Reply to 'Solo Bear', Ethnocentric Feminism[the following is posted as an article as opposed to a comment as, well, there is a word limit for comments on the blogger platform. Solo Bear's comment may be found here]
Hello Solo Bear,
Your points are interesting indeed. I have to say that I quite agree with you and have written along the same lines in previous sites about 5 years ago. But your points do not take away the value of the points made in the above observation. However, it does raise questions that call for more than a modicum of critical introspection amongst feminists.
Whilst the spirit of feminism is egalitarian, the boundaries have yet to be determined conclusively as feminism constantly comes across new cultures and perspectives and tends to reflexively impose that which it deems to be the norm given the socio-cultural climate wherein it was born. This is not so much the fault of feminism as it is that of an overarching western cultural hegemony post-colonialism.
However, there are quite a few feminists in the UK who would agree with your views. Your point about the Hijab and cultural imposition has been heavily debated in the UK in academic and social circles, and in the press as well, and there seems to be a consensus that the Hijab is alright so long as the women donning it do not allow it to be a symbol of subjugation in terms of their appreciation of themselves relative to men. If some do take issue with it, it is generally because it is used as a symbol of subjugation by men in some climes and circles.
I too agree with your views on the Hijab. Whilst the Hijab may at times be a symbol of subjugation, one cannot discount the meanings attributed to it by women who choose to don it. For instance, a women who is a 'high flyer' in business, but who also dons the Hijab turns it into, amongst others, a symbol of culture, femininity, or modesty.
Singaporean feminists, given their being quite unAWAREs of related gender issues in the race, cultural and gender arenas (where it pertains to the rights of men and which i've take issue with in previous articles) can, i suppose, be described as the Confucian variant of the feminist. I've even at times been inclined to think that to be a 'feminist' in singapore is to stand up for the rights of men as opposed to women, given the generally weak character of the Confucian male relative to women.
I have come across your last 'test' question quite a few times in the UK and the UK press in the past and I can thus say that quite a few would agree with your point - including myself. The element of 'force' is overstated given that people can be 'forced' via socialisation to 'prefer' to exhibit more than they otherwise might, just as Muslim girls might similarly be taught to 'prefer' to don the Hijab.
As I have stated, ‘Feminism is about telling women that they can do and feel and want more than they’ve been accustomed to.’ That is irrefutable. But your points, nevertheless, are valid and calls for a refinement of an otherwise egalitarian spirit on the part of some feminists. Just as you have encountered ethnocentric feminists, I have encountered feminists whom would agree with you.
To say that feminists are as you state, we will first have to prove that intrinsic to feminism is ethnocentrism. That is simply not true given that the core of feminism deals with the right of women to partake in that which had previously been the right of men. Ethnocentrism, amongst others, are not intrinsic to the feminist perspective but a part of an overarching post-colonial mindset. All movements are affected by this, but with enough critical introspection, I'm sure that feminists movements will be rid of this perspectival debility - as is evident in the views of many feminists in the UK, and which includes both hijab and non-hijab wearers and Muslims and non-Muslims.
To stand by your take is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Your points are valid, but we'll have to be careful to extricate the intrinsic value of feminism and shake off that which compromises it and which is extrinsic to its core value. There is quite the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic value. In determining the value of any cultural phenomena, we'll have to be cognizant of either and study to see which is the core vs. the 'add-on'.
Thank you for your perspective. I'm sure it goes quite some way in refining feminism.