Ethnocentric Views On Women
The cultural and intellectual ethnocentricism that gave rise to Imperialism
in the West has not diminished. It has taken many other forms, each as vile
as the source. Among the views that are born from this ethnocentricism is
their views on women.
On the one hand, the West decrees that they are all for freedom, justice,
and equality for all people. On the other hand, the inequality between men
and women in the West is not far off from the inequalities of the rest of
the world. Indeed, the question of equality is one that varies immensely
from place to place, but the general trend is undeniable.
To add insult to injury, Western thought, and the thought of the wish-washed
admirers of it, hold that they value equality and respect of women higher
than any other societies, particularly those of the Middle East. The
ethnocentricism behind these sentiments is undeniable.
We see now in parts of the Western world, for example Winnepeg, Canada,
women and men are 'championing' the right of women to go topless, just as
men do, during the summer heat. The moral fabric of the West is such that
nudity and promiscuity is not frowned down upon, so long as inappropriate
acts do not result from these behaviors. In Europe especially, it is common
for families to go to nude beaches. And then the women in these societies
complain about being 'objectified'. They complain that women should not be
judged on the basis of their looks. They complain about being pressured to
dress or act in certain ways. Surely if you ask any Western woman, feminist
or not, if Western culture needs no improvement in the treatment of women,
the answer will be nearly unanimous.
But if we look at this with respect to how other societies treat their
women, the answers will be more varied, and surely there are some trends
that indicate ethnocentricism. When Westerners see a nun, dressed in full
uniform; similar in many ways to the modest garb of a Muslim woman; they see
a caring, devout, pious, humble woman. When they see a Muslim woman in
hijab, they see an oppressed, miserable, low-self esteem wreck in need of
liberation. At once, the Westerner believes that promiscuous dress, even
nudity, is acceptable for women on the grounds that they are liberated and
free to choose what they want to wear. As France has demonstrated, this does
not apply to the hijab. Sexiness, especially for women, is viewed as
positive in the West. Humbleness is seen as square and boring.
What I am saying here is that the West has a double standard that is fierce
and uncompromising. They see themselves as the best. Whatever is alien to
their values and virtues is wrong by default, whether or not it contradicts
the 'rights' they pretend to champion. The West and their stooge admirers
are eager to attack 'inferior' societies, while all too willing to turn a
blind eye the inequalities between men and women in their own societies. In
the extreme case of the state of Utah, where many practices and norms are
similar to the Taliban, the double standard is all too clear.
Finally, we look at the facts about Muslim societies. Indeed, they are not
nearly perfect. But like their counterparts in the West, paternalism is
strongly rooted in culture. This is true before and after Islam.
Nonetheless, the life and times of the Prophet Muhammed clearly illustrate
that the rights Islam gave to women are unmatched. Muslims may have failed
to uphold them, but the facts are clearly present. It is no secret that many
Sheikhs have interpretted verses and hadeeths so as to suit the
paternalistic cultures that preceded Islam everywhere.
The views that Muslims hold on women do vary, but even the more austere
attitudes cannot be seen as necessarily negative. If you look at the
statistics on rape worldwide, don't be surprised who leads the way. It is
certainly a crime for the West to purport that they treat women better than
other societies, when per capita the most heinous crimes against women occur
in the West.
Which society treats women worse is of secondary importance. The primary
issue is that the lessons and insights of varying societies provide
indicators on what areas of female oppression need what kinds of attention.
To blanket Muslims with the label of chauvinists is no different from
labelling the West likewise. But if you stop worshipping ideal Western views
on women, and consider, without any postulates, Islam's principles with
respect to women, you will see that the latter is worlds more logically
sound. It is much too easy to ignore the proofs and explanations of Islam's
noble rules on women if you have already decided that these rules are a
farce. Case in point; the West.
A. A. Omar