Category Archives: Gender in the Middle East

Working towards ending FGM

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50015&Kw1=Genital+Mutilation&Kw2=Women&Kw3=#.VfDCr_lViko

February 6 of each year is “The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.” This article highlights efforts of the UN in educating communities about the myths and negative outcomes of this procedure still common in several African and Middle Easter countries in both Muslim and Christian communities.

FGM has many serious short – and long-term health consequences for girls and women. This year’s theme was “ending the ‘medicalization’ of the procedure.” FGM, even when conducted by a medical workers, is harmful to girls and women; however, as these workers become better educated about the negative consequences of FGM, some are beginning to refuse conducting the procedure.

I “just” wanted to point this out…

As students — many of whom will be scouring the job market for opportunities in the near future — we are often preoccupied with the written and spoken language that we use; not solely for the numerous research papers, essays and presentations we are responsible for producing over the course of our educational careers, but because we are aware of the value judgments people make about our dialect and our prose.

How many of you have dedicated an immense amount of time to making sure the carefully-crafted letters and e-mails you send to peers, colleagues and future employers are “just right” before pressing send? We check and double check spelling and grammar, we make sure we use tone that’s appropriate for the intended recipient, and we fire away. Whether we speak on the phone or in person, we tend to be more careful about the words we use because unlike written language — which we are typically free to edit until we are satisfied with the final result — there’s no “taking back” spoken words (or the inflection behind them) when you’re trying to quickly convey a message or attempting to prove yourself worthy to someone whose approval matters to you. We think about our word choices — some people even code-switch between the dialect they use naturally versus the dialect they use in a professional setting — and hope that we aren’t coming across in a way that misconstrues our intent or puts us at risk of negative evaluation.

However, have you ever considered that even the subtle, seemingly innocent word choices you make may be stripping your words of their full power?  Ellen Leanse thinks so.  In her latest article — It’s time to stop using ‘just’ in your writing and speaking (published today at Ragan.com and in its original version located at Women2.com) — Leanse charges women with using the word ‘just’ as “a ‘permission’ word.”

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a “child” word, to riff Transactional Analysis. As such, it put the conversation partner into the “parent” position, granting them more authority and control. And that “just” didn’t make sense. … I began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite. It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

Upon noticing the prevalence of the word “just” in the e-mails sent by women at her company, Leanse decided to conduct an informal experiment in which observers listened to a six-minute conversation between a man and a woman about their respective business startups — each had three minutes to speak — while the observers tallied the amount of times they each used the word “just.”  The man used it once; the woman used it either five or six times.  As Leanse states, this experiment was “not research: it’s a test that likely merits more inquiry.”  Until a formal experiment is conducted, I urge you to inquire within yourselves.

Look through your e-mails and text messages.  How often have you used the word “just” in an attempt to sound friendlier or non-demanding?  You may be unconsciously asking permission for your thoughts and words to be validated by others, which can diminish the impact behind them.  Ladies: it is time to stop diluting our convictions, our lofty goals, and our grandest plans with the constant use of what otherwise would continue to be considered an innocuous four-letter word in a sea of written and spoken communication.  I “just” thought you should be aware of your own authority and the power it holds when you wield it with confidence.  Laura Redman

Egypt’s Brotherhood Blasts UN Women’s Document

Sarah El Deeb’s article discusses the opposition that a UN Women’s document has received from the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt. The group has opposed this document because of clauses within it that they consider incompatible with the tenants of Islam. Actual details of the document have yet to be released pending negotiations. Officials are remaining optimistic that the document will pas, but there is speculation that Egypt will seek the choice to opt out of sections of the document before passing it. Libya has also publicly rejected the document. Egypt has called for an amendment to the document before they would approve it. Issues lie in the differences in interpretations of ideologies of Islamic law. The rise in Fundamentalist groups as a result of protests and political upheavals in the region has led to more traditional interpretations as well as an increase in violence against women. Women activists have responded on both sides, some agreeing with the document and others with those who have challenged it. Issues between differences in interpretations have created contention amongst Politicians and activist who have called for stronger protection and enforcement of rights for women. Shannon

Article

Mona el-Tahawy on Lack of Women’s Progress and the Firestorm that followed

Here is an article that appeared in Foreign Policy, which sent Twitter, FB, and all forms of social media buzzing:  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us?page=0,0 discussing “the real war on women.”

For an example of a response, see http://neocolonialthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/a-response-to-mona-el-tahawy/

A Self Proclaimed Hero in Leila Khaled’s My People Shall Live

In Leila Khaled’s My People Shall Live, Khaled tells of her journey as a Palestinian soldier on a mission to bring justice to her people from the Israelis.  As the narrator, Khaled tells the story in such a way that she seems to be trying to convince the readers that she was justified in the actions she took for her people’s independence. For many years, the Israelis controlled Palestine and forced Khaled and many others into exile.  Leila Khaled was a Palestinian soldier who took on the challenge to complete a mission on an El-Al flight, as well as on a TWA 840 flight. The intention of the missions was to show the Israelis that Palestine shall be liberated, and Khaled did so by, what she thought of as, performing a “revolutionary duty against the enemy” (146). Khaled narrates the story to portray the idea that she is inherently causing others no pain through the actions she chooses to take in order to liberate Palestine; however, Khaled fails to recognize that although she is not causing any physical pain, she is causing emotional pain at the expense of her enemy.

During the El-Al mission with Patrick, although Khaled and Patrick were the ‘terrorists’, they were very clearly putting themselves in a dangerous situation, as well as the passengers. At one instance, Khaled informs the passengers on the flight that the mission is to bring the Palestinians back to the country they rightly deserve. Although Khaled’s intention is to calm the passengers down and allow them to realize that she is not going to blow up the plane, she has also already shown them the weapons in their possession; Khaled “had two hand grenades; Patrick had one hand grenade and a pistol” (187). As a passenger, danger was undoubtedly seen no matter what Khaled and Patrick told them was happening. Khaled is not necessarily causing any physical harm to the passengers at this time, but the emotional pain that they endure as the plane they are on is hijacked is an incomparable feeling to the physical pain they were expecting to have been subjected to.

After the plane had landed and Khaled was taken into custody at the prison, she was quoted many times speaking is such a way as to justify her previous actions. Personally, I do not feel that the actions taken were necessary to get the point of wanting complete liberation of Palestine across to the enemy. Although the hijacking definitely got people’s attention, bringing weapons such as hand grenades and pistols on board and telling the passengers that the intent was not to harm them is not so convincing, or necessary, in my opinion. Khaled said “my people, my land, my Palestine! For thee I shall resist, for your honor I shall accept pain” (149). Although the Zionists forced Khaled and her people into exile, essentially causing them pain, the actions Khaled executed on the missions were not justified. Pain was returned to the enemy for the pain Khaled had been given, but the method of “an eye for an eye” is not always the best way to solve such situations.

Khaled believed that she was doing a favor for her country by hijacking the plane and blowing it up once it had been evacuated. If her true intention was not to harm anyone, she would not have felt the need to take weapons on board with her. If anything had gone wrong during the mission, the plane still could have blown up from the hand grenades and everyone would have died. Khaled’s actions were not justified for the goal she was trying to achieve; she ultimately caused pain to all of those who were involved, even if it was not physical pain.

 Lindsey Westphal

“Amreeka” Film Showing 4.18.2011

On Monday, April 18, 2011 the Ethnic Studies Program hosted a film showing of the film Amreeka. Amreeka is the story of an immigrant family’s journey to the US and their introduction to American culture. It also a continuation of their lesson in raw prejudice. Amreeka first deals with problems that many immigrants to US struggle with upon coming to America. Firstly, the audience sees the family, a mother and son, Muna and Fadi dealing with immigrating to America in a post-9/11 world. It is most important to understand that because living in and trying to get into a post 9/11 America is very difficult for most Americans and people of other countries, particularly those who were from the Middle East, were of the Muslim faith or were of Middle Eastern descent. However, the scene where they and their goods are being examined should be regarded with caution. It is easy to say that they are being questioned and searched because they are not only foreigners but also Middle Eastern. However, the counterargument to that is that they being searched because they are foreigners entering the US and that their particular race and presumed religious ideologies have nothing to do with their examination. In fact, as we later learn, the family is actually Christian. Not Muslim. In the beginning of the film, when the mother and son are finally settled into the home of their family, they must immediately deal with money problems. Unbeknownst to him, Fadi allowed the airport security to take away a tin of cookies containing $2,500 dollars, all the money his mother had. Fortunately, her brother, had given Fadi $200 dollars, so they at least had some money with them. Also, Fadi and Muna deal with American culture. Another family member takes stock of Fadi’s clothes and notes that he wears particular clothing, he will be considered “F.O.B.” or “Fresh Off the Boat”, meaning it will become immediately obvious that he is an immigrant because of his older attire. Quickly, Muna and Fadi attempt to ameliorate their attire. Also, Muna experiences feelings of discomfort with her body type. Fadi deals with being a new school and the education system of the US. Also, Fadi is bullied by members of his class, who are not accepting of him because of his Middle Eastern heritage. Also, it is noted that these boys have family members in the military who are in Iraq. During the setting of this movie, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has just begun. The family also deals with discrimination in finding jobs because Muna’s ethnicity, even though she is not Muslim. She is well educated with 10 years of work experience in a bank but she is forced to take a job at a White Castle restaurant. This is a point of humiliation for her, being both a proud immigrant and an educated woman. Also, Muna and Fadi deal with language barriers as they navigate American culture. Colloquialisms are difficult for them to understand. Also, Fadi tries smoking “Mary Jane” and gets into a fight with a classmate over causing his mother’s slip and fall at work and is later arrested, briefly detained and unrealistically released after some bargaining with a Jewish principal who befriends them despite the “serious allegations” against him. Muna also gets suckered into trying raise money for herself with one of America’s many weight loss scam products, “HerbalLose”. Not only is Muna dealing with being an immigrant, she is also dealing with being a divorcee. At the end of the novel, it is clear that Muna and the Jewish principal may have chemistry between the two of them. As Muna notes “We are a minority there (Christians) and a minority here (Middle Easterners).”

This movie is far from being the best movie to handle such an intense and thick debate but it works because it’s easy to follow and sends to message to audience. It does however reinforce and create new stereotypes as it crushes others. For instance, the whites in the film are racist. Members of the military (or at least their family members) have problems with Muslims, Middle Easterners and others not like them and they are so ignorant they cannot even spell names of terrorist organizations correctly. Also, the black boy who is in a relationship with Fadi’s outspoken female cousin, dresses in “ghetto” or “gangsta” clothing, smokes weed, listens to rap, and skips school and seems generally disinterested in school. This movie also has a nice, clean and “happy” ending with a Jewish man and a Middle Eastern family coming together and having dinner together. While not entirely unrealistic, it was certainly corny. The same is true with the husband’s medical practice failing because of uncomfortable patients changing to practices without Middle Eastern doctors. Also, Muna decides that she does not need to diet and is happy with her body. Again, while not unrealistic, that conclusion is much to neat and sudden for film, where even the pre-America scenes showed Muna unhappy with her body type and yet suddenly, in the last minutes of the film she expresses a love of her body.

“It’s What I Do: – Why She Will Cover War Again”

This New York Times piece is an interview with photojournalist Lynsey Addario, who was held captive in Libya in March 2011.  Since her capture and subsequent release, there have been those who argue that she should not have been in Libya working in the first place because of her gender.  This interview is in Addario’s own words and explains why she feels her gender is non-issue in regards to her work as a war-time photojournalist.

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/lynsey-addario-its-what-i-do/

 

 

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