Sunday, May 23, 2010

If violence is the answer, what is the question?

How about "What's the best way to deal with having a religious policeman demand you justify your presence with a man?"

I refer, of course, to this story from earlier in the month: Saudi woman beats up virtue cop.

A member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Saudi religious police known locally as the Hai’a, asked the couple to confirm their identities and relationship to one another, as it is a crime in Saudi Arabia for unmarried men and women to mix.

For unknown reasons, the young man collapsed upon being questioned by the cop.

According to the Saudi daily Okaz, the woman then allegedly laid into the religious policeman, punching him repeatedly, and leaving him to be taken to the hospital with bruises across his body and face.

“To see resistance from a woman means a lot,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist, told The Media Line news agency. “People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.”

“The media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger,” she said. “The Hai’a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something it’s all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react.”
 Unsurprisingly, American feminists are conflicted.  Witness the Jezebel article on it:

While we don't usually condone violence, her actions are pretty remarkable - even kind of awesome...

Though "speaking out" is probably the safer, and ultimately more effective, route, the amusement park woman wasn't simply lashing out at the policeman - she was fighting years of restriction and oppression.
From the comments:

This news is both amazing and terrifying. It's wonderful that this woman was willing to fight for herself and that other women in her situation are now hearing about her resistance - and supporting her. It's terrifying because something terrible is probably going to happen to her. As more women resist, terrible things will happen to them as well.

I hope for a non-violent solution. These women deserve their rights. But I'm afraid there is going to be a significant human cost before they receive them. It justs makes me angry/sad that this is still a world where people have to die in order to be treated like human beings
My first reaction to reading this headline was "What horrible things are they now going to do to this woman?"

I understand the urge to lash out at those who have been oppressing you your whole life when the opportunity finally presents itself, and part of me applauds this woman for being so bold, but I worry that the Saudi courts might make an example of her.

But I'm really interested to know why her companion collapsed during "questioning." That shit sounds pretty ominous.

Stuff that I can no longer get behind: bashing a conservative Islamic state because it does not conform to western values and ideas concerning freedom and women's rights. Human rights will never be universalistic. Most Islamic nations support the notion of the rights of society or culture. We view them as oppressive and harsh (to say the least!) and they see us as morally bankrupt. If we continue to try and impose our idea of right on them, they will reciprocate and resist. Nothing will be accomplished.

Of course there is more, and of course it goes in much the same fashion. 

Indeed, even when someone has the balls to stand up and say that Violence is sometimes the answer, she will immediately be jumped upon by nitwits on her side:

IT’S OKAY! Depending on what really happened to her companion, this burst of oh-so-terrible violence could have been self-defense. I don’t particularly care, because I am not conflicted about the oppressed using violent force to overthrow their oppressors. More often than not, it is the only thing they understand. In the case of this woman, I am not conflicted about the oppressed exploding with violent rage at her oppressor after one too many boots have stepped on her neck. I don’t know if this woman’s actions will spark a rebellion or if it’s just an isolated incident I read about online. I do know not everyone is privileged enough to sit around quoting Gandhi at people in situations like the one women in Saudi are facing.
I am forced to note that the comments on that post immediately go to calling members of the Tea Party violent terrorists.  Skipping past that particular idiocy, however, we get to the nitty-gritty:

I don’t think violence can ever be considered noble. I think part of the difference here is that America’s history is sort of defined by the media that we all grow up in as courageous dudes who took guns and shot dastardly dudes while shouting about freedom. In the UK, the second world war was, like, right here: there are places all over the country where you can see much newer houses in the middle of old terraces, and that’s because they got bombed. I was taught about the second world war as this thing that was shitty for everyone, not as a victory.
Aims can be noble- I cannot think of a single act of violence that can be witnessed by someone and called noble. Necessary, maybe. But never to be idealised.

Cimorene’s flexible self-defense position here was good for serious thought and a good laugh too – suddenly I could see my violent ex-husband’s point of view. I do believe we have the right to self defense, using whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, the patriarchy has seen to it that women using violence are punished ever more severely than equally or more violent men. With men – it’s expected. With women – it’s “unnatural”. While we have a moral right to self defense, I would not want to check it out in real life after seeing what has happened to women who’ve successfully defended themselves against violent men. The entire weight of the legal system (I won’t call it justice) came crushing down on them.
Times like this I am grateful to not be a liberal.

I don't think I've said this before, in so many words, but I will now:  Liberal feminists, aren't.

I think the last comment I quoted illustrates that most clearly.  How DARE we expect human rights for women in Saudi Arabia, when the powers that be have declared otherwise?

Interestingly, Ayaan Hirsi Ali addressed something very similar to this in a recent interview:

Q: What does Islam do to the liberal psyche?
A: Confuses it. The liberal psyche wants to protect minorities, to apologize for imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and the appalling treatment of black people during the civil rights movement. At the same time, they want to continue to defend the rights of individuals. They’ve convinced themselves that the best way to do that in general is to defend the cultures that are non-white. But what they forget, and what they’re being confronted with, is that non-white cultures contain misogynistic, collectivist, tribal, gay-unfriendly and female-hostile traditions. And so they’re confused: on the one hand, they’re looking at minorities as groups they need to save and speak up for, and on the other hand, they’re confronted with the ideas and practices of individuals within those minorities that are very undemocratic and appalling, really.

I can't argue with that.

(Oh, and can I say thank GOD that there are some women in this world who aren't total pussies. "I'm afraid there's going to be a significant human cost before they can receive them."  Yeah, probably.  Guess what?  This woman and others are willing to pay the price for their daughters to have a better life, even if that price is their own existence.  You have the luxury to not find that necessary.  Be grateful, and shut the fuck up about women who have more bravery in their nail clippings than you've got in your whole body.)

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