Saturday, March 15, 2014

Instead of Commemorating International Women's Day, Let's Make Feminism History

On the 8th of March, The Independent paper in the UK ran the headline, "International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important". The piece presented sobering figures regarding women's lives 103 years after the first International Women's Day in 1911. It stated: globally 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime; 70% of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are women and children; 700 million women are without adequate food, water, sanitation, healthcare, or education; 85 million girls worldwide are unable to attend school; and it is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked into slavery each year, 80% of whom are girls.
International Women's Day is a time when thousands of events are held across the world to draw attention to the ongoing problems that women face – problems incidentally that have remained unresolved or even worsened despite centuries of feminist struggle for gender equality. It's a time when politicians present flowery speeches and deliver shiny promises about their plans to secure women's rights – only to be broken but repeated yet again the following year. And it's a time where new campaigns regarding violence against women or stripping of their rights are announced – to add to the thousands of similar campaigns organised in previous years which have failed to even dent the scale of such abuses. In short, it's an annual reminder of the ceaseless dilemmas of feminism and how generations of feminists and feminist movements have proved incapable of solving women's problems. It should therefore give cause for reflection of how feminism and its host of flawed theories and ideas, shaped upon gender equality has had its day.
This is hardly surprising. Firstly, feminism has defined the problems that women face, both in cause and solution, from a gender perspective, distracting attention from the dominant role that the capitalist, secular, liberal system (that has held the reigns of global political power over the last 9 decades) has had in creating those problems. It's this system that has caused gross inequalities in wealth, crippled economies, and allowed Western colonial states to prop up corrupt dictatorial regimes that serve their economic interests – all of which has impoverished millions of women and led to crumbling education, healthcare and other public services in their lands. Additionally, its materialistic viewpoint in life has allowed women to be worked like economic slaves and their bodies exploited for profit, devaluing their status and creating an environment ripe for trafficking, while liberal values that sanctify the pursuit of individualistic desires has contributed greatly to the epidemic of violence against women today. Secondly, as a result of trying to create change from within this flawed system rather than through a radical overhaul of it, the efforts of feminists have proved negligible in improving the lives of women globally. Nor does feminism offer clear strategies or serious solutions to women's problems. Actions are primarily limited to awareness campaigns, calls for changes to a few policies and laws, or demanding more gender equality which can be aptly described as 'flogging a dead horse'. Women in the West are up to their necks in gender equality acts. The UK has enshrined in law, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010; it has an Equality and Human Rights Commission and a Ministry for Equality. Yet discrimination, exploitation, and violence against women are rife within the society. Its feminists are still reeling from the recent European Agency for Fundamental Rights survey that found that 44% of women in the country have faced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. Thirdly, the creation of a plethora of feminist theories and philosophies (liberal, radical, militant, black, socialist, and conservative feminism to mention only a few) as well as the metamorphoses of feminism through 1st, 2nd and 3rd waves over the decades points to eternal confusion as to what the roles and rights of women should be in life and society. As one Guardian writer put it, "There is no template for making a difference". And finally, feminist ideas have served as the cause of many injustices that women have suffered over the years. Its narrative of women's empowerment through employment has placed unjust burdens upon women, forcing them to be both breadwinner and homemaker for their families resulting in stress and a rise in depression. Alongside this, many feminist movements have been complicit in the propping up of dictatorships who serve their secular causes as has been the history of various feminist groups in Tunisia and Egypt, either through silence to massacres or unjust imprisonment, or actively working alongside them to strength their rule. Such has been the case of the secular National Council for Women in Egypt which is an active supporter of the country's brutal anti-Islam military regime.
One writer, discussing the many struggles ahead for women to secure respect and rights wrote, "Winning justice for women will be a work in progress for a long time." However, if the ideas of feminism, such as gender equality are the tools being used to achieve this vision, this is a picture that will remain perpetually unfinished. It is only through the implementation of Islam under the Khilafah system that views the honour and rights of women as sacred and to be protected always, as well as enjoying sound systems that create prosperity and security under a just ruler that will remove the root causes of the multitude of problems that women face today in the Muslim world and that give rise to many women's rights movements. Indeed it is a state that enjoyed an unrivalled legacy of safeguarding the dignity and rights of women, leading one 18th century European female traveller, Lady Craven to say regarding the Uthmani Khilafah, "The Turks in their conduct towards our sex are an example to all nations."
Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir

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