Editor’s note: this submission, which we were delighted to accept from Zaria Faris, originally appeared on her web site. AVfM management does not endorse any religious or anti-religious point of view. Zara Faris’ view is of interest because it calls into question the widely-held belief that women, but not men, are automatically oppressed in certain parts of the world, or that women play no part in said oppressions, and where we routinely ignore the suffering of the supposedly privileged men. While we do not endorse any particular solution, we know the solutions we oppose, and we think any solution which leaves men out of the conversation as anything other than brutal oppressors is unlikely to ever make this a better world. Below the article we’ve also included a video of Ms. Faris giving a speech with similar themes. –DE
It is commonly claimed by feminists that women need economic or political power in order to safeguard the interests of women, but this call to “empower” women is a highly misguided one that is propagated by feminists under the guise of justice. The feminist call for power is not really about representing the interests of the people, not even just the interests of women. Rather, it is the call for increased autonomy without responsibility (i.e. individualism), which serves only to empower the status quo of competing self-interested groups without empowering justice for all.
1 – Empowering women does not automatically empower justice
Power should represent all people – not just one faction. Feminists allege that women need power because they are “underrepresented in positions of power and influence”[i]. They claim that increasing womens access to power is a matter of “social justice”[ii]; if women are not so empowered, feminists claim that men will continue to dominate decision-making to the detriment of women. The feminist Fawcett Society states, “women as a group are missing from the top tables of power [...] if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu”.[iii]
Such feminist rhetoric ignores the fact that if the top tables of power have women on the menu, they also have every other man on the menu, too. Men are far from equal amongst themselves – there are differences of intelligence, responsibility, strength, wealth, looks, class; and only a select elite get to sit at the top table; it would be ridiculous to claim that the small class of men in power is actually representative of all men – it is therefore equally ridiculous to claim that a small class of women in power would represent all women. Instead of turning the tables on this injustice, feminists are merely demanding a seat at the table. If feminists were sincere in their call for justice, they would not be seeking to recreate this class oppression amongst women. Rather, they would seek an alternative system altogether.
Instead, feminists add fuel to the flames by perpetuating the sexist idea that men are bound to conspire against women, just because they are men, and women would be bound to be more just, just because they are women. In other words, feminists advocate suspicion of men, claiming that men are the problem, whilst women are the solution. Not only would feminists be outraged if such sexist generalisations were made against women but, in reality, it is untrue that men always discriminate against women if there is not a critical mass of women present. For example, earlier this year, the ‘Counting Women In’ coalition produced a report called ‘Sex and Power 2013 – Who runs Britain?’ claiming that ‘the exclusion of women from positions of power damages both women and men’. The report laments the fact that only 15.6% of High Court judges are female. And yet, a man is far more likely to be sentenced to prison by these ‘male dominated’ courts than a woman who has committed the same crime.[iv] The report also complains that only 14.2% of University Vice Chancellors are female. And yet, according to HESA Statistics (Higher Education Statistics Agency), women are far ahead of men at university – in 2010/11, more women than men were studying for degrees – they accounted for 57% of first degree graduates. 66% of first degrees awarded to women in 2010-11 were either firsts or upper second class, whereas the figure was 61% for men.[v] There’s that inescapable patriarchy holding women back, again!
So, are empowered women bound to be more just, just because they are women? Whilst it is a highly sexist idea, let’s entertain it for argument’s sake. When it comes to parliamentary representation, Rwanda, Algeria, Iraq, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Sudan and Uganda – countries which are regularly cited as examples of the impoverished state and poor treatment of women – each have more women in government than the USA[vi]. Furthermore, in Rwanda, women outnumber men in parliament, and yet 45% of the Rwandan population – both men and women – are below the poverty line. Consider that Rwanda’s Minister of Women’s Advancement (a feminist activist) was convicted of genocide when she offered rape as a reward for murdering thousands of refugees. So being a woman does not guarantee even a modicum of humanity, let alone justice. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have all likewise had female rulers; but this did not equate to the improvement of the standard of living for women or men, but only in the improved lives of the elite class of women in power. So there is clearly no positive correlation between justice and the number of women in parliament.
Not only did the USA rank behind these countries in terms of female representation, but this is despite the USA having a female majority of voters (53%)[vii]. It is no surprise then, when women choose not to elect women and vote for candidates of the ‘wrong gender’ (i.e. male), that feminists resort to undermine the women they are supposed to stand for, by campaigning for fixed female quotas in parliament.
So women do not need power to obtain justice, because merely empowering women does not equate to empowering justice.
2 – Empowering Women Reinforces the Status Quo
Feminists claim that empowering women is about increasing women’s choices. In reality, it tries to restrict women’s choices to what feminists think those choices ought to be, and tries to subject them to the same oppressions that men have suffered. If Jack goes tumbling down a hill, does Jill really have to go tumbling after?
Feminists like to claim that women would redefine power. The female editor of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women 2013, said she wanted to select women that brought fresh ideas of power, instead of reflecting the same old political and economic might. Yet her so-called “fresh” list bragged about 9 heads of state with a combined GDP of $11.8 trillion, 24 CEOs controlling $893 billion, and 14 billionaires valued in excess of $82 billion. Beyonce (#17), Angelina Jolie (#37), and Sofia Vergara (#38) also all came out ahead of the Queen of England (#40); but in front of all of them was Michelle Obama (#4), by virtue of marriage to Barack Obama, the most powerful man! So, these women’s concepts of power look suspiciously exactly like male concepts of power!
Feminists do not want real change, but simply to take over the same oppressive ideas of power that they have long attributed to men.
Feminists also claim that male dominated capitalism has long prevented women’s economic achievement, forcing them to rely on men to be providers (because men obviously want as many financial responsibilities as they can get, right?). Feminists say capitalism leaves women only one man away from welfare – yet men, too, are only one job away from welfare! It is clear that capitalism is not about men oppressing women, but the rich oppressing the poor. Yet, rather than standing for social justice and challenging the economic system that has enslaved millions of men in debt, feminists have simply served up women for exploitation, too, by making it a necessity for women to work. Now, the powerful elite gets to enslave, exploit and tax the female half of society, too! Progress!
In empowering women, capitalism and feminism go hand in hand in the divide and rule of the family unit. Simone de Beauvoir, who catapulted the feminist movement, explained: “No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children [...] Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.”
So, feminists clearly do not care about campaigning for what women want or increasing their choices, but rather about realigning women’s choices to what feminists think women should want.
Feminists complain about the handful of men dominating positions of leadership – but make no mention of the fact that almost every single human being has been moulded by a woman – the mother that raised them. Take a moment to consider that this includes every so-called patriarchal male – every so-called patriarchal male was raised by a woman. Feminists are keen to demand reproductive rights, but what about the responsibilities? What greater responsibility is there for women who want to raise children? What more fundamental role is there than shaping the generation that you will, with your own eyes, see to mature and live out the good or the bad that you teach them? Women are often the highest human authority in the home – how many men are the highest human authority in their work place? Feminists ignore this because it acknowledges that women by and large already have power, perhaps even more power than men; it also acknowledges that true power does not mean autonomy, but responsibility.
Forcing women out of the choice of full-time motherhood, has not only deprived many women, but it has enabled the state (by way of increased childcare) to have greater exposure and influence in shaping children’s thinking toward the state’s own goals. Women do not need power in such a flawed system, where empowering women only reinforces that status quo.
3 – Power is a Duty, Not a Right
The major flaw in the thinking of feminists, indeed in the thinking of many in West, is with their conception of power. Power is a burden not a virtue, it is a responsibility not a right, and, being “magnetic to the corruptible”[viii] and in constant need of restraint, power should be given and never taken. In a truly just system, a leader should look after the best interests of all individuals – not specific factions. In a just system, a leader should not govern according to their own fancies, but according to an objective code that is higher than them self; an objective code that guarantees the rights of both men and women, regardless of who is administrating them, and that the leader is held accountable to. The one who asks for this power should be disqualified from it. In such a system, a leader is bound to serve, not rule. And this is the concept of power or leadership in Islam.
In Islam, both men and women are welcome to work in politics and the decision making-circles of government. Both men and women are allowed to be court judges and Islamic scholars of Prophetic traditions (hadith) and jurisprudence. Islam mandates that both men and women are obliged to account and speak out against an unjust ruler. Islam mandates that a woman’s oath or pledge of allegiance to the ruler is worth the same as that of a man. Pledge and consultation are the basic principles of Islamic governance and women share in that on an equal footing. So much so that if a woman grants sanctuary to someone that is considered an enemy, the leader has to stand by the guarantee that she has given based on her judgment.
When it comes to being the head of state in Islam, neither men nor women have a right to this power. Rather, men have a duty to discharge this burden, whilst women are granted an exemption from this burden. The head of state in Islam receives no privileges or wages for such a position (unlike present world leaders), but is only paid an amount in compensation based on what they would have earned had they not been inducted to carry out this public service. In this way, Islam considers the role of head of state to be like that of compulsory military drafting, where women were not expected to shoulder the burden of defending the state – only men were.
If women really want justice for society, and the implementation of the rights guaranteed by their Creator, we should not be ensnared or distracted by the feminist rhetoric that tells us we need more and more women to claw their way to economic and political heights in order to improve our lives. Rather, we should fulfill our duty to God, in implementing the laws of Allah (swt); a system that promises to empower justice rather than people, and has an historical precedence of protecting men, women and minority groups from poverty, exploitation and abuse. Without accepting the objective values provided by the Creator, mankind has no recourse to justice. Women do not need power because empowering women does not automatically empower justice; women do not need power because empowering women does not change the status quo; and, ultimately, women do not need power because power is not a virtue for men or women – power is the virtue of our Creator, leaving only duty as the virtue of mankind.
[iv] For the UK, see the Hansard debate with MP Philip Davies: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2012-10-16a.32.1. See also for the US: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/men-women-prison-sentence-length-gender-gap_n_1874742.html
[viii] Herbert Dune