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No triggers afaik
February 17, 2014 9:18 AM   Subscribe


 
No real surprise this happened at the Dutch embassy.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:29 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Can you expand on that? Is lack of insight into violence against women something that's problematic in Dutch culture?
posted by lodurr at 9:35 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]


There are no triggers here regarding sexual violence in Sudan in part because "in an event celebrating the launching of a report about Sudanese women, there were no Sudanese people."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:35 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]


No real surprise this happened at the Dutch embassy.

In Ottawa, Canada.

This article is completely nonsensical. The report was about Sudanese women to a world audience, not to Sudanese women. Presumably Sudanese women already know about the conditions described in the report. But if they wanted to address a Sudanese audience, perhaps they should have held this meeting at the Sudanese Embassy in Ottawa.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:02 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]


The report was about Sudanese women to a world audience, not to Sudanese women.

I don't think the author's arguing that the event should have *addressed* a Sudanese audience, but rather than Sudanese people should have been present - speaking at it, or at least in attendance. There's a relevant saying in the human rights/development field that goes "nothing about us without us."

The groups involved in this event were big enough names that they should have been able to get some of the people whom the report was actually about to come speak out regarding their experiences - especially since the report is titled “Survivors Speak Out: Sexual Violence in Sudan", and is presumably about people who've had their voices silenced. Not even having Sudanese people *present* seems pretty paternalistic. We're going to write a report about the importance of helping your people, but not extend an invitation to the release party?

I liked this article, I appreciate the author's thoughtful tone. I work at an international NGO, so I find it professionally relevant, but I think many people can benefit from considering some of the questions she asks when they think about how foreign aid agencies represent the people they're serving.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:31 AM on February 17 [21 favorites]


I can empathize with some of the concerns raised here. The fact that few minorities were represented and that those who attended were treated, apparently, like props, so the other attendees could take pictures with them and feel good about how charitable they were being is pretty awful, for instance.

But some other issues have to be looked at, I think, in a greater context, and I feel like the author's naïveté shows. To get real support for this cause means fundraising, and inviting affluent people who are in a position to offer that funding is essential to those efforts. Let her consider it a necessary evil, if it makes it more palatable to her personally, but sometimes, pragmatically, you have to work with what you have, or can reasonably expect to get, rather than what you feel your cause deserves.

I also was curious, and would like to learn more, about this author's recent conversion to Islam, given the references to Islamic views on the treatment of women in the report she criticizes. I feel she skirted past that in her haste to attribute the abuse of women to other factors, like colonialism, which I find problematic. There is legitimate cause, simply drawing from the Koran, to support the contention that women are, at best, secondary citizens under the teachings of Islam.

Which is not at all unique to that faith, certainly! But as she is a woman and an activist for women's issues, i would have been interested to learn--and I say this as someone who ultimately decided I could not convert to (my spouse's) Catholicism because of the church's stances on women's issues--how the author's beliefs on those issues weighed into her decision to convert to the Islam faith.
posted by misha at 11:48 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


Not even having Sudanese people *present* seems pretty paternalistic.

Yeah, exactly. I appreciated this article - it really grates to see the sort of paternalistic finger wagging attitudes of those in the West toward these issues in the third world, as if people there have no agency. And the fact that Sudanese people were not included in this event backs that up.

This article is completely nonsensical. The report was about Sudanese women to a world audience, not to Sudanese women.


Well, from the article:
How can we make decisions without the women whose lives are at stake?

I feel like there's this thought process in which women in underprivileged areas, women living under threat, don't have voices and can't contribute to a discussion about what's best to help them, but they do have voices. I don't know what it means to say that Sudanese women know about the conditions described in the report. Of course they do. I don't know why that means that they should be excluded from this event. Everyone else at the event presumably knows about the conditions as well. It's about presenting information on an issue people in attendance are well aware of, not - "surprise! women have it badly in Sudan! This is complete news to you, world audience!"
posted by sweetkid at 11:49 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]


solon: The groups involved in this event were big enough names that they should have been able to get some of the people whom the report was actually about to come speak out regarding their experiences - especially since the report is titled “Survivors Speak Out: Sexual Violence in Sudan", and is presumably about people who've had their voices silenced. Not even having Sudanese people *present* seems pretty paternalistic. We're going to write a report about the importance of helping your people, but not extend an invitation to the release party?

sweetkid: I feel like there's this thought process in which women in underprivileged areas, women living under threat, don't have voices and can't contribute to a discussion about what's best to help them, but they do have voices.

What exactly are you advocating? Instead of printing this report, should the Nobel Women’s Initiative have compelled Sudanese rape victims to do a speaking tour in which they repeatedly recount the horrors they've gone through?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:31 PM on February 17


What exactly are you advocating? Instead of printing this report, should the Nobel Women’s Initiative have compelled Sudanese rape victims to do a speaking tour in which they repeatedly recount the horrors they've gone through?

I'd advocate that if you hold an event focused on a certain group of people you'd like to help, if at all possible some representatives from that group of people should be present at said event.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:34 PM on February 17 [11 favorites]


Sys Rq, did you read the article?
posted by sweetkid at 12:34 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Yes, I read the article. It's a bunch of self-contradictory gobbledygook.

Did you read the report?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:36 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Instead of printing this report, should the Nobel Women’s Initiative have compelled Sudanese rape victims to do a speaking tour in which they repeatedly recount the horrors they've gone through?

The question you ask assumes that 1) all Sudanese women are already rape victims and b) all rape victims can possibly offer is the story of their suffering.

Perhaps we might, say, ask Sudanese women what they think might help, what particular dynamics contribute to the current problems, or even what kinds of extant support and prevention mechanisms support might be expanded or modified in ways that will fit into and positively change their community. Just off the top of my head, those would seem to be pretty obvious things.
posted by kewb at 12:40 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Hey Sys Rq, you're being really shitty. Just a heads up. Making up horseshit straw-man positions like "should the Nobel Women’s Initiative have compelled Sudanese rape victims to do a speaking tour in which they repeatedly recount the horrors they've gone through?" is shamefully juvenile.

"Some Sudanese women should have been at the event" isn't really a difficult concept to grasp.

Maybe you don't think so, I guess? But you can explain that position without being a childish dickhead.
posted by kavasa at 12:42 PM on February 17 [11 favorites]


I agree with Misha...I do feel the author was quick to overlook the underlying tenets of Islam in a rush to get to colonialism and war as the prime factors. And she speaks passionately of "changing the narrative"...I'd like to see the narrative change by having moderate Muslims actually speak out against human rights abuses far more often than they do. Here in the States, moderate Muslims are very vocal about religious freedom, respect for Mohammed and are quick to rail against perceived discrimination, but weirdly silent when it comes to advocating for women in their home countries.
posted by Kokopuff at 12:49 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Kokopuff, that seems like an unexamined position with little or no evidence behind it. It can as easily be turned against mainstream American Christianity, especially with regards to women's and LGBT rights (again, sexual assault is an enormous problem right here at home). Seeking to shift a greater portion of the blame to a particular religion seems to be less interested in helping people and more interested in exonerating the west.
posted by kavasa at 12:55 PM on February 17 [8 favorites]


I read the report! Like I wrote earlier, it's relevant to my field and interests. I loved that it profiled so many Sudanese women who are human rights activists. It demonstrates that the Nobel Women's Initiative understands that African women can and do have agency and expertise in the fight against issues like sexual violence, and that they're committed to highlighting this work.

That's why it's disappointing/bizarre the launch party didn't have any Africans present. It undermines much of what the report is doing right. I'd have to guess that the people organizing the party are completely uninvolved from the people who wrote the report, and that the latter were also taken aback.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:57 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


That's why it's disappointing/bizarre the launch party didn't have any Africans present. Really undermines that message. I'd have to guess that the people organizing the party are completely uninvolved from the people who wrote the report, and that the latter were also taken aback.

I also read the report, and am surprised, given what it said about the repercussions women in the Sudan face even for coming forward to say they were raped, that anyone questions why there were no Sudanese women present at this conference. Since the government of the Sudan denies there is any problem thereat all, how would you suggest they get more Sudanese involved, anyway ( other than through the personal stories shared by the Sudanese women in the report)? That's the reason for the conference, to try to get aid into the area that is currently denied access.

Also, kavasa, even if you disagree strongly with SysReq here, calling him a dickhead is way over the line. And I know you know that. I hope you will take a step back from this thread if it is getting too upsetting for you to argue without resorting to personal slights.

(And seriously, 4 favorites for personally insulting another member? Geez, people).
posted by misha at 1:09 PM on February 17 [12 favorites]


The question you ask assumes that 1) all Sudanese women are already rape victims and b) all rape victims can possibly offer is the story of their suffering.

It assumes nothing of the sort. It only assumes that, at an event related to a report about sexual violence against women in Sudan, the voices of any Sudanese women chosen to participate in the event would directly relate to that subject. The comments to which I was responding also seem to have made that assumption.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:10 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Nope, I did not assume that the voices of any random Sudanese women would directly relate to the subject. The whole point of this article is that the community affected should not be excluded from this event and similar ones. The report itself features Sudanese activists and the article mentions that the event this author attended didn't include any of these activists or even mention them.
posted by sweetkid at 1:17 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


Seeking to shift a greater portion of the blame to a particular religion seems to be less interested in helping people and more interested in exonerating the west.

When you consider that the population of Sudan is well over 90% Muslim I think Islam may be relevant. Sudan is considerd by many to be a radical Islamic state and Sharia law has been imposed throughout the country so discussion on Islam may be less blame shifting and more an acknowledgement of the reality of the situation.
posted by MikeMc at 1:24 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


kavasa, I agree with Kokopuff, and I have examined the issue. While the examination is observational and anecdotal it is based on spending considerable time in countries with large Muslim populations, watching the press and actively supporting National and International organizations committed to the legal, economic and political empowerment of women. Scan Wikipedia for lists of groups, and specific activities, supporting women's rights and look carefully at countries which are largely Islamic or have a majority of Muslim citizens--few or none. Then scan Western countries. The article was naive if not a bit sophomoric--but aren't we all learning. In the last 50 years some Christians certainly have a lot to apologize for in terms of actively supporting women's rights--Countries with a strong Christian ethos have much less for which to apologize and many Christian denominations have been forceful in their leadership.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:32 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


It assumes nothing of the sort. It only assumes that, at an event related to a report about sexual violence against women in Sudan, the voices of any Sudanese women chosen to participate in the event would directly relate to that subject.

Then perhaps you should have written "Sudanese women" instead of "Sudanese rape victims," and "participating in the event" rather than "repeatedly recount all the horrors they haver gone through." Do you understand that the first phrase in each pair is not the same in meaning or in referent as the second?

So yes, the language of your question does assume exactly what I and others have pointed out. Being that the entirety of the question exists as language, that would mean the question assumes such things. I am willing to believe that you may have intended a question without those problematic assumptions, but I am afraid that you did not manage to express it.
posted by kewb at 1:42 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


Oh, and here's a list that may be of interest to some people.
posted by kewb at 1:43 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


I've worked with the Dutch Foreign Ministry (in fact my last senior contact has now become an Ambassador in prominent redacted place and is a woman) and this lack of representation is an issue made worse when there are certain personality types involved. It really sounds like the guy who presented the report falls into the same category as teh guy running a workshop on African farmers that I attended. One of the only two Africans in the room (of a handful of PoC including me, an invited observer) spoke up at a point to say "Yes but what if these ideas you espouse are considered foreign viruses alien to our system/culture and thus not being adopted" and mr leadership answers "Participatory workshops" and cut him off. So you have an entire session on what African farmers want but cut off the only African agricultural expert to speak up because he contradicted your pet theories. This also supports MartinWisse's comment above on 'it had to be the dutch'.

This thread, btw, is turning into that workshop.
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on February 17 [15 favorites]


kewb--thanks for the link re: WISE--I will follow through. I do happen to think, certainly not unique to me, that the issues with women's rights in Islamic/Muslim communities has much more to do with men/power/privilege that Islam. BTW, from the information in the WISE link:"Muslim women in particular confront the limitations of discrimination and inequality. In fact, 20 of the 25 lowest-ranking countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2010 Gender Gap Index, which ranks women’s participation in society, are Muslim-majority countries."
posted by rmhsinc at 2:01 PM on February 17


Yet, the report offers no tangible policy recommendations.

I'd like to know more about her own recommendations, other than involving Sudanese women in Amnesty International's self congratulation exercise

By the end of the report I felt hopeless. What is the solution to a situation when aid and development are so politicized both in Third World countries and in the West? What can be done if it is assumed that Islamic law is inherently bad towards women but we fail to acknowledge the legacies of colonialism and war?

If she feels that Islamic Law as interpreted in Sudan is being mischaracterized and is not inherently bad towards women, I wish she would articulate how the West can understand it better.

How can we make decisions without the women whose lives are at stake How can “Third World women” become empowered when the mainstream narratives say that they have to be saved from inept and violent brown men by Western countries with white majorities and big bucks?

I think these are good points, but she could have provided some ideas on how to put Sudanese women at the forefront of the movement. Maybe it starts with having women experienced in dealing with abuse in the leadership positions and making the presentations, and maybe it wouldn't hurt to have Muslim scholars involved as well, if particular Islamic cultures are thought to be contributing to the problem.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:08 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


What exactly are you advocating? Instead of printing this report, should the Nobel Women’s Initiative have compelled Sudanese rape victims to do a speaking tour in which they repeatedly recount the horrors they've gone through?

I bet there are Sudanese women activists or village elders or educated expatriates or local women who have worked with NGOs who could talk about the situation from their perspective. In almost any community that isn't just totally in 100% crisis, there are leaders, organizers, elders, people who want to bear witness. They exist. They are the people who need to be centered in this stuff, not least because it's like a game of telephone - the more random well-meaning outsiders you have between the message and the hearers, the more it gets garbled and the more information gets lost.

Also, if you are creating a discourse about people, they are going to find out about it somehow. You may think they won't - that "they" are too remote, too abject, too ignorant or just too pathetically grateful to care - but they will, and if your discourse is stupid and patronizing, you will hurt and anger them. I know this, alas, from personal experience as speaker and hearer.

Also, frankly, it's morally disgusting to have this big glittering events where privileged people absorb a homeopathic amount of information and pat themselves on the back. Everyone is always like "but we have to do this dubious thing to raise money" and then, lo, it turns out that the money gets misspent, or has stupid conditions attached to it, and the problem goes on and on. The poor ye have always with you, yeah, that's because we keep them poor.
posted by Frowner at 2:13 PM on February 17 [17 favorites]


Countries with a strong Christian ethos have much less for which to apologize and many Christian denominations have been forceful in their leadership

Are you kidding me? In a week where the UN released a report condemning the Vatican for sheltering pedophiles in dozens of countries over decades? Have a look at women's rights in Ireland during most of the twentieth century fur how Christian states champion equality. Or in an atheist country like China.
posted by smoke at 2:18 PM on February 17 [13 favorites]




Some of the tweets from #lifeofamuslimfeminist might be worth reading for people convinced that Islam is the problem.
posted by jaguar at 2:25 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


India, only too well known for its dismal record on women's sexual violence issues, as we all well know, is not a Muslim majority country. The problem isn't religion. Its the patriarchal culture and society that perpetuates women's illtreatment and commodification.
posted by infini at 2:32 PM on February 17 [16 favorites]


smoke--get a handle on it and put it in perspective to the issue being discussed and the progress being made in European and Western countries vs most if not many other countries. The Vatican does not represent broad based Christian practices and Ireland--for all its struggles--has much of which to be proud of its achievements in the last 50 years. Honestly, the indignation and righteousness does not reflect the reality of differences between cultures which have a strong Christian ethos and Islamic orientation.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:45 PM on February 17


"Islam is more misogynist than other religions!" seems like a complete derail here. Can we not?
posted by jaguar at 2:50 PM on February 17 [11 favorites]


And smoke--when you cut and paste a quote put in the whole sentence--Thanks "In the last 50 years some Christians certainly have a lot to apologize for in terms of actively supporting women's rights--Countries with a strong Christian ethos have much less for which to apologize and many Christian denominations have been forceful in their leadership.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:50 PM on February 17


Looking through the report my read is that it is very much an overview. Its short and doesn't go into a lot of depth. Based on 20 interviews, depending on who they were with a professional researcher could set them up, carry them out and write them up in 2-4 months. It was done with a Sudanese researcher so that should have helped keep costs down. I'm guessing it was a fairly small research grant which didn't cover a lot. I'm not familiar with the Nobel Women's Initiative but from their website they sound fairly small (though prestigious) and with a focus on high level advocacy. Presenting at an embassy is likely to be an in kind donation that fitted with the interests of that embassy's government. So I suspect flying people in from Sudan would not have fit with the budget but nor would it fit with a nice evening jolly and the chance to do some networking, which is likely what the audience wants and why they turned up. I also suspect you would run a significant risk of having someone along look as they were there to 'perform' in this kind of environment, which would be pretty horrible.

Basically I think this was a nice little dissemination event to present a report and its not that helpful to consider it as something bigger than it is.
posted by biffa at 2:53 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


Jaguar--I think cultural and religious misogyny is a relevant issue to the writers comments but what the heck, you are the boss
posted by rmhsinc at 2:55 PM on February 17


How can “Third World women” become empowered when the mainstream narratives say that they have to be saved from inept and violent brown men by Western countries with white majorities and big bucks?

I'll toddle off for a walk now, have a smoke, read a report, eat a canape
posted by infini at 2:55 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


If it were a one-off oversight, it would not be worthy of comment, but the idea of white Westerners swooping in to save the poor benighted brown people from themselves is a much larger phenomenon and one about which many people have written and discussed. It should be an issue very much in the minds of people doing, or fundraising for, this sort of work.
posted by jaguar at 2:58 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]


I don't think, and certainly didn't mean to give the impression, that Christianity is blameless when it comes to human rights issues, or that Islam is solely to blame for the abuse women in the Sudan are suffering! I think we are pretty much on the same page here.

I do think that the author of this piece that is linked seems to be absolving Islam of all responsibility for what is happening in the Sudan, though, possibly because she herself has converted to Islam. For her, that conversion may not have had a significant impact on how she is treated.

But when a country like the Sudan is overwhelmingly one religion and that religion is reflected in its laws, ignoring how those laws unequally punish women--for instance, equating rape legally with adultery so that rape victims are afraid to report their rape lest they be accused of a crime (in addition to being shunned and shamed by their community for not being virtuous women!)--doesn't help those women.
posted by misha at 3:01 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


And what does that have to do with women from historically silenced groups being able to speak for themselves, rather than have Western goals thrust upon them?
posted by jaguar at 3:05 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


The Vatican does not represent broad based Christian practices...

Roman Catholicism is nearly half of Christianity and dwarfs every other denomination, so if anyone can be said to represent broad based Christian practices, it's the Vatican.
posted by Etrigan at 3:07 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


Frowner: I bet there are Sudanese women activists or village elders or educated expatriates or local women who have worked with NGOs who could talk about the situation from their perspective. In almost any community that isn't just totally in 100% crisis, there are leaders, organizers, elders, people who want to bear witness. They exist. They are the people who need to be centered in this stuff, not least because it's like a game of telephone - the more random well-meaning outsiders you have between the message and the hearers, the more it gets garbled and the more information gets lost.

Jaguar: And what does that have to do with women from historically silenced groups being able to speak for themselves, rather than have Western goals thrust upon them?

Jaguar and Frowner, did either of you read the report? If not, please do, instead of just reading the critique of it. The issues the organization is facing in their attempts to help include humanitarian aid agencies being denied access to these groups.
posted by misha at 3:13 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


The Banality of Pity is talking about famine in Africa rather than sexual assault, but makes some excellent points:

The aid industrial complex, Moyo argues, unwittingly enables, corruption within some of Africa’s regional governments — where historically, leaders have acted with impunity misappropriating money, donated towards the perennial war to end poverty. Consequently, dependency is created, that kills entrepreneurship. In the process African citizens are disenfranchised, “because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people. A wise Nigerian elder, Chinua Achebe reminds us that, “While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.”...

Significantly, Melinda Ozongwu (This is Africa) writes: “Perhaps when charities are looking for spokespeople and ambassadors they should look to Africans as well.They should look at our “celebrities” and prominent figures, people who understand Africa far better than any celebrity visiting for charity projects who’s rushing from 5-star hotel to disease-ridden village and back again to the 5-star hotel. Our celebrities, in my opinion, have a responsibility to their countries, whether they live in them or not. That way communication doesn’t just stop at a TV ad or a glitzy campaign. People from beyond the continent can help with a fresh perspective but, truly, nobody knows the problems we face as well as an African does. We don’t only know about the corruption, we know who the main culprits are. We know who will waste the money; we know where the real thieves live. An African celebrity doesn’t need to look at a picture of a starving child to feel empathetic; they probably don’t have to look much further than their own village. Youssou N’dour as a UNICEF ambassador makes sense.

posted by jaguar at 3:17 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I'm not talking about the report, I'm talking about how the report is being publicized in the case described by the article, which is not a critique of the report but a critique of its presentation, and an important one.
posted by jaguar at 3:18 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


If not, please do, instead of just reading the critique of it.


The critique is not of the report, it is of the event the author went to celebrating the report's release.
posted by sweetkid at 3:21 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


on non preview, seconding jaguar.
posted by sweetkid at 3:22 PM on February 17


Kokopuff, that seems like an unexamined position with little or no evidence behind it. It can as easily be turned against mainstream American Christianity, especially with regards to women's and LGBT rights (again, sexual assault is an enormous problem right here at home).

....So? I don't really think you just get to go "this is a shit position because you can swap out the operators and make it apply to something else". What is your point here? This seems like really typical "well you need to look at the people around you in your environment before you start criticizing other people in others" which i mean, yea, on paper that's an ok point... But in practice it basically means no one is ever allowed to question or criticize anything elsewhere in the world.

Seeking to shift a greater portion of the blame to a particular religion seems to be less interested in helping people and more interested in exonerating the west.

Another one that sounds great as a sound bite, but if you're really going to go down this path then you need to actually show your work and explain how this should be hyperfocused on the wests role in all this when we're talking about something that people in another country, in another culture are doing to eachother. You are trying to intermix the handling of trying to garner aid in the west with the violence happening overseas to prop up your point.

And before anyone pulls down their pants to shit on me here, i DID read the article and the report.

I think what pisses me off the most about this article is little troll-bombs like this:

What can be done if it is assumed that Islamic law is inherently bad towards women but we fail to acknowledge the legacies of colonialism and war?

This is SUPER trolly to me. This like, a comment i would hope would be deleted on here for being such a threadshit. It takes some statements by a guy who sounds like a pompous ass in the worlds of the writer paraphrasing and summarizing, and then applies them to huge swaths of people as if "you're all ignoring this, but crapping on this!" as some huge unified group. And everyone just eats it up as if it's defacto whats up.

Fuckkkkk that.

There's some good stuff in this article, but it also jumps to some really shitty conclusions along the lines of "This one group of people is shitty at handling, therefor all of western society is fucking this up in exactly the same way". This may be critiques to issues that are common, but universalizing them only succeeds at bringing the conversation to a hyperbolic level that, IMO, makes it not even worth having in a sort of "either you cut your arm or your leg off RIGHT NOW" kind of way.

I pretty much ended the article with one question, which was "And how is Islams role in all this "off the table" in this discussion? why did you completely skim over that?"

That was quickly shuffled by in such a way that i genuinely went and checked if the writer was some white feminism from tumblr toeing the party line and thinking that any sort of discussion in that way is taboo and automatically racist. I mean, fuck. It's been brought up in this thread already, but there's some elephant in the room shit going on here.

I guess it's just that i've read, and experienced in meatspace discussions a lot of dressing down type of rants such as this article. And it's like, ok, what discussion do you expect to have now? I feel like i'm getting screamed at by my boss and all i can do is go "ok" or expect to get yelled at more.

It's a shitty, shameful presentation of the issues with a bunch of rich white people slapping eachother on the back(and something i, as a native american am not unfamiliar with) but with the exception of "Sudanese women should have been involved in the process" i'm kind of at a loss as to what the point is. It's a big pile of "Stop doing this, this is wrong" without really offering any solution of "And this is right, do this instead". It's basically just a pile on of shitting on rich white people because that's in vogue. Honestly reminds me of certain rants i've seen on mefi about meat processing/veganism.

I mean i expect to get some kind of "did we read the same article?" responses, but yea. That was my takeaway.

Oh, for what it's worth the actual report is good stuff though.
posted by emptythought at 3:39 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


I think her point is that a bunch of white people raising money to be spent in undefined ways on a problem they know about, at best, third-hand and then spending that money in ways that don't acknowledge how in the past, money from the West has often made things worse rather than better -- all of that does nothing to solve the problem of sexual assault in Sudan, and might actually make it worse, and only actually achieves the result of salving the conscience of a bunch of white people.
posted by jaguar at 3:53 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


That is to say, I assume that's why she brought up the legacy of colonialism, to point out that Western intervention in Africa is not exactly an unquestionable force for positive change.
posted by jaguar at 3:54 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


I guess i just think the report itself did a much, much better job presenting that point than a "you ought to be ashamed of yourselves" piece against the people presenting the report at some big gala.

I agree the big question here are what are they even doing with that money, and how are they even going to help anything. But that isn't really what the critique of the presentation was primarily targeting at all.
posted by emptythought at 3:58 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Hey, folks who feel that Islam is being underplayed as a causative factor: What remedy do you feel that talking in those terms makes accessible that isn't otherwise?
posted by PMdixon at 4:13 PM on February 17


She's talking about the event itself. Why does she suddenly need to get into her own personal journey of faith to justify her misgivings about the event? Unless you think the only rational move for her is to denounce Islam completely?

Her own relationship to Islam is none of our business. For all we know, she's likely working out the relationship between Islam and feminism, like many of the people in kewb's list are doing. The calls for her to explain her faith makes it sound like she is a brainwashed agent, which is presumptuously rude.
posted by divabat at 4:18 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


This article was basically "These white people who actually talked to Sudanese people and did extensive research had a crappy party and I hate them. I am a good white person, for even though I didn't talk to any Sudanese people either, I know enough to hate these people." It's purest social positioning.

Similarly, comments about "I'm criticizing the party, so it's irrelevant whether I read the report" are some serious forest-for-the-trees point missing. Given that this is a culture where the punishment for admitting to being raped is death, how many of the interviewees did you think would show up? Why do you think the composition of the book launch party is even approaching the significance of the report itself?

But then, the cream of the jest is the author grumbling about "This report has no policy perscriptions, so all it did was give me a big sad." This at the end of a rant about "These people who are doing the work on the ground are not doing it right, and should pay more attention to someone who hasn't." Revolting.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:24 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


..what? this article was not written by a white person.

Also for people wondering why she didn't talk about her history with Islam and x other things, click on her name and you get a list of articles she has also written for the site. Which cover some interesting topics actually.
posted by sweetkid at 4:39 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


Her own relationship to Islam is none of our business. For all we know, she's likely working out the relationship between Islam and feminism, like many of the people in kewb's list are doing. The calls for her to explain her faith makes it sound like she is a brainwashed agent, which is presumptuously rude.

This isn't what i'm saying at all. There are no calls her for her to explain her faith. I was addressing the posters upthread as much as i was her though, in that the report itself gets into the correlation between the rise of the islamic government there and these issues.

Hey, folks who feel that Islam is being underplayed as a causative factor: What remedy do you feel that talking in those terms makes accessible that isn't otherwise?

The role of the religiously backed government in sweeping this under the rug? the roles of the communities, driven by the culture that surrounds that religious background to victim blame and sweep it under the rug? Idk.

I don't feel like i should have to sit here and compile a list, but off the tops of my head those are two big ones that western commentators and activists on this sort of thing seem to be afraid to touch with a 50 foot pole less their peers instantly and forever brand them as some kind of unclean racist with fucked up motives or whatever. I have seen this sort of ostracizing happen, and i've also seen people steer their ships, so to speak, around anything that even gets close to bringing up that point for fear of "saying the wrong thing" or whatever.

Would i rather it was people from within that community bringing this sort of stuff up? yea. But the absolute phobia of it also bugs me.

This article was basically "These white people who actually talked to Sudanese people and did extensive research had a crappy party and I hate them. I am a good white person, for even though I didn't talk to any Sudanese people either, I know enough to hate these people." It's purest social positioning.

I may be wrong, but in my brief internets research into the writer, it appears that she is muslim as isn't white. I might be wrong here, though. That was the conclusion i came to however.
posted by emptythought at 4:39 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


PMdixon said "Hey, folks who feel that Islam is being underplayed as a causative factor: What remedy do you feel that talking in those terms makes accessible that isn't otherwise?" As I have said--it is not Islam per se but the reciprocity between someaspects of Islam and male power/privilege that should not be ignored. one can speculate endlessly about the role of other things but focusing on this issue leads me to now support such things as "WISE" (Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality) and other progressive Islamic groups and scholars.
posted by rmhsinc at 4:42 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


As I read it, the author found herself feeling uncomfortable being a token minority at this event and was trying to put her finger on what it was about this that bothered her. (And maybe she wasn't entirely successful in doing so.) The level of vitriol leveled at her for even trying to think about this amazes me. I don't get it.

(And, yeah, she didn't criticize the report itself or the people who wrote it – she had complimentary things to say about it. She was talking about the weirdness of the event she attended where the report was presented.)
posted by nangar at 5:15 PM on February 17 [8 favorites]


> Would i rather it was people from within that community bringing this sort of stuff up?

People from "within that community bringing this sort of stuff up" actually exist, but you ignore them. There was an excellent MeFi post about this a few months ago. (It got all of 16 favorites and 3 comments at the time.) You should read it.
posted by nangar at 6:22 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]


I agree the big question here are what are they even doing with that money, and how are they even going to help anything. But that isn't really what the critique of the presentation was primarily targeting at all.

I think it was, or at least I read it that way, but at more of a social rather than policy-wonk level. She's pointing out that the event celebrated the Dutch government (and presumably the other donors in the room) for a successful year of fundraising against sexual assault in Sudan -- but that the event's speakers presented a very "us vs. them" analysis of white Westerners and black Africans, in a way that made it sound like white people had already solved the problem in the West and now it's their job to solve it in Africa.

She then points out the the report, while much more respectful of Sudanese women and on-the-ground efforts in this area, still didn't offer any practical ideas except for prosecuting politicians (which she explains is difficult) and raising funds, without further recommendations for where those funds should go.

So she's explicitly showing that fairly ignorant people (those at the event) are raising money to go toward nebulous purposes (since the fundraising goal is, even in the longer report, undefined), and calling that "success."
posted by jaguar at 7:06 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]


I hope my last comment didn't come across as snotty. The FPP was about Karima Bennoune's book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. In the linked interview, excerpts and essays, she talks about the threat posed by Fundamentalists and the damage they've done to people living in mostly Muslim countries, the tendency of the European left to apologize for Islamic Fundamentalism, as if it were the same thing as being Muslim or being Arab, and attitude of Western leftists towards Muslim feminists. In short, you should read it.
posted by nangar at 7:34 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Scan Wikipedia for lists of groups, and specific activities, supporting women's rights and look carefully at countries which are largely Islamic or have a majority of Muslim citizens--few or none. Then scan Western countries.

This is much more likely to be a reflection of the knowledge base of English-language Wikipedia editors than a reflection of the distribution of organizations supporting women's rights.

The event that eren is describing isn't fundraising - it's the launch party for the report. Inviting some members of Ontario's Sudanese community, maybe from a grassroots group like Women Assisting Women or the Association of Sudanese Women in Research and Development (Ani-Sa'a), would have been appropriate. So would inviting one of the activists profiled in the report as a keynote speaker.
posted by gingerest at 7:44 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


One of the things that struck me was how eren described people wanting to take pictures of her and the other few minorities in attendance and how she felt like she was in a zoo.
posted by sweetkid at 7:51 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


The same author wrote an actual critique of the report, as well, which addresses some of the issues some of y'all are raising, as well as presenting some of the concerns I'm reading in the blog post, but presented in a more explicit way:

As a Muslim reader with a Latin American background, I felt uneasy reading this report for a number of reasons. First, it troubles me that in mosque settings, we are very quick to respond to political attacks perpetrated by Western countries against Muslim ones, but we rarely discuss how Islam and what passes for Sharia laws are misused to perpetrate crimes against humanity.

In addition, in many Muslim communities, we do not discuss sexual violence in general. It is still a taboo to talk about rape in conflict settings or rape in the context of marriage. For me, this is hard to understand because I see Islam as a force that stands against injustice, violence and anything that harms human beings.

We also fail to ask questions about the oppression of others. What does it mean to be a Sudanese woman in this setting? How does it relate to the oppression of other women in similar situations? What can Muslim women do to support Sudanese women suffering from sexual violence?

In addition, I was uncomfortable with the report’s overview of the international community. Through the report, it seems that international organisations are truly focusing on Sudan. However, even though funding is being provided by wealthy developed countries like the Netherlands, without being granted entry to the country, how are these funds being used to help Sudanese women?

As I read I kept wondering, how are Western countries helping (or not helping) the situation? Are there any political responses to human rights abuses? Or will this go down the same route as the 2011 Darfur famine, where countries around the world failed to respond quickly enough to prevent it or mitigate its effects?

posted by jaguar at 8:11 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


The event that eren is describing isn't fundraising - it's the launch party for the report.

I may be wrong, but I generally assume that fundraisers and/or people who are likely to spread the word are the ones invited to these sorts of events.
posted by jaguar at 8:34 PM on February 17


Are there any political responses to human rights abuses? Or will this go down the same route as the 2011 Darfur famine, where countries around the world failed to respond quickly enough to prevent it or mitigate its effects?

It would be nice for her to offer some suggestions. Maybe the reason the West isn't doing much in Sudan is because they have no idea what they can really do. In Darfur, direct military intervention was most likely required. I don't think she's suggesting that for Sudan.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:56 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


What she's suggesting is consulting with people in Sudan about what's already working, or what is likely to work.

I don't understand why this point is so hard to understand.

She's not offering solutions because she doesn't know what those solutions are, because she is not from or working in Sudan. She is similarly dismayed that other people who are not from or working in Sudan are nevertheless offering solutions and sending money to other people who are not from or working in Sudan. That is the entire point of her critiques.
posted by jaguar at 9:05 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


I may be wrong, but I generally assume that fundraisers and/or people who are likely to spread the word are the ones invited to these sorts of events.

My limited experience has been been that celebrations for major governmental reports are full of midlevel bureaucrats eating sheet cake under fluorescent lights, not deep-pocketed philanthropists dancing the night away. The fact it was held at 9AM suggests that the event was not a glittering charity party.

But that's really beside the point.
posted by gingerest at 9:10 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Nangar: she didn't criticize the report itself or the people who wrote it – she had complimentary things to say about it. She was talking about the weirdness of the event she attended where the report was presented

Yeah, good point. I think what's bothering me is it feels like her critique seems to be linking by extension her being treated as basically this token minority at this one party to an attitude of dismissiveness towards the Sudanese women, and I don't see any evidence of that in the report which was disseminated at the party. It seems like an unfair characterization born of her own discomfort at this event.

Jaguar, thank you for that excerpt up above. It really gets more at the meat of the issues the report discusses, and does a much better job of explaining the author's perspective on them than her critique of the party, IMO.
posted by misha at 9:10 PM on February 17


Yeah, good point. I think what's bothering me is it feels like her critique seems to be linking by extension her being treated as basically this token minority at this one party to an attitude of dismissiveness towards the Sudanese women, and I don't see any evidence of that in the report which was disseminated at the party. It seems like an unfair characterization born of her own discomfort at this event.

I was doing a bunch of Googling to find info about the event, and I do want to point out that the event she's describing was the only live event, anywhere in the world, for this report. The Nobel Women's Initiative and the other sponsoring organization, the International Campaign To Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, are both based in Ottawa. This event wasn't one of many launch events, which makes its shortcomings more important.
posted by jaguar at 9:23 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


And - based on my googling - there is definitely a sizeable Sudanese women's community in Ontario, if not in Ottawa proper. It doesn't sound like the party was an invitation-only event, but I'm sure that people who were invited were more likely to put in an appearance.
posted by gingerest at 9:42 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


gingerest, I read that press release as an invitation to join the "online" launch -- i.e., post on Facebook or Twitter to publicize the report -- rather than as an open invitation to the in-person event. But it's definitely ambiguous, and your point about Sudanese women being geographically available is well taken -- especially if the event was invitation-only.
posted by jaguar at 9:45 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Kokopuff, that seems like an unexamined position with little or no evidence behind it. It can as easily be turned against mainstream American Christianity, especially with regards to women's and LGBT rights (again, sexual assault is an enormous problem right here at home).

it could very easily apply to American Christians, and I personally would be happy to do that in most circumstances, but to do so in this thread would feel equivalent to dropping into a thread on violence against women and saying 'but what about the menz!'
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:35 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to note that this isn't a specific Dutch/Sudan difficulty but rather donor/beneficiary issue. I just had a discussion this morning about fundraising strategies that take what we sometimes hear: "let's go see the poor people and feel sorry for them then help them", and how we could take that impulse and expand it into 'let's meet these people so we can listen to them and work with them, with us gaining something too'. It's a lot more work and effort and some of our potential donors are not interested. Do we turn down their money and cut services or filter their patronizing from our clients and accept it? Everyone in aid has to draw a line somewhere, but it is a shifting line dependent on multiple factors.

I can unfortunately understand and sympathise with the launch organisers who were probably given a guest list by several people and told to make sure everyone had a nice time and they got some favourable media coverage, not make sure this includes the beneficiaries and advocates and that the people attending leave with X, Y and Z understanding. Conflate that with crappy token-minority patronization by other people at the event, and you have a standard neutral launch become an unpleasant and pointless experience. Or, another day at the office. Depressing.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:18 PM on February 17 [9 favorites]


viggorlijah captures the challenge. there are changemakers in the dutch govt who see this problem but as we all well know, there's big money in the poverty industrial complex and its attendant white saviors feel good fuzzy wuzzies for this to change anytime soon. I was also surprised to find a metafilter thread echo the same barriers to listening and understanding instead of patronizing and knowing it all. Almost every objection that could be levelled at why third world women's voice are not heard was demonstrated here as the author of the piece (which could have as easily been me last year at some event) was summarily dismissed in quite an ad hominem manner. But then again, one of the biggest white hunters, sorry I mean philanthropists, Gates himself, never holds back from ad hominem attacks on African women who might choose to disagree with his plans to save them from themselves.
posted by infini at 11:32 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I know it's not always helpful to flip the script, but picture a bunch of progressive Muslims deciding they want to help alleviate sexual assault and domestic violence in the US and Canada (which would be a totally wonderful goal!), and so holding a rally of 50 Muslim people plus four or five white Westerners, in order to announce how awful Western misogyny is and how they were conducing a successful campaign to save American women, because they had raised a bunch of money for groups originating in the Middle East and Africa that were going to work against sexual assault in the US.

Wouldn't you, as a Western feminist, feel patronized and ignored? Wouldn't you be annoyed that people outside North America who wanted to help were donating to organizations on different continents rather than giving money to already-existing feminist organizations in the US and Canada? Would you want to be lectured on how Christianity and Christian political forces had created an environment in which feminism was demonized and women were marginalized, or would you want someone to say, "Hey, we get what you're trying to do, so here's some funding for projects you've already got going"?
posted by jaguar at 11:45 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


but picture a bunch of progressive Muslims deciding they want to help alleviate sexual assault and domestic violence in the US and Canada

hold the phone, i can feel a sketch comedy premise writing itself already.
posted by cendawanita at 12:15 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


(I just want to say that, like, I have met people from Sudan. This idea that "we can't actually import women from a crisis area who are themselves in crisis and therefore it's okay to have no Sudanese people here speaking about this issue" is kind of silly. People get around. There are diasporas. There are people who have lived in a crisis area who do not live there now; there are people who lived in an area which was formerly in crisis and is not in crisis now. If there's one thing I have learned in years of political activism, it is that there is very, very rarely a group of people so remote and so marginalized that they need not be consulted in or present at events about them.)
posted by Frowner at 6:36 AM on February 18 [9 favorites]


summarily dismissed in quite an ad hominem manner.

Disagreement with her conclusions is not summarily dismissing her as a person. Most of us who felt the critique was iffy still empathized with the shitty way she was treated as one of the few minorities represented.

I think her flippant one-liner at the end of her critique (which you also referred to in this thread) is more stereotypically dismissive than anything written here.
posted by misha at 11:20 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I suspect the ones questioning her own spirituality were those I interpreted as ad hominem.
posted by infini at 11:23 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


How can “Third World women” become empowered when the mainstream narratives say that they have to be saved from inept and violent brown men by Western countries with white majorities and big bucks?

This is a "flippant one liner?" It's a real question, and the attitude it's asking about is backed up by a lot of the attitudes on evidence in this thread.
posted by sweetkid at 11:46 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


Can you expand on that? Is lack of insight into violence against women something that's problematic in Dutch culture?

No, that's not quite what I meant. Rather, that the Dutch can be very tone deaf and moere than somewhat paternalistic in their dealings with what is still called "the third world" or "developing countries" here. There's a tendency to see especially African countries as purely victims, for which we have to do things, rather than work together in equal partnerships, especially amongst the more career orientated end of NGO and GO development aid.

There's also a centuries old tradition of scolding other countries for not being as great as Holland anyway, the scolding finger of the vicar never far away in Dutch foreign politics, though of course not if it hinders that other great constant, the merchant. Moralising is good, as long as it doesn't cost us money or trade opportunities.

A project as described in the original post, with the reception given for it, fits in neatly. Lots of back patting, a lot of moralising, not much in the way of practical solutions or money.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:20 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I suspect the ones questioning her own spirituality were those I interpreted as ad hominem.

I'm sorry if someone did that, as it certainly isn't called for. I must have missed it (or it was deleted).
posted by misha at 3:05 PM on February 18


I found the talk about white Tumblr feminism an ad hom and a wrong one at that.

By the way, it's perhaps worth looking at the context of this piece. It's published on Muslimah Media Watch, which from the About tab is
a forum where we, as Muslim women, can critique how our images appear in the media and popular culture. Although we are of different nationalities, sects, races, etc., we have something important in common: we’re tired of seeing ourselves portrayed by the media in ways that are one-dimensional and misleading. This is a space where, from a Muslim feminist perspective, we can speak up for ourselves.

As Muslim feminists we aim to locate and critique misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia as they affect Muslim women.
I think it's more than a little dismissive to assume that just because the essay doesn't go into it, a feminist graduate student of color who converted as an adult and aspires to be an Islamic scholar didn't consider the role of Islam in the oppression of Sudanese women. She's writing for an audience of feminist Muslimahs, not for MetaFilter. She takes that understanding as read.
posted by gingerest at 8:37 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


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