Lila Abu-Lughod: Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

A good reminder of the risks of stereotypes and the complexity of women’s lives, context and choices:

There is no doubt that Western notions of human rights can be credited for the hope for a better world for all women. But I suspect that the deep moral conviction people feel about the rightness of saving the women of that timeless homogeneous mythical place called Islamland is fed by something else that cannot be separated from our current geopolitical relations. Blinded to the diversity of Muslim women’s lives, we tend to see our own situation too comfortably. Representing Muslim women as abused makes us forget the violence and oppression in our own midst. Our stereotyping of Muslim women also distracts us from the thornier problem that our own policies and actions in the world help create the sometimes harsh conditions in which distant others live. Ultimately, saving Muslim women allows us to ignore the complex entanglements in which we are all implicated and creates a polarization that places feminism only on the side of the West.

Lila Abu-Lughod: Do Muslim Women Need Saving? | TIME.com.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to Lila Abu-Lughod: Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

  1. Victoria says:

    Andrew, Just finished a book called Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century and was rather started to read that this idea that women in the developing world need to be saved has a very long pedigree. It was a given even in the early 20th century (and perhaps even before) that the equality between women and men was one of the signs of the superiority of the Western world. Funny how this idea still resonates today. Having been to some of these places outside the West my experience (not that wide I grant you) has shown a much more complex picture. The number of women engineers I know, for example, from North Africa and India is far greater than those I know from North America. I attended a series of classes once at a North Africa engineering school and the ladies where quite displeased with the instructor (an American) because they perceived that he paid much more attention to the men in and outside the classroom. These women had no hesitation whatsoever at speaking out about this. 🙂

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