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A War against Women May 10, 2009

Posted by melindalucampbell in Current Events, Uncategorized.
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As I read the news of recent rise in the strength and authority of Taliban forces in Pakistan, realizing what their coming into power means for any community that has fallen under their power, I shudder with a level of anger and feel a dismay far stronger than what I usually experience when learning about any display of man’s inhumanity and violent, aggressive nature. Not only does a takeover by the Taliban in a town, a city, or even an entire state (which has not happened yet but is their clear goal) mean the enforcement of a strict adherence to an extremist interpretation of Islamic law that recommends severe and brutal punishments for actions such as drinking, adultery, theft, and even criticism of Islamic law itself, but it also dictates the complete subjugation of the female half of the population. Under the rule of the Taliban, women are treated as a fearsome, evil, and chaotic force whose power must be repressed in all dimensions at all times. Not only would women have to forego any sort of formal or higher education, their basic rights as human beings would be usurped, and wanton brutality against women would not only be more widespread, it would be sanctioned by “holy” law. This is not news to anyone; the Taliban’s radical use of violent force and warped notion of justice has become familiar to us since the U.S. fought them in the war in Afghanistan. And their cruel tyranny over women is also widely advertised. The question I raise here is why isn’t the fight against the Taliban (or any forces or factions in concert with their aims) seen not just as a battle between political factions, religious groups, or rebels and state soldiers, but rather as a universal struggle against a wholesale attempt to take away the rights and freedoms of women and girls, period. It is not just believers in Democracy, or political self-determination, or Jews, or Christians, or Westerners, or Americans who are the opponents of the Taliban. We should see the Taliban and their supporters as the destroyers of women’s rights and freedoms; hence we should see them as the enemy of humanity. Why isn’t the world acting in concert against them?



1. Paul Moloney - May 11, 2009

Some men, which could mean most, are afraid of what other men would think if they would be kind to some woman. Kindness is thought to indicate that a man does not have control over a woman, as a man will be kind to a woman whether he has control over her or not. Men will go to war with each other in order not to be kind to a woman. It takes more courage for a man to be kind to a woman than it takes to go to war. Some men do not want to be controlled by the self-discipline of knowledge, but they want to control a woman.

2. Ian Duckles - May 11, 2009

An interesting post, but as this news story indicates
the problem cannot be identified solely with the Taliban. Rather, it seems that the Taliban are merely a (somewhat) extreme manifestation of misogynistic cultural values that are deeply embedded in significant segments of Afghani and Pakistani culture.

Also, as this transcript of Laura Bush’s radio address in November of 2001 shows
the US invasion of Afghanistan was sold, in part, as an attempt to liberate the women of Afghanistan from oppressive Taliban rule. Too bad the guy we replaced them with doesn’t seem much more enlightened.

3. melindalucampbell - May 12, 2009

I agree that our world is plagued by “misogynistic cultural values”; however, this way of naming the problem as a generalized tendency found across many cultures makes it too easy to simply throw our hands up in frustration and despair over “man’s inhumanity to man” and the evils that people must endure at the hands of other people, and then do nothing about it since the problem is so huge, so overwhelming, that we don’t know where or how to start solving it. The point of my post is that in the case of the Taliban, there is an actual, outspoken, aggressively moving group of men who are spearheading this widespread misogynistic way of life. It is like a doctor having a patient who is ill with a disease–a cancer–that is infecting her whole body, and some parts are more affected by the disease than others. Then she develops a malign tumor that is a clear manifestation of the disease. Destroying the tumor may not cure her, but it is surely the first step the doctor would take. Similarly, we have an obligation to fight, to destroy, the Taliban and its goals just as surely as the doctor has an obligation to remove or destroy the cancerous tumor. I wonder how long the world would sit (somewhat) still and watch while a group of women attempt to take control of a society and make men servants who are devoid of any rights. I doubt that there would be any moves for appeasement as there have been with the Taliban–my guess is that these women would be captured and destroyed by a multinational force without hesitation.

4. Dwight Furrow - May 12, 2009

Melinda writes: “The question I raise here is why isn’t the fight against the Taliban (or any forces or factions in concert with their aims) seen not just as a battle between political factions, religious groups, or rebels and state soldiers, but rather as a universal struggle against a wholesale attempt to take away the rights and freedoms of women and girls, period.”

I think one reason is that a fairly large portion of the Islamic world endorses the subordination of women, so a universal struggle against the Taliban’s treatment of women would be perceived as a war against Islam.

And I think we have had enough of that. If that is what we want, we could have left Bush in power.

Furthermore, as Ian points out, mysogyny is not restricted to the Muslim world. If we have “an obligation to fight, to destroy, the Taliban and its goals” we would seem to have a worldwide conflagration on our hands that would make the neo-cons proud.

I don’t want to minimize the brutality that women face daily throughout the world but I don’t think war rhetoric is the way to eliminate it.

I do agree that there is a lack of urgency in our diplomacy when it comes to the brutalization of women. If we are going to make worker’s rights and environmental safeguards a condition of participating in world trade (as some have urged) we ought to include women’s rights as well.

But I doubt that foreign policy can be effectively carried out with a single minded, damn the torpedos approach.

5. melindalucampbell - May 13, 2009

Lest my call for crushing the Taliban be taken as a dangerous cry for a worldwide conflagration that would pit the Western world (read “Judeo-Christian world”) against all of Islam, let me reframe my argument. Certainly we find misogynistic strains deeply embedded not only in Islamic philosophy but in Judeo-Christian thinking as well. The good news is that, in varying degrees in various sects of all of these religious traditions, women are increasingly being valued for their contribution to human life and progress and are gaining ever more control over their lives and possession of their rightful claims to freedom and equality. So, with that in mind, let us return to the case of the Taliban. Those Islamic societies who are among the less repressive, who grant women at least some respect and certain rights, who provide both education and opportunity for women, should not, and I maintain, would not, perceive a decisive military move against the Taliban as a threat to them. On the contrary, the more progressive Islamic states should lead the charge, as is finally beginning to happen in Pakistan. I am certainly not proposing a “Crusade” against Islam or a world war of all against all; what I am proposing is a united world effort to take all power away from a group that openly advocates for the oppression and virtual enslavement of half of the human race. Perhaps this is not best effected through violent military action—there may be other ways of de-fanging this viper of hatred and oppression. The means may have to be carefully considered; nevertheless, the world should come together to de-activate the Taliban and eliminate their ability to control anyone anywhere.

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