Faux feminism, Islamophobia and that article
I thought I was done for the year. I really did, but then Twitter reared its ugly head and I found myself having “debates” (that’s me being polite) about an issue which is in fact, a non issue.
Yesterday, The Guardian published this from Laurie Penny. Here’s the summary: There are bigots who abuse feminism as a mechanism to spread their hate of Islam.
What happened after was a release of hate towards the article for quite frankly writing about the accurate and obvious. How on earth can we take seriously the sentence “save Britain from radical Islamic sexism, women deserve better” from someone holding up a banner saying “Burn mosques” any other day. Bigotry is bigotry, even when it uses the mask of feminism to make itself more palatable.
But I was uncomfortable with some of the article, and I understood some of the (real) feminist backlash (although I would have preferred it to be a backlash leading to a debate rather than the, all to common personal attack, of “my feminism is better than yours”).
Firstly, and possibly most importantly, this article would have had more value coming from a Muslim feminist. If anything we should be pointing the finger at this and wondering where these voices are in mainstream media – much of the same happened during the niqab debate.
Secondly, Laurie seems to pit one type of sexism against the other. She mentions gender segregation in Universities as a lesser issue being used to create Islamic hate, which for some it will be, any ammunition for racism. But gender segregation is, to me, a big issue, and when Universities UK puts out guidance which gives more importance to the religious belief of one speaker than an audience with women, we have a problem. We also have a problem when Universities UK puts feminism in inverted commas. It is a threat to what public spaces look like for women.
Thirdly, whether western sexism or religious sexism, all of it needs to be eradicated. The most pertinent line in the article is this:
We are the fools, if we believe that accepting aggressive distinctions between nice, safe western sexism and scary, heathen Muslim sexism is going to serve the interests of women.
We cannot stand by and allow Islam, or any religion, to be purposefully interpreted in a way to allow disadvantage and often atrocities against women. I don’t care where in the world it’s happening and what shape or severity it takes. Equally, we cannot and will not allow racists and misogynists to use the feminist movement as a tool to fake their support of women and spread their vile agenda.
Here’s the deal: Laurie Penny wasn’t telling us that she is turning a blind eye to the sexism in the misused culture around Islam, she’s telling us that we can’t let one silence us or let us turn a blind eye, to western sexism. Where she may have got some of it wrong was is in the way she chose to express it. What we need are feminist Muslim women getting their opinions on the platforms they deserve to be on and we need to push the fight against all shades of sexism, no matter where or who it comes from and no matter how uncomfortable it seems.