in her article “occupy the holidays” (the nation, january 2, 2012) katha pollitt’s first recommendation for donating to worthwhile causes is an organization called “women living under muslim laws”. no kidding, there is a non-profit by that name. pollitt’s articulation of their mission: “this international solidarity network serves women affected by sexist and theocratic interpretations of islam. whether it’s unequal family laws, the criminalization of women’s sexuality, the marginalization of women’s voices or the infamous saudi driving ban, wluml is on the case.”
this is what houria bouteldja, spokeswoman for the PIR (parti des indigènes de la république) likes to call the privilege of white solidarity. on being asked about feminism and if she had any advice for white women interested in solidarity, she explained:
“my advice is that they should not forget their own oppression and they should cease to be maternalistic, meaning that they should cease to consider women in the south as simple victims. women in the south, women from third world countries, know how to take care of themselves. white women have this privilege of solidarity – they think that there is a need to help women in southern countries because they assume that these women r more oppressed, more alienated. this is not completely false – women from southern countries need solidarity from all women across the globe. but i think that the demand from these women, from these people [in third world countries] is that women from the north, from the occident, fight against imperialism in their own societies. for palestinian women for example it is about asking people from western countries to fight against zionism, and against the pro-israeli policies of their govts. when palestine is liberated, palestinian women will take responsibility for their own future and decide what their emancipation will look like as they negotiate with their own society. personally, what i don’t like is the interference.”
so when i read about this u.k. based solidarity outfit the first thing that came to mind was, what about a non-profit called “women fighting imperial wars.” makes a lot of sense considering that one in three u.s. servicewomen get raped. in fact they are more likely to get raped by fellow soldiers than be killed by the enemy. this becomes even more terrifying when it is estimated that 90% of military rape cases go unreported.
if we must be religion-specific, then how about donating to “women under jewish occupation” or better still “women under christian drones”?
in today’s world when wars and occupations and their impact on women are documented with vivid, multi-media precision, available to all at the click of a mouse, it is truly astounding how the west can continue to live in la la land and pretend that it can fix the world by bombing it or bringing “stability” in the guise of multinational-friendly dictators, whilst donating to solidarity with the ones being bombed or repressed – at least the female half of that civilian population. as bouteldja illustrates so beautifully, western feminists need to focus on the oppression of white women first and then stand in solidarity with their sisters around the globe by resisting the violence committed by their societies on other countries and people – including women living under muslim laws.
Occupy the Holidays, Katha Pollitt, January 2, 2012 edition of The Nation
Rape shame of the US military, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, July 21, 2011, The Guardian
Covered up: More than 1/3 of American woman soldiers raped, Ronald West, October 26, 2010, Alternet.org