The Right to Choose
The brand of feminism that is touted by white, cisgendered women in America is a subdivision that leaves many women feeling excluded. The issues of the women that do not conform to the standards that dictate womanhood and personhood in this country are often disregarded and deemed insignificant. In their work “It’s Not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism” Susan Darraj (2002) divulges her experiences and perspectives throughout her navigation within the confines of archetypal American feminism. What they encountered was a structure that did not acknowledge or uplift her Middle Eastern culture. Their disconnect with the feminist paradigm was bolstered by the fact that they themselves did not endow the privilege of being a white American woman therefore the struggles of white women in America did not mirror their own.
It is no secret that women in the Middle East have extremely different experiences and are fighting for different fundamental rights than white women here in America. While the advocacy within the feminist movement here in America rose to prominence for being largely centered around women's rights to seek opportunities beyond the workplace and to eschew the “Mrs. Cleaver” ideal that the only thing that women have the capacity to accomplish is finding a man to cook and clean for; Arab women have different struggles, from the violence perpetrated against them in their countries, to the laws that restrict women from partaking in what we see a very common activities, such as driving, or business and property ownership. In “It’s Not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism” Darraj (2002) analyzes the exclusion of cultural dialogue and acknowledgement in the white feminist realm. Throughout their experiences here in America, Darraj has witnessed a feminist culture that erases the identity of Arab women and does not expound upon their experiences (Darraj, 2002, pg.4).
For many women in America, mainstream feminism denigrated them largely on the basis of color, but for Arab women, white feminism works diligently to eradicate not only their color but their culture. White feminists have constructed their own brand of cultural feminine imperialism, that holds the psychology that Arab women are sad, lonely heathens that must be rescued by “white knights” in the form of the all American, empowered woman. White feminism seeks to forge international relationships with Arab women by creating the dichotomy in which Arab women are spineless, veiled captives and White women are their rescuers. According to white feminists, their ideal of what a feminist woman should be is the standard that all women should aim to uphold. However many Arab women, like Darraj, disagree with this standpoint. Darraj seeks to find a feminism in which they can be free and empowered while still retaining and accepting her Arab Christian culture.
Although I am not a proponent for cultural norms or dogma is any manner, women must be free to decide what they deem to be uplifting for them specifically. No one should posses the right to dictate to another woman what should empower her. We are all different people with different wants and needs, and we should all have the liberty to create of our own freedoms for ourselves. Though many believe that every aspect of Darraj’s Arab Christian culture is oppressive, attempting to mandate how they should behave on their quest for independence would be dictatorial in it of itself. Doing so would be anti-feminist and would serve to ostracize groups of women whose beliefs do not reflect specific perspectives. Feminism should be an area in which culture, color, ethnicity, and background should be respected and acknowledged when addressing the lives of others. Feminism should be inclusive, ranging from the lovely, raucous ladies who take no heed in uttering their “Fuck you’s” loud and clear to the women in their long, sweeping veils who value modesty.
Darraj, S (2002) “It’s Not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism”