Women Living Under Muslim Laws is inviting papers for its forthcoming Dossier 32: Sexuality in Muslim Contexts. Since the 1980s, across the globe and in many Muslim contexts women have witnessed and contested a rising tide of politico-fundamentalist movements, in which social conservatives and actors linked to the religious right invoke Islam to control the expression of women’s sexuality. This control comes in myriad forms and includes restricting women’s mobility, socialisation and modes of dress, and their autonomous control of reproductive rights, as well as women’s ability to make free choices concerning marriage and sexual partners.
Young women are often denied access to comprehensive sexual education and sexual health services. Within marriage, women are also often denied the right to use contraception and protection, even when their husbands may have HIV or other STIs. This control of women’s sexuality is increasingly being legitimated across Muslim nations by legal means; through strict legislation and the creation of moral police forces charged with the right to reinforce, often violently, adherence to proposed moral codes. Across contexts ‘anti-pornography’ laws are being brought to the table, and sex work remains criminalised and stigmatised. Queerness and transsexuality remain incredibly taboo, though women’s movements in Muslim contexts are increasingly taking up the challenge of breaking these silences.
Besides papers that explore such topics, we are also interested in receiving short reports (1,000 words) on various initiatives that women have taken up to promote women’s sexual autonomy or to counteract and resist limitations imposed on women by state or non-state actors.
Possible topics to explore include:
· Violence against women as a mechanism of controlling women’s sexuality (‘honour’ killings, stoning, femicide, female genital mutilation, etc.)
· Sexual politics of human rights
· Anti-pornography legislation
· Sex work
· Moral policing
· Sexual orientation
· Dress codes
· Women’s autonomous control of their reproductive rights
· HIV and sex education
· Autonomy in marriage and divorce
· Marital rape
The above list is not exhaustive and we are also open to other relevant suggestions.
Articles should be 4,000-7,000 words including references. We would like to have abstracts submitted by 25 April 2011, with full papers received by 20 June 2011. We will also consider published papers which are not freely available on the internet that may be relevant to activists focusing on issues concerning various aspects of sexuality.
Please email abstracts to the WLUML Publications Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Warning: I will actually be criticising white people, lady gaga and several sacred cows of white culture]
Lady Gaga is all the rage. She loves her some gay people and she even sings a song that takes up the banner of gay rights - "Born This Way".
Before anyone derails this into a conversation about music (it's not), my taste (I have none), why I don't like gaga (I think she's talented enough), any theory of me being anti-LGBTQI (wrong again, camel-breath) or my dislike for white people (I am white and harbor no such thoughts) - be clear: this is about the institutionalized cultural appropriation has been served up to and consumed by cis-gendered, heteronormative white audiences.
These are the lies we are told in order to maintain division and inequality by those who profit from our ignorance and cruelty toward each other.
I have had my reservations with a reliance on some short saying such as "born this way" to justify the identity of LGBTQI persons and I am not the only one. I am not saying that people are not "born this way". Some are and it is for each of us to decide for our own selves, whether this is true or not.
- I do not recognize the authority of others to demand from me or anyone - some accounting of how I got to be the way I am. I don't owe anyone such an explanation and I don't need to convince them that I am a valid person. I think that there are no shortcuts. For me to accept that LGBTQI persons owe some sort of explanation for whom we are is victim blaming. No different to me than slut shaming. It is placing the power in the hands of the bullies while releasing them from accountability. I may have been born this way or I may have chosen to be this way - either way, I cede no power to anyone challenging my rights to be.
I would like to talk about a psychological experiment I conducted on my fellow soldiers, involving sexuality and beauty.
When I was in the Army, I was every bit the smartass that I am today, if not substantially worse. My tastes in politics, arts, music, food and just about everything else did not fit the the 'culture' and mindset of my fellow ranks. I grew up in Chicago, NYC, NJ and was into punk rock, new wave, tattoos, piercings, literature, art films, science, reason. I was a smartass who had a chip on his mental and physical shoulders.
So many people in the military give the impression that they are all from some town in Alabama where the cultural hightlights include: Jack Daniels, bass fishing, NASCAR, strip malls, pickup trucks and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Even people who were not from such places seemed to adopt the mores, values, likes and dislikes of that demographic. It was often very hard to find any original ideas, tastes or opinions.
When it came to talking about women, most conversations were no different than chatter in a high shool locker room. A chorus of juvenile, unoriginal fantasies of strippers combined with farmer's daughters bandied about with alcohol induced bravado and inexperience. I did my best to avoid such conversations by either leaving the post or drowning the roar of the amateurs with headphones and alcohol.
In the service, as in locker rooms - guys like to talk about what a bad-ass they are. In reality, most of these guys had been with only one or two mild-mannered girlfriends and probably only when both parties had been completely drunk. It was enough of a hell to be stuck on a post in the middle of nowhere, but to listen to a bunch of low-speed Romeo's chattering about sex they'd never had - was too much.
It is very common for men to hang a pin-up girl on the inside of their lockers. That tiny wall space is all that most of us have to display anything. It's always milquetoast and usually consists of a famous swimsuit model in a wet bikini. Mass produced and mass consumed, these images are the elevator music of erotica. The world is full of billions of individual people, unique, special and beautiful. To look at the lockers around me, you would think that the planet has less than 10 women - each wearing all-american-girl outfits or a bathing suit. Blecch.
I was fairly certain that most of them didn't know the first thing about sex or beauty. So, I set out to test my theory.
Asian feminists’ problems are somehow different from that of western societies. The nature of their problem may be understood from an advertisement that Othman (2006) mentioned in the context of Malaysia. An advertisement (in Malay) on all local TV stations in 2003 portrayed a veiled beautiful Muslim Malay woman who in order to ‘please her husband’ groomed her hair with the shampoo being advertised. The advertisement never showed her unveiled head, only a frame of her husband supposedly admiring her beautiful recently shampooed hair! What could be a better metaphor than this advertisement to portray the combined attack of corporate capital and religious fundamentalism in one female body!
Throughout literature, the rise of religious fundamentalisms has been portrayed as the reaction to the failure of capitalist democracy. Mernissi (1989) argues that the spread of fundamentalism in the last two decades has stemmed from the political and social failures of the secular, authoritarian states of the post-colonial period, states that operate within the rules of the International Monetary Fund and the interests of the imperialist powers. Again, feminism has been seen as the response to fundamentalism. Taking either side, i.e., fundamentalist side or corporate capital side, may prove to be fatal.
We need to consider that religious fundamentalisms are in rise in this region with help from rightist political parties in power who support unconditional foreign investment in most of the countries and women lack not only human capital but social capital too. Also their access to political power is limited though many countries of this region are headed by women with almost no impact on women’s life. This cast further insight that women’s participation in democratic process is important but more important is to understand what political agenda they are advocating for. A note of caution here is, almost all the renowned women leaders of this region are in politics by inheritance, either of their father’s or husband’s. They just carry out the patriarchal agenda set by the concerned political parties and do not want to loose their vote taking any pro-women action that might hostile the religious fundamentalism unless they have pressures from foreign donor agencies.
While on one hand this free market economy is prescribing national governments for cutting the provision of education, housing, healthcare and childcare that lessen the economic burden on women and assist their economic independence, on the other hand they are maximising their capital by exploiting women in entertainment and beauty industries.
Women’s Body Esteem is a big business worldwide. Billions of dollars are spent on the “weight loss industry” yearly. That industry is solely dependent on women’s self-hatred. Women are reduced to size, told to be less, told to shed big chunks of themselves for acceptance. Likewise, the “beauty industry” has convinced millions of women that chemical crap on their faces, and plucked eyebrows that are drawn back on, is “beauty.”
The modelling industry, as Ann Simonton (www.mediawatch.com), a former cover model for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Cosmo, Covergirl, etc., observed is promoting an unattainable standard of beauty for women. In a quest for thinness, women starve themselves, vomit, have their stomach stapled, their jaws wired shut and fat sucked out. Not only are women told that they are too fat, but they are also told that everything else about their bodies needs improvement. Media images teach women that they need to inject collagen into their lips because they are too thin. They are told to inject botox into their faces to freeze nerve endings and iron out wrinkles. Their teeth are not white enough, nor are their skin, their eyes are not blue enough, their hair is not shiny or straight enough, nothing they do is ever enough. This trend is ever increasing. Just for an example, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, 8.5 million U.S. cosmetic procedures were performed in 2001, increased by 48 percent since 2000. Growth is not confined to America, with cosmetic procedures in Asia estimated to be growing 20 percent a year. The German annual growth rate is 15 percent, according to the European Society of Plastic Surgeons, and in Britain there was a 30 percent rise just over 2000.
To sustain and increase this trend, an ideological warfare is always employed against women through mass media, not only in advertisements but also in drama, soap opera, film, magazine and of course in pornography to manufacture their consent. Virtually any mainstream magazine or television commercial shows women’s bodies being used not only to sell products like cosmetics and clothing, but also to sell products that bear no connection to women’s bodies, like cars, food and electronics. The images of women that are used to sell, well, virtually anything, are sexualized, commodified and objectified.