Saturday, 27 March 2010

My Feminism or: Why Your Body Hair Won't Change the World (pt. 1)


Sexist fucks and radical feminists are just a couple of the many stereotypes we run into nowadays, and although both seem to share just about the same level of testosterone, they stand on opposing ends of the spectrum of women's perception. The emancipation of the latter has become an important topic addressed by many sociologists, religious figures and economists. Although in Europe and the States, the “weaker sex” enjoys a relatively larger freedom margin and acceptance, the Arab World still struggles to let that “soft sex” perform even the most petty trivialities, such as driving a vehicle and voting.
Feminist waves flourished abroad some time back (19th and early 20th century for first-wave feminism, 60s and 70s for second-wave feminism, and finally the contemporary third wave) and many must-reads have been published by the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, and others to provide us with substantial food for the mind. Also, feminist claims have indeed done their best to enhance the situation in the Middle-East and bring media attention to it, for example: Hoda Shaarawi’s participation in the first women’s street demonstration in 1914, and Nawal El Saadawi’s writings about female genital mutilation to name a few. However, the work that should be maintained by the public on a regular basis has proved to be highly lacking and insufficient.
In fact, far from deified ideologies, imported ideas, and leaders put up on a pedestal, the pragmatic aspect of what any feminist collectivity in Lebanon believes in and most importantly knows, should stay the main focal point. My point is, what do you as a contemporary woman fighting for her rights know about feminist authors, filmmakers, female painters and theorists?
How do you, as a feminist individual or collective, go about changing the world? And even more so, how do you alter people’s (men and women alike) preconceived ideas?
The dilemma of today is not so much identifying the problem and its origin, but our very approach to the predicament itself. Knowing that our education is biased and lacking, the figures with which we identify are questionable and our very frame of mind has been wrought, shaped and conditioned by the male gaze, how can we go about reversing all of that before committing ourselves to causes, beliefs and world change?
A current trend that is easily noticeable in Lebanon is reducing feminism to a symbol. As is common with all "ideologies", or let's call them "isms", a distinct trait more often than not gets associated to an ism, and in this case, it’s body hair. Not that such a symbol is by definition irrelevant, but it IS futile. All action is stopping there, and by action, I do not mean street marches but cerebral, intellectual stimulation. The danger of hiding behind, or putting in the forefront this body hair symbol, is the fact that body hair never changed the world - and never will. Flaunting your unshaved armpits or Amazonian bush rarely got people to reconsider their views or shed light on the lack our pedagogy suffers from.


Written by Haneen H / Edited by Jay Feghali

49 comments:

Julia said...

The strongest point you have raised Haneen, is one that concerns how much awarness and knowlege women in Lebanon have over their own history as women and achievments? In order to make way for progress in the Middle East, a woman needs to back her actions with reason and knowlege to defy and demonstrate the unjust inequalities the patriarchal system imposes.

Julia said...

To begin with, women must explain how the patriarchal system disregards history and the part women have played in it. It assumes and essentializes the nature of women as the "weaker sex" with no evidence. Refuting such a claim is very simple if one is willing to be insightful and intellgent enough to demonstrate that most myths circulating around women being biologically/physically and mentally weaker, are mere social impositions which do not contain a grain of unchanging, constant truth-- but are shaped by ourselves.

Julia said...

Reality--societies are created by us, and gender inequalities have been embedded within our society for a reason. The point is always to investigate that reason, and you will find that it is to the benefit of the opposite sex. Before consulting change, one must counter the male dominated system with reason and facts which will provide one with an agenda that may initiate change.

mercury said...

i agree with you that sometimes the approach being done by feminists is wrong...and i'd also go a bit further by blaming religion for the stereotypical preconception enforced by MEN that women are the so called "weaker sex" and that they are somehow 2nd grade human beings...and ofcourse according to islam they are equivalent to half a man..
so yea arab countries are basically operating under these "ethics" and "morals"...that's why you see saudi arabia still not allowing women to drive..or to travel without a guardian's approval (as if they're some sort of pet!)

Julia said...

It is not only religion but the primary institutions ( i.e governmnet, economy, military establishment) which determine the nature of the secondary institutions ( education, religious institutions etc.). And it is through these agencies of socialization that values of gender inequalities are reproduced and taugh to children. Religion has always played its role in gender inequality backed up by the primary institutions for example. However the question I always wanted to ask was: " Is religion in itself benevolent,fair and tolerant or not? Or has it only been manipulated by those in power to serve their needs?" In the latter religion would have been misrepresented. The former would demonstrate the true nature of religion ( tolerant, or intolerant?). IT is an open ended question I have alwasy been curious to investigate in religion. Mainly because I have heard many muslims claim that women are equal to men in Islam, and claims that they arent.

Anonymous said...

Hanine...

AJ said...

Ok so the whole concept of what you're saying is that "You must be educated to make a difference"

And that's a fact! and it's 100% True

You must at least have knowledge in what you're trying to change ..

Even if it's logical and makes a good point, whatever you say or do will only be what i call "Between the lines" and won't be appreciated Unless you're well educated.

You chose very wise words Haneen =) Keep it up and will stay posted to your blog!

Maria-Elena said...

Awesomeness :D Je like it mucho. Je like you mucho, tambien ; )

Robert said...

I hope in part two you'd give examples on famous feminists in different fields, waiting for this...

Bassam said...

Nostalgie!!!!! Perfect Essay....Ur title is as a magnet...that attracts anyone to read ur introduction that lets the reader enthusiastic to finish the whole essay!!! No comment on the theme of the essay! It is needed nowadays! Adorable!

M. Hamad said...

Haneen, Great post BUT aint that be applicable for any gender, men as well maybe? why the segregation?
Am intrigued by what will the second part be.

Fouad said...

Women in Lebanon have just acquired the right to pass the Lebanese nationality to their offspring, irrespective of the nationality of the father. That's what we should be talking about. Equal rights, not feminism. A slippery slope of, like you said, futile and self-defeating behaviors. Respect yo! Can't wait for the rest. F

Cedrik Helou said...

By not shaving their genitals, feminists might be doing the world a big favor: They are getting rid of the feminist movement that has plagued our society ever since women were given the the right of free speech. Everybody knows that no self respecting man would ever touch a bush that has not been trimmed, and without a man's touch, women are incapable of doing the only function they do well, making babies. Unable to reproduce, the feminists' ability to spread their genes, and consequently their influence, would be crippled. Therefore, society should by all means support the feminist movement in its new protest and help it overcome any difficulties that might prevent feminists from not shaving their tacoes.

Julia said...

Cedrick,

You need to read a book, and re-consider how to present yourself to the world because so far you have made yourself look like an ignoramus.

In order for something to be True it needs to be a justified belief and universally constant and unchanging. All what you have done is state the following belief:

" Everybody knows that no self respecting man would ever touch a bush that has not been trimmed, and without a man's touch, women are incapable of doing the only function they do well, making babies."

What evidence do you have that a woman's value is only in her ability to reproduce and shave her pubic hair?

If you have ever read a history book or educated yourself, you would learn that some of the greatest minds have been women and were capable mentally and biologically to carry out the same tasks as men and even surpass them.
Your so-called idea of the female's function to reproduce is only a social construct created by men in power, in order to debase women and preserve a male dominated system. You are doing the same thing by trying to ESSENTIALIZE things that arent true, which women have proved wrong. What you are trying to essentialize is that women are incapable of fullfilling any function except for being submissive to a man. If you actually have an hint of awarness or intelligence, you would see that there have been many successful and independant women pursuing occupations and positions of authority and power-- and have been successful at it. Women can be bread winners, and they can excersise the same, if not greater amount of intelligence in the fields of literature,art, music and academia--and any other field or occupation in life you can think of. Hence this demonstrates that the statement: "women are submissive to men by nature" is not constant or unchanging or justified hence it is NOT TRUE.

So please spare me your weak attempts at trying to preserve a "masculinity" that does not. exist.

Abdel Khadir said...

You bring up some very good points, but I am going to have to disagree with the majority of them, as you appear to be a woman. Back in the kitchen.

Julia said...

As you appear to be a man, you may remain as an idiot which i can toy with since i have the inttellligence.

I am throwing the same logic at you.

mercury said...

haneen and julia i congratulate you for being TROLLED!
you actually waste time replying to these idiots?
i actually laughed at cedric's post though...i thought he was being sarcastic at first.
just in case you don't know what a troll is.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

people who consider women as baby making machines and sandwich makers...should be simply ignored...as the level of discussion and intellect being posted here is clearly above them.

Samer said...

I didn't go deep in the article and comments, most of which are very interesting and would personally agree with, but I disagree with Julia's second post which states:
"It assumes and essentializes the nature of women as the "weaker sex" with no evidence. Refuting such a claim is very simple if one is willing to be insightful and intellgent enough to demonstrate that most myths circulating around women being biologically/physically and mentally weaker, are mere social imposition..."
Physically, women have a weaker body build than men. This is not a myth, this is a fact. Proof ? Watch the Olympic games every year. Women have always been assigned less physical tasks and responsibilities than men since thousands of years ago, so don't be shocked if the expression "weaker sex" has actually some truth in it. "Mentally", naturally I do agree with Julia.
Cheers.

Julia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia said...

Samer,

My answer is going to be a bit long, so bear with me.
Women's biology has been just as much socially constructed as our gender roles in scoiety. Proof?

Concerning the biological difference of strength between men and women-- with the exception of their reproductive organs, men and women are not as physically different as you think they are. A study has shown that atleast in Europe and the United states that the strength of men and women in thier lower bodies were very similar, whereas the contrast was mostly in their upper body strength. This is where girls are expected to participate much less than boys in sports that involve carrying large loads and strengthen the upper body. Partly because such features are associated with masculinity. This brings upon the question of what are the "natural" limits of strength between men and women-- time and more oppurtunities for women will give us the answer. Height is another issue which i wont address now.
In the 1988 Olympics the woman who one the Hundred meter dash was less than a second slower than the male winner. Maybe the difference isn’t as great as we thought it was.
Also, womens traditional house work which usually requires extremely strenuous labor (which can also involve a baby!) is also something that is completely ignored and unacknowledged.
My source of information is from the following book: " rethinking womens biology" by Ruth Hubbard

Samer said...

Thanx Julia for your reply, I'll accept all its arguments as facts and use them as evidence of my own.
Basically, you have confirmed that the contrast does exist in the current society. If you consider the statistics in Europe, then my point is proven on the average social scale. If you consider the Olympics, in which contestants test the natural limits of their bodies, then my point is also proven. "Weaker sex" is not a myth as you previously stated, this widely used expression is somewhat based on a reality we can't refute. Again, this is only true on the biological/physical level, not mental level.
Cheers.

Samer said...

Hanine, you are referring to abilities, not strength. Even if abilities are different but considered equal, strength is usually not. Hence the term "weaker sex".

Julia said...

samer,

I gave the Olympics example to specifically address the issue that a female competitor can perform just as well as a male-- so it doesnt prove your point.

Yes there is a contrast in male and female build in current society, but that is because certain sports are associated with masuclinity and others in femininity. Gender is different than sex, and gender roles are a socila construction . Women are discouraged from participating in sports that "make them look too aggressive and manly" because of gender roles-- and these are the sports associated with upper body strength i.e wrestling, boxing.

The point is we havent seen the natural limits concerning pure strength. And even if there is a difference society maximizes, and exaggerates it to a degree thats not true--because women have to remain weak and "overly emotional" and vulnerable to fulfill their roles. After all a female martial artist can defeat a male martial artist--all she needs is training like any one else.

Julia said...

Oh and you should keep in mind how much strength is involved in giving birth and house chores along with raising a child. Such feats cannot be disregarded so easily.

mercury said...

ok somebody's taking the term "weaker sex" way too literally!
what are you trying to prove?
are you noticing that we're moving off topic?
are we now discussing which sex has the bigger muscle mass?!
damn.
the term "weaker sex" was coined by MEN to oppress women both mentally and physically..the roots of which are also derived from religious dogma.
i thought we were discussing women's rights and the correct approach towards achieving equality.
but hey you wanna talk about physical strengths and weaknesses..wow..impressive.

Samer said...

I had previously agreed with all that was said, but dropped a small note. I never thought it would drag this long in a futile discussion. Feel free to ignore my comment, and continue where you had left off. I'm out.
Cheers.

Sami said...

From a darwinist viewpoint, ya haneen, women ARE "weaker sex" simply by allowing the term to be coined, or at least not being able to curb it. That term has stood the test of time, and the fittest survived.
So let's discuss things away from the sterile grounds of evolutionary theories.

It doesn't matter how much faith you try to display in the "women are as fit an men" myth, you all know, deep inside, they aren't. Bringing up a case from a 1988 olympic race doesn't really boost your argument either.

Talking about gender equality is like talking about, err, fruit equality. and how apples are equal to melons. There is no point, nor is it really advantageous to anyone, to forcefully prove that men and women are equal.

That being said, the only real reason why the feminist movement so vehemently pursues the cause of equality is social discrimination and the procurement of social rights. Call it laziness, you'll have to admit that the fastest shortcut for women to obtain equal rights is by "proving" they are equal to men.

Truth is, men will only be equal to women (or vice versa), when they start getting their periods, get into labor, and breastfeed their little ones.

And the real retardation of feminist philosophies is in trying to shame and discredit the fact that the primary function of women resides in reproduction and nurturing. There was a time when it was an honor. Let's hope we go back to that some day.

Anonymous said...

Ayreh bi allah !

mercury said...

well sami nobody is saying that women should go into coal mining...but there are certain jobs that men get just because they have a penis.
now this might seem stupid, but why can't women run for the position of Pope!? is it a penis thing?

for the last time this is not about who has the bigger muscle mass..this about equal rights...and if men are getting more pay, and have access to different jobs just because they have a penis then that's wrong..what difference does it make if you have a penis or a vagina in this case!

our differences in gender physiology does count for anything!

Julia said...

Sami,
Right, back again to the same false principle: all women want to procreate in their fundamental nature and can never be equal to men because of their biological differences ( i.e menstruation, child birth and breast feeding).
Well the truth is, that when making a scientific investigation, you cannot assert social norms upon them because it is no longer scientific, but subjective. From a scientific point of view all you can say is " womens biology is different from men" but that difference does not count as evidence or a valid justification, to assert that they are weaker and dont deserve gender equality. AS mercury said, women are discriminated against based on their gender without valid justification---only because they were born witha vagina. Once you can come up with a proper justification to your argument let me know. because you also misused the darwinian concept of "survival of the fittest" And read my earlier comments ( not about biology), it might make things clearer

mercury said...

for your information...just to add to the evolutionary aspect of things here..
over the millennia we males have been losing genes from our Y chromosome.

the next evolutionary steps predicted involve the total loss of function of the chromosome as it atrophies and becomes rudimentary. and it will be totally compensated by the X chromosome.

things like body and ear hair will be lost..

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/09/opinion/incredible-shrinking-y.html?pagewanted=1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_chromosome#Shrinking

so from an evolutionary point of view, women are the ones who seem to be fitting in the "survival of the fittest" phrase. :)

Y chromosome is responsible of coding only around 86 genes...however the X chromosome codes for around 2000 genes out of the 25000 so genes in our DNA.
you do the math.

Julia said...

Thanks for that fact mercury. survival of the fittest cannot be excerisised without the role of a woman--because in order to pass on the fittest genes to survive a particular environemnt, procreation is necessary. Its more about the ability to produce more offspring with the genes that will allow them to survive longer under X conditions. And are people born with the fittest genes ( i.e no allergies) by chance. So survival of the fittest denotes a mutual dependancy between men and women. I dont understand where people got the idea that one sex overpowered the other usuing darwins concept of survival of the fittest. Do women look extinct to you?

Sami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sami said...

Julia and mercury:

get a hold of yourselves. You're attacking points that i haven't made.

1. i displayed clear lack of "faith" in evolutionary principles. read properly before getting over zealous about your beliefs. and yes, believing in darwinist evolution requires a lot of faith, but that's a whole other issue (think more in terms of "adaptation", and less in terms of "evolution", ya mercury)

2. "[...] does not count as evidence or a valid justification, to assert that they are weaker and dont deserve gender equality."
??
Julia? did you even read my post?

DID i really try to justify that women are weaker, or do not deserve gender equality? Or did you just skim through my post with your average pack of prejudices?

I do, in fact, believe that women deserve equal rights. and i DID, ya Julia, say that "all we can assert is that genders are different". Both in biology as in social functions.

So, in your dogmatically saturated mind, saying that women are different than men automatically EQUALS saying that women are weaker?

Let me boil it down to something you can easily understand without all your complications:

Women are different than Men.
Men are different than Women.
Verdict: they are not EQUAL. They are just DIFFERENT IN NATURE. 10 apples aren't equal to 10 oranges, are they?

Men can do things Women can't.
Women can do things Men can't.
Verdict: NONE IS WEAKER NOR STRONGER. Get rid of the false duality imposed by the feminist mindset.

Men are not better than Women.
Women are not better than Men.
Verdict: They deserve EQUAL CIVIL RIGHTS. NOT because they are equal, but because civil rights should tackle humanistic issues away from gender (or racial, ethnic, religious...) issues.

capiche?

oh and Julia and mercury, i am not a big fan of your case studies (1988 olympic game? the POPE???). Make all the arguments you want, but when you decide to back them up, for crying out loud, try to be more focused and less "original". Just a hint.

mercury said...

i just loved how he related evolution to "faith".

yea dude same thing. (being sarcastic of course)

god needs faith..faith is believing in something without the need for reason, logic, or fact for that matter.
evolution on the other hand is fact. you don't need to have "faith" in it.

and please don't tell me how to use my terminology..be it adaptation or evolution..i didn't study four years of biology and molecular genetics for you to tell me what to talk about in a field that you obviously have no knowledge about.

there is overwhelming evidence for evolution...be it genetic or environmental..and it has nothing to do with dogma at all...leave that for religion, which you clearly seem to be deeply indoctrinated by.
i loved that you accused me of being indoctrinated..indoctrinated with facts and science..lol..yea that makes sense :p

and you failed miserably in providing me with answers as to why there can't be a female pope...or why there haven't been any female prophets?
you only kept accusing julia and i of being indoctrinated..based on nothing obviously.

Sami said...

I should leave it for clear headed readers to read and judge about who is indoctrinated or not and with what, mercury, but i only have 1 thing to say:

THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

Research the term "theory" in your science book, dexter. Then come and talk to me about "facts".

PS: i am a bio graduate myself :) but i don't tend or feel the need to patronize; instead, i know what i am talking about.

PPS: i don't consider a "miserable failure" leaving your irrelevant questions unanswered. I will reply to what i consider being relevant to my posts only. Let that be known. I never nor will ever defend religion, so plz dont try to force me into one of your boxes or make it look that way.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

dude i'm the only one here who actually stated facts...we already talked about how the Y-chromosome's genetic makeup has changed over the years...obviously you didn't even bother reading the articles.
now that was a good example on how genetic recombinations whether due to mutations or simple natural selection allowed for this change.

evolution isn't about apes turning into humans you know..it is simply FACT that human beings share about 99% of their genes with chimpanzees..and the only plausible explanation is that these species have to be somehow related..(probably through some common ancestor if you've studied taxonomy).

in 1859..darwin proposed the theory of evolution..in his book "the origin of species"...well dude i don't know if you know this but this is 2010 now..and molecular biology and genetic techniques have gotten us to levels we never even perceived to be possible. as i said there is overwhelming evidence to prove evolution.

back in 1859, darwin did not have the tools nor the technology to recombinate DNA...he didn't even know what DNA was at the time!

when a bacteria changes its genetic makeup thus becoming resistant to antibiotics..what is that??
if that has nothing to do with evolution then i really can't help you my friend.

i'm amazed that you even were able to pass your biology courses with that attitude (or even the MCAT, which has a significant portion on evolution and taxonomy)...i'm pretty sure you got all your answers on the evolution topic wrong :p

so i'm guessing you're a creationist? :p
believe in "intelligent design" much?
adam and eve?
obviously! if you're refuting evolution as fact! :)

p:s: thanks for calling me dexter (we biology students, turned med students take that as a compliment)..and of course i always refer to my science books for answers...instead of some other books i can mention ;)

anyways..back to the original question (which you keep avoiding). why does the pope have to be a MALE? :p

Haneen H said...

People, people: Firstly, we're discussing a post in which nothing about evolution or creationism was mentioned.To each his own.

Secondly: To all sides, no need to get personal here, we're trying to have a diplomatic debate and not bite each others' heads off.

Thirdly: The problem with the pope and the entire church institution being patriarchal has nothing to do with the Bible or the teachings of Jesus (regardless of if we like them or not). Jesus himself never stated that women cannot occupy certain functions. The issue was, and still is with institutions (being Islam/ Judaism or Christianity)'s interpretation of their own theology, and not so much the theology itself.

mercury said...

sorry for my comment being dropped in as "anonymous"..i just couldn't log in somehow.

anyways thanks haneen for your comment..and hopefully we can get back to the issue at hand here. :)

Sami said...

Haneen,

thx for your post, so true in every way.

I know you noticed how i have been trying to avoid issues such as evolution/creationism and the pope thing... but the only way to discuss things for some people is by putting others in their predefined boxes.

But you'll have to excuse me for just answering back in stating the obvious.

Mercury:
You are standing on slippery grounds; the overuse of terms such as "plausible", "probably", "theory", etc.. (oh, and the smileys! ;)) don't take your "facts" too far off the ground. All your essay shows is that you got some history right. Nothing very scientific there.

"when a bacteria changes its genetic makeup thus becoming resistant to antibiotics..what is that??"
>> this is called ADAPTATION. plz refer to the first advice i gave you in my second post.

Humility is key to enlightenment.

mercury said...

hahaha...adaptation is a form of evolution my friend.

man you really know your facts don't you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation

"Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat.[1][2] This process takes place over many generations,[3] and is one of the basic phenomena of biology.[4]"

anyways now that that's out of the way..we can return to the discussion at hand.

mercury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mercury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sami said...

Wiki!! Oooo.. Very scientific.

Adaptation is the ONLY proven form of evolution in which genetic mutation occurs WITHIN the same species.

As opposed to your myth whereby a species magically transforms into another.

Enough blabber abt that.

Sami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Haneen H said...

Guys, the bacteria topic is getting stale.
To be very fair, adaptation is indeed plausible but one must take into account the fact that prehistory is a blur, for example:

Prehistorical remains can be found in let's say Palestine dating to X years BC and having certain characteristics, others remains can be excavated somewhere in Europe dating from Y BC and having completely different traits, the problem this raised for us as archeologists is in the fact that the difference between X and Y is usually millions and millions of years. Which means that there is a huge gap that we cannot account for, which we know nothing about, which we cannot understand.

Evolution is one theory that explains this shift in traits in the prehistoric man. And I say this in all objectivity, but let's not forget that PREHISTORY is NOT history, there is no serious and comprehensive successions of events which can be relied on and it shouldn't be treated like the history of Egyptians which has been properly documented masalan.

The bottom line is for one last time is the following:
- Equal rights between and women everywhere should happen.
- Women should not be treated differently if they don't want to lift trucks, if they wanna train and do that for their own pleasure, good for them, if they don't, it doesn't make them any less of human beings.
- No one (men or women) should do or not do things (like having kids or not having them, lift trucks or not lift them etc...) in the name of feminism. MY feminism has nothing to do with that, it's all irrelevant to me, MY feminism is a re-look at our education, what WE know (as human beings, not just women) and how we can claim our rights in a civilized fashion and transmit them to future generation properly.

DEAL ?

carla said...

Dear Haneen, you sure create a stir as usual, and I love it.

Sami said...

Tabula rasa is sometimes a great deal, my fair lady.

Karine said...

Women will always be the "weak sex" as long as their life evolves around having minimal education, finding a proper husband and having children. Even when it comes to the educated ones, they are mostly aiming for Business managements degrees while waiting for Prince Charming. Well the prince won't be that charming after a few years when he makes the main income, when he decides EVERYTHING for his wife, when her only job is raising the children and cooking.
My med class has 22 girls out of 67 students! Not even the third!
Women need a wake-up call. They need someone to tell them it's not OK to be treated as inferior, and that it's OK to be as educated or even more educated than men. Actually, it's not only OK, it's a must for women to be as educated as men nowadays!
It is a shame that we even have to talk about feminism in our days!