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Nawal El Saadawi
September 24, 2002 1:33 AM   Subscribe

Nawal El Saadawi seems to think that for any type of fundamentalist religion women are like canaries in the coal mine for the dangers to follow. Female genital mutilation would certainly seem to be a pretty good pointer to get out of the mine, if you ask me. She points out the hypocrisy of the "post-modern veil" and politicians who criticize the Moslem notion of propiety without acknowledging the West's notions of female attire is similarly veiled. I'll grant her that. But, I'd rather wear some smart eyeliner than a head full of burka. I wonder if the propensity of Western couples to have the man drive is anything like the Saudi propensity to disallow women from driving, only with a Western middle class less restrictive enforcement policy? Do the spinsters in Saudi Arabia have sex? And how? And with whom? Why are sexual minorities in 26 Middle Eastern Countries outlawed? What are the reproductive & sensual habits of the Islamist Fundamentalist?
posted by filchyboy (51 comments total)

 
I drive more often than my wife because, well, she doesn't like to drive and I don't mind. Should I be worried about oppressing her? I also do all the cooking because she doesn't like to and I don't mind. I don't see he connection between someting being codified in the law of the land and a trend in the behavior of legally free people. Wouldn't it be a non-issue-not-on-the-radar if women could drive in Saudi Arabia but most husbands forbade it?
posted by n9 at 2:34 AM on September 24, 2002


Doesn't the man drive more often as in most cases in a single car household, the car is primarily owned by the male and is used by him? In a multiple car household (such as mine) each person drives their own car about as much as the next.

Moving back to the article I agree that discrimination against women (or any minority, ethnic group) usually leads to worse things down the line for other groups.
posted by PenDevil at 2:46 AM on September 24, 2002


As far as I understand it, the Qu'ran forbids sex outside marriage, condemns homosexuality. Interpretations seem to differ on such issues as whether or not oral sex within marriage is permissible.

My wife does all the driving in our household - I never got my licence.
posted by misteraitch at 4:01 AM on September 24, 2002


Did I miss something on the "man drive" link above? The only thing I got out of that page was someone named Rachel going on about purple.
posted by Irontom at 4:21 AM on September 24, 2002


Men and women are different. They have different desires and ambitions. Not all women want to be men. If my wife stays at home and cooks and cleans and tends to the children while I go to work, and if I typically drive when we go somewhere together, it's not because I'm oppressing her, but because she'd rather be doing those things. Many women would. They're built that way. Granted, dominant cultural norms can make it difficult for women to break out of that mold in some societies, but we have to be careful not to take it too far. In America, there's almost a stigma attached to "being a woman" in the classic sense. My wife has to put up with people telling her that I'm oppressing her, and they don't get it when she explains that she wants to do those things.
posted by oissubke at 5:03 AM on September 24, 2002


Why is it that this post goes directly from "for any type of fundamentalist religion" to a range of criticisms of Muslims / Muslim countries (the final link focuses on the 26 Muslim countries that criminalise homosexuality, rather than the 57 non-Muslim countries that do so).

It seems to have a string "Muslims bad (implicit) West good" slant, without any balance (hey what's new).
posted by daveg at 5:24 AM on September 24, 2002


Irontom, from Rachel's website: "I will have a husband and three children. I will have two boys and one girl. Their names will be Emily Nick and Josh maybe. I want to live on a lake and have a big house. I will have a boat and my husband will drive. I don't want to drive, just like my mom. She doesn't like to drive either." You have to scroll down past a lot of deeply disturbing animated clipart to get there, though, so no one would blame you for missing it.

Oissubke: Men and women are different. They have different desires and ambitions.
Men and women have different desires and ambitions from each other, and within their gender groups, because they are different individuals. I hate cooking, and have the maternal instincts of a praying mantis. Does this make me a better or worse woman than your wife? No, as long as no one asks me to babysit. Are the people who tell your wife she's being oppressed because of the choices she's made asswipes? Yeah. But it frosts my cookies when someone starts with the "natural roles for men and women" thing, because there. is. no. cooking and cleaning. gene!
posted by hilatron at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2002


Wow, a lot going on in this FPP. With regard to FGM, the other recent thread had a good link that explains all the practices that are grouped under the general heading. As much as I'd like to blame the wahhabis, FGM predates our modern fundamentalists, and plenty of countries practicing it are not particularly fundamentalist. Does anyone have information that FGM is on the rise or has been re-introduced in Arabia since the Saudis took over? The general point about women's rights being the first to go under a fundamentalist regime is probably still valid, though.
posted by BinGregory at 5:28 AM on September 24, 2002


. . . because she'd rather be doing those things. Many women would. They're built that way.

Certainly there's nothing wrong with preferring not to drive, with preferring to do housecleaning rather than work on cars, etc. But it bothers me to be told that I prefer anything, regardless of what it is, because I'm "built that way."

And I always do the driving -- I get carsick if I'm a passenger.
posted by JanetLand at 6:14 AM on September 24, 2002


Not all women want to be men.

If you're implying that women who like to drive and don't like to scrub "want to be men" you're way off base. Being female doesn't have a given set of personality attributes. There are likelihoods & tendencies, but there's greater diversity within genders than between. Maybe you're doing it on purpose but you're gonna annoy a lot of us if you claim we're denying our true nature by not being happily subservient to some "man of the house."
posted by mdn at 7:15 AM on September 24, 2002


Not all women want to be men.

Women who choose the workplace over domesticity aren't trying to be men. They're women who work. Period.

As to the original post - if you're interested in the role of sex in Islam, there's some good links here.

I was especially interested to read Saawadi's ideas about Western ideas of beauty, such as makeup or plastic surgery being a postmodern veil. It makes me wonder...why am I compelled not to leave the house without at least a little foundation? Why do I despise my original hair color? Women in the West are continually comparing themselves to other women that somehow define or capture a standard of beauty...but who decided that standard? Women? Men? The collective unconscious? The media? The whole 'I do it because it makes me feel better about myself' argument looses more and more water with me as I get older. Yet at the same time, you just can't beat a day when you get out of bed and you put on a favorite outfit, your hair goes in the directions it's supposed to, and your skin is clear and healthy looking.

It also brought to mind a conversation I had with a colleague once about high heels...not the kind you buy a Penny's, but the really absurd foot contortion ones. She thought they were sexy, but admitted she only wore them when her husband asked. I was of the mind that something that essentially hobbles you is not very sexy. It's all a very slippery slope.
posted by kittyloop at 7:15 AM on September 24, 2002


I just wanted to recommend Nawal El Saadawi's novella Woman at Point Zero, a candidate for the most engaging 90 page piece I've ever read.
posted by putzface_dickman at 7:53 AM on September 24, 2002


Kittyloop these are good questions and I think most men are as preplexed by it as you are. My experience is most women do it because of other women, its competition for attention from the guys who can get the most attention.
posted by stbalbach at 7:56 AM on September 24, 2002


Being in the driver's seat may be a metaphor for power and control, but it's hardly the only way to look at it. Rich, powerful men are driven by others, no? Questions of etiquette between the sexes are often this way. I disagree with the FPP assertion that having separate standards of courtesy, i.e. opening doors for women, men sitting at the head of the table, is part of some continuum of repression.
posted by BinGregory at 8:18 AM on September 24, 2002


Clarification: I didn't intend my statement to be interpreted as meaning that (A) all women are the same, (B) all women want to be subservient to men, or (C) women who don't sit at home doing doing dishes all day are denying their true nature.

Biologically, women are *generally* different from men in their physical, emotional, psychological, and social natures. They *generally* have different needs, desires, aspirations, dreams, goals, motives, etc. Not all women are the same. Any one woman probably has different goals than any other woman.

I hope that clarifies the fact that I'm not just a bigoted monster. I had a reasonable point, I just forgot to express it in clear, liberal, PC English.

I think that one of the (occasional) differences is between (some) liberals and (some) conservatives is that (some) conservatives (generally) know people are good and sane and equal, while (some) liberals need constant reminding. (Hope the parentheticals helped make that paragraph sufficiently tame.) :-)
posted by oissubke at 8:24 AM on September 24, 2002


BinGregory it was not my intention to make such an assertion. I asked a question. That is different than making an assertion. I think such an assertion, while it may be an interesting idea to toy with, is most assuredly wrong given the paucity of "evidence" I layed out in the FPP. The idea though that there may be a continuum I find to be helpful as a filter to examine my own reactions to inter-gender relationships.

Daveg, I certainly didn't intentionally put any "West good" slant into the FPP. If you think that I did please forgive me my misstep. I'll mark it on my notes though that Daveg has concerns about subliminal prejudice in favor of western culture.

Kittyloop thank you that is exactly the type of link I was looking for. More like that would be greatly appreciated.
posted by filchyboy at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2002


I live in a state (UT) where the dominant religion strongly encourages women to be subservient breeding machines. They have little to no power in the church, they are encouraged to go to college but mostly in the hopes that they'll pick up a returned missionary at BYU. And then, they are encouraged to get married and start having babies as soon as they can and have as many babies as they can.

Careers are not entirely discouraged, so long as it doesn't interfere with the baby-making and rearing.

What it is interesting to me is that in this society, which is fully in communication with the modern world (there's no real sense of isolation), that there hasn't been any sort of wholesale rebellion by women against this rather strict and limited view of their lives.

Instead there's a high amount of depression and a high use of antidepressants. Utah has the highest per-capita antidepressant prescription rate in the country, and as a good mormon friend of mine mentioned, "Its completely obvious as to why our women take those drugs."

I'm sure some of these women would have happily chosen the life of being a mother of a large family and many of them would never want any sort of leadership role. But when you try to force every woman into the same limited position, you end up with a society like mine where forced loud cheerfulness, countless hollow faces, and a heavily drugged gender population is the norm.
posted by pandaharma at 9:28 AM on September 24, 2002


Is FGM part of a slippery slope? I think so, but also on that slope, a little higher up, is MGM. It intrigues me that so many of us in the West get bent out of shape about FGM, without acknowledging that MGM, practically the norm here, is just as primitive, cruel and unjust, only not quite as physically extreme. But I guess that's just me.
posted by soyjoy at 9:56 AM on September 24, 2002


assertion
question, sorry

I don't know if this is sufficiently on-topic, but Abdal Hakim Murad has a very interesting essay on gender roles in Islam in relation to the emerging "difference feminism." Murad is a lecturer at the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. Another good article on the subject by him is Islam, Irigaray and the Retrieval of Gender. This article is written for a Women's Studies type audience, but is amazingly still quite readable. No reproductive and sensual habits described there, sorry, but a few sensual poems:

'Do not remain a man of intellect among the lovers, especially if you love that

sweet-faced Beloved.

May the men of intellect stay far from the lovers, may the smell of dung stay

far from the east wind!

If a man of intellect should enter, tell him the way is blocked, but if a lover

should come, extend him a hundred welcomes!

By the time intellect has deliberated and reflected, love has flown to the

seventh heaven.

By the time intellect has found a camel for the hajj, love has circled the

Ka'ba.

Love has come and covered my mouth. It says: 'Throw away your poetry, and

come to the stars!''


- Rumi
posted by BinGregory at 10:01 AM on September 24, 2002


Pandaharma, have you ever asked those "repressed" women what they think about it? Or do you just make assumptions based on your view of what they should be doing?

I'm sure there are some vocal and disgruntled Mormon housewives just like there are from any other culture, but I would encourage you to go pick some average LDS housewife and ask her what she thinks about her life. Ask her if she feels oppressed, repressed, inhibited, etc. She'll probably laugh and tell you that she's doing exactly what she wants to be doing, and wouldn't have it any other way.

Don't assume that somebody is brainwashed or oppressed just because they're lifestyle doesn't fit what you think they should be doing.
posted by oissubke at 10:08 AM on September 24, 2002


Uh, soyjoy, I have to disagree. I'm not in favor of male circumcision, but I think that you're really comparing apples and oranges. People get so bent out of shape about FGM precisely because it's so physically extreme. It is a profoundly life-altering procedure. Comparing it to circumcision is essentially like comparing ear piercing to taking off an entire ear with a piece of jagged glass.

Oh, excuse me, I need to go do some cooking and cleaning for oissubke. I don't want to be a man, after all. Thank heavens that I have a big strong man like him to tell me that I'm not being oppressed. My natural feminine urgings are calling!
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:37 AM on September 24, 2002


Like I said oissubke, many of these women would choose this lifestyle.

Any many of them would not.

However, for the dissenters, the social norms of Northern Utah are strongly against them. If they dissent, they'll have their family, their church, and their neighbors to answer to.

If you've spent any time in Utah County, you'll know what I'm saying is true.

And yes, I know many many mormon women who are thrilled to death about their babies and the life they've chosen.

And I know my neighbor with the thousand-yard stare and the look she gets when you ask her about her former teaching career which has now been aborted by the three kids and the one on the way. I know a wonderful IT manager who felt pressured into having a child, even though she really didn't have a domestic bone in her body, and now she has to give up her intellectual life.

And I think of a fellow programmer who brought his newborn daughter, his fourth child in six years of marriage, to show off to all of us. I held her in my lap and showed her my computers and jokingly said: "Soon little Alison, this cubicle, as far as the eye can see, will be yours!" Almost on cue, the baby started crying and my friend laughed and remarked: "No, she's going to be a stay at home mom like her mother..."

And I know about the heavy drug use here due to the women who feel like they can't keep up with the demands of a large family plus the demands of a church which wants 20-30 hours a week in volunteer time, plus the fact the same church gives them no power and no voice.

If this was such a great system, why are the depression levels here so high? Why is the prozac being passed around the women like candy?

And no, I never said anyone was brainwashed. There's a difference between brainwashing and the pressures one feels from your immediate society. Most people are not strong enough to resist the basic values of the surrounding culture. Even the non-mormons in this community have children much earlier than the national average and in somewhat larger quantities than the average.

But my main point is that it is a very limiting and oppressive system. If women want to make the choice to be stay-at-home moms with six kids, then simply let them make that choice. Why does it need to be preached from the pulpit? Why do women who've chosen a career and opted out of babies, get derogatory comments and askance looks? And if the women are so important, why aren't they given leadership roles? Why can't a woman with leadership skills aspire to be a bishop, stake president, member of the seventy, or even the prophet? If a Margaret Thatcher or a Golda Meir was in the church, they'd be stuck in the Relief Society making casseroles and jello instead of being allowed to utilize their true leadership talents.

I personally could care less what choice these women make on a personal level. I'm just disgusted by the lack of an even playing field in this society and by a church which seems to do everything it can to ensure women are never a threat.
posted by pandaharma at 10:48 AM on September 24, 2002


Once again, I see I've been trolled into defending myself. I'm just a sucker, I guess.

Society should not proscribe rules for feminine behavior. Is that clear enough?

My only point is that there is a social/historical/psychological tendency for women to lean toward domestic activities, and it's not just because of "oppresive men".

If anything, women probably apply more psychological pressure to other women than men do.

We live in a bassackwards society when it's forbidden to mention that some women prefer domestic social roles.

OOOOOHHHH I'm being controversial! Look at me, I'm saying something non-PC!
posted by oissubke at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2002


I hear you, pandaharma. Having grown up in a heavily LDS community, I really agree with most of your observations. I don't think, however, that the LDS society is "fully in communication with the outside world." Yes, of course they have television and are relatively mainstream community-wise. However, they do have a very real sense of being a "chosen people," separate and apart from the rest of the sinful world. Also, this is a community that was in relative isolation for a rather significant chunk of its history, and its narrative of martyrdom intensifies their sense of separateness.

Add to this that these women are heavily indoctrinated from the time they are sunbeams with the notion that God wants them to be mothers and subservient wives, and that all this feminazi bull-hunky denies the "true nature" of women and happiness, and the women are pretty stuck, unless they want to toss their entire sense of community belonging.

And then there's the men. The men, from the holiest to whoever can barely pass muster with his bishop, are taught that from the time they are sixteen -- seriously, sixteen, when most of them can barely drive a girl around in a car -- that their gender-related priesthood gives them not only authority over women, but also special powers and favor under God. That doesn't give independently- minded women much hope.

Oh, and oissubke? The women don't feel good. They are, as pandaharma alluded to, medicated for depression at a rate three times higher than, say, New Jersey.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:55 AM on September 24, 2002


Let me help you out, oissubke. It's not that people disagree that some women, like some men, prefer to be at home and do housework. Here's the problem:

"Not all women want to be men."
So if we don't want to stay home, we're subverting our god-given gender? Great.

"They're built that way."
Funny, after all my fancy book-learnin', I haven't ever seen what physiological difference makes women more anxious to bake cookies. Nor am I aware of a house-cleaning marker on that extra X-chromosome.

"In America, there's almost a stigma attached to "being a woman" in the classic sense."
By "in the classic sense," do you mean the Greek or Roman sense of the word classic, in that we should all be cloistered and possibly not have first names, or are you just looking at some imaginary Donna Reed era where girls were girls and men were men?

It's not so much that you're un-PC or controversial. You're just an idiot.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:04 AM on September 24, 2002


Oooh, I've got "concerns about subliminal prejudice in favor of western culture" (;<) thanks filchyboy). I've not thought about it quite like that before.

Having now thought about it, you've got me about right - I worry when things are said in a way that puts across a secondary message without it necessarily being noticed, especially if the secondary message has a racial or religous angle. (I'd include an example here, but I'm leaving the office now)
posted by daveg at 11:05 AM on September 24, 2002


OOOOOHHHH I'm being controversial! Look at me, I'm saying something non-PC!
Congratulations, oissubke. I was with you up to that post. Not because it's "non-PC," but because it's bogus. What's a "social/historical/psychological tendency?" To my eyes, those are three different phemonena; conflating them seems to be equivalent to saying "biology is destiny," which up till now I thought you were not saying. And come on: "some women prefer domestic social roles"? So do some men. So what?
posted by soyjoy at 11:05 AM on September 24, 2002


I'm aware of the various social statistics about Utah. I have them thrown in my face on a regular basis as "proof" that my religion is crap.

But that's Utah culture, not LDS culture. Though it's difficult to separate the two, the differences are obvious to me since I'm from Arizona. There's a huge LDS population here, and they're not a bunch of belligerent male oppressors and their barefoot and pregnant wives. They practice the religion, not the culture. When someone says they're from Utah, you almost have to force your eyes not to roll. "Oh, Utah...that's...great."

The LDS church does generally teach that a family functions best and is happiest when there is a gainfully employed husband and a wife who stays at home. And I'll tell you something shocking -- as a general principle, IT'S TRUE. If you have studies saying that familiest are happiest when both parents are working and the kids are slapped in daycare, or when the wife goes out to work and the father stays at home, please let me know. If there is a single valid (i.e., not politically biased) study that supports anything other than the nuclear family, I'll eat my hat.

Now there are plenty of stupid people in the world, and yes, some of them are Mormon. Many of those who are both stupid and Mormon will take that teaching to mean "Woman, you must stay at home!". That's the same as Christians who take assault rifles to abortion clinics, Muslims who fly airplanes into buildings, Buddhists who set themselves on fire, or atheists who spend all their time trying to disprove Christianity. It stupid people taking a set of ideas and twisting it into something appropriately idiotic.
posted by oissubke at 11:12 AM on September 24, 2002


Though others have already said much of what I wanted to direct to oissubke, I had to add:

Go a little easy on 'im, gang. He can't help his social/historical/psychological tendency to sound rather dense sometimes.
posted by clever sheep at 11:13 AM on September 24, 2002


Anyway, I'm bailing out of this thread. Special olympics and all that. Thanks for the conversation, guys. I'm sure we'll pick it up with renewed vigor in future threads.
posted by oissubke at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2002


LittleMiss: Comparing [FGM] to circumcision is essentially like comparing ear piercing to taking off an entire ear with a piece of jagged glass
That's probably true. As I tried (failed?) to make clear, there is a big difference, physically, in the barbarity of FGM as compared to MGM. But I think they're points on a spectrum, not apples and oranges. The crucial factor is that whether your ear is pierced with a sterile instrument or jagged glass, if you don't get a choice in whether it happens, the violation of your body is similarly unjust. And although I'm confident the degree of trauma caused by the more extreme FGM is greater than that caused by MGM, it's dubious to say that the latter causes no trauma at all. So: Not saying they're the same, or equivalent. Saying they're on the same slippery slope.
posted by soyjoy at 11:16 AM on September 24, 2002


Oops, one last thing -- Thanks, Clever Sheep. An idiot with a point may express it like an idiot, but that doesn't mean he might not have a point.

I'm not very accustomed to internet discussions (you'll note that I'm new here), and I'm still trying to get into the habit of speaking gingerly and qualifying everything.

I know that women don't all want to stay at home, and that they shouldn't be made to, but I'm used to talking with others who *also* know that so I forget to mention it as a disclaimer as often as I should.

I invited everyone to take a swing at the cardboard conservative cultist, and they took advantage of it. Can't blame them for that. My fault for explaining myself poorly.
posted by oissubke at 11:20 AM on September 24, 2002


I agree with you, soyjoy, to a point. I think that it does bear mentioning, though, that in western cultures, circumcision is done to infants, who de facto don't get much choice in what happens to them, and thankfully, have blissfully poor long-term memory capabilities. Most of the victims of FGM are at least verbal-age, so the trauma, again, is orders-of-magnitude greater.

I guess I'm playing devil's advocate with you, but because of the wide gulf between the two things, I don't think it's necessarily inconsistent for someone to fight against the greater evil without having a huge problem with the lesser.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:29 AM on September 24, 2002


My only point is that there is a social/historical/psychological tendency for women to lean toward domestic activities, and it's not just because of "oppresive men".

If anything, women probably apply more psychological pressure to other women than men do.

We live in a bassackwards society when it's forbidden to mention that some women prefer domestic social roles.


I'm still trying to get into the habit of speaking gingerly and qualifying everything.

Better still, try to get into the habit of arguing and backing up what you say with evidence. What you have posted above is assertion.
posted by Summer at 12:53 PM on September 24, 2002


oissubke: Likening "Buddhists who set themselves on fire" to "Christians who take assault rifles to abortion clinics" and "Muslims who fly airplanes into buildings" is both insulting and displays a complete lack of understanding about the act and the belief system.

For a buddhist, theoretically at least, death is not something to be feared, it being simply a transition from one incarnation to the next. In light of this, self immolation is a perfectly valid choice that can be made under certain circumstances, enabling attention to be drawn to a cause in a way that no other action could. Indeed, Christianity has it that "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That a Man Lay Down His Life for His Friends"
posted by daveg at 1:25 PM on September 24, 2002


DaveG -- point taken. Besides, I'm sure I offended some Muslims and Christians who consider the actions describe

But should a Buddhist be so wrapped up in the affairs of this world that he feels the need to set himself on fire to make a political statement? Doesn't that contradict the general tendency toward transcendence of suffering? (Or am I just getting it all mixed up?)
posted by oissubke at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2002


daveg: Right on. Also, a Buddhist setting themselves on fire presumably doesn't hurt anyone besides the Buddhist.

soyjoy: I'm glad you brought up MGM. I've brought up that topic in conversation before, and been scoffed at. While FGM is obviously more atrocious, most folks I've talked to seem to think that the idea that circumcision is unnecessary and unjust is ridiculous. Interesting. I want my foreskin back, dammit!
posted by sklero at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2002


oissubke -> In Zen, the advice which is often given is to live in the now. If hungry, eat, if sleepy, sleep. And, in zen, there's always a desire to respond to a troubling situation with a simple abstract gesture which sums up the entire problem without saying a word. Reference Buddha's lotus sermon or the correct answer to practically every koan.

Self-immolation falls in line with these other gestures. And, in zen at least. self-violence or violence against others is not forbidden. There's plenty of stories of zen masters striking or killing a student to make a point. My partial namesake, Bodhiharma, once demanded a student cut off his own arm before the student was allowed to study with him. This is an interesting cross-reference with Christ's remarks about amutating an offending member of the body.

Anyways, the nice thing about Buddhism, especially Zen, is the high level of abstractness. A Zen master might play word games with you to get you to think on a different level but s/he will never tell you how many children to have or what your gender role will be. That sort of thing is ultimately irrelevant in the eternal cycle of existence and is why I personally like Zen much much better than any form of Xtianity or Islam.
posted by pandaharma at 3:01 PM on September 24, 2002


oissubke: buddhism teaches detachment, not disconnection, so yes, a buddhist should not be "wrapped up in the affairs of the world", but should make logical, rational choices (one of which could be self-immolation).

A great feature in buddhism is the intention or drive to help others, epitomised (in Mahayana Buddhism) in the concept of the Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others)

The Dalai Lama is a good example of a modern buddhist highly aligned with earthly concerns.
posted by daveg at 3:03 PM on September 24, 2002


Pandaharma & Daveg -- Thanks for the explanations! Makes a bit more sense now.
posted by oissubke at 3:10 PM on September 24, 2002


I am not trying to troll or be insensitive (I do my flawed best at respecting all religious traditions as much as I can), but in inspecting kittyloop's post, I found this. It is really, really bothering me.
oissubke: So I take it that you would not support the rearing of a child in a gay household, even if one parent dressed as Donna Reed, and one as Ward Cleaver.
One of my best friends from college was raised by Daddy and Father. She is as successful and as happy as they come.
posted by oflinkey at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2002


If there is a single valid (i.e., not politically biased) study that supports anything other than the nuclear family, I'll eat my hat.

"Supports" in what sense? What studies "support" the nuclear family?

While I, myself, haven't seen any of these studies which both meet your criteria and back up your assertions, I'm going to accept that it's possible that they exist (their interpretation and scientific merit is another discussion). And I'm going to hazard a guess that, if the "traditional nuclear family" is 'happiest" (not quite sure how you quantify that, but anyway), it's at least in part because women have been societally conditioned to accept, at least in some way, that certain behaviours are traditionally theirs, and as such even those women who don't really want to be housewives are in a better position to adapt to being a housewife than a given man. I suspect you'd have a hard time coercing a man into being a successful stay-at-home father if he didn't want to be. I don't mean to pick on your religion by any means, but if you're going to make assertions that the lifestyle suggested by your religion has in some way been scientifically proven to be better, I respectfully suggest that you (and these studies) may not be taking all factors into account...and you should likely provide some backup so that we can judge for ourselves.
posted by biscotti at 8:54 PM on September 24, 2002


kittyloop, I think at least those things are evolving - remember men used to wear make-up and wigs and fancy clothes too... Wearing a pantsuit and reasonable shoes is normal for women where 20 years ago female executives wore tight little skirts and stilettos...

I don't wear make-up and don't usually bother to shave my legs, and people still seem to be attracted to me. Maybe I'd have more options if I invested more in traditional female prettiness but I think I'd rather separate the wheat from the chaff to start with, you know? People increase or decrease in attractiveness when they open their mouths; the color of your lips shouldn't be a deciding factor. Anyway, I think casualness and non-gender specific fashions are becoming more mainstream; "your mother wears combat boots" wouldn't be an insult anymore; men carry bags so commonly now that even that seinfeld episode from just a few years back (about the man purse) seems outdated.

oissubke, how do you determine the level of happiness of a family? How about the level of happiness of the individual woman? And even if say 3/4 of women were happy being housewives, that doesn't mean that the other 1/4 should feel they ought to take on that role because they were born female. People, of either gender, who want to stay home and cook and clean should feel free to seek a relationship where they can do so. People, of either gender, who want to have an impact on a larger community, should also feel free to work toward that goal. Whether these people are male or female should not be a primary issue. Some people fit stereotypes but plenty don't.
posted by mdn at 9:30 PM on September 24, 2002


LittleMissCranky: Uh, soyjoy, I have to disagree. I'm not in favor of male circumcision, but I think that you're really comparing apples and oranges. People get so bent out of shape about FGM precisely because it's so physically extreme. It is a profoundly life-altering procedure. Comparing it to circumcision is essentially like comparing ear piercing to taking off an entire ear with a piece of jagged glass.

I think this is a good example of cultural differences. The cultures that think female circumcision is evil, ugly, sexist, vile and just plain inexcusable don't necessarily think the same things about male circumcision. Often, people think it looks "normal", "cleaner", "prettier". Much like the cultures that think the same thing of female circumcision.

heh, anything I say here will most likely be coloured by posts in my past that I've felt no desire to qualify. But, I suppose that's just 'cause I'm lazy. And alcoholic.

One thing, though, that I'd like to talk about, "comparing it to circumcision is essentially like comparing ear piercing to taking off an entire ear with a piece of jagged glass."

If you pierce an ear, then take out the piercing, the hole closes up naturally. That doesn't happen with circumcision.

Imagine a world where men could only be circumcised at age 18. How many men would voluntarily be circumcised? I'd imagine none to few. What does that say of practices where boys are circumcised without their consent? Should that be allowed in this day and age? Who has the power over one's body?
posted by stavrogin at 1:34 AM on September 25, 2002


Like I said, stavrogin, I'm not a big fan for most of the reasons that have already been mentioned. Still, there's a big difference between the two practices that we're talking about. My analogy wasn't to argue that male circumcision and ear piercing were the same or caused similar damage; it was to point out the similar gap between the two pairs of procedures.

Maybe I didn't explain my ear piercing/ear amputating analogy adequately. While no analogy is perfect, I think that this one is pretty apt in a couple of ways. First, there's the question of function. Male circumcision, while damaging, is relatively superficial, much like ear piercing. It affects the part of the organ in question that is largely ornamental. The removal of the foreskin does not significantly hamper the functioning of the penis, much as ear piercing doesn't render you deaf. Most FGM removes entire organs and absolutely interferes with sexual functioning, in many cases interrupting it completely. In fact, many practitioners say that's pretty much the point.

Second, there's the question of safety. Even under similar environmental conditions, male circumcision is a much more minor, and therefore safe, procedure. You are not talking about the radical excision of blood-vessel-packed semi-internal organs, with its attendant dangers and complications.

"Often, people think it looks "normal", "cleaner", "prettier". Much like the cultures that think the same thing of female circumcision."

This is a little off your point, but I think that it bears mentioning. Without getting too "West, yay!" about it, I believe that the conditions under which these things are performed are a relevant part of the discussion. There is a difference between a sterile surgical procedure and an operation performed with glass and teeth that goes way beyond cultural perspective. Yes, people in the places that FGM is the cultural norm don't think that it's nearly as big of a deal as we do. However, it's still a hell of a difference.

Once again, I'm not a fan of circumcision, particularly since I don't agree with any unnecessary surgery, which it certainly is, and for the reasons already mentioned. There's still a little bit of a problem with mentioning it in the same breath as FGM like they're the same thing. That problem probably also really hurts the movement to stop circumcision. I think that many rational people would probably agree with, or at least stop to consider your point of view based on its merit, but reflexively reach for their wacko-write-off button when the minor procedure is equated to the life-altering one.

By the way, ear-piercings do not always grow closed. I've been trying to grow mine closed for six years, damn it.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:38 AM on September 25, 2002


By the way, oissubke, I'd kind of like to see your mountain of evidence that families with stay-at-home moms and gainfully employed dads are the "happiest." The mind boggles at how one would even measure such a thing. Who's happiness are we even talking about here? Since you're the one making the assertion, I believe that the burden of evidence rests with you.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:45 AM on September 25, 2002


Oissubke, what makes your assertion so precious is that if followed logically it means my family, just me and my daughter, are substandard in terms of happiness.

That seems to fly in the face of reality. Real families are not the same as studies. However you apply your definitions of family life I'd hate to have them applied to me and mine.
posted by filchyboy at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2002


LittleMiss: I figured our differences on this were too inconsequential to necessitate a further reply from me ... up till where you start saying FGM and MGM have been "equated" or treated "like they're the same thing." One more time: I emphatically did not equate them or say they were the same. The point was, and remains, that they are similar phenomena, arising from similar - in my opinion - archaic and absurd tribal practices, and are worth considering together as unjustifiable violence to an individual's body and sexuality. YES, one of the forms of violence is more extreme, more horrendous, more whatever adjective you want to use. But I disagree that mentioning them in the same breath hurts either movement; it's only by looking at the big picture, the overall tendency of religious authorities to involve themselves in the functioning (or non-functioning) of young people's genitals, that we can get a sense of the scope of the problem and how best to attack it.
posted by soyjoy at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2002


Um, soyjoy, I didn't say that YOU equated them -- in fact, you've been careful to qualify all of your comments. However, it seems that there is a tendency to do so among those who argue against MGM. I do think this is harmful to your cause, not because it's not important to see the larger picture that you referred to, but because the differences between the two practices are so wide that people unfamiliar with your argument are likely to write off the discussion all together.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 1:40 PM on September 25, 2002


hey i saw this segment last nite on the pbs newshour about the upcoming morrocan elections:
ENRIQUE CERNA: As in most Muslim countries, the political system in Morocco has long been dominated by men. Of the 325 members of Morocco's parliament, only two are women. (Chanting and applause) But the country's 39-year-old king, Mohamed VI, who has been pushing democratic reforms in Morocco, wants that to change. In May, Morocco's parliament, which has limited powers and authorities, approved a proposal, backed by the king, that sets aside 30 seats for the election of women in the September national elections.

MOHAMMED ACHAARI, Minister of Culture (Translated): The king thinks it's only fair to have women be largely represented in the parliament because, after all, they constitute 50 percent of the population, and they should therefore be represented accordingly.

ENRIQUE CERNA: This act by Morocco's parliament is rare in the Arab world, where the percentage of women in elected positions is minimal. It has forced Morocco's political parties to find strong candidates for election to parliament. Fatima Bellmouden says it's long overdue. She is one of the two women in the current parliament.

FATIMA BELLMOUDEN (Translated): This is extremely important for Moroccan women in the upcoming national election. The parties, in general, have always been filled by men, so this is an opportunity to break this patriarchal system in this country.

CATHY ALLEN, Center for Women and Democracy: Morocco is looking at this election to put it on the map. If these women are elected, it the parliamentary rules are followed, what happens is that they become the first nation in the Arab 40 that actually will have 10 percent or more of their parliament as women. Most of these countries have 2.3 percent or less.
i thought that was pretty cool! i wonder what the US' is? :)
posted by kliuless at 2:28 PM on September 25, 2002


LittleMissCranky, argh, yes, I was comparing an aesthetic surgery with a completely life altering avulsion. I blame this on the booze. :) For a clear liquid, vodka makes everything black and white.
posted by stavrogin at 11:03 PM on September 27, 2002


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