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24 Responses

  1. NinaG
    NinaG December 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm |

    Your post seems a little pessimistic; Afghan women are not solely being used as a political bargaining chip, they have their own voices as evidenced by this video.
    The reality is the U.S. government has done little to liberate Afghan women and won’t do anything to liberate Afghan women b/c its not their true interest and the US govt really has no expertise in women’s liberation.

    Thank you for posting this video – very informative.

  2. kb
    kb December 5, 2009 at 9:18 pm |

    I kind of agree with NinaG-I feel like I’m missing something here. different groups of Afghan women think different things about the U.S. being there-I’m not surprised at all. and they say so-this also seems like the better plan-I’d rather hear what they think from them directly. these statements could be used as a bargaining chip, yeah, but so could any publicly stated story. Does that mean women-particularly women as talked about rather than to as most Afghan women are-shouldn’t tell their actual stories in public? It has to be the choice of the individual woman, but I can’t think that not speaking will do much that’s good.

  3. Jadey
    Jadey December 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm |

    In Canada here, and the situation has been much the same, wrt co-opting the words of Afghani women into political arguments. If someone asked me today if I support the war in Afghanistan, I’d first have to ask them to clarify what they mean by “support”, “war”, and “Afghanistan” (i.e., which part, for which ?), and even then probably wouldn’t be able to give a straight answer. The idea of fighting a war against oppression using our oppressive, ethnocentric tools and means, and simultaneously combating our own nationalism and self-interest is… yeah. It seems like no matter how you slice it, the most marginalized are having the most trouble being heard and are taking the most crap for it.

  4. Fatemeh
    Fatemeh December 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm |

    Great post!! May we repost this on Muslimah Media Watch?

  5. Michelle
    Michelle December 7, 2009 at 9:16 am |

    I have to echo NinaG’s sentiments and add that the attack on those who are against the war is possibly unwarranted and definitely lacking in nuance. Have you considered the fact that many (perhaps even most) in the anti-war movement ARE feminists, and are feminists with brains who are capable of evaluating and understanding the complexities of the position of women in Afghanistan? Or that videos like this one provide differing perspectives and information for those who are intelligent enough to not blindly accept whatever the New York Times tells us about Muslims or women without seeking out alternative information? Or perhaps that just as there are differences among women’s groups in Afghanistan, the anti-war movement is not a monolithic entity full of people ambivalent about feminism? Yes, there are problems with sexism in the anti-war movement just as there are problems with racism in the feminist movement, and any situation or movement needs to be constantly evaluated along such social axes. And believe me, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with MANarchists and masculinism in my own anti-war activities. I just think that it’s important to consider the subtleties of every situation in order to be able to find the best path forward and to ensure that people are not denied their voices. Unqualified statements serve only to isolate. The women of the anti-war movement have agency, and the women of Afghanistan, who need more support for their voices than ever, do as well.

  6. EH
    EH December 7, 2009 at 11:07 am |

    One might point out that the news article you link to primarily features non-Afghan women speaking /for/ Afghan women. The one prominent Afghan voice is clearly an elite (Afghan-American who works as an advisor to the government of Hamid Karzai).

    You can paint it as “two sides of this debate” in a “she said/she said” sort of debate, but you can also look closely at who these voices are and who they represent.

    In addition to RAWA, those interested should listen to this recent interview with Malalai Joya, former Afghan MP.

  7. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm |

    Right on, EH.

  8. Michelle
    Michelle December 7, 2009 at 12:48 pm |

    frau sally benz, I am referring to this part:

    “Think of the ammunition that is giving those who are against the war. Now they get to be against the war and resentful towards Afghan women since these women are being portrayed as a primary reason for the troops to stay.”

    My problem with this is that it is unqualified. In all the sexism and misogyny I have encountered in my entire life and in activism, I have actually never, not once, encountered this sentiment. If you have an appropriate example, provide it and expose this problem. If not, statements that assume people’s reactions without providing context or evidence are fodder for anti-feminists who are looking for holes in your arguments, you know, so they can call you a crazy irrational uterus or whatever it is they do.

  9. Jill
    Jill December 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm | *

    Michelle, the full context of that statement is:

    I don’t know about you, but the loudest voice I often hear is the one saying that the U.S. has to stay in order to help these women. So what message is that sending? Think of the ammunition that is giving those who are against the war. Now they get to be against the war and resentful towards Afghan women since these women are being portrayed as a primary reason for the troops to stay.

    That implies a potential response from people given the existing media and political narratives; it doesn’t say that people are already responding that way, just that it offers more ammunition to those with certain views. Certainly we can all agree that Afghan women have been used as bargaining chips by both sides, right? And that Afghan women are indeed being used as justification for maintaining U.S. presense in Afghanistan? (See, for example, Ellie Smeal’s statement on the “surge”). Sally is just putting forward what may be an outcome of that strategy.

  10. Michelle
    Michelle December 7, 2009 at 1:13 pm |

    Jill, the problem is that I have seen absolutely no existing narrative that corresponds to this sentiment, which is why I find these statements to be out in left field. A narrative that DOES exist, on both sides, and prevalently, is “Those women/those Arabs/those Arab women don’t know what’s good for them.” About which I am personally much more concerned.

  11. kb
    kb December 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm |

    while I don’t have all her facts, EH expressed what I am confused about on this post-the seeming suggestion, and maybe I’m misinterpreting, in which case I apologize frau sally-the post seems to be a negative reaction to afghan women speaking, because other people might use their stories. How is that feminist?-this would apply to Jill’s comment too-is it more feminist to tell these women to just shut up because of that potential reaction? what is the right way to deal with it? is there a right way?

    1. Jill
      Jill December 7, 2009 at 3:37 pm | *

      Huh? KB, I think you’re misinterpreting. No one is objecting to the Afghan woman speaking. We’re objecting to American media and political narratives which speak for Afghan women — i.e., we need to go over there and wage war in order to “save” them vs. we need to back off in order to “save” them. Without listening to the “them” involved.

  12. kb
    kb December 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm |

    I was under the impression that the RAWA was direct voices of afghan women. am I confused there. I agree that the issue you’re talking about is a problem, but this video this post is about seems to be the solution-more voices of the women themselves.

    1. Jill
      Jill December 7, 2009 at 3:44 pm | *

      Yes… but where did Sally criticize RAWA? Or the woman in the video? I’m honestly confused. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  13. kb
    kb December 7, 2009 at 3:54 pm |

    “But what I really want to focus on is how either way, it all comes back to women. One group says the U.S. must stay in order to help women. Another group says the U.S. must leave in order to help women and the country as a whole. No matter what, Afghan women are being used as a political bargaining chip.

    I don’t know about you, but the loudest voice I often hear is the one saying that the U.S. has to stay in order to help these women. So what message is that sending? Think of the ammunition that is giving those who are against the war. Now they get to be against the war and resentful towards Afghan women since these women are being portrayed as a primary reason for the troops to stay.

    We all know how this ends, though: Women lose either way.”

    the entire end of the post seemed pretty critical to me. and I didn’t see much contrast made between RAWA and the previous news articles mentioned-which is I think why I’m so confused here. The argument that we need to talk to rather than about Afghan women is good, but RAWA is to me a solution to that, not part of the problem. and I there wasn’t much mention of that in the post. both this video and the news seemed lumped under the umbrella of-people talking about Afghan women.

  14. EH
    EH December 7, 2009 at 7:07 pm |

    “I believe that people who are already against the war will think we’re staying there only to help women.”

    Aren’t most people who are against the war against the war at least in part because they realize that the war is bad for women (and other human beings)? And that claims to the contrary are largely noncredible?

  15. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 7, 2009 at 7:43 pm |

    Again, I agree with EH — I think FSB is being too charitable toward the “the war is to help the women of Afghanistan” crowd. Some of the people who say this might actually believe it. I don’t think that category includes many people who have informed themselves about Afghan history and society. Lots of people who say it, however, don’t mean it for a second. It was one of GWB’s lines about Afghanistan, and we have zero obligation to take him at his word about it.

    The idea that anyone who is already anti-war is going to “blame the women” for its continuation is not credible, and not fair to anti-war sentiment; there are actually better and worse positions here, not equal and simply different ones.

    It probably is the case that people who supported the war in Afghanistan as revenge, or in “instead-of-informing-myself-I’ll-just-supportthetroops” mode, will be perfectly willing to “blame Aghan women” if it drags on and on with no clear progress (ahem). This will be part of blaming Afghans generally — if only they would “step up to the plate”, stop being so barbaric, stop resenting civilian casualties, etc. We don’t have to worry about this kind of sentiment — it’s hypocritical, self-serving crap that puts “the troops” in harm’s way to no good purpose. We just need to name it for what it is.

  16. The Chemist
    The Chemist December 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm |

    Something about this post bothered me and I think kb explained what it was- even if I didn’t realize it. It was just a hint of ambiguity that made it seem a little off, though I didn’t misinterpret it, I was simply at a loss for how to interpret it. Now that you’ve clarified, I can say:

    Right on, and on point.

    I really, REALLY want to bring attention to Michelle’s statement here:

    A narrative that DOES exist, on both sides, and prevalently, is “Those women/those Arabs/those Arab women don’t know what’s good for them.” About which I am personally much more concerned.

    This has been bothering me a great deal, and I get rather apoplectic with rage here. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of White Men(TM) making asinine statements about (for example) whether the veil should be banned for “the good of the subjugated women”. I’m no defender of anything except a person’s right to agency. When I hear a statement like, “A woman who wears the veil is mentally ill [and presumably unfit to decide for herself].” I get as close as I come to wanting to commit violence.

    Nothing gets me tasting bile more than self-righteous privileged people saying they get to make the decisions for the benefit of the uncivilized.

  17. brittany
    brittany December 8, 2009 at 5:47 pm |

    i saw zoya speak in real life. she was phenomenal.

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