Intersectionality, Islam, and FEMEN

Hi everyone, It is Jinanne again!

I was raised in a Muslim family in a somewhat Muslim community in Brooklyn. I am a woman. I have seen Islam constantly criticized in the media for being oppressive toward women (among other things). I always felt very sensitive when that came up. I am Muslim. I am a woman. I never felt the way the television is saying that I should feel or saying that I DO feel. One of the main controversies that surrounds women and Islam is the idea of the hijab and this idea of modesty that surrounds the wearing of it.

I never wore the hijab and my parents never forced me to wear it. This was a view that was pretty common in a lot of the Muslim families I grew up around. I was always told and I’m sure other Muslim girls were told as well something along the lines of:

“you wear the hijab when you are ready, you wear it for God and no one else. If you wear the hijab because someone else told you to, it’s as if you never wore it all”

Now I am very aware that women in Islam do get forced to wear the hijab but many also choose to wear it. I think something important to acknowledge is that it is not Islam nor is it God that oppresses women but it is institutions and regimes that do not represent any single religion that do the oppressing.

FEMEN started out a self described, radically feminist organization that was founded in Ukraine and originally fought against sex-trafficking of Ukrainian women and for pro-choice legislation in Ukraine. However, FEMEN has developed into something very very racist. Which is alienating to many women of Muslim faith around the world.

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Just in case you missed this photo in the Bitchtopia article. REALLY?????? No….really?

How can you claim to support Muslim women and any women of faith if you are attacking a lifestyle choice many women CHOOSE to live by. Believe it or not, many Muslim women have chosen to wear the hijab, have chosen to dress modestly, have chosen to practice a faith in which they love! FEMEN’s goal is to patronize women of Islam and tell them that they don’t know any better. It is not feminism if you are demeaning a group of women who do not believe in the same things as you. FEMEN is taking European/American standards and ideals and telling women that these ideals are the right ideals and that whatever they believe in is wrong, they are just too “sheltered” or to find this out for themselves

This belief is incredibly problematic and incredibly NOT OKAY. Amina Sboui, a Tunisian activist who posted topless photos of herself on Facebook and was detained for nearly three months and was supported by FEMEN constantly throughout that announced she left FEMEN for its lack of financial transparency but for its Islamophobia as well.

This type of activism and ignorant and leads to the misrepresentation of the people in which they ARE TRYING TO REPRESENT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Which means its acts are completely ineffective. Trying to “help” people without at first taking interest in the lives of the people you are attempting to help, assuming you know what is good for them when you have no idea what their life is like at all is ineffective, offensive, and just stupid.

This Euro/US-centric type of feminism leads to dangerous acts that end up oppressing the women in which it thinks it is helping. One huge instance of this happening to women in Islam is the banning of “conspicuous signs of religious affiliation, including Islamic headscarves” in state schools and the banning of full-face veils (burkas and niqabs) are prohibited from being worn in public places in France, a country with the highest population of Muslims in Western Europe. This was all done in an attempt of France to be more “secular.” *MAJOR EYEROLL*

Many people celebrated this act by France that legally FORCES Muslim women to not wear the hijab in a way they may see fit because they believed Muslim women were forced to wear the hijab? How….is….that….any…different????

It is instances like these that prove that intersectionality, is NECESSARY if you really want feminism and if you really want equality. We cannot view Muslim women as oppressed and non-Muslim women as not oppressed. That simplifies an incredibly complicated situation. It is sloppy and hurts far more people than it helps. There are instances in which women in “secular” and so called “progressive” societies are oppressed but people tend to discount this type of power struggle because “women have it worse in other parts of the world.” Or whatever assholes say these days in regards to that. It is important that all feminists work together and acknowledge each other’s struggles and weakness and powers and strengths so that support will come off as helpful and not demeaning.

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