Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Update II: Rape in Saudi Arabia

Interesting column by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post. According to her, we need some kind of new Elizabeth Cady Stanton to take on countries like Saudi Arabia where women are treated poorly.

Analysis: For the most part I agree with her. Women in SA are second class citizens and something should be done about it. She claims that American feminists tend to be wary of criticizing non-Western cultures, and they shouldn't, they should go for it. That point is where I'm torn. Saudi Arabia is an extreme example of women's rights being denied. And no, it's not part of Islam. There are some differences set aside, and women are supposed to dress modestly, but they don't have to completely cover themselves like in Saudi Arabia. But where do we draw the line between what it wrong and what it someone else's culture? We need to be very careful here. In the US, naked photos of a girl under the age of 18 are child pornography. In Germany, it's under 17. They even have a magazine called 17 (but in German) that features all 17-year-old girls. How many people in the US would stand for that happening here? How many would allow women to go topless on the beach? I mean, they're only breasts, what's the big deal? [Look how many women have trouble breast-feeding in public!] How many would allow a morning talk show host to have her pubic hair waxed on camera? Who gets to decide what is right?

One thing that isn't talked about much is that not all women want to be "saved." When the Shah of Iran issued a ban on wearing the chador, many women (especially elderly women) didn't want to leave their homes because they felt naked. I'm not saying that every Saudi woman feels that way, but there are some who do. For those who don't, who want equality, and the ability to drive, and the right to not wear a long black covering: they have to bear the brunt of this. And some of them are. They've had "drive-ins" where a group of women got together and they all drove their cars around. I feel that we should support them and help them. But I'm not sure we can force SA to change. While racism has taken some very violent forms, gender issues are more entrenched. Even in America.


Another Brian said...

Well said.

STP said...

You raise interesting points, but discussing what one considers good, another might not. Still, I think there can be gray areas and black and white ones, too. A woman who is raped and then sentenced to lashings, to me, is not in the gray area.

Good piece.