I often have debates and arguments with many of western feminists because I refuse to point the finger to men as the origin of evil: gender inequality and misery of women and girls. I perfectly agree with my Western sisters that most of gender violence, sexual violence and many kinds of violence against women are made by men. But that’s not the origin of the problem, just the consequence.

The origin is patriarchy. In the emancipation race, patriarchy is the common enemy, of women and men. But patriarchy is maintained in place by men AND women. This became very clear to me already as a little girl who grew up with harem women in North-Africa. That female exclusive world was amazingly beautiful and at the same time incredibly cruel for women. Read more about this in the article below. And leave me your comments on the blog page below!

By Donna Miles-Mojab, May 16 2019, New Zealand

Patriarchy is the common enemy of secular and Islamic feminism.

Muslim Tunisian feminist and academic Kaouthar Darmoni remembers her fondest childhood memories as when women gathered together, away from the male gaze, and danced.

“They would be practising the oldest feminine ritual in the world – stepping back to Mesopotamia 4000 years ago when the society was matriarchal and women were ruling.”

She watched the women as a little girl and wished she could be just like them. “They looked so wild, and so sensual, and so beautiful and so alive,” Darmoni recalls.

But as soon as the same “glorious goddesses” stepped into the public space, they would “literally and symbolically cover their femininity with a veil” because they were seen as “a threat and disturbance”.

The well-known feminist scholar, and one of the early pioneers of Islamic feminism, Fatema Mernissi, challenged the assumption that the condition of Arab Muslim women was evidence of their subordination and weakness.

In her popular book Beyond the Veil, she wrote: “The whole system is based on the assumption that the woman is a powerful and dangerous being. All sexual institutions (polygamy, repudiation, sexual segregation, etc.) can be perceived as a strategy for containing her power…”

Mernissi, who grew up in a harem in Morocco, wrote mainly to defend women’s rights in the East but did not exempt the West from criticism. She argued that the supposedly free West had harems of its own.

The domestic harem of the East, Mernissi explained, were not how the West popularised them in their films and literature. They were not places where nubile women fought over each other to offer their male master sex on demand. That was just Western men’s wishful thinking.

Mernissi’s parents were in a monogamous marriage and the harem she was brought up in was simply a set of secluded living quarters in the family’s expansive home. The female members of the family were not allowed to venture outside unless veiled and escorted by a male relative.

In her book Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems, Mernissi posited that harems were a way of controlling women – and where the East discriminated against women by controlling ‘space’ – the West discriminated against them by controlling ‘time’.

“The Western man declares that in order to be beautiful, a woman must look 14 years old. If she dares to look 50, or worse, 60, she is beyond the pale. By putting the spotlight on the female child and framing her as the ideal of beauty, he condemns the mature woman to invisibility.”

Mernissi, who died of cancer in 2015, is considered “the pride of Islamic feminism in modern times”.

She undertook a deep and systematic study of the Quran and the Hadith (records of traditions and sayings of prophet Muhammad) and concluded there was no scriptural basis for the subordination of women. It was Mernissi’s view that Muslim women were discriminated against largely due to the centuries-long patriarchal interpretation of religious text by male leaders.

This is not new, of course. We know feminist interpretations always matter.

Here in New Zealand, a new book co-edited by two University of Canterbury academics showed in almost all areas of law, from criminal to environmental law, feminist and mana wahine perspectives can influence the reasoning and therefore the final decision on a given case.

Mernissi gave her feminist interpretation of the Quran in her book The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam:

“We Muslim women can walk into the modern world with pride, knowing that the quest for dignity, democracy, and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs of our country, stems from no imported Western values, but is a true part of the Muslim tradition. Of this I am certain.”

Mernissi’s Islamic feminism has given many Muslim feminists in North Africa and South Asia the strength to fight for their rights within an Islamic framework but Islamic feminism is not without its perils.

As a secular Muslim, my concern is that the continual foregrounding of Islamic influence in Muslim majority countries overlooks the importance of the social, economic and political complexities that affect women’s rights.

I agree with prominent Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi’s view that Muslim women can be feminists and there is no incompatibility between Islam and feminism, but this is not the same as saying that feminism has to be Islamic.

I believe, while dialogue and continual debate should be encouraged, setting secular and Islamic feminism in bitter conflict with each other only benefits the patriarchal forces that seek to subjugate women.

The fact is that equating faith and religion with anti-feminism is just as misinformed as equating secular and modern with feminism.

Patriarchy is a universal force and if we are to make this world a better place for everyone to live in, we need inclusiveness, coalition-building, pluralism and diversity. He waka eke noa.

(for a downloadable version of the article, and a link to the original site: click here)

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    6 thoughts on “Stop blaming and shaming men! Men and Women have a common enemy…

    1. Avatar
      Virgin Mary says:

      As a Western womanI have not heard that a woman must be 14 years old, neither 50 or 60 old… I do not relate to it.

      I grew up in central Europe and traveled around the world. I believe that not only in the West but around the World when a woman is a woman, it ‘FEELS’ no matter the age, color or shape and people, man AND woman, respect it, as feminine energy is very strong.

      Western society tries to make money of everything, therefore they create beautiful clothes and beauty ideals, telling people if they do NOT look like as they say, they are NOT beautiful. Unfortunately many people believe it especially when young, however with aging many of them wake up and realize it is false. Today, I believe there is a general waking up again worldwide, not just regarding femininity but regarding other lies we have been told for many years. The media, governments, religions etc want to control people giving fake ideals. I think people start realizing the truth… What is written of today’s life, politics or any subjects in books or magazines is mostly not true. Therefore I assume what was written in the past possibly may not always reflect reality.
      Newspapers and beauty magazines try to convince us how women should look, however with the rise of social media the conventional magazines fail more and more and more, and truly beautiful women come to power not because they represent these fake beauty ideals, but because they represent the true woman or femininity which can be any color or shape.

      Also, I like to say that most women unfortunately auto-trash themselves by stress, smoking, alcohol, drugs, fake and unhappy lives, which leads to the fact that most women after 35 are full of wrinkles, look ‘old’… sometimes this starts even earlier… (same for men…)

      As I traveled around the world I saw many beautiful females of all ages, and if you look at the book ‘The Atlas of Beauty’, it helps people understand the true concept of beauty today.

      I also must say I would have never in my worst nightmare imagined what I see today in the media: governments forcing 5 year old children to learn about homosexuality, trans gender, teaching them that menstruation is for both sexes. Forbidding parents to call themselves father and mother, but parent 1 and 2, (ie Uk and France). I mean where the f*** is this world going? Can you imagine how these children are going to be f*** up as adults? When they realize that all they were told was just f*** lie.
      The subconscious mind develops at the age 0-7, programing their whole life for such sh**. What happens today, puts in danger the mental health of future adults, but possibly this is just part of the plan besides depopulating the planet?

      As a heterosexual woman I believe the biggest danger today is being accepted normal as heterosexual, when we live in a completely fake and f*** up world where homosexuality and trans gender is ‘trending’.
      People lost both their femininity and masculinity because they were purposely programed to do so, to be under ‘control’.

      ‘the Virgin Mary’

    2. Avatar
      Virgin Mary says:

      As a Western womanI have not heard that a woman must be 14 years old, neither 50 or 60 old… I do not relate to it.

      I grew up in central Europe and traveled around the world. I believe that not only in the West but around the World when a woman is a woman, it ‘FEELS’ no matter the age, color or shape and people, man AND woman, respect it, as feminine energy is very strong.

      Western society tries to make money of everything, therefore they create beautiful clothes and beauty ideals, telling people if they do NOT look like as they say, they are NOT beautiful. Unfortunately many people believe it especially when young, however with aging many of them wake up and realize it is false. Today, I believe there is a general waking up again worldwide, not just regarding femininity but regarding other lies we have been told for many years. The media, governments, religions etc want to control people giving fake ideals. I think people start realizing the truth… What is written of today’s life, politics or any subjects in books or magazines is mostly not true. Therefore I assume what was written in the past possibly may not always reflect reality.
      Newspapers and beauty magazines try to convince us how women should look, however with the rise of social media the conventional magazines fail more and more and more, and truly beautiful women come to power not because they represent these fake beauty ideals, but because they represent the true woman or femininity which can be any color or shape.

      Also, I like to say that most women unfortunately auto-trash themselves by stress, smoking, alcohol, drugs, fake and unhappy lives, which leads to the fact that most women after 35 are full of wrinkles, look ‘old’… sometimes this starts even earlier… (same for men…)

      As I traveled around the world I saw many beautiful females of all ages, and if you look at the book ‘The Atlas of Beauty’, it helps people understand the true concept of beauty today.

      I also must say I would have never in my worst nightmare imagined what I see today in the media: governments forcing 5 year old children to learn about homosexuality, trans gender, teaching them that menstruation is for both sexes. Forbidding parents to call themselves father and mother, but parent 1 and 2, (ie Uk and France). I mean where the f*** is this world going? Can you imagine how these children are going to be f*** up as adults? When they realize that all they were told was just f*** lie.
      The subconscious mind develops at the age 0-7, programing their whole life for such sh**. What happens today, puts in danger the mental health of future adults, but possibly this is just part of the plan besides depopulating the planet?

      As a heterosexual woman I believe the biggest danger today is being accepted normal as heterosexual, when we live in a completely fake and f*** up world where homosexuality and trans gender is ‘trending’.
      People lost both their femininity and masculinity because they were purposely programed to do so, to be under ‘control’.

      ‘the Virgin Mary’

    3. Avatar
      Clare Jackson says:

      I’m just contacting you regarding your latest post regarding Patriarchy.
      Please forgive my ignorance because I would really like to understand
      this better.
      I work as an Arvigo Therapist and see many women who have been
      subjected as children and adults to sexual violence. I also work with
      many Menopausal women supporting them through this transition. As I delved
      deep into this transformational time of my life I learnt that the
      journey would be smoother if my mindset was positive. However I have also
      learnt that the patriarchal structure in my country in Britain, would
      not make this easy and actual oppress the options available to me to
      support me on this journey. I’ve learnt that men and women support
      this structure.
      So this is what I need to know and I sincerely hope you don’t mind me
      asking because I regularly post about the Menopause and patriarchy.
      When you search online for a definition of patriarchy they are written
      referencing the oppression of females via a ideological structure to
      promote male values.
      I agree some women promote this structure. However what I’m trying to
      make sense of is that the very basis of that structure begins with a
      male or men creating that structure and imposing that belief system/
      structure onto females.
      Is that right or far to a simplified view?
      As I said please forgive my ignorance but I would like to understand
      what you have written better because if this helps the women I support
      them that is a positive.
      Love and blessings

      • Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni
        Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni says:

        Dear Clare,

        Merci for your thorough comment and search for understanding so to help the women you support better.

        Yes, the patriarchal structure in your country, -I know I have the same where I grew up in Tunisia-, oppresses the available options to support you on your transformational journey.
        Women are supporting the oppression of other women. Especially mothers and grand mothers.

        If the very basis of that structure begins with male or men creating that structure and imposing that belief system/structure onto females, I would like to say it’s the chicken and the egg story. What came first? I stopped asking myself this question.
        And stick to the fact that there are patriarchal men and women who are doing their best to maintain the patriarchal system. And that men, CEOs ( chief executive officer), could never ever maintain the system, the patriarchal corporation without the help and support of their CFOs ( chief financial officer): women who are the right hand and loyal allies of the patriarchal top.

        Kaouthar

    4. Avatar
      Clare Jackson says:

      I’m just contacting you regarding your latest post regarding Patriarchy.
      Please forgive my ignorance because I would really like to understand
      this better.
      I work as an Arvigo Therapist and see many women who have been
      subjected as children and adults to sexual violence. I also work with
      many Menopausal women supporting them through this transition. As I delved
      deep into this transformational time of my life I learnt that the
      journey would be smoother if my mindset was positive. However I have also
      learnt that the patriarchal structure in my country in Britain, would
      not make this easy and actual oppress the options available to me to
      support me on this journey. I’ve learnt that men and women support
      this structure.
      So this is what I need to know and I sincerely hope you don’t mind me
      asking because I regularly post about the Menopause and patriarchy.
      When you search online for a definition of patriarchy they are written
      referencing the oppression of females via a ideological structure to
      promote male values.
      I agree some women promote this structure. However what I’m trying to
      make sense of is that the very basis of that structure begins with a
      male or men creating that structure and imposing that belief system/
      structure onto females.
      Is that right or far to a simplified view?
      As I said please forgive my ignorance but I would like to understand
      what you have written better because if this helps the women I support
      them that is a positive.
      Love and blessings

      • Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni
        Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni says:

        Dear Clare,

        Merci for your thorough comment and search for understanding so to help the women you support better.

        Yes, the patriarchal structure in your country, -I know I have the same where I grew up in Tunisia-, oppresses the available options to support you on your transformational journey.
        Women are supporting the oppression of other women. Especially mothers and grand mothers.

        If the very basis of that structure begins with male or men creating that structure and imposing that belief system/structure onto females, I would like to say it’s the chicken and the egg story. What came first? I stopped asking myself this question.
        And stick to the fact that there are patriarchal men and women who are doing their best to maintain the patriarchal system. And that men, CEOs ( chief executive officer), could never ever maintain the system, the patriarchal corporation without the help and support of their CFOs ( chief financial officer): women who are the right hand and loyal allies of the patriarchal top.

        Kaouthar

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