Friday, 2 April 2010

My Feminism or: Why Your Body Hair Won't Change the World (pt.2)


If a boxing match took place between a man and a woman, who would you side with?
Amid pulling hair, breaking bones, swinging left and right and turning black and blue, who do you assume would throw a hell of a right punch, kick the hardest or get knocked out first?
Regardless of who you’d bet your buck on, the winner of such a fight would ultimately prove one thing: Who had the upper hand in that particular contest and nowhere else.

Knowing that each confrontation has its own premise, whoever walks out alive from any brawl, may it be man, woman, child or animal, says nothing about the group it represents. Thinking that the particular (a certain individual) would offer insight regarding the majority (a gender) and can thus be stereotyped is a serious generalization. Me losing a Judo contest to a male competitor does not make women inapt anymore than guys should be considered clumsy if I beat one of them at a round of Pool. Therefore, the virtual battle of the sexes is impossible; which man VS which woman? A trained soldier? An obese couch-potato? Who are we talking about?
Ultimately, winning comes down to the individuals themselves and their personal merit as opposed to their gender.
However, this by no means justifies the allegation and the use of terms such as “weaker sex”, simply because weakness is not a classification (as no classification can ever be made), it is an accusation. One woman is enough to debunk the theory that females cannot fight as ferociously as men or become high-ranking officials. For this reason, this appellation is discriminatory towards half of the earth’s population as it relies solely on unfounded claims to attribute certain characteristics to women. The worst part is, it is acceptable in our language.
Assuming that this discriminating speech is a rare occurrence nowadays gravely misses the point. A society’s language and colloquial terms are its mirror, they project its “un-thought” and the collective consciousness which binds it together; there’s more to it than what meets the ear, so to speak. Knowing that our reflections are encoded in the expressions we use and having these trait associated to women, testifies to this segregation, especially in the Arab World. The worst part is that these thoughts get transmitted via communication without being second-guessed and saying that women are “nawa3em” or “al Jens al Latif “denote a certain attitude which individuals may not have or want to have.
The tool in the hands of each and every one of us is the conscious step to challenge the baggage of words that we received from the generation before us and better monitor the adjectives we associate to one another. A word is never just a word. It almost always reveals more than we mean or want it to, regardless of who uses it.

Written by Haneen H / Edited by Mazen Zahreddine


17 comments:

Julia said...

Good on you Hanin! I was waiting for you to site the problem of induction: you cannot use the particular to state a general truth. As for changing our choice of swear words in Arabic, it will be extremeley challenging--seeing that most of it is centered centered around women's "honor" and vaginas.

Mazen Zahreddine said...

I do agree with you Julia regarding the academic and official use of words; but not the colloquial and swear words. These exceptions to language follow their own distinct history and cannot actively be changed because they don't mean what they originally used to say. Kess emmak to a friend, is an expression of amused blame. Kess ekhtak is usually, weirdly enough, a manifestation of admiration. Akhou el sharmouta is a sneaky bastard. akhou el manyoukeh which is the same thing means someone resourceful and intelligent. Swear words do not mean what they mean, they simply fill in the gaps that ordinary language cannot.

mercury said...

"A society’s language and colloquial terms are its mirror, they project its “un-thought” and the collective consciousness which binds it together"

thumbs up haneen..i couldn't have said it better myself.
somehow yet again i find myself blaming religion for this. especially islam for it has enforced the quranic arabic language on us..and needless to say what the quran considers women to be.

and mazen i never realized that "kess ekhtak" is actually a manifestation of admiration..unless you are allowing yourself to get used to this language..this only happens between very close friends who have gotten used to each other..you can't say that to a complete stranger and not get beaten the hell up!

hehe i just love it when people say that to me,always makes me laugh at their reactions..they say "kess ekhtak" and my reply is simply: "eh..shu beh?" :p

anyways what i'm trying to say is that the language is fucked up because its origins are fucked up.

mercury said...

oh and by the way...how come i never heard somebody say "air khayyak"?
it's always vagina this vagina that!

the only reason people swear using "kess" is because they have this false association with the vagina representing a girl's honor!

Julia said...

Bravo Mercury, bravo! :)

But first lets focus on academia before re-inventing swear words targetting men or eliminating the ones on women. Education is the biggest means to change.

Sami said...

Nice insights, Haneen.

but i am not sure what kind of problem you have with the term "al jins al lateef"??

Are not women more affectionate than men?

Be careful not to get drifted to the other end of the comparisons spectrum.

Trying to avoid generalization and uniformity is good, but giving too much space for individuality and differentiation is a slippery slope.

So, in your book, the case of an albino African who is whiter than a Swede discredits the "hasty theory" that Europeans are whiter than Africans? Can't we make that claim based on the millions of the obvious "particual cases" in which a European "out-whites" an African?

Haneen and Julia, using the particular (or many particulars, for that matter), CAN and SHOULD be used to state the general in most of our thinking. In fact, it is the primary deduction strategy in modern scientific method.

Don't let your idealistic preconceptions drift you from realistic rationality.

Julia said...

Yes Induction is necessary in science but even in science--due to the problem of induction-- you cannot ever verify a theory. Also, according to Kitchener, we cannot falsify it either because a single observation that contradicts the theory does not necessarily mean that we refute the theory ( as one would in deductive logic). This is because we can explain this phenomena with an independant auxillary hypothesis.

William said...

A different perspective from a different gender and a different culture...

The first myth that has to be debunked is that all people are NOT created equal.

Fact is, some people are born tall, some short. Some with brains more apt to absorb knowledge, others with better dexterity. Some are born more attractive, others not so.

It is no different when discussing gender. Men and women are genetically dispositioned to be complimentary to eachother. That's not sexism, that's biology. That's why we have different genitalia.

Regarding the implicit meanings of language, language evolves over time and in time as society begins to favor traits that "generally" favor women (not always, because as you aptly stated it, comparing 2 individuals of differing genders is useless) that addresses such as the "weaker sex" or the "fairer sex" will fall out of favor. In general Western speech, I rarely if ever hear such terminology except when reviewing or exploring the literary work of a previous generations, or when discussing another culture's attitude towards women.

Julia said...

Concerning weather women are naturally softer than men, no one can deny the influence in the socialization of gender roles. The male role is to be more aggressive, independant,and not too nurturing. The Female role is the expressive, passive(dependant) and maternal.
Now there is nothing wrong with being affectionate or emotional, and Im not saying that women have to be aggressive the way men are socialized to be so we can have gender equality. But for BOTH males and females-the requirments involved in aiming to be the "ideal" male or female within society does play a role in shaping how we interact in daily life, and the way we present ourselves to the world. And this can give us limitations to be who we are. i.e if a girl doesnt express herself as soft,demure and expressivley feminine in the way she dresses then she's more looked down on because she doesnt fit society's standards of "femininity".

Haneen H said...

"On ne naît pas femme : on le devient. (...)c'est l'ensemble de la civilisation qui élabore ce produit..." (Simone de Beauvoir)

Latif and macho are both social constructs first and foremost; a man raised since birth in a strictly female environment would most likely not exhibit many masculine characteristics, same goes for women. It's about identification.

mercury said...

sami asked us to avoid generalizations isn't that so?
well then...if the example that you have given about not all europeans are "whiter" than africans simply because there might be some albinos there...(btw dude albinism is a recessive genetic disease that affects all races not just africans..out of context but just to make things clear).

if we're going with that example..then how about you using the gays and lesbians example as well?
this totally refutes your argument that women are "altaf" and have more emotions...there are some butch lesbians out there dude that can beat the shit out of you and i combined!
and gays might have more emotions and are probably "altaf" than heterosexual men, no? (i don't mean to generalize but i'm giving you the same type of logic you're using..although i know a lot of homosexual men that do not fit this stereotype at all.)

Sami said...

Mercury ya khayye,

this will be the last time i explain myself to someone who cannot grasp the obviously lucid. I hate to that in real life and even more online.

DID I EVER, EVER, IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF ALLLLLL MY SPEECHES AND CONVERSATIONS, BOTH PRIVATE AND PUBLIC, CLAIM THAT AFRICANS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO DISPLAY ALBINISM???

DID I????

EH???????

REALLY????


you seriously need to stop doing this. seriously. grab a cup of morning coffee with granny and co everyday. would help you get the need for pointless blabber off your heavy chest.

the only thing more annoying is starting a pretentious statement with something like: "btw dude albinism is a recessive genetic bla bleu bloo bloo....." that is soooo off topic that only georges w bush could beat.

Sami said...

That being said, i have to say i tend to agree with most of what William stated, especially in terms of complementarity of genders.

Not so much with the "women are not born women" thing of Haneen and Julia. Too absurd for me.

How is it that, through history, way back in times when societies were in their fetal stages and communication between them was limited to non existent, not a single society on earth emerged as a matriarchal one?

Let's assume that, in the beginning, men and women were provided equal chances of governance and dominion, and for some random or accidental reason, men were able to gain the upper hand in society and family.
What are the chances that NONE of the known cultures emerged as a matriarchal society?

Is it fair to always portray the woman as a victim of society?

Haneen, you are so wrong in assuming that a man raised in a feminine entourage would not display masculine characteristics. Sexual identity is innate. Same as in animals.

Think about 1 bull raised with 9 cows from day 1.

mercury said...

i DID mention that it was out of context..i was just making things clear.
however as usual you didn't reply to what i said...with regards to homosexuals that is. even though i used the exact same logic (or lack of, for that matter) you did.

i'm beginning to think that you don't even bother to read!
but you DO know how to get annoyed. yes siree...and i for one am loving it. typical idiot reaction when cornered and faced with facts.

as for your latest post, nobody said a man raised in a feminine entourage would not hold onto their sexual identity..because as you said, sexual identity is innate.

however what haneen meant was that that same man would most definitely end up more feminine than a man raised in different situations.
same as the bull raised with 9 cows..he'd still hump them..but bring him to another bull (raised in different circumstances) and induce a competition between them..i'm pretty sure one of those bulls would get his ass kicked..and you and i know which one that would be.

as for societies never being matriarchal..well..i'll give you one good reason why that never happened. RELIGION. a tool used and created by men to control women, simply.

Julia said...

Actually there have been moments in history where we have had influential female rulers within a patriarchal system ( i.e Elizabeth I of England). There have also been matrilocal,matrilinieal societies( where woman holds equal if not more power) societies such as the Iroquoise in Native America who were a part of five Nations(we are talking about organized society with a government)-prior to the American Revolution. There is also today, the Tuereg in Morrocow who are a Muslim, and the MAN is required to wear a veil whereas a female is not.

Patriarchal systems tend to ignore history and assume that women can never hold a position of power. In addition to this we have the rise of feminism in recent history-- where women begin to refuse to live in a male dominated society. And through this movement we have also learned that Gender is something which we learn. Sex is the only thing we are born with.

HOWEVER, I do think Sami has raised an important point which I often ask myself as well: " Arent women responsible for their situation?Arent they to blame for letting the system victimize them?"

Yes to a certain extent I think that women are responsible--for they are the only ones who can fight for their rights. However the answer is never that simple.We cannot ignore who designed the system and to what purpose either.

Julia said...

SAmi and Mercury...We are exchanging ideas--attack the idea, NOT THE PERSON!

Haneen H said...

Women ARE responsible for their current situation, this will be written about in my next post within the context of education.
Of course, females fell (and still fall) into the trap of self-victimization and their civil rights indeed won't be handed to them on a silver platter, it's their own rights (and battle) to claim!! :)