An Open Letter to Western Feminists

In the on-going constructive criticism of Western feminists, Religion Dispatches offers up a fabulous call to action from Palestinian, Arab and Muslim women:

While some progressive U.S. feminists claim to oppose the hijacking of women’s rights to justify U.S. invasions, they simultaneously evade any mention about the plight of women in Palestine, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Their statements continue to focus only on female genital mutilation or dowry deaths under the guise of breaking the “politically correct” silence on abuses of women in the “Muslim world” that the Right disingenuously laments.

Some progressives may support such statements with good intentions, but these critiques ignore the fact that Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim feminists have been working on these issues for generations, focusing on the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, and nationalism.

Their work is ignored by North American feminists who claim to advocate for a “global sisterhood” but are disillusioned to discover that women in the U.S. military participated in the acts of torture at Abu Ghraib.

We are concerned about these silences and selective condemnations given that the U.S. mainstream media bolsters this imperialist feminism by using an (often liberal) Orientalist approach to covering the Middle East or South Asia. For example, on March 5, 2008, as the death toll due to Israeli attacks in Gaza was mounting, the New York Times chose to publish an article just below its report on the Israeli military incursions that focused on the sentencing of a Palestinian man in Israel for an honor killing; the report was deemed worthy of international coverage because the Palestinian women had broken “the code of silence” by resorting to Israeli courts.

Please click on the first link and read it all. I rarely take sides in eons old wars except that I know that innocent people on both sides are being killed, harmed, and traumatized. It may be Polly Ann-ish of me to say this, but both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict need to let the women, the every day, no elected office, those who have to live it women broker a peace deal. Politics shouldn't always be left to the politicians.

Technorati tags: feminism, Israel, Palestinian, peace