Monday, May 12

:: A Good Man

Do read this essay, "Go, Hillary, I'm With You!" by Dr. Syed Manssor Hussain, published in the Daily Times, "The Leading News Resource of Pakistan." Not only is it a thoughtful piece that brings up a few points that would never see the light of day in a U.S. publication, its quite lovely to see a man self-identify as a feminist. But you get this kind of thing when our issues are discussed in an "international" context... the U.S. is falling further and further behind in addressing women's issues.

I take issue, however, with one point that Dr. Hussain seems to make - that feminism has diminished in relevance as more women's rights have been realized. While it is certainly true that we have made enormous progress, the sense that its "mission accomplished" is largely a product of the sexism and misogyny of our public discourse. The major area where this is clear is violence against women. As a nation, we take it for granted that sexual violence is persistant and that women are "natural victims." We have no national strategy to combat sexual violence, and in general, the discussion of the topic is rife with horrific bias and scorn (much of which is directed at male victims, especially those who are incarcerated). As a matter of policy, we are uninterested in the high level of sex crimes that go unreported because of lack of faith in the legal system and the fear of shame and stigma.

And we seem to have no problem that certain areas, at certain times, are as "off-limits" to women as they would be in a developing country. When you consider the number of places that a woman cannot go, unaccompanied by a male, for fear of gender based punishment, the reality of our lives doesn't look all that dissimilar to those of women in more obviously oppressive situations.

Like I said, this is all taken for granted as a "natural" state of affairs. There are no large scale policy initiatives or programs. We're supposed to accept that this is our lot in life - to be wary of walking alone in a parking lot, to know if you've been drinking its quite possible someone could sexually abuse you without legal repercussions.

No, the feminist agenda is by no means irrelevant. But it has been fragmented by stupid decisions (supporting Barack over Hillary, for one) that minimize its clout and all but silenced by the media.


RS said...

The leading newspaper in Pakistan, IMHO, is Dawn. And Dr Hussain is pretty much an American at this point.
More to the point, I'd take issue with his premise that folks voted for a "more exotic" African-American over a woman. There might be some of that, for sure. But there are other more important factors.

Anyway - Ciccina - you make some good points. Hopefully, things get better 2009 and beyond, whoever is President.

RS said...

By the way, I also added you to my (newly-created!) blog roll... I think your following is bigger than mine, though :-)

Ciccina said...

Well, we've each boosted each others' readership by what - a third? a quarter? I'd call that phenomenal growth! CEOs get huge bonuses for less that that :-)

I left the quotes around the "leading news source" claim since I have no idea if its true. At first I thought I had stumbled on an expat-focused online magazine, but not so.

And I don't know that I agree with his "exotic" argument either - I think there is an element of truth to it but not quite in the way he identifies.

I think that for many white voters who are basically untouched by racial issues, its easier to conceptualize racism as a distinct issue.

When you're in the thick of things - living, say, in NYC - things seem far more complex given the mixture of various identities / issues / pressures... like the recent police shooting in NYC, its tough to untangle what factor is the catalyst. With gender relations, you are similarly in the thick of it, but all the time... its more difficult to delineate what problems derive from gender bias versus, say, economic pressure. And so on.

So I think its easier for many whites to say - Obama is bringing us into a new era of race relations, he's about reconciliation, bringing people together, harmony - than it is to say - Hillary is going to usher in a new era of opportunity for women leaders, this is a big change, etc.