May 1, 2012

The Gender Gap After the Arab Spring

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Remember when Gaddafi was toppled and most, if not all of us were excited to hear of a victory for democracy?

Remember when Gaddafi was toppled and most, if not all of us were excited to hear of a victory for democracy?And even some opinions spoke to the fact that someone, President Obama, finally achieved something over there. However, as it moves into the summer, 2012’s Arab Spring has proved that the story has changed. In the West, we are observing the events of the Arab Spring through many media outlets. From the newspaper to our smart phones, we often see — all in the name of democracy — various flags of Arabic countries flying among frustrated or triumphant crowds and bloody bodies from brutal overthrows. However, do we see women? Actually, how do we see them? If we were to search “Arab Spring” using Google Images, many pictures would pop up, including lots with women. But in most pictures, men and women appear to be in gendered clusters. So, what are these revolutions fighting against? Why are people dying? Okay, I see government corruption; I can check off civil unrest; but, the thing that is left is gendered segregation in every way possible. Interestingly, participants in the Arab Spring are fighting for the recognition of their liberties, but it seems like there is an undoing of an “Arab Spring” when we look at the condition of women. Women, often covered with burkas, are still scolded by their brothers on the front lines, and suggestions fly freely that they should return to their “rightful places,” the laundry room or the kitchen, where their abilities are best suited. Some male revolutionaries have condemned women in the Arab Spring even though they have been standing alongside men and chanting the same cries for liberty. Even though women have been very important to the global fight against corrupt theocracies and dictatorships, Sharia law, which governs Islamic society, keeps Arab women’s rights at a standstill. Though these revolutions are still underway, they are counter-productive as more blood is being shed than human rights promotion. There is no real equality, and “separation of mosque and state” is nonexistent. For those of you who need a clearer picture, imagine the U.S. still having laws like Jim Crow Laws while promoting globalized democracy. Doesn’t make any sense, right? [I know that Jim Crow Laws and Sharia law are completely different; I understand that Jim Crow Laws are specifically racist and Sharia law has been misconstrued as inherently oppressive to women. But, I want to point out that the practice (not the principles) of Sharia law enables that oppression. I think this article and its comments can show what I mean.]Notice that I didn’t even mention the worst of things, such as the stoning of women who were allegedly promiscuous (which could result from something as little as looking at a man). But, the “ILRie” inside me will allude to another monumental problem: women in the workplace, or the lack thereof. There needs to be an educational revolution for women so that they can be given equal opportunities to work and fight for justice. Overall, there should be a revolution in America for the recognition of women’s rights here and abroad. Otherwise, we would be failing ourselves and the Arab World. So, what are we currently supporting? Putting all economic/political discussion aside and adopting a human rights vantage point, the U.S. is indirectly funding further oppression of women. The privilege of democracy seems to be a “male-only” concept in the minds of many in the Arab world.  Arab women are going to lose out on any potential win for democracy if the mindset of Sharia Law persists. All of the soldiers, reporters, civilians and bystanders dying by the hundreds, growing to the thousands, would have died for an incomplete democracy. I understand that our country did not automatically “poof” into this democratic republic that we are now; in fact, we are nowhere near perfect even a couple hundred years later. I am not saying that the U.S. should cease funding to fight against other injustices, but I am purely clarifying what’s wrong with our support. Overall, if equality is only achieved for parts instead of the whole, it is not true equality for anyone at all. And we, as Americans, know this more than anybody else.

Original Author: Olivia Davis