culpa to Judy. Now she is pulling the Arabic mother guilt trip on me in telling me she’ll go back to her kitchen to make feel like shit for something I never said or implied she should do. I agree with you that we live in different countries and that we each have different opinions on things. I respect Seham’s opinion and this is hopefully the end of it.

        • Judy says:

          oh crap. my first venture into HTML code was a flop. Sorry all the bold face type.

        • Walid says:

          If it takes money to get Witty back here, I’ll pay my share.

        • Walid says:

          Judy, you’re lucky you can venture into boldface; I don’t dare for fear of being accused of yelling at women.

        • Seham says:

          Sumud, you just don’t get it and I am tired of trying to explain it to you and to Walid. I have posted the repeated comments that Walid made that were sexist and you as well as him continue to ignore them and focus only on the “girl” reference. It’s great that you want to have a nice and respectful conversation about sexism but in reality it’s hard to have a real conversation about these things while the men (Walid) are allowed to be combative (and I am sure he will respond and say that his only transgression was to mistakenly call me a girl while ignoring all the other comments he made that I posted repeatedly) but I am expected to conform to the niceties of political correctness in responding to him and to your lame defense of his preposterous comments. Please, I am so over this conversation. I don’t see any real interest in addressing the sexism that I have found in this discussion and I am not interested in being nice and politically correct while the men sort out their issues with this topic.

        • Seham says:

          And Sumud, one last thing.

          You said:
          Well this thread has become a man vs woman conversation, rather grim. I think it would be better if we spoke as *people* not genders. That’s what I’ve tried to do and it seems to have been thoroughly misunderstood.

          No! I am not interested in having this conversation simply as PEOPLE. I am a woman and I identify myself as a woman in this conversation and I want you to identify me as a woman in this conversation. I have a specific gender that I was recognized. I personally find the whole concept of a “color blind” society to be offensive: we have color and we want people to notice and respect it AND the same applies to me as a woman.

        • Walid says:

          Sumud, I believe this is from your neck of the woods, from BBC News:

          Lady in The Lodge

          And now, exactly 40 years after a young Australian feminist named Germaine Greer published her breakthrough opus, The Female Eunuch, a woman has become the most powerful of her compatriots.

          There is a lady in The Lodge, Canberra’s prime ministerial residence.

          As Caroline Overington of The Australian wrote proudly: “Julia Gillard’s ascension to the highest office (under the governor general, another woman) is the realisation of the great feminist dream.”

          “It is precisely what our mothers – and Germaine! – hoped would one day happen, as they argued, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, for fundamental changes to the fabric of the nation.”

          Kay Goldsworthy is first Australian female bishop in the Anglican Church Under the headline “Labor’s Rebirth: It’s a Girl”, the comedian Catherine Deveny on ABC’s The Drum described her untrammelled delight.

          “As my three little boys ate breakfast yesterday I said, ‘Pizza for dinner if Australia has its first female PM by tonight!’ Then I teared up.

          “Guys, imagine. Julia Gillard! A female prime minister. A woman as prime minister of Australia.”

          But there have been landmark breakthroughs in most of the other realms of national life.

          Away from politics, Gail Kelly shattered the glass ceiling in high finance by becoming the CEO of Westpac, one of the country’s “Big Four” banks.

          As the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout has become one of the most influential and authoritative voices in corporate Australia.

          Kay Goldsworthy has recently been consecrated as the first Australian female bishop in the Anglican Church.

          Last year, Kate Torney became ABC’s first female head of news.

        • Sumud says:

          So much talking and so little listening. What a disappointment.

        • Judy says:

          What is that supposed to mean, Sumud?

        • Sumud says:

          I’m deeply disappointed is what I mean. I think this conversation has been a failure. Hardly any real communication.

          Seham says she wants to have a conversation but what she appears to want is that I agree with everything she says. The fact that I don’t is “proof” that I’m a sexist prick ganging up on her with Walid. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. But as a male I have been assigned a role (oppressor of women), thus what I actually say is practically irrelevant. Unless I agree with Seham totally I need to be fought (her words, because men have power and she doesn’t), and re-educated.

          The fact that I agree with many of her points is ignored. The fact that I corrected Walid on the girl comment is ignored. I actually wrote to demonstrate that I understood why she was offended – that it went beyond the girl comment – and she promptly responded by telling me off for not understanding what I just demonstrated I did understand!?

          Judy, I may be wrong but I still think Seham’s comment on the showering of gifts was meant to insult Walid. He described a general pattern (of which he was critical), and Seham implied that same thing occurred in his family ie. that he did it himself. He responded badly which you took issue with, and you were right to do so – but don’t ignore the fact that a conversation is a two-way street and Seham writes in a fairly combative style herself. I can detect the sarcasm in some of Walid’s comments – and more so after your comment in bold. On the other hand – his apologies and conciliatory comments, and attempts at dialogue were pretty much ignored. Or rather, they were met with a barrage of “WRONG WRONG WRONG Walid.” Is that kind of response likely to foster the openness and humility that you said we should aim for ?

          To a lesser extent my attempts to bridge build, cool down the rhetoric and actually understand were treated in a similar fashion. I asked we speak as people not genders and was accused of trying to erase/disrespect Seham’s identity. I wish she’d asked what I meant instead of just assuming she knew – because her interpretation was way wrong. What I wanted is that we don’t bring our stereotypes and pre-conceptions (our baggage) about men and women into the conversation. If you begin from the viewpoint that men need to be fought , invariably you’ll find yourself fighting them. The last thing I’d want is to erase a person’s identity.

          As for the issue of POWER I rather think that gender, class, wealth, race, religion etc. are much less important in cyberspace than the real world. The only people on this site with any distinct power are the site owners – who decide on content and can moderate/ban people if they wish. Otherwise we in the threads are equal.

          I don’t believe a genuine effort was made to understand what I was saying. And I don’t appreciate being spoken down to (dense sexist male I will now correct you) in a role-swapped version of how a male chauvinist talks down to a woman. The solution to condescending sexism is not more condescending sexism.

          Seham ~ should you by chance return, hear this: From reading your responses, you have NOT understood me. Please don’t think you have.

        • Judy says:

          Tell me, Sumud, can you speak as a “human” and not as a “Palestinian?” Is there any part of being Palestinian that doesn’t color your human reaction? Wouldn’t it be an insult at the deepest level if a Zionist Jew were to ask you to do so?

          Women can’t engage in a conversation about sexism as non-gendered beings any more than Palestinians can engage in conversations about Zionism as though they are not its victims. The fact that you suggested it is incredibly odd and patently absurd.

          In my opinion, neither you nor Walid were condescended to; you were begged to listen and to hear! I think that both of you were so defensive that neither of you could recognize what was being said.

          I actually think the discussion is a mirror of the discussion between Zionists and those who support Palestinians. I experienced the same frustration in speaking with you and Walid that I experience when I read Witty.

          In plain English: I am a white American. When I work with, for example, African-Americans on issues of racism, I come to that work open, willing to listen, and willing to be corrected. I have learned by experience, that what *I* consider inclusive, isn’t necessarily so. I’ve been painfully corrected on these issues myself, and have learned a lot from that. When I work with Arabs or Palestinians or Muslims on issues of justice for those groups, I come to that work open, willing to listen, and willing to have my own assumptions/notions/ideas challenged and corrected.

          Bottom line: Walid disagreed with Seham’s first post in a way that was offensive and belittling. His subsequent conversation went downhill from there, in spite of his apology. He embodied sexist treatment of women. I’m not sure why you are defending that.

          I share your very deep disappointment in the way this conversation has gone. I would suggest that men who support women in the quest for equality adopt openness, a willingness to examine your language, and a desire to learn when it comes to conversations with women about sexism…. And with that, I truly am done with this one!

        • Donald says:

          Sumud, I agree with much of what you said, but in my experience (both in real life and online), attempts at peacemaking between two parties usually end up with the would-be peacemaker being harshly criticized by one or both parties. (This might have lessons on larger scale.) But you’re missing the fact that Walid’s apology was completely cancelled out by the sarcasm of his later statements. That combination just doesn’t work. The irony is that it is Walid that seems more critical about sexism in the Arab world. And some of what Walid said wasn’t sexist–it’s not male privilege for him to tell Seham that her opinion is worth less because he is in the Middle East now and she isn’t–Walid would probably have said the same exact thing if Seham were a man. And for that matter it’s not “white man’s privilege” for Sean to criticize sexism in Lebanon if he can see it happening to people he’s related to by marriage. (Asad AbuKhalil at The Angry Arab blog is constantly bashing examples of sexism and racism in Lebanon–sometimes he seems to do this almost as much as he criticizes Israel. He’s not in Lebanon, but I think his mother is and I guess he visits there often.) I certainly can’t judge between Walid and Seham’s views, but living there obviously gives that person an advantage in describing how things are.

          On still another hand (I’m running out of hands) , I end up agreeing with Seham that it’s probably best to let Arab women and Arab men on the feminist side fight this battle themselves.

          I have absolutely no interest in saying anything further. Both sides here said interesting things, but you probably have to stay out of the argument to be able to see that.

        • Sumud says:

          Judy ~ I’m not a Palestinian, I’m Australian of mostly Anglo descent. I’ve never claimed otherwise, so I don’t know why you made that assumption. Perhaps my user name – which I chose out of a feeling of solidarity. For the record I’m also gay and was raised in a single parent (mother) family with one sister. I am sensitive to the treatment and mistreatment of women. I have deliberately avoided the presenting of “credentials” til now, preferring to be judged by my words instead. That has been a failure in this instance so what the heck.

          “Women can’t engage in a conversation about sexism as non-gendered beings..”

          That’s NOT what I asked for. I said “human”, which we all are – with the intention of us not resorting to gender stereotypes and received ideas about what the other sex believes and will say and do. I don’t imagine when you work with African Americans on racism you treat them according to the stereotypes about them. Similarly, don’t call me a sexist male when you know diddly squat about me and are actively misunderstanding or ignoring what I have written.

          “neither you nor Walid were condescended to; you were begged to listen and to hear! I think that both of you were so defensive that neither of you could recognize what was being said.”

          It would be helpful if you could stop grouping The Men (me and Walid) together. Seham and your discussion with Walid is not the same as mine, Seham’s and yours. Are you open to hearing *me* Judy? I feel I was condescended to by being wrongly accused of being a sexist and my actual comments ignored. Please put your assumptions about me as a man aside and hear me as a person Judy. I have actually supported much of what you and Seham wrote. I have not offered Walid unconditional support. Yet that is how I am being spoken to. Why?

          Please consider that it is possible for a woman to condescend to a man by adopting the techniques used by sexist men: dismissal of viewpoint, refusing to hear experience, insistence on being correct.

          “I experienced the same frustration in speaking with you and Walid that I experience when I read Witty.”

          Given that RW is a serial liar and racial/religious supremacist that really is offensive but if you feel that way, so be it. I hope in time that might change.

          “I come to that work open, willing to listen, and willing to have my own assumptions/notions/ideas challenged and corrected.”

          I’ll have some of that please.

          “Bottom line: Walid disagreed with Seham’s first post in a way that was offensive and belittling. His subsequent conversation went downhill from there, in spite of his apology.”

          Interesting framing. In that recount Walid seems to be entirely responsible for the conversation going downhill. But in fact it was a discussion between 3-4 people. It went up and downhill for a bit. Snark from Seham and Walid (in that order) didn’t help. And ignoring the olive branches Walid did offer in the rush to re-educate him didn’t help either. Neither did his sarcasm, and so on, and so on, and so on. At least consider that Walid wasn’t solely responsible for the direction it took.

          “He embodied sexist treatment of women. I’m not sure why you are defending that.”

          I’m not. I have not. Please go back and read what I wrote.

          - – - – -

          Donald thnx for the input. I do see Walid’s apology was later canceled, I just don’t think his sarcasm was issued without some provocation. That’s not to say it was right or that I’m defending it, of bloody course..

        • Sumud says:

          “He embodied sexist treatment of women. I’m not sure why you are defending that.”

          I’m still not. I do think your characterisation of Walid as the embodiment of sexism is over the top though.

        • Walid says:

          Yes, my apology was cancelled after the hand I extend with my deep apologies for having hurt Seham’s feelings was spat into. Nonetheless, on 2 other occasions I issued renewed apologies and they were also met with comments hoping that I had learned my lesson on how to address women. I never liked teachers.

          My first outing on the thread came only after a barrage of insults dumped on Sean for having expressed a personal opinion of what he perceived from being married to Palestinian and living in Beirut. I jumped in to say that he was right in saying that although others are using sexism to bludgeon the Arabs with, what Arabs in general were being accused of was not wrong. A couple of days earlier on Phil’s initial thread on the subject of prejuice towards the Arabs, I had disagreed with his proposal that what Arab men are doing is possibly brought on by the occupation and I said that Arabs did not need any help from Israel to be as they are.

          When Sean came back and said it was wrong for the others to use Arab sexism to bludgeon them with it, I agreed with him on that and on what he said about discrimination agaisnt women. I think this is the part that got Seham upset with me because she appeared to think I was badmouthing Arab men.

          We lost a lot of time and energy discussing me and my existing or non-existing sexism and how I used the wrong word in a post but we drifted completely away from the subject of this thread which was about the discrimination against Arab women and it would have been a good discussion. If I didn’t know better, I’d be thinking that all this tempest was created to keep away from that very sensitive subject. I’ll end by saying that women are discriminated against everywhere in the world and whether the Arabs here want to admit it or not, it also exists to a strong degree in the Arab world. That’s all I was trying to say and I think this is what Sean was also trying to explain; Jews or the occupation had nothing to do with that.

        • Seham says:

          Wrong again, Sumud. I didn’t start anything and I didn’t know Walid was until he responded to my first comment. I think the confusion lies with you looking at the comments in chronological order rather than the times that they were posted.

          This was the first comment that I posted on this thread, Walid’s comment to me follows and that’s what set off the whole chain of events:

          Seham June 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm

          The problem is that it’s always about demonizing Arabs and Islam when people talk about domestic violence in the Middle East. Rarely is it a pedantic look at what subjugation of women looks like in that part of the world. I can’t speak for why domestic violence happens in the rest of the world, but, in certain regions of the Middle East I would bet that the treatment of women at home reflects the treatment of men by society, or… by occupation forces. And no, that is not a justification of domestic violence but it’s human nature to ask “why” right? How is that everyone knows that domestic violence exists in the M.E. but nobody knows that in Japan 1 of 3 wives are abused?

          link to news.asiaone.com

          I have to question the motivations of the Western media that thinks that reporting about abused Arab women is more newsworthy than Japanese women. As a Palestinian woman, I can’t help but recoil when I hear Westerners talk about the plight of… us. The West has brought so much devastation to us in so many ways that most Palestinian women I know are more worried about so many other things than eradicating male subjugation.

          I can’t speak for all Arab women, but Palestinian women are pretty sharp, and I’m sure once they are liberated they will do just fine working out these issues with Palestinian men. But hell, even under occupation we have 4 or 5 women in the Palestinian government and a couple of female Shariah judges.

          So, thanks for the concern… but can you just please work on ending the illegal occupation of my country that is being subsidized with American tax dollars?

          I bolded the part that pissed me off, so that there isn’t any confusion. It’s not just about being called a girl, it’s also about Walid discounting everything that I had written.

          “Walid June 24, 2010 at 5:43 am

          What Sean Lee is saying about the treatment of women in the Arab world is true. I said the same thing here last week that in spite of it being used to bludgeon the Arabs, it is nonetheless true and we had a long discussion on it along with the crappy inheritance laws for women. It has nothing to do with Israel as was advanced last week and it has nothing to do with the past colonial history of the area as it’s being said now; it’s part of the Arab psyche that predates Islam and that has a long way to go to change.

          The Arab girls here have taken a personal offense at seeing it aired in public probably out of pride or that they are among lucky women receiving equal treatment at home and haven’t been exposed to any abuse. It’s been less than a decade that women in Lebanon can now open a business in their names or to apply for a passport or to leave the country without their husband’s consent and even if these laws were not rigidly enforced, they were still on the books. The list is very long and although such abusive conditions exist in other countries, it does not excuse the poor state of women’s’ rights that we are discussing, which I believe is what Sean is attempting to do. I remember last year reading Sean’s piece on the very high incidence of mistreatment of foreign maids in Beirut that resulted in some suicides, which no one in Lebanon denies but that no one does anything about. This should tell you how women in general are regarded and I’m not talking about physical abuse that is generally associated with the word, but with the abuse that comes from the accepted inequalities between the sexes. Women are showered with lots of love and gifts but at the same time they have to remember their places and not be outspoken; the man does all the talking and the woman just has to look pretty.

          I said I was not going to respond to these comments anymore and I don’t plan on doing it again. But, because I am subscribed to this comment thread via email it was just too hard to continue ignoring the things you continue to say about me starting all of this.

        • Seham says:

          Walid can you still not see why it arrogant and offensive to discount my position and say that my motivation to write what I wrote was based out of a desire to hide dirty laundry? Are you for real? You keep ignoring that over and over and responding to the bits and pieces of the conversation that took place that you want to. Yes, you did apologize for calling me a girl, SHUKRAN! But in the same breath you continued to try to discredit what I was saying and not acknowledge the fact that you accused of me lying by saying that I didn’t want to air dirty laundry???? Cause that was really the crux of everything for me. THAT was way more annoying than you calling me a girl and then lamely apologizing for it.

        • Sumud says:

          ” I think the confusion lies with you looking at the comments in chronological order rather than the times that they were posted.”
          ” it was just too hard to continue ignoring the things you continue to say about me starting all of this.”

          That’s NOT what I said Seham, and I’m aware of the order comments were written. There is no confusion on my part. I don’t think you’re the devil incarnate. I agree w/ much you’ve had to say. I really don’t know what is so controversial about the idea that it take two to tango.

        • Sumud says:

          “Cause that was really the crux of everything for me. ”

          Now I will ‘interfere’ and if you feel the urge to tell me to rack off I will accept that Seham.

          I have written before about what looked to me like a collision between personal (you feel empowered) and group experiences (Walid feels sexism is widespread in arab world). I was struck by your comment to Walid:

          “My experience with my siblings and my parents cannot easily be described in the formula illustrated above. We are not a homogenous group of people and I am always frustrated when non-Arabs see us this way, but just plain confused when I see Arabs participating in these generalizations of Arabs.”

          It sounds like you feel almost a sense of betrayal by Walid’s generalisations – that he is aligning or feeding the foreign bigots who abuse domestic gender issues for political anti-arab purposes.At the same time you have acknowledged that there is work to be done in improving the situation for women in ME. Am I wrong in thinking you & Walid actually do agree on this? Judy previously stated she thought you did agree. If you do, then I wonder – is there a formulation (of language) that Walid could use in describing what he sees, that doesn’t injure or deny what you see: that there are also empowered arab women? Or do you think it would be better if men didn’t talk about it at all?

        • Sumud says:

          Seham – I think I understand why you wrote this now:

          “Wrong again, Sumud. I didn’t start anything and I didn’t know Walid was until he responded to my first comment. ”

          Because I said this:

          “Snark from Seham and Walid (in that order) didn’t help. ”

          I was referring to what came after Walid’s initial comment, not his first one – the girl comment. I accept totally the girl comment came first. In writing the above statement I wasn’t seeking to downplay the girl comment – it was in response to Judy’s comment where she said what bothered her most was Walid’s comment about you in “real life” – I pointed out that your “trophy woman” comment came first and off we went from there.

          This demonstrates to me how easy it is to have big misunderstanding in online discussion where other normal components of communication (body language, eye contact etc. cues are missing. Also missing is the simple ability to interject and say “hey what do you actually mean by that?”, instead we’ve all made a series of long monologues.. Misunderstanding is so easy in this format.

        • Seham says:

          In fact I did feel a bit betrayed by Walid’s comments. I am frustrated by the way Arabs are treated as a homogeneous group of people and I wish that Walid would acknowledge that even though there is a lot of sexism–most of which is also institutionalized against women in the ME, that not all Arab men deserve to be painted with such a broad stroke. And I felt personally offended when Walid made generalizations about the type of environment that I must have been raised in:

          I am well placed to explain what is going on in the ME since I’m there now and you must be one of the frustrated ones always told to shut up and act polite and here you want to show you have balls. I’d be curious to see how you act in real life.

          I felt that your last question is unfair. I think that it is obvious that Walid could have described his experiences/observations in the Middle East without discounting my experiences and observations, I have spent about 15 chunks of time in Palestine some stretches were for as long as a year and others lasted months. I have had my own experiences: good and bad and I would have liked to have been treated like I had something equal to bring to this discussion since I am actually an Arab, a female, and have lived in the ME at different times of my life– instead of being told that my narrative didn’t count because I wasn’t currently there, or being asked if my parents were born in the U.S. (they couldn’t have raised me in a non sexist environment if they were born over there?)

        • Sumud says:

          Thnx for responding Seham, I know you’ve said several times that you had made your last comment.

          I didn’t mean to ask an unfair question. I was baffled by an apparent contradiction, and trying to understand what you really meant.

          When you were talking about your fiance previously I was reminded of a really special Algerian guy I know. He is also quite devout, the youngest child of a large family. At a certain point he chucked his father out of the family home, permanently, because of the way the father was treating his wife and daughters. He also wouldn’t identify as a feminist but his behaviour was along those lines, and derived from his religious beliefs about what is and isn’t just. It was an act of heroism. This long thread has given me a deeper understanding of how bad the discourse in the west on arab and/or muslim really is. There are NO heroic men, and an abundance of villains.

          Phil writes in another article today how the internet is undermining traditional centres of [intellectual] power. A more balanced view on ME events has to be an outcome of that.

  14. If any of you followed news from India lately, you would have been perturbed at the continued prevalence of a wide range of discrimantions and outright hostility against female gender resulting in abortions of female fetuses ,intercaste marriage resulting in “honor killings”,public shaming of lower caste female in most abject manner including nude parade and scores of other kind of violences . But India offers a hope to its female population through its judicial and political process and opening of education/employment to female. Religion has little or no influence on the way Governemnt works or makes policies. Despite having centuries old custom of such nature Indian has been able to move to a more egalitarian society. Could it be due the fact that India was no longer occupied or continously tied to the changing whims of another country?
    The argument against that is the assertion the British intriduced female education and stopped widow-burning. But that again misses the points that the education before the arrival of British was available to a large section of the population including female through the religious schools whose economic significance dwindled under the onslaught of the British juggernaut . Widow burning was already under decline from the intervention of Mughal kings. What I am tryinng to say is that the positive changes come from within of a society only when the society is free both economically and politically.

    • wow. somebody needs to make a speech from some US seat of ultimate power and declare India an “axis of evil.” That’ll straighten out those misguided human rights issues, f’shur.

  15. I don’t know if I logged in here correctly; we’ll see. Seham seems to have some valid points, but falls into at least three traps that annoyingly pop up over and over again in these sorts of discussions: the “white man” (Lee in this case) doesn’t have a “right” to comment on the manifold problems in (e.g.) Arab socieities. 2. ad hominem attacks on said white men for daring to do the latter. 3. “you too” (or “they too”) fallacy that talking about such problems is a “diversion” from talking about other problems (japanese women etc.). Without being an ethnologist I’d venture to guess that the situation of Arab women is especially horrible compared to almost any place on the planet. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about this. On the other hand it shouldn’t be taboo to call a spade a spade when liberal imperialists use these issues to push for neo-colonial wars. The world is complicated, and I actually think Lee’s Soviet analogy was a pretty good one.

    • Walid says:

      “…Without being an ethnologist I’d venture to guess that the situation of Arab women is especially horrible compared to almost any place on the planet.”

      Unverified, you and Sean appear to know more about what is going on with Arab women than ones here with an Arabic name. Sean is married to one and he is living among Arabs. False sense of pride is at busy work here trying to sweep some ugly stuff under the rug when there is nothing to be ashamed of. Abuse and inequality for women exist in practically every society and country but Arabs here are pretending they have never heard of it. The situation for Arab women may be bad but it isn’t more horrible than elsewhere.

  16. for future reference I tried to sign in as “mattrr”. hope it’ll work in the future.

  17. To Judy: “Do you deny the pressures of WB apartheid and the Gaza siege don’t make it even more difficult to address fundamental sexism as practiced in the culture?”

    Does this mean that any discussion of the horrible sexism in most Arab societies has to be qualified with “but of course the occupation…”? Like, say, the fact that women are systematically harrassed adn treated like shit in, say, Algeria?

    • Judy says:

      unverified: Please describe the horrible sexism — ways in which women are “systemtically harrassed adn treated like shit” — in Palestine?

  18. Judy says:

    Every culture is sexist to one degree or another.

    In the US women make less money than men, for equal work and are way more likely to live in poverty…nearly 1 in 4 American women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime…nearly 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused by the time she’s 18…. The legal system provides scant protection for women who live in danger of violent men…Pressure on girls as young as 9 or 10 to conform to standards of “sexiness” is insane… women are outrageously underrepresented in the political realm, even though more women then men graduate from college!

    American men who are concerned about women’s rights have plenty of work to do right here at home.

    The real question is: how can people who are concerned about human rights and women’s rights be in effective solidarity with others around the world who are working on the same issues?

  19. VR says:

    There are plenty of studies inside of Israel which speak about violence against women, and these studies are tied to the strain of the occupation among Israelis, specifically among colonial settlers. Than it is distributed (these excuses for violence against Israeli women), to the stress of being surrounded with “enemies.”

    However, when it comes to the direct victims of this systematic violence, the Palestinians where there is amazingly little stress which expresses itself in violence against women per capita this is not seen as being derived from the occupation. Men not being able to work, the violence against women and children by the occupiers, the loss of their homes by violent design, but violence of any sort is expunged from any connection to the perennial occupation. This is patently prejudicial, especially in light of the fact of the admitted stress among those in power as the occupiers. But what else is new?

  20. I saw this at the Huffington Post the other day, a little on the same subject :
    link to huffingtonpost.com

  21. MHughes976 says:

    Rousseau believes that the human race began in savagery (no amenities or culture) that was still noble because everyone survived (perhaps briefly) on the terms set by nature and without the stresses and madnesses of mutual competition. As they grew in numbers they were drawn into the struggle for glory, particularly because men were for ever trying to impress women. We can’t go back to the beginning and start again – what went wrong in the minds of primitive individuals can be put right among civilised individuals only by political action, making (if it goes well) people less selfish and more responsible.
    On this theory we would indeed not expect oppression, ie denial of normal political activity, to result in moral or cultural progress but in bottlenecks and blockages. One would also not expect those who exercise oppression to develop except in ways that express a dominant selfishness, something morally negative.
    Not such a bad theory, quite plausible.
    Meanswhile, I found reading Q.Ahmed a rather miserable experience, but thanks to lrb for the reference.