Feminism | Posted by 5hereen 5ays on 10/11/2010
I’m a Feminist (Don’t Tell The Teachers)
When you’re poised at the beginning of what you see as a vigorating cross-country marathon, it’s very hard not to step over the line. You know that it’s going to be demanding and your first aid kit will be well worn by the time you cross the finishing tape, but it’ll be worth it to see the looks on the faces of those who said it couldn’t be done. A cool, refreshing shower of pride awaits you, and you can’t wait to get going.
So when one of my teachers asked if anyone would like to write an article for the school newsletter, I put my hand up. Now I’m faced with a problem. It’s just a school, right? Who cares what’s written in its newsletter, anyway? It’s not like anyone influential is going to be reading it, so it doesn’t really matter what I write about… right?
Muslim country + overly strict school= censorship. It’s not because they want to be restrictive or crush creativity, it’s just because they’re scared. If you’ve never lived in a society like this, then you can hardly begin to imagine what it’s like. When I was living in Australia, no one cared if I texted a guy or chewed gum in the market. It didn’t matter if I sat on a wall or crossed my legs in front of a teacher. There are so many hidden codes of conduct here, that violations are inevitable and followed my low hisses of ‘ayba ayb kcha!’. So to avoid being told ‘shame on you, girl!’, I’m going to have to watch my mouth.
What strikes me about the young women here is that many of them believe themselves to be weaker than the men. Their fathers pay for them to attend private schools, yet when asked what occupation they wish to pursue, half the girls said they’ll stay at home and take care of their family (a lovely concept, but not exactly dreaming big) and the other half named jobs, mostly in fields of engineering and medicine. If that’s what they want to do, then great; the world can always use more doctors and industrialists, but when asked why, they said ‘because their fathers want them to’. Am I the only one infuriated by this?
I suppose it’s no big deal in comparison to the larger issues in the Middle East. There are so many other things to be concerned about that these things seem almost trivial. Feminism can be a tricky subject in developing nations and there are many issues that can be considered taboo, sensitive and even shameful to discuss. There are several serious concerns that we need to take action against. One of these is female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision.
While young girls in the western world struggle with nail polish and which Disney Channel star to idolise, over 300 girls each year in Iraqi Kurdistan are torn away from their housework and forced into the traumatizing and excruciating procedure that is female genital mutilation. They are held down, often by female relatives, and are circumcised by the village midwife using an unsterilized razor blade without anaesthetic. The girls often bleed profusely and suffer physically, emotionally and sexually for the entirety of their lives.
Before we go about judging those women who dress in loose, black clothing and click their tongues at our skinny jeans, we have to remember that they can’t help their beliefs, in that this is how they were brought up. The people who are performing FMG don’t do so to hurt the girls, they just want to protect them. The procedure, although backwards, is thought to ensure marriageabilty and cleanliness. The only way to stop this is through education.
When there are things like this going on, who really cares if Hannah Montana isn’t completely coherent with feminist standards? We’re so wrapped up in the issues that directly involve us that we forget to consider the bigger things. So what if I get a detention for a risky opinion piece? At least I had the guts to speak out about something I believe in.
I hope I haven’t dissuaded you from coming to Kurdistan. It really is a fantastic place when you shine the light in the right way. Kurdish women are actively working to improve women’s rights through the government and non-governmental organizations. Awareness is being raised by events such as the Human Rights Watch meeting in June this year. It just proves that something positive is being done about it, and although I miss my denim shorts, I have to admit that Kurds are open to change.
Read other posts about: Female Genital Mutilation, Feminism, FGM, FGM and education, global feminism, Iraqi Kurdistan, middle east, middle eastern feminism, muslim countries and feminism, muslim country, patriarchy, teenage feminism, western society, women and islam, women in muslim countries
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