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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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21 Responses

  1. james
    james December 23, 2007 at 12:39 am |

    Regarding the picture choice. I’m not sticking up for child marriage or criticising UNICEF for highlighting it, but do you think they could have chosen a slightly less racially tinged picture? There must be plenty of pictures like this to choose from. Did they have to go for the one with a really dark and swarthy and bearded and extravagantly turbaned man and a girl so pale she looks white? I do feel heartbroken when I look at the picture, but I also feel manipulated because they’re very deliberately playing into a whole series of colonial stereotypes about the horrors of a fate worse than death.

    …he’s wrong when he presumes that people in the “East” are backwards child-marrying barbarians, while people in the West are enlightened and feminist.

    He doesn’t do this, you’re just using an attack you’ve cut and pasted from dozens of other posts without thinking. Almost the whole article is devoted to slagging off western cultural relativists who he says don’t see a problem with child marriage. The ‘Easterns’ actually get off much lighter because they’re just obliviously following tradition. It’s the backward westerners who he’s putting the boot into.

    The Middle East, North Africa, and the other regions that the author is ostensibly referring to are full of countries scarred by repeated wars and choked by colonial pasts. Does that justify child marriage and rape? Of course not…

    What complete bollocks. Child marriage tends to be supressed in places with colonial pasts (see India, Pakistan) and legal in places without them (see Afghanistan, Iran). Like it or not, this is a problem for which a good dose of war and colonialism is a pretty effective solution.

  2. Mandolin
    Mandolin December 23, 2007 at 2:29 am |

    Child marriage tends to be supressed in places with colonial pasts (see India, Pakistan) and legal in places without them (see Afghanistan, Iran). Like it or not, this is a problem for which a good dose of war and colonialism is a pretty effective solution.

    Uh huh. Which is why child marriage doesn’t happen in India at all, and certainly not just a lot under the table.

    You’re an ignorant idiot, James.

  3. james
    james December 23, 2007 at 2:48 am |

    At least I know that suppressed doesn’t mean ‘doesn’t happen’.

  4. redlegphi
    redlegphi December 23, 2007 at 5:28 am |

    To be clear, not all of Afghanistan is like this. Ghor is one of the most impoverished and isolated Provinces in the country. The people here tend to be much more conservative and traditional than people from more urban parts of the nation, such as Kabul. Having talked to Afghans from Kabul about this, they consider the practice of buying ones bride to be archaic. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen in Kabul, but it’s not as common there.

  5. Kamal Jain
    Kamal Jain December 23, 2007 at 7:15 am |

    likin yeh 11 sal ki ladki bacchi ke sath 40 sal ka admi balatkar kiyun karta hain? does that 40 year old man wants child from the 11 year old girl child?

  6. Miss Sarajevo
    Miss Sarajevo December 23, 2007 at 8:40 am |

    I wrote a long post on the UNICEF Photo of the Year at my blog, explaining my reaction to it, and then taking to task Debbie Schlussel and the other extreme right wingers who have used it as a just another excuse to argue that Muslims are subhuman, and the UN is supports child abuse.

    James,

    Regarding the picture choice. I’m not sticking up for child marriage or criticising UNICEF for highlighting it, but do you think they could have chosen a slightly less racially tinged picture? There must be plenty of pictures like this to choose from. Did they have to go for the one with a really dark and swarthy and bearded and extravagantly turbaned man and a girl so pale she looks white?

    That’s ridiculous. What is “white” anyway, other than a social construct? Many Afghans are from fair skinned Indo-European ethnic groups, and if you saw them walking down the street in jeans and sneakers you wouldn’t think of them as non-white. The photo isn’t “racially-tinged.” The man in the photo is obviously tanned, probably from working outside, and the girl has probably been kept inside for a while prior to being sold off into marriage.

    There is plenty of racism in Afghanistan, however, largely directed against the non-Indo-European looking ethnic groups, and this racism (unlike the “pale is inherently better” idea that drives the market for skin-lighteners in many post-colonial countries) has its roots in Afghanistan itself, not in foreign domination or Western cultural imperialism.

  7. Miss Sarajevo
    Miss Sarajevo December 23, 2007 at 8:58 am |

    OK, this part of the Spiegel article really pissed me off:

    The man in the image is oblivious of his wrongdoing. He’s only doing what his forefathers did. Sticking to traditions increases the chances of survival. His seed will create a new person and strengthen the clan. He will impregnate this girl without love and without regret, since love is a word from far-off stories and songs, a word from the decadent West, where people have no comprehension of the harshness of life in the desert and of war without end, which is the essence of life in this part of the world.

    It’s fine to condemn the fact that the girl will be raped and used as a means of producing more children in a society where life expectancy is low and life itself very harsh. But who the hell does the writer think he is, claiming Afghans do not love in the same way people from the “decadent West” do? That Afghans lack even the word for love?

    Afghans, like all people, feel love and loss and happiness ad fear and every other emotion. To argue otherwise is to essentially argue that they aren’t as human as “we” are. I worked with Afghan refugees some years ago, and I remember, clearly to this day, the grief of a mother who lost her daughter in a Taliban attack on their village. That mother loved her daughter, and she’ll always miss her, no less than my grandmother will always miss the daughter she lost when a truck turned over on her car during a rainstorm.

  8. Oh
    Oh December 23, 2007 at 10:58 am |

    At least I know that suppressed doesn’t mean ‘doesn’t happen’

    Well, given that you also said that you think war and colonialism is a “pretty effective solution,” you certainly give the impression that you think it’s okay if it *does* happen, so long as it’s quiet enough.

    Almost the whole article is devoted to slagging off western cultural relativists who he says don’t see a problem with child marriage. The ‘Easterns’ actually get off much lighter because they’re just obliviously following tradition.

    And that’s part of what this post is objecting to, isn’t it? There are people in the “East” who do fight against this, and there are people in the West who might condemn this kind of thing when it’s brown people doing it but who want the “right” to do things that harm women and children in their own cultural milieu. A fair article would keep those points in mind and wouldn’t be titled with a reference to the photo’s making “the West’s heart ache.”

  9. Bq
    Bq December 24, 2007 at 12:43 am |

    James is so spectacularly ignorant and repellant. The Taliban came to power in part because of US support. Does that not count as colonialism?

  10. Miss Sarajevo
    Miss Sarajevo December 24, 2007 at 1:12 am |

    The Taliban came to power in part because of US support. Does that not count as colonialism?

    In the strict sense, it wasn’t colonialism because we weren’t setting up any kind of permanent presence in Afghanistan at that time. Still terrible, but not colonialism.

    We haven’t learned our lesson, either.

  11. james
    james December 24, 2007 at 1:17 pm |

    James is so spectacularly ignorant and repellant. The Taliban came to power in part because of US support. Does that not count as colonialism?

    No it doesn’t. The Taliban were an anti-colonial movement. They fought in favour of self rule and opposed and defeated the Soviet invasion. They’re one of the reasons I’m a big supporter of colonialism. You can say what you like about the Commies but at least they were in favour of using some seriously repressive measures to get rid of child marriage and drag Afghanistan into the twentieth century. That’s more that you can say about the Taliban. For that matter it’s more than you can say ablout NATO of the people currently in charge, they’ve got no problem sucking up to child molesters if it’ll make their life easier.

  12. Bq
    Bq December 24, 2007 at 2:59 pm |

    The ISI and the US government helped arm religious fundamentalists as a strategy to counter communism.

    Interference based on power gained from countless colonizations and economic exploitation of third world countries is not neo-colonialism?

    So you’re basically saying that I’m “civilized” now, as an Indian because of the British? Fuck you. Take a postcolonial theory class, you white supremacist.

  13. Bq
    Bq December 24, 2007 at 3:14 pm |

    So what happened to Abeer Hamza was “civilized”? Third World feminists have done a lot of work pointing out the correlation between militarism and rape. How about killing people with white phosphorous, is that “civilized” as well?

  14. Mold
    Mold December 24, 2007 at 5:04 pm |

    Her family is poor. They sell her off so that she may eat. Not much of a choice and one we in the West are not likely to have to make.

  15. Bq
    Bq December 24, 2007 at 5:08 pm |

    Regarding child abuse, rape was rampant at boarding schools for indigenous children in colonialist settler societies like the US, Canada and Australia. It completely disgusts me that there are “feminists” like you who consider the lives of people of color cheap. It would behoove you to read intellectuals like Gayatri Spivak and Chandra Mohanty, but obviously you have no respect for women of color and are unlikely to.

  16. Bq
    Bq December 24, 2007 at 5:20 pm |

    At the end of the day, anyone who calls themselves a feminists needs to listen to and read the works of women of color/postcolonial feminist theorists and work *with* woc instead of allying with patriarchal, imperialist power interests.

  17. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault December 25, 2007 at 12:12 am |

    Regardless of the controversy and the various interpretations, I love the photo. I love it because of her eyes. She looks at him with such hate and fear. And then after reading the description, you want to help her. It works for me. I guess it doesn’t work for everyone because they see other things. But for me, the first thing I saw were her eyes.

  18. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom December 25, 2007 at 2:28 pm |

    But for me, the first thing I saw were her eyes

    Yes – he is looking at the camera, but she is looking at him. It’s a pretty good representation of the inequalities in their positions.

  19. Naadir Jeewa
    Naadir Jeewa December 26, 2007 at 12:06 pm |

    We in the West prefer our underage girls to be kidnapped and trafficked to the streets of London before being raped rather than going through the whole rigmarole of marriage. That is our cultural fabric.

  20. Erika
    Erika December 27, 2007 at 2:49 am |

    The author is right when he says that cultural relativism takes us down a dangerous path; he is right that we must draw lines. But he’s wrong when he presumes that people in the “East” are backwards child-marrying barbarians, while people in the West are enlightened and feminist.

    When I see arguments like this, I almost think that conservatives have a point.

    How many Americans would argue that marrying a child to an elderly man is okay? A few Mormon nutcases on the Utah-Arizona border?

    Americans are by no means morally pure, but there are some things that we take for granted that much of the rest of the world does not. For example, the Pew Center’s report from earlier this year demonstrated that 71 percent of Americans do not want women to return to our “traditional” roles in society. Compare that to many Middle Eastern countries where a majority of the population opposes basic rights for women, meaning that at least some Middle Eastern women oppose their own claim to human rights.

    There’s simply no comparison to how women are viewed and treated in the developed world vs. the developing world.

    “A Mother’s Journey”: The American photographer Renee C. Byer took this picture as part of a series about a single mother with five children and a son suffering from terminal cancer. He died in 2006.

    The United States has one of the worst health care systems in the developed world. People get sick and people die every day because they lack access to adequate health care.

    Huh? What does that have to do with a child who had terminal cancer? Is there any evidence that his death was due to a lack of access to health care? That statement is particularly offensive considering that the very next photo is of a severely disabled child who was never afforded access to the most basic life-saving medication that virtually every American takes for granted. Keep in mind that most of the third world has absolutely no accommodations for the physically disabled. There’s a reason why he’s crawling around with shoes on his hands rather than sitting in a wheelchair.

    We in the West prefer our underage girls to be kidnapped and trafficked to the streets of London before being raped rather than going through the whole rigmarole of marriage.

    Yes, we certainly “prefer” that. It’s certainly not the result of a small number of predators and men who’d rather not know where prostitutes come from/what they suffer. I take it that there are no children forced into sex slavery in the East?

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