Archive for the ‘ Feminism ’ Category

What Goldsmiths Feminists and LGBTQ+ Society Don’t Get

Many years ago, as a medical student in Lahore, I wrote a  blog challenging non-medical use of circumcision, namely for religious reasons. The blog went viral on campus. One evening, my anxious roommate informed me of an angry discussion going on about my blog in the hostel common room among some 100 Muslim students, and that I must escape.

I didn’t need to be told twice. I’d sensed the hostility long before that. I’d already been receiving threats of bodily harm on Facebook and on the blog’s comment section.

A small protest broke out on campus, and the Muslim students demanded the Dean to expel me from college, or let them ‘handle’ the matter themselves.

I secretly met with the Dean. I lied to her about the blog being mine. There wasn’t much else I could say. I was human, and I didn’t want to be expelled, or worse. Although a Muslim myself, I was ostracized by the Muslim community. I didn’t complain. That was the better of the possible outcomes, and to some extent, I thought I deserved it. My parents certainly did, and oh, there’s an interesting story there too.

Eventually, I discovered that I had options. I thought about it, did my research, and gradually became an atheist. Before coming out of the closet, I brought up the subject of atheism with my mum and dad in the car, on our way to Islamabad. He told me it’s acceptable to be one from the beginning, but one cannot leave Islam. Why, I asked. Because it’s not a joke, he said, and murtids (apostates) are to be put to death.

You might accuse me of exaggerating, but I’m not. This is also the law in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Blasphemy and apostasy are punishable by death.

Needless to say, I did not come out of the closet that evening.

Please note that I used the general term ‘Muslim’ here instead of ‘Islamist’, as in my country, these are not well distinguished. No Musalman identifies himself as an ‘Islamist’ – it’s a label we unilaterally slap onto them to separate them from those whom we describe as the good Muslims. But Islamism is a culture existing within the Muslim community. Consider how you would feel if I argued, “Not all Men are Misogynists!”. I’ll use the same language that you use for white men.

I realize that this idea upsets you, but please bear with me.

Muslims exist simultaneously in two different worlds. One is yours, the Western world, in which Muslims are a marginalized group, and often subjected to gross anti-Muslim bigotry.
Muslims2Worlds
The other world is where I live. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where Muslims are the ruling class. Islam is not a counter-cultural phenomenon here. It is the established order. It is the law. It is the man. It is the bane of all the minorities within the Muslim states, and even Muslim communities abroad.

And this is a world you are NOT acquainted with. Islamists have convinced you that all the stories about blasphemers being lynched, and atheists being hacked to death, and Iranian women being stoned to death for adultery, or forced to wear burqas, are “way overblown” and mostly just a way to make Muslims look savage.

While that may be the motive for white Islamophobes, the problem is not a myth. Just as an MRA might argue that all the stories about the high prevalence of rape in the United Kingdom or the United States are “way overblown”.

But I know I’m not overreacting.

Maryam Namazie comes from a world where Muslims aren’t a “minority”, but the privileged class, and her tone is suited to that paradigm.

She embodies the agony of all ex-Muslims, including me, who live in constant fear in Islamic countries.

She embodies the frustration of gay brown people, like me, who Muslims attempt to suppress by quoting scripture and telling religious stories to their children about ‘Qaum-e-Lut’.

She embodies the defeat of feminists, like me, who fight for political reforms to end domestic violence, only to have the bill shot down in the Pakistani parliament because it goes against Quranic injunctions.

Those ISOC boys who interrupted the talk by an ex-Muslim Iranian woman, telling her to shut the fuck up, are a marginalized minority to you, but an oppressor to us.

They say that if we insult Islam and call it out as an archaic, barbaric system, then we’re being Islamophobes. The question is, how can we NOT talk about Islam, when Islam is what gets thrown in our face every time we ask for the freedom to love whom we want, and believe what we want?

As a person from a Muslim background, I empathize with your need to clamp down on rhetoric that could be used to incite anti-Muslim bigotry. But stop demanding me to put the welfare of my own atheist ex-Muslim community aside, and go out of my way to aid the empowerment of those who enable my oppression.

Give us a chance to fight the ideological demons that are internal to our Islamic world, the same way you’ve fought with your Christian right.

Stop Degrading Male Feminists. We’re on Your Side.

Here’s what I don’t enjoy…

Being called “pussy-whipped” by men who accuse me of faking my enthusiasm for gender equality as a cheap way of “attracting chicks”; and, at the same time, being shut down by a ‘mansplaining’ charge by women who disagree with me, as if my gender automatically invalidates everything I write on the subject of feminism. I acknowledge that women have better insight on problems affecting women than men do (duh), but that does not invariably each one of them an expert on the feminist theory. It’s like when my conservative grandmother says she “doesn’t need a lecture from a man”, when I challenge her outdated view that women must always know how to cook.

I acknowledge my male privilege, and the fact that I sometimes get more attention for saying essentially the same thing that female writers have been saying for over a decade. But that is not my fault. I didn’t ask for this bias towards me. I’m trying to use my male privilege to undermine male privilege itself, the best I can.

From the conversations I’ve had with certain female feminists, I’ve come out wondering if I should just delete all that I’ve written on my blog as a (gasp!) ‘male’, and simply replace the text with links to articles of Jessica Valenti or other female feminists. Whenever I find myself in a discussion on women’s issues, I should pretend I’m illiterate, whimper and point my paw at the nearest woman, because fuck me if I have an observation to make as an actual writer.

Several days ago, I got into a Twitter-tussle with Eiynah Nicemangoes, the creator of ‘My Chacha is Gay’, whose work I have much respect for. That respect was somewhat lost when a post appeared on her blog “highlighting the asshole brand of feminism”. Basically, the blog rails out against feminists like myself who objected to the Rosetta scientist’s sexist shirt (#shirtgate) in November 2014. How dare these “asshole” feminists see anything wrong with a shirt with pictures of giant-breasted female archetypes plastered over it, that too while he’s practically representing the scientific team that landed the probe on a comet?

On Facebook, I confronted Eiynah. I challenged her blog, stating that the shirt was indeed sexist. Not “stop-the-planet-and-hang-this-scientist” sexist, but sexist nonetheless as it reinforces the idea of women as sexual objects. Frustratingly, her first line of defense was pointing out my manhood. Turns out, I was ‘mansplaining’ to her. Mic drop. How dare I, a man, challenge her views on feminism?

Admittedly, I once took pride in calling myself a “sex-positive” feminist too, as Eiynah does. My views have since evolved, thanks mostly to radical feminist bloggers like Heather McNammara, and a lot of other wonderful people (mostly female feminists) on social media who patiently put up with my ignorance and rudeness. Unlike Eiynah and several other feminists I’ve met since then, they did not use my gender to devalue or disqualify my views on feminism, but carefully considered the quality of my arguments, and the accuracy of what I said.

More recently, I’ve met feminists who’ve vociferously defended niqab, and implicitly, other self-imposed burdens like breast implants and extreme cosmetic treatment; with a basic argument that I, as a man, am not allowed an opinion on what women do or not do with their bodies. Essentially, what it means is I have no right to identify these behaviors as symptoms of the patriarchal culture/

This false sense of superiority, in my opinion, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of feminism as a battle of the sexes; a Boys vs Girls situation, rather than a larger fight against the patriarchal culture which transverses gender boundaries (so to speak).

Yes, women can have patriarchal mindsets too. Calling yourself a ‘feminist’ while being a woman, does not ipso facto make you right. I can just imagine being in 1917, having a conversation with the group of *women* campaigning against women’s voting rights; and then slighting me for ‘mansplaining’ to them the need for women’s suffrage.

As a gay person, I don’t try to invalidate your speech with a blind “straightsplaining” charge, wherever I disagree with your methods.on fighting homophobia. That word means something; it’s not just there to make me feel superior to a straight opponent, no matter how valid her or his argument may be. Likewise, I expect not to have my participation in the feminist movement to not be devalued simply because of my gender.

You’re a trend-chaser, not an LGBT “ally”

All Patricia Arquette said, was that we need gender equality, and that all people – black people, gay people, male people – must help women in their political and social battles, just as feminists have helped theirs.

In other words, intersectionality that runs both ways.

On social media, she’s under attack for “implying” that gay people and racial minorities are no longer struggling, and that women are the last group left in the leper-pit of the underprivileged.

Here’s what you should know. Online, I’ve fought for gay rights, racial minorities’ rights, and religious minorities’ rights’; but almost nothing spurs more controversy than when I proudly declare myself a feminist. And that’s while I still have my male privilege working for me!

Arquette is not the one with an intersectionality problem. YOU are, if you’re a hater. All she’s doing, is asking for her empathy towards other marginalized groups to be reciprocated. She’s not calling for women’s rights activism to take place at the expense of sociopolitical justice for gay and black people.

Let me break down to you, what you probably already know and feel.

Gay is *in*. Waving a rainbow flag in people’s face no longer carries the social or political risks it once did, and it’s officially “cool” to do so. Racism, while also far from over, is still widely recognized as a very real problem.

Sexism, is considered far less of an issue, and declaring oneself a feminist is a sure-fire way of getting trolled. ‘Atheismophobia’ isn’t even a thing yet, despite the fact that many countries still execute people for being atheists, just like they do to gay people.

Now note that I say the following as a man who puts the ‘B’ in the LGBT.

Fuck the trend-chasing liberals. Fuck all of you who conveniently crawl out of your foxholes after the battlefield has sufficiently cooled down; when it’s finally become safe and fashionable to stand by the oppressed. I can manage without your “alliance”, which is nothing but a bloody revolution’s open-bar after-party.

Don’t cherry-pick liberal agendas depending on what fetches you the most Facebook likes and retweets. Stand up for the feminists who get rape threats for airing their honest opinions! Stand up for the atheists who get glared at for being “immoral” and leading “purposeless” lives! Stand up for obese people who get fat-shamed everyday to the point that their personhood itself becomes questionable! Take risks standing up for the marginalized communities that aren’t “in” yet, and whose ardent advocates get mercilessly laughed at for being hypersensitive whiners.

I can name one or two things wrong in this world besides homophobia and racism, and ALL of them deserve your tears and attention.

On Nude Protests: Open Letter to MuslimahPride and Friends

Dear Muslimahs,

You deny that you’re oppressed. That may very well be true, but consider the following:

In the early 1900’s, an organization known as the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOW) was operating unflaggingly to prevent women, such as your yourselves, from being able to vote. Interestingly, this anti-suffrage movement was being spearheaded by prominent women like Mrs. Arthur Dodge and Mrs. Crannell. These women too did not believe that they were being oppressed by being denied their voting rights.

Femen, or feminists in general, are not opposed to your right to wear hijab, or cover yourself up however you please. We do have concerns about this kind of self-imposed clothing restrictions that men don’t have to put up with, but forcing you not to wear such clothing would defeat the purpose of feminism. Your right to wear these garments has never been in question.

But know this..

Pardah (conservative clothing) is never really your ‘choice’ unless you have the right to refuse pardah also. Claiming that it is your choice is like standing outside a closed mall saying that you “choose” not to shop there. What other option do you have?

If a community where relieving yourself of pardah would be perceived as a green signal for harassment, or even get you in trouble with the law, you are not choosing pardah. You are submitting to it. The only question here is, are you submitting willingly or unwillingly?

Please repudiate the notion that the Western idea of gender equality is different from yours; that is is acceptable for Western women to be able to wear what they wish, but you’d rather not have that freedom because you’re Muslims. Besides, the movement is not just about you. It is about countless women out there who are forced to follow Islamic values against their will.

There’s a growing paranoia among the Muslim world that the Western feminists are marching in to rip the hijabs off your heads. That is not how this is going to be. Nobody is promoting nudity! That is simply an art of protest that screams: “My body, my choice”.

Lastly, you may be concerned about FEMEN’s alleged disrespect towards your religion. You need to understand that your religion is consistently used for moral dictatorship and causing tremendous suffering to the cultural and religious minorities in Islamic countries. It is impossible to condemn what happened to women like Aliaa Elmahdy and Amina Tyler, without addressing the ideology that inspires such problems again and again.

I acknowledge that Islam is not a monolithic faith, and that your interpretation of it may not be the same as that of the Islamists who threatened to stone Tyler to death for her nude protest. But you’re missing the point FEMEN is trying to make with provocative statements like “Fuck your morals”; it is that we should not have to debate over the interpretations of religion to reach a conclusion that enforcing our values on others is just plain unacceptable.

We, as civilized and tolerant human beings, should be able to decide upon that using our conscience alone, regardless of what your religion has to say about it.

To each, her own. And yes, this freedom is for you too.

Nude Protests: Is Feminism Different for Different Cultures?

It’s understandable why the Islamists would protest against FEMEN’s ‘jihad’ campaign. It escapes me why any educated liberal, in the Western or the Muslim world, would support the #MuslimahPride on this.

Western feminists of the Jezebel variety have, through their opposition to FEMEN, set an example that their cherished concepts of gender-equality and freedom are not applicable to the Muslim world. Being able to wear what you want is a Western-thingy, and preaching the same to the Muslim world would be “culturally insensitive”. Note that FEMEN members have employed the same tactics when protesting against the Catholic Church’s misogynistic policies.

For Western liberals, it has become fashionable to revere foreign cultures as it allows them to feel more open-minded. In their outstanding ignorance, they often become apologists for cultures and ideologies that are consistently inspiring unspeakable crimes against humanity, and women in particular.

This is but the only conclusion one may draw from the act of supporting Amina Tyler for nude protests and cursing FEMEN for doing exactly the same!

The peaceful religious people being offended by Femen’s protest are the theist apologists who do not have the decency to flatly disown a source of unfathomable suffering to the world.

It’s those who are still mucking about with translations and interpretations and no-true-Scotsman fallacy, trying to unlink themselves from all the damage being generated by the ideology they revere. Those who are more enthusiastic about defending their ‘precious little believies‘ than defending human freedom and well-being. That’s the reason the MuslimahPride group is practically teeming with self-righteous assholes, generally more concerned about women’s modesty than the suffering inflicted upon countless women like Amina Tyler.

Being an anti-Islamist doesn’t make you anti-Muslim by default. Take it from a liberal Pakistani man with Muslim parents, mostly Muslim friends, and a whole bunch of Muslim heroes, none of whom I intend to offend by my criticism of their religion.

If Todd Akin ever issues a statement, “Women are a tilth for men to plant seeds in however they please” (Quran, 2:223), heads will explode from London to New York. Nobody will excuse this incident fearing that an attack on Akin would be an offense to all his political supporters because, you know, not all his supporters endorse this statement. No liberal would defend him saying, “Oh, you’re misinterpreting Mr. Akin’s words” or “You need to read all of Akin’s statements ever made before you decide whether you like him or not”.

At least in theory, there should be no confusion among us that these are harmful ideologies unworthy of our defense. Whether we choose to tread lightly or act diplomatically to safeguard the world from them, without endangering the peaceful Muslims, is another matter.

Am I Feministy Enough for You?

Turns out, I’m not just 102 85 kilograms of feminsm. I’m many things.

I’m a man. So even though I recognize that women are far more commonly mistreated than men, I am not dismissive about the existence of misandry either. I despise the term “reverse-sexism”, because it implies that discrimination against women is different from that against men. It’s all “sexism”, plain and simple. If you rant about how not all women love the color pink, and end your speech with “Urgh, men and their stupid obsession with sports!”, you’re being sexist.

Furthermore, I’m a man of science, thus not a fan of the idea that any study whose conclusion does not fall perfectly in line with what’s considered politically correct, must be false (and the scientist behind the study must be a rape-apologist).

Feminism (fem-uh-niz-um) is a movement advocating social, political, and all other rights and opportunities for women equal to those of men. Up till here, I’m feminist to the bone. It is not a prudish rampage. It is not a movement of man-haters, porn-haters, science deniers or of those who pity or judge all sex workers for their line of work.

Unfortunately, the movement seems to have been overrun by the Jezebel crowd and when I call myself a feminist, I’m often stereotyped as being an angry, man-hating, sex-phobic person. I’m many things, but not that.

As theists have traditionally used the term “God did it” to explain everything without having to prove anything, many feminists have latched on the term “patriarchal society” as an explanation to all their woes. The feminist theory asserts that there are no real psychological and behavioral differences between men and women, and all observed differences in the way males and females behave is the result of society teaching us to do so.

Science asks why the society became patriarchal in the first place. The common feminist explanation, I can only imagine, is that Bam-Bam I, the High King of the Cave People, ordered all men to go out and hunt, and leave women to cook and clean inside the caves. And this law has been followed ever since. The scientific idea, is that the way society has become structured today in a patriarchal form, is the result of genuine biological differences between men and women.

Now if you read the above sentence and went, “Oh? So you’re saying that men should be allowed to rape women because its in their nature?! That gender-based discrimination is natural and shouldn’t be fought against?” then you’re among the stupider variety of feminists who thinks that a natural explanation of behavioral differences among men and women, is necessarily a validation of harmful discriminatory attitudes and stereotyping.

It isn’t justification. It isn’t apologia. It’s merely scientific inquiry.

Like it or not, men ARE hornier than women and they DO have greater sexual needs. Study after study has proven this fact, and it explains why you’re more likely to find female prostitutes than males.

Does this mean that men must be exempted from controlling their sexual urges? No. Does it mean that we may need to restructure our system that could more easily accommodate people with greater sexual needs (which may include women too) instead of forcing them to battle their instincts out of an artificial sense of propriety? Probably so. Note that sexual assault is not a matter of “propriety” but an actual crime that needs to be prevented no matter what, to maintain social order and ensure prosperity of human race as a whole.

Women ARE more socially aggressive than men, and that’s a proven fact too. Does this mean that all women, in everyday life, must be treated as back-biters? No. Because the study only shows how an average female can be expected to act. It doesn’t show that every woman is more socially aggressive than every man. But is it justified for Jezebel or any other feminist banshee group to deny this research on political grounds? No to that too.

Feminism cannot go very far if it continues to be at war with science, particularly evolutionary psychology, seeing it as a threat to their awkward doctrine that men and women are behaviorally, psychologically the same, and any observed differences are the result of the patriarchal society alone.

Feminism needn’t be that convoluted, and the aim should be simple: Ensure equal rights and opportunities for men and women, regardless of any behavioral/psychological differences that there may be. Because not every man is an “average male” or every woman an “average female”.

Another Blog Post About Bras and Boobs

Feminists, anti-feminists and plain horny people who stumbled upon this piece by accident (no images for you, shoo!), welcome back!

I came across yet another article on bra-burning today, written by a Facebook friend of mine. If you don’t have time to read the entire article about how bras are an invention of a patriarchal society, allow me to summarize it.

One garment to rule them all
One garment to find them
One garment to bring them all
And in Darkness, bind them!

While that captures the essence of the diatribe, I would like to respond a little more specifically to the points raised by the author.

The principal concern is that bras are meant to sexualize a non-sexual body part. This includes training-bras. You can tell that the author’s a male by his obliviousness of what boundless (yes, I use that word most deliberately) joy is to go out jogging with the breasts flying all over the place. In this case, at least, bras have more to do with aerodynamics and comfort than male-domination.  In case you’re asking, I’m a guy too but I have man boobs, so I’m at least partially qualified to make this assessment (not that you needed to know that).

If breasts are a non-sexual body part, then I don’t see why a bra-burning feminist should consider a person ogling at a woman’s breasts
as “sexual” harassment. Perhaps the next time a person says “Excuse me, miss?”, he could knock on the knockers instead of tapping on the shoulder, or any other non-sexual body-part. If the goal is to ‘unsexualize’ the female breasts, then why continue to treat them as sexual objects yourselves?

The author – no, wait. I think the term ‘random-guy-with-access-to-the-keyboard’ is more appropriate. The guy spices up his argument with the claim that bras can cause breast cancer. As a doctor, I’ve never heard of this (probably because sexist men control medical science). I couldn’t find any credible study on this on the internet either. I’m guessing this is no more of a hazard than a tight neck-tie is for males, as it causes throat problems, cardiovascular issues and deaths due to entanglement in moving machine parts.

It pisses me off whenever feminists start suggesting that people can be “taught” what they should or shouldn’t be sexually attracted to. This polemic flies awfully close to the gay conversion hypothesis, which I have a personal disgust for due to my bisexual orientation.

Listen, folks, if you could actually teach a person what to be sexually attracted to, gays would not exist! I cannot imagine anyone in our exquisitely homophobic societies teaching young boys to be attracted to abs, muscular pecs or facial hair. Yet it happens! It is obvious that when it comes to sexual preferences, nature trumps nurture. It is extremely unlikely that men’s affection for women’s breasts is something that has developed artificially.

While it’s not possible to absolutely rule out environmental influences and the epigenetic triggers, a woman likes what she likes, and a man likes what he likes. Stop trying to make people feel bad about liking the color orange when the socially acceptable choice is blue, especially when this preference deals no real psychosocial harm, and only perceived damage.