Critical Readability

My critical readings of the best and worst of online media

Archive for the tag “feminism”

Fears About Shariah Law Take Hold In Tennessee : NPR

I’m going to preface this by saying I am neither Christian nor Muslim. While I was raised within a Christian nation, having no belief in either religion or no formal education in either, I would consider myself more of an outsider than insider on the emic/etic scale.  Perhaps that is why I am baffled by this article, “Fears about Shariah Law Take Hold in Tennessee” and it’s seemingly obvious relation to the Biblical Literalism that is a mainstay of Evangelical Christianity.

Read Excerpt 1 from the previously mentioned article: 

“I don’t want anybody to persecute any religion including Islam, but we have a duty as Americans to understand that they intend to take us over and compel us to become Islamic,” Douglas says. […] The First Amendment may  Read more…

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Female Bodies, Dancing Icons: Feministing Blog Competition

As a follow up to my previous post about this great blog post submitted to Feministing.com during their blogging competition, I thought I would also post my reaction to their choose of a competition name and icon: 

The first time I watched So You Think You Can Dance was during a period in my life in which I was conducting ethnographic research with Latin Dance communities in the United States. Like any good cultural critic, I quickly found myself immediately analyzing how troubling the new reality television show really was, particularly with regard to representations of race, gender, and sexuality.

Performances of the tango and salsa on the show, for example, are evocative of over a century worth of highly problematic caricatures of Latin America. Since the early twentieth century, the United States has had a fascination with Latin America in general, and Latin dance more specifically.  From the Latin dance craze of the early 1910s/20s to to the mambo & salsa craze of the 1950s/60s, and from Dirty Dancing to SYTYCD, caricatures of Latin dance emerge from Latin America’s history as a colonized and post-colonial region. It also points to the relationship that we in the U.S. have to formerly colonized regions: we sexualize them, we eroticize them, and we feminize them.

And when we’re talking about Latin dance (as opposed to say, music or art), we’re already dealing with an expressive form that is highly feminized. The primary tool of dance is the human body, and more often than not a queer body or a female body. The creative intellect behind dance (the mind), however, has historically been a male domain. In dance, male choreographers exert their agency on the female body – they exert their control of the female body.  Even into the twenty-first century, dance (and theater) as artistic and academic disciplines  remain highly divided along gender lines. Female and queer dancers = the body. Heterosexual male choreographers = the mind. Read more…

Why I got married (as if it’s any of your beeswax)

This is a great article about social activism, political correctness, straight privilege, the decision to get married anyway. It was written by Alicia Walters for a blogging competition through Feministing.com. You can read my response to their play on So you Think you Can Dance here.

“I do not expect everyone to jump for joy at this milestone in my life (but if you know me, it’d be nice). There are millions of others whose relationships are not adequately recognized, protected, or  celebrated. I am aware of the privilege that comes with my straight marriedness.

And ultimately I’m happy with my decision. I’m in a healthy relationship built on trust. We’re in it for the long haul and plan to raise confident, conscious, self-and-community-loving Black children. We made a radical decision to love ourselves enough to do what made us happy…politically correct or not.”

via Why I got married (as if it’s any of your beeswax).

Will Asma al-Assad take a stand or stand by her man? – CNN.com

I read this article this morning before I went to work and I have been thinking about it all day. “Will Asma al-Assad stand by her man?”

Have you ever heard something so ridiculous?

My initial reaction was anger at the blatant sexism of the statement. My anger turned to outrage and repulsion after reading all of the comments posted hypothesizing that she has run away to France to go shopping, men informing us that they would “tap that ass” or conversely saying “who let the dogs out?” Then I read one comment saying she needs to be “punished” – yes, “punished” in quotation marks. In the context of an article that, like the media is apt to do, cannot discuss a woman without sexualizing her and critiquing her body, one commentator said she should be “punished.” In other words, raped.

My second reaction was confusion. The video clips of interviews with Asma al-Assad do suggest she cares deeply about human rights, so why is she not speaking out against her husband?  Why has she not defected? More generally, why do the wives of dictators not do anything to stop their husbands? How does she live with it? How does he live with it?

And thus began my internal dialogue: How could she speak out against her husband, a violent dictator? What would stop him from killing her and her children? Do the authors of this CNN article realize what happens to people who speak out against a man like Assad? Can you imagine what he would do to a wife that betrayed him if he can torture and kill thousands of men, women, and children? But others are speaking out and fighting against him, risking their lives and those of their children to do so, why can’t she? Has she contemplated leaving him? Has she succumbed to the power? Has she been kept in the dark? Is she an integral part of the regime? Does she believe what he is doing is right? Has she been manipulated and brainwashed?

The fact is, we don’t know and we likely won’t know for quite some time, if ever.

So why are we having this conversation in the first place?

I’m more interested in what prompted CNN to publish this story, and what it says about our culture that people are flocking to it. Do we want her to be a Louboutin and Channel wearing feminist freedom fighter so that we third-wave feminists can say “look what powerful and beautiful women can do!”

Or is it because she is a Western-educated woman and, as a result, we think she is more likely or able or inclined to enact change than her hijab-wearing sisters? Is this really just a small part of the larger white savior industrial complex, in which a British-born Syrian woman who fails to cover her head is seen as more “moral” and “enlightened” and thus must run in and save the people the U.S. media represents as the poor uneducated backward “savages” of the Middle East?

Or is this all part of larger narratives that blame the victim – rape victims or women with abusive husbands who don’t know how to leave? “Why doesn’t she just do something about it! Why doesn’t she leave? Why did she wear that skirt in the first place?”

Or is our understanding of femininity so limited that we simply cannot imagine a woman…not just a woman, a mother, who would knowingly allow such human rights abuses to continue? If that woman exists, why do we automatically assume her justification for doing so comes down to an ideological belief that she must be subservient to her husband and support his decisions?

Perhaps she is conflicted, perhaps she is scared, perhaps she is thrilled with the power, perhaps she is unaware, perhaps she is in love and blind, perhaps she is complicit, perhaps she is the mastermind, perhaps she has been threatened.

In the end, this article tells us nothing about Alma al-Assad and everything about our own cultural constructions of gender in the United States:  Will Asma al-Assad take a stand or stand by her man? – CNN.com.

Examining Modesty | the fatal feminist

Love this blog entry! A few days ago I read a blog posted by a liberal Mormon that referenced quotes from the Book of Mormon to explain her beliefs. This article is written by a feminist Muslim and uses quotes from the Qur’an to explain her interpretations of guidelines on modesty. “What do I do when I hear passive aggressive statements coated deceptively in sugar about how a “woman’s best jewelry is her modesty? Chandelier earrings.” Read more here: Examining Modesty | the fatal feminist.

Eve Ensler: Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine…

I believe in the power of an individual’s story. Rape is rape.

“Dear Todd Akin,

I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.

I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.

Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.” Read more here: Eve Ensler: Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine….

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