Don’t Protect Girls. You Might Offend Men!  

Moral relativity“Barbaric” might be too offensive a word to describe customs like these?

  • Killing girls for the “crime” of being raped
  • Genitally mutilating girls
  • Forcing girls into marriage

That’s what Justin Trudeau — Canada’s Prime Minister — once worried when he saw the term “barbaric” in an official government document condemning those cultural practices. (He later changed his mind and decided that these things were, indeed, barbaric.)

He’s not the only one who’s tempted to overlook harm to girls in hopes of avoiding possible insult to the men who do these things.

A few years back a female German judge wouldn’t let a Moroccan woman get a fast-track divorce because she said that domestic violence was allowed in Islam.

Or, Bill Maher declared,

You’re never going to have this (Arab Spring) revolution happen unless there’s also a sexual revolution (promoting gender equality).

But his pro-feminist guest, Tavis Smiley, worried about offending Muslim men — though he agreed that women must be treated better.

Islam’s early feminist air 

Since some will read about the practices above and think “Islam” I want to point out that none of the things I listed are in the Quran.

And, early Islam actually did much to promote gender equality. Under the Prophet Mohammed, women were assured the right to inherit and own property, as well as to work outside the home. Women also had the right to consent to marry. Female infanticide and slavery were forbidden. And protections from domestic abuse were instituted.

With Islam’s 7th Century founding, the religion was way ahead of many other cultures, including Christianity, on the road to female equality.

Muslim feminism

Muslim feminism

Current Islamic scholars like Dr. Jamal Badawi continue to work toward women’s rights.

Large majorities of citizens in Muslim countries favor legal, political and professional freedoms for women, says a 2007 Gallup poll.

Muslim West Sumatra, Indonesia is one of the most peace-loving, egalitarian places in the world.

And, I know a number of Muslim men who feel that women should be treated equally.

Islam isn’t the problem.

Ethnocentrism > Sexism

Why are so many — Tavis Smiley, Justin Trudeau and that German judge — so quick to defend hurtful practices toward women and girls, so long as it’s “their culture”?

While ignoring the harm?

Maybe because ethnocentrism affects men and sexism doesn’t.

When ethnocentrism and sexism are at odds, which should prevail?

Depends on the situation. Who’s hurt more?

Seems to me that:

  • Killing girls for the “crime” of being raped
  • Genitally mutilating girls
  • Forcing girls into marriage

are all more harmful than any hurt feelings that might arise from criticizing those practices.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 4, 2016, in feminism, psychology, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Islam is constantly demonized, when the majority of time it isn’t the problem. It’s just a scapegoat. But the reality of protecting men’s feelings over the safety of girls is very prominent in our society. As always, men are put first. And that means making sure they are ok, despite the terrible things happening to our women. Our safety always comes second to them. This reminds me of the Brock Turner case, and how jail could “severely impact him”, as if him raping the anonymous woman did not severely impact her, and change her forever. His life and feelings had to be preserved, first.

    • That’s a really good point.

    • ” This reminds me of the Brock Turner case, and how jail could “severely impact him”, as if him raping the anonymous woman did not severely impact her”

      You’re conflating irrelevant issues. Doing damage to Brock Turner does not undo damage to the woman. If that were so, then our law system would be “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. You only have to google what goes on in middle east court cases to see the horrendous outcomes of that legal system.

      • ??? Doing damage to Brock Turner does not undo damage to the woman???

        It prevents damage in the future. If men can rape and get just a slap on the wrist, you get more rape. And women must live much more damaged, discarded and and scary lives. Women get the message that they don’t matter.

  2. I wouldn’t let religion off the hook entirely. People choose to interpret religion in different ways. The Islam of ISIS is interpreted quite differently from mainstream Islam, for example. It’s been described by experts as more of a religious cult than a criminal gang. People then use those particular interpretations of their religion to justify the horrible practices you describe and because it’s religion they are able to convince others to buy into those justifications. You say patriarchy is the problem and that is true but arguments for patriarchy are pushed most by religious fundamentalists and tend to be most persuasive to people when they are framed by religious arguments. I don’t think patriarchy would have much support at all without the cultural influence of religion.

    About the “it’s just their culture” argument. That’s cultural relativism and it’s shared by some liberals but not all. The problem is that it always validates the dominant forces of a society at the expense of dissidents. True liberalism should include supporting the rights of minorities and standing up for dissidents against authoritarian powers.

    • Yeah, I know that it’s not all liberals because I’m a liberal. I think the test should be who is more harmed.

      I also think that the people who are running ISIL would find some excuse to do what they are doing, regardless of religion, but that religion makes it a whole lot easier to make yourself feel OK about what you are doing.

  3. `Ethnocentrism affects men and sexism doesn’t´.
    Very accurate statement…. Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture, so in fact prejudices are usually its fuel.It also ientrains having a frame or worldview that considers certain culture to be the norm.
    As you have weel said, sexism is less extensive… and even when it can affect any gender, but it is particularly documented as affecting women and girls.
    Anyway, racism includes both Ethnocentrism and sexism… even when it seems it is not the case in many cases as being pro gender equality is considered politically correct and a proof or footprint of `civilisation´- opposed to barbarism-
    Very interesting post, dear Georgia… best wishes. Aquileana 🌟

    • And androcentrism is judging from the perspective of valuing men and masculinity over others (Women and girls). Ethnocentrism doesn’t cover more people. Androcentrism harms more than half the population of the world. But ethnocentrism affects men and androcentric some doesn’t. That’s surely why we care more about it.

      But I don’t think that whether majorities or minorities are affected matters in terms of making clear judgments. The judgment should be based on the amount of harm that is done.

      When the two clash, it is very important to side with the person who is being more harmed. And mutilating girls bodies and killing them because they were raped is way worse than the hurt feelings that come when some feel their culture is criticized for inflicting the mutilations and killings. I think it’s pretty scary when people can’t make that distinction.

  4. Yes I so agree that patriarchy is the problem which is seen a lot in our Indian culture!

  5. Controversial topic. I also do think, Islam isn’t the problem…the problem lies elsewhere, in the mindset that women are inferior class, should be kept inside the house and infantilized. 😦

  6. ” I want to point out that none of the things I listed are in the Quran.”

    Those things are not in there, but beating your wife is.

    But also Muslims are not protestants where their religion is all in the one book. Much as we might like to lecture them about what their religion says we can’t because it’s a mish mash of various sources and authorities that you wouldn’t have the patience to sort out.

    • There are many sources. But only one of those is believed to have come directly from God: the Quran. The rest is open to revision.

      On beating your wife, the irony is that this scripture was meant as a protection from abuse: if she won’t cooperate don’t beat her right away, calm down and try to reason with her. If that doesn’t work, stop sleeping with her, if that doesn’t work then — well, what comes next depends on translation. Some translations say to beat her, but the words can also be translated as “send her away.”

  7. Probably because of this liberal culture where you can’t challenge other countries, or cultures practices without fear of looking racist. As a result, people are hesitant in getting involved with something that’s not theirs and look the the other way. Think about parents who say are abusing their child or neglecting them in public. Some people see this and know it’s not right and want to get involved, but it’s not their child so they are hesitant in doing so and look the other way. It’s their culture, that’s the parents child.

    • I think most liberals would report abusive parents. But on the other point liberals are typically more sensitive to ethnicity than gender so that they will too often defend harmful ethnic practices that hurt girls and women rather than simply recognize where the greater harm is done and work from that perspective. And as you probably know, I’m a liberal, and not all of us put women last.

  1. Pingback: Don’t Protect Girls. You Might Offend Men!   – Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world

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