— Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson (via ffirouzeh)
Thousand Buddha Stele (detail), Northern Zhou Dynasty, 557-581
12 avril 2013
Des masques Hopis se sont arrachés vendredi aux enchères à Drouot à Paris pour plus de 900 000 € au total, en dépit des suppliques de la tribu amérindienne d’Arizona qui réclame la restitution de ces objets qu’ils jugent sacrés et qui a tenté de stopper la vente par voie de justice.
« C’est une honte ! It’s a shame ! », s’est écriée une femme alors que la vente, organisée par la maison Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou, débutait dans une salle pleine à craquer, surchauffée, décorée de peintures tribales et de la photo géante d’un grand chef Hopi datant de 1935. Le commissaire-priseur Neret-Minet a fait appel à un service d’ordre musclé pour expulser de la salle plusieurs Amérindiens qui venaient exprimer leur indignation. « Comment peut-on mettre un prix sur une religion ? », s’est exclamé l’un d’eux. Les journalistes ont également été mis dehors. Un service d’ordre spécial a ensuite fermé les portes de la salle alors que la vente se poursuivait… dans une atmosphère lourde.
Les 70 masques «Katsinam», qui appartenaient un collectionneur français anonyme ayant longtemps vécu aux Etats-Unis, estimés entre 600 000 et 800 000 €, sont en bois et en cuir, souvent très colorés, parfois sertis de plumes, certains représentant des animaux. Ils incarnent l’esprit des ancêtres pour les Hopis.
International solidarity should take its cue from the women affected, not try to impose values on communities
April 11, 2013
Another week, another heated debate over the tactics and language used by the feminist protest group Femen, which last Thursday launched an International Topless Jihad Day. The group, started in Ukraine, uses topless protest as a way to raise the profile of women’s rights. The day of action was called in response to threats received by a Tunisian Femen activist, Amina Tyler, for posting topless pictures of herself on Facebook.
With slogans such as “nudity is freedom” and statements such as “topless protests are the battle flags of women’s resistance, a symbol of a woman’s acquisition of rights over her own body”, Femen claims the removal of clothes in public as the key indicator of the realisation of women’s rights and the most effective type of activism. Everything else is seen as not radical enough and failing anyway. By these standards, countries in north Africa and the Middle East and communities from those countries living in Europe are seen to be falling far short.
It argues that it is “transforming female sexual subordination into aggression, and thereby starting the real war" by "bare breasts alone". Using your naked body can be a legitimate form of a protest of last resort – there is a long history of using naked protest and the threat of it outside Europe. However, the way it has been used by Femen feeds into and reinforces a racist and orientalist discourse about the women and men of north Africa and the Middle East. With statements such as “as a society, we haven’t been able to eradicate our Arab mentality towards women”, Femen positions women of the region as veiled and oppressed by their men as opposed to the enlightened and liberated women of the west who live in a developed and superior society where they have the “freedom” to remove their clothes.
We know this is not true. Black women (and I’m using black as a political term to denote shared and continued experiences of racism and colonisation) are not all (and only) oppressed and black men are not all oppressors. Women in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not live in a feminist utopia. There continue to be active and vibrant women’s rights movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The feminist story belongs to all women, everywhere.
Femen’s actions also come at a time of intensifying international backlash against women’s rights that is increasingly being framed, perpetuated and accepted by male elites as rooted in “the west” and imposed on other countries in a form of cultural imperialism. Unfortunately, statements from white French women saying things like “better naked than the burqa” feed this narrative and are more likely to damage rather than support the struggles of the women they call their sisters.
Its defenders may say that Femen means well but having good intentions is far from enough. There is a long and problematic history of colonial feminism and the “good intentions” of outsiders using racialised notions to “save women over there”. This actively causes harm, including when communities react to this by holding on to static notions of “culture” and “tradition” in the face of outside challenge as a way to resist colonialism and racism. Women’s rights becomes the battleground with feminists from these communities and countries often left in a double bind, stuck between trying to reject racist ideas of black men and communities and challenging their attitudes.
We need a politics of international feminist solidarity that integrates a gender, race and post-colonial power analysis and takes its cue from the women affected and those who are already challenging gender inequality. As I have argued elsewhere, a more holistic and nuanced approach would consider how patriarchy combines with racism, neo-colonialism and global capitalism to create a fundamentally unjust world. We need to think about how our decisions, from where we shop to the issues about which we remain silent, affect the lives of women and girls in other countries.
Femen has continued to be unapologetic about its tactics and language and refused to address its blatant racism. When you are criticised by those “for” whom you are meant to be working, the response should be to think critically on your actions. Its latest piece offers no self-reflection or attempt to acknowledge criticism from women’s rights activists from the region, only self-aggrandisement. To paraphrase Gayatri Spivak, white women will not save black women from black men. The role of feminists from outside should be to support the work of the women in the communities concerned, not add to the problem. International feminist solidarity is crucial but this is not the way to do it. A true ally does not use racism to attempt to defeat patriarchy.
Copyright © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited.
By Laila Alawa
Muslim-American activist, blogger and outspoken feminist
April 10, 2013
I am a proud Muslim-American woman, and I am tired. I am tired of being told that I am oppressed. That I have no voice. That I need to be liberated.
I am tired, and I am speaking out for the rights of my and other fellow Muslim sisters to be able to dress and be how they wish to be.
When I first heard about the ‘titslamism’ campaign that the radical feminist organization FEMEN was undertaking, I regarded it with apathy. Their original mission seemed to be intended to raise awareness around the Tunisian activist Amina Tyler, a woman who posted a photo of her bare breasts to the FEMEN Tunisia Facebook page and received backlash from the Tunisian government for doing so. As a result, FEMEN opted to begin protesting in front of Islamic centers around the world, baring their breasts in an effort to deal with Islamism.
Or so they purported.
In actuality, however, their campaign is not aligned with what they supposedly intended. FEMEN and its supporters have banked on what they feel is ‘politically correct’ these days to tap into: a healthy dose of Islamophobia with a heavy dash of sex appeal. Inna Shevchenko, the leader of FEMEN, backs up these allegations in a response she wrote addressing the very Muslim women who protested the efforts of her campaign to ‘free’ them:
So, sisters, (I prefer to talk to women anyway, even knowing that behind them are bearded men with knives). You say to us that you are against Femen, but we are here for you and for all of us, as women are the modern slaves and it’s never a question of colour of skin. … And you can put as many scarves as you want if you are free tomorrow to take it off and to put it back the next day but don’t deny millions of your sisters who have fear behind their scarves, don’t deny that there are million of your sisters who have been raped and killed because they are not following the wish of Allah!”
As the very woman who is supposedly being ‘freed’ by these protests, I am offended and disgusted. As a covered Muslim woman, I am greeted on a daily basis with passersby who tell me that I no longer need to wear the headscarf because I am in America. In this exact statement supposedly freeing Muslim women from the clothes they seem ‘forced’ to don, there is a level of oppression being expressed, as though there is only one way to be ‘free.’ The same beliefs are employed in FEMEN’s offensive and ultimately pointless protests.
I anticipate there being a number of comments posted to this article notifying me that my father will stone me once he hears that I’ve spoken out (he will not, he is a sweet, supportive man, as most men are in the Islamic faith), that if I were ‘back home’ where I ‘came from’, I would be forced into a hut with four other women and raped on a daily basis under the guise of Islam (I come from Syria and Denmark, neither of which engage in those supposed practices, practices that are not condoned in Islam, although unjust instances of domestic violence still occur under the guise of the faith). So, for any readers who quickly scan through this piece and begin complaining about my so-called oppression, recognize that I am fully free and require no sort of help on your part.
FEMEN protests display a blatant expression of orientalism and colonialism in their belief that there is only one way to be free: through the utter disrobing of all garments covering the body. In perpetuating the belief that there is only one way to go about being free, FEMEN provides a narrow-minded solution that is not feasible for anyone else to fit into. Rather than being revolutionary, FEMEN utilizes the same rhetoric used in colonial history to simplify women to just their attire as a representation of their ultimate freedom. Amusingly, topless protests are not even legally permitted in the free nations in which the FEMEN protests take place — effectively contradicting the freedom that FEMEN attempts to express to Muslim women as being the only way to live. I have not heard a single Muslim woman speak out about how she now feels freed due to the FEMEN protests.
Why is that the case? Is it because all of the — as Inna so condescendingly put it — “bearded men with knives” are holding Muslim women back from speaking out? No.
It is because we have no need to be freed by a group of condescending protesters, all skinny, white and fitting squarely into the acceptable media paradigm of ‘true beauty.’ It’s like a random stranger telling you how to eat ‘better,’ even though they have no information on who you are or how you manage your daily nutritional intake.
Just as many past colonialist movements have only served to hurt, rather than help, the very people they pretend to care about, so too does FEMEN with its movement to ‘free’ Muslim women from the imaginary oppressors. n its attempts to bring attention towards the movement, FEMEN blatantly shut off any attempts for a dialogue, telling Muslim women that we have no right to speak out on the very issues that we are supposedly being hurt by.
I speak out not because a bearded man told me to, not because I am nothing but, as Inna stated, a puppet for “dictatorial countries to promote the official position of the government… .” I speak out because the FEMEN protests offend and infuriate me, as a Muslim woman, as a covered woman, as a feminist, and as an equal human being in this world. I am tired, and I am speaking out for my own and fellow Muslim sisters’ right to be able to dress as we like and be who we wish to be in this world.
My choice to cover is my own, and FEMEN’s very protest to uncover is oppression in itself.
Follow Laila Alawa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lulainlife
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