Women have never enjoyed their freedoms in society due to barriers put in place by men. Feminist theorists consider ways in which physical differences between men and women are used to show that women should be allocated inferior and degrading activities such as motherhood and secretary. Moreover, women are subjected to stereotypes, which portray them as weak (Ahmed, 1992).
Women are often excluded from public activities and are relegated to the private domain of the home. In society, women are ascribed feminine qualities and identities through the process of socialization. Women grow up knowing that their existence in society depends on the decisions made by men. Therefore, women live in a state of false consciousness.
Feminists observe that the subjection of women to the power of men originated from the rise of private property, the family, and the state. A number of scholars have come up with discussions giving various views as regards to the position of women in the Arab countries. The 9/11 attack shaped the debate on the position of women in the Middle women.
Some scholars argue that the military intervention in Afghanistan liberated women in a number of ways. However, some believe that the war on terrorism did nothing to liberate women in the Middle East region. This paper evaluates the views of two scholars as regards to liberation of women in the Middle East region.
Synopses of the Articles
The first article titled “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” explores the morality of the war on terror, which is being championed by the west led by the United States and the European powers. The article evaluates the effectiveness of anthropology as a discipline in understanding cultural differences. The author notes that there a number of differences between Arabian culture and western culture.
The scholar observes that it is suicidal to believe that the problems affecting women in various parts of the world are similar. In the Islamic world, women are assigned specific roles and responsibilities that place them in a better position as compared to women from other religions and cultures (Abu-Lughod, 2002).
The author notes that women in the Arab world have never gone through historical injustices that are witnessed in other parts of the world, even though her ideas are subject to evaluation.
The US forces and European humanitarian organizations claimed that democracy, freedom, equality, and the respect of human rights would be restored in Afghanistan once the terrorists are crashed. To the scholar, the idea is misplaced because Islamic women have different experiences, histories, and manifestations from those of American and European women.
In her view, resorting to violent means to liberate certain members of society is wrong because it amounts to injuring other innocent individuals in the same society where justice should prevail. In her opinion, the west had two options of liberating the region. One of the options entail understanding the culture of the affected and helping them based on the provisions of the culture.
This implies that women in the Arab world would be liberated through the amendment of the various constitutions. Constitutional amendments would address historical injustices and bring about transformation. This is better as compared to using the military to harass the locals, terming them sympathizers of terrorism.
The second alternative would be to address the global issues that bring about injustices. The global issues, which are also referred to as the global commons, include issues to do with racism, global warming, and insecurity.
In the second article, the author looks at the relationships between women in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. The scholar underscores the fact that women in Afghanistan suffer from similar problems as those of women in other parts of the world. However, the rigid cultural belief and strict laws do not permit women in Afghanistan to fight for their rights.
This does not mean that women are not in need of equality and freedom in Afghanistan. However, the main problem is that there is no way through which women could be assisted. Just as the first scholar, the second scholar appreciates the fact that history should be traced in case women in Afghanistan are to be liberated (Shahnaz, 2001).
However, he differs from the first scholar since he believes that the problems facing women in the world are the same. Women fight for their rights in Afghanistan through literature because a number of writings are available, which talk about the plight of women in the country. The social formations in Afghanistan have been shaped by various historical developments, including the Cold War.
Therefore, the struggles of women cannot be understood without first comprehending the effects of the war on women. The author agonizes because Afghan women have never enjoyed their rights in history because they are forced to do things that please women. For instance, they must always wear veils for them to be accepted as genuine members of society.
The author tries to understand the life of a Muslim woman through the life of Fatana. Fatana is presented as a woman who struggles with her body in terms of identity and difference. Muslim women are expected to wear veils even in other countries that do not apply strict Islamic laws. The case of Naima shows that women from the third world, especially the Middle East, are always oppressed and subjugated.
Review of the Articles
The second author views women oppression as inevitable in all male dominated societies such as that of Afghanistan. Political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of men in the Afghan society, something that the first scholar approves while the second scholar disapproves.
It can be noted that the second author is radical feminists who observes that there is a substantial social differentiation between sexes in the Afghan society. The first author is a functionalist who agrees that it is impossible to change gender roles in society without revising the social structure.
In her view, the main aim is to revise the social structure to reflect the interests of all sexes, but not elevating the status of women. The main concern of the radical feminists is to incorporate women into the economy. For functionalists, if change in the social structure is enhanced, social disorder would be inevitable, this is why the first scholar observes that sending troops to oppress Afghan men is not the solution.
Therefore, gender equality should be approached cautiously, based on cultural provisions. The second scholar could also be viewed as somebody supporting the conflict theory, which opines that no social structure is safe if it is maintained by oppressing a majority of its citizens. For such feminists, women should be allowed to participate in societal activities without discrimination.
In this case, women must be allowed to own land, participate in political processes such as voting for their preferred candidate and presenting their candidature during elections. In society, women are never allowed to engage in activities that are perceived to belong to men.
From the pre-industrial period, men were powerful because of their physical strength and freedom from childbearing duties. All feminists observe that these factors allowed men to dominate women physically. In this regard, the aim of women is to ensure that physical differences are not used to assign responsibilities to individuals in society (Wadud, 1999)).
The two articles show that cultural beliefs in society support a social structure that puts men in dominant positions. From early childhood, children are socialized to accept traditional gender roles as natural and just. The second author is against this perception because capability is not dictated by gender. In many societies, some academic courses are reserved for boys while girls are advised to take inferior courses.
The prestigious courses are believed to be pursued by men while women pursue the less prestigious ones. Feminists demand that the society must appreciate the fact that women have the same capabilities as those of men. Using Marx class analysis, feminists observe that men are like the bourgeoisie while women are the proletariat because they depend on men for survival.
Men control most of society’s wealth, prestige, and power. Women are compared to the proletariat because they are like the workers who work under the directives of the bourgeoisie. Women are exploited and their culture is always devalued while that of men is valued. Most of the women’s work is devalued, particularly that of the home (Lyonette, 2010).
The first article challenges the stereotyping of women and argued for a gender-balanced study of society in which women experiences and contributions are visible just like those of men. However, the second author does not subscribe to this idea.
In a study of positions of men and women in paid labor, the two articles concur that most workers are found in sex-segregated jobs implying that certain jobs are exclusively reserved for men while others belong to women (Paci, 2001). Indeed, this is the position of women in many parts of the world.
This form of segregation is not natural according to the second author. However, the first author appreciates differentiation that is based on gender. The first author supports the notion that society is structured to channel people into occupations based on gender and to reserve positions of authority to men.
Relevance of the Issues
The issues raised by the two authors are relevant because each feminist group has its own grievances in society. For instance, the main concerns of white women include equal pay, equal education and opportunities, free contraception, and free abortion. There is no uniting position among feminists. Feminism has been associated with the culture of white women.
Radical feminism is characterized by the belief that patriarchy is the leading cause of women’s oppression. A way could be found in academic feminism, which has an impact on teaching and research in academic institutions. Consequently, feminist courses are currently taught in the institutions of higher learning.
Feminist courses are concerned with revising and challenging a wide variety of academic disciplines. Academic feminists are concerned with criticizing the sex-blind nature of academic knowledge. Most disciplines have ignored the writings of women. In the academic field, we only have founding fathers, but not mothers.
Abu-Lughod, L. (2002). Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others. American Anthropologist, 104(3), 783-790.
Ahmed, L. (1992). Women and Gender in Islam. Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Lyonette, C. (2010). Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Paci, P. (2001). Unequal Pay for Women and Men. London: Oxford University Press
Shahnaz, K. (2001). Between Here and There: Feminist Solidarity and Afghan Women. Genders, 33(1), 1-20.
Wadud, A. (1999). Quran and Woman. London: Oxford University Press.
This critical writing on Women in Islam: Liberation of Women in the Middle East