Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In Solidarity with my Sisters in Malaysia, I post this statement:

[this image is from here]

Blogger masterwordsmith-unplugged and I correspond and she let me know about this profoundly misogynistic comment made by the Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs, Hishammuddin Hussein, on Mother's Day no less, while he was away in London. (Seems rather cowardly to me.)

As you'll read shortly, at issue is a man in high national political office stereotyping and belittling women's spaces, women's communication with one another, and promoting a perception of women's inaction in response to street violence, which disproportionately is committed by men against women. Not only does he do all of that, but he also refrains from criticising men's spaces, men's communication with one another, and he promotes a perception that violence against women is something women should do more about to stop it, rather than putting the responsibility for it ending squarely on the shoulders of men. Why this brotherly protectionism towards his fellow male citizens?

Why doesn't Hishammuddin speak out, with anger and disdain, to the men in his country who commit this and other forms of endemic misogynistic violence? Why doesn't he speak out against  men's communication with one another that is sexist and degrading to women? Why doesn't promote the reality that men's violence against women can and will end when men stop doing it? Why doesn't he organise and support campaigns among men to make it socially unacceptable among men to commit such acts? Why doesn't he honor his own place as a social and political role model, and promote among men, an understanding, on the deepest levels of men's beings, that any manifestation of sexism and misogyny is grossly hurtful and inhumane, damaging the esteem and confidence of girls and women? Why doesn't he create new policies which make men's violence against women more difficult to accomplish with impunity?

Masterwordsmith raises many issues. I found her discussion of ascribed vs. achieved status to be especially applicable to so many situations across the globe in which oppressors do harm without being held accountable, while the victims are blamed or shamed for enduring it.

As she notes at the bottom of the post, in Hokkien, 'hairy' means seh more which means a time-wasting act, a malingering act. There is also a link back to the original post at the bottom if you care to comment/reply in support of women in Malaysia.


5/10/2010 12:02:00 PM Lovingly unplugged by masterwordsmith

If not for ~Wits0~ who sent me the following article headlined Hisham in crosshairs for Mother’s Day insult, I would have missed it in the midst of hustle and bustle of Mothers' Day celebrations. I could not believe my eyes when I read THIS ARTICLE which said:

Last night, Hishammuddin told students at the Malaysian Students Department in London that “chit-chat” among women have exaggerated the level of street crime in the country and caused fear among the public.

“Most victims are women. What do women do? They go to the hairdressers ... they chit-chat and suddenly it is everywhere and cause people to fear,” Hishammuddin said.

I fully agree with LKS who said that Hishammuddin could be so irresponsible as to blame Malaysian women on Mother’s Day for the exaggeration of the endemic crime situation in the country.

The article said:

Hishammuddin should apologise for his insult to Malaysian women on Mother’s Day and blaming women’s chattering for exaggerating the crime problem and demonizing the police,” he said in a press statement.

PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said the minister’s statement was an insult to women in the country.

“It really is very gender insensitive and again it is finger pointing by no other than a top minister. It showcases that government is at a loss of the real issue which is the problem of trigger happy police and structural reforms that needs to be implemented. These are serious issues which needs to be considered and is no joking matter.

“Clearly, a public apology would only be the first step. He does not understand the real issue and reasons why public perception is so bad. Criticisms leveled against the police do not equate hatred but a real desire to see an improved service and level of security. If he fails to see this, we need a new minister,” said Nurul Izzah.

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok said Hishammuddin was insensitive for joking about women.

“His statement is crazy and gender insensitive. He is running down and blaming women for being victims of crime. This statement shouldn’t have come out from the mouth of the Home Minister. He is the internal security minister and his job is devise ways to make the streets safer for Malaysians. Instead he takes this issue so lightly and even laughs at women and accused women of doing nothing. This is very irresponsible of him.

“This can make people ask him what has he done to reduce street crime for the public?Hishammuddin has a wife, daughter and mother who are women and subjected to street crime too,” she said. CLICK HERE FOR MORE...
I am a woman and I go to the hairdressers for practical reasons - and NOT TO CHIT CHAT!!!

How can he equate women's chit-chat with amplication of crime and demonization of police?

Firstly, as the Home Minister, he should be in touch with all aspects of crime and national security as he is privy to all information, confidential or public.

Sociologists, criminologists, psychologists EXCEPT MISOGYNISTS would know that amplification of crime is NOT due to women but many other reasons. Check out this excellent lecture on Crime and the Media - The Moral Panic Argument.

Secondly, we must remember the meaning of status and prestige and realize the lack of logic in that claim. There are two types of status - achieved status and ascribed status.

According to Wikipedia:

Achieved status is a sociological term denoting a social position that a person can acquire on the basis of merit; it is a position that is earned or chosen. It is the opposite of ascribed status. It reflects personal skills, abilities, and efforts. Examples of achieved status are being an Olympic athlete, being a criminal, or being a college professor.

Status is important sociologically because it comes with a set of rights, obligations, behaviors, and duties that people occupying a certain position are expected or encouraged to perform. These expectations are referred to as roles. For instance, the role of a "professor" includes teaching students, answering their questions, being impartial, and dressing appropriately. Click HERE for more.
Nobody needs to demonize the police. We all know why and I will not elaborate. Individuals, including the police, have control over their achieved statuses via the things they do or they do not do.

According to Wikipedia:

Ascribed status is the social status a person is assigned at birth or assumes involuntarily later in life. It is a position that is neither earned nor chosen but assigned. These rigid social designators remain fixed throughout an individual's life and are inseparable from the positive or negative stereotypes that are linked with one's ascribed status...

For example, a person born into a wealthy family has a high ascribed status based solely on the social networks and economic advantages that one gains from being born into a family with more resources than others. CLICK HERE for more.
Bear in mind that status is also used as a synonym for honor or prestige, when social status denotes the relative position of a person on a publicly recognized scale or hierarchy of social worth. Status is CONFERRED on a person based on how we perceive the worth of that person or group.

We are no longer living in Paleolithic times where bashing women with clubs and demeaning statements could have been the norm. In this scenario, women are being pulled down by cultural, political, economical and religious prejudices, which undermine their full participation in the life of Malaysian society, which in turn deprives Malaysians of development in its fullest sense.

I take umbrage to such a stand and more so on Mothers' Day! It is almost akin to a tight slap on the faces of women to say that yea - go celebrate Mothers' Day but for heaven's sake, don't go to hairdressers anymore. You stay at home - quit talking to anyone. Let your hair grow into Rastafarian locks. Sport your Medusa locksat home and continue with your sweeping, mopping, cooking and other housewifery duties for that is where you belong. Now go and be thankful you have a day where we remember you are a mother!"

Truly, I hope people like Julian Real and others who stand up for women regardless of your class, creed or gender will take umbrage to this report and demand for nothing but a public apology!!! I hope his wife and daughters will make a response to his statement - be it PUBLICLY or PRIVATELY!!!

Down with such primitive, airy, hairy, sexist views!!! Don't forget - this statement was given in LONDON. I wonder if he dares to repeat it on home ground!

Speak up, Malaysians!!! Can you stomach this?

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts/views. Thanks!!!

*In Hokkien, 'hairy' means seh more which means a time-wasting act, a malingering act.

[To add your comment or reply, please click *here*.]

A Short Review of the Work of Nawal El Saadawi, and on Representing the Work of Women of Color

[photograph of Nawal El Saadawi is from here]

Violence against women, particularly sexual violence, is endemic globally. It isn't universal, as some proclaim, but it also isn't unique to any one or two particular cultures or civilisations. Nawal El Sadaawi has spoken out about violence against women, the oppression of women. As a Western person, I look to her as a radical feminist with much to say about the condition of women in the world, in a non-Western society, including atrocities born of patriarchal imperatives that women be controlled and dominated by men. The mistake, I think, in being a Western reader of international writings by feminists is to believe that "it's so awful for those women over there". My mother's life has known many atrocities. She is a Western woman. So too have the lives of most white women I know.

It has been brought to my attention recently (I think in a post I read on a blog), how white Western readers of literature and people engaged with matters of feminism and sex-hierarchy politics tend to represent (re-present) writers from Central Asia in particular. I've read  similar critiques over the years of how white people write about or re-present the work of African American writers, of East Asian writers, of sub-Sahara African Black writers, and of Indigenous writers. The criticism I've most encountered is this: that the white Western writer will either "exoticise" or "Westernise" the writer who is not white or Western. So when I look for reviews of books by non-white/Western writers, I am looking now for non-white/Western reviewers of the work, or, at least, reviewers who are conscious in the review of what their being white and/or Western means for how they are likely to intepret and re-present the literature of people around the world. An excellent book on this subject, which deserves its own post here, or at least one, is Sexual Textual Politics, by Toril Moi.

Source for what follows is the World Literature blog here. It has a typo or two, which I'm not changing, to not disturb the voice of the reviewer. The author or reviewer/poster is listed as rlitzak. Elsewhere on that blog, it appears to me that non-white people are reviewing the books, not all of which are by non-white writers. It was difficult for me not to change the "3007" to 2007, assuming, of course, that it was meant to refer to a year in the Western Christian calendar. ("Gregorian", I think it's called. To me it's the Western Christian calendar, regardless of what Gregor said or did.) But then I found this, and realised that's not what the number is referring to. This was but one tiny example of how my mind wanted to mis-translate information, carrying dominant and domineering Western/white supremacist assumptions about what things mean. (For more on this, please see *here*.)

One area of particular interest to me is how white and non-Muslim people write about Muslim writers who are not white. The assumptions made about what it means to be Muslim, or what happens inside Muslim societies, are often collapsed by white Western writers into caricatures and negative stereotypes. To "review" or "represent" Muslim women's writing in this way is to do a great disservice to women generally and to Muslim people generally, in my view. For it ought to be clear to me, anyway, by now, that Muslim societies are tremendously international and populous, perhaps more than are White Western societies. This helps me hold in view that my world is a smaller one that I was raised to believe. It also is far less central for most people in the world that it is for me. Although the creators and perpetrators of Western media propaganda and military force are trying their best to make the whole world Westernised, women around the world are resisting this effort, and are writing out their truths so their lives and societies are documented in first person, with perspectives and theories borne of their own regions. A critique of non-Western feminist writers, frequently by men, is that "they've all been influenced by white women in the West". This is worth examining to the extent it is not a smoke screen thrown into the air by men who wish to protect their power to oppress women. Which is also to say, when men raise this issue, I ignore it as legitimate.

Nawal El Saadawi – In Camera

“Men impose deception on women and punish them for being deceived, force them down to the lowest level and punish them for falling so low, bind them in marriage and then chastise them with menial service for life, or insults, or blows.”  
Woman at Point Zero, Nawal El Saadawi
Dr. Nawal El Saadawi wrote more then 40 books which were translated to more then 12 languages. One of them she wrote in prison, after being accused of criticism the government and being dangerous to society. She wrote it using a make-up pen and toilet paper, because they took away her pens and papers. But apparently it is not as simple as that to stop a woman like El Saadawi from saying what she believe in public, and when they didn’t let her publish her books in Egypt any more, since they “offended the society”, she moved to print in Lebanon. For a very good reason El Saadawi’s books are now only to be reached at the black market. She is one of the leaders at the revolutionary struggle for woman rights in Egypt particularly and the Muslim world in general. El Saadawi developed a feminist model to the role of woman at the Islamic culture, which of course made many people around the world mad and one might even say intimidated. In her writing there is a strong furiousness, her description are extremely vivid and she is not afraid to point an accusing finger toward men, the government, and society.  But if we look at El Saadawi’s past we can justify this burning feeling: as a child, she has experienced, like most of the woman in her society, the process of female genital mutilation, which is a culturally ritual that have never been questioned. It is no wonder then that this experience left many open wounds in her body, beside the physical absence. An evidence to the continues struggle El Saadawi is running for years against this horrible ritual and woman rights we can find in her text in camera, where there is a very strong description that implies this fight:
One of them, lying on top of her, had said: This is the way we torture you women – by depriving you of the most valuable thing you posses. Her body under him was cold as a corpse but she had managed to open her mouth and say to him: You fool! The most valuable thins I possess is not between my legs. You’re all stupid. And the most stupid among you is the one who leads you. (3007)
In the story and in her work in general, El Saadawi repeats the strong criticism toward the leaders of the society and is paving the path to a revolution of the women figure in Muslim society and manly societies around the world.