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.
Another basic difference that the women under Islamic doctrine have to suffer from is though other religious fundamentalisms are rising worldwide, women may get the shelter of secular laws of respective countries, but the lives of Muslim women are guided primarily by religious laws. Islamic legal system regulating women-related issues, the family law (al-akhwal al-syakhsyiyyah), has remained static and immutable since its codification a thousand years ago. This same law has been used as a reference on issues like gender relations, polygamy, divorce, inheritance, women’s leadership role, etc. which, unsurprisingly, reaffirms the already patriarchal attitudes of these societies.
However the most significant feature that has distinguished Muslim fundamentalism from others is as pointed out by Helie-Lucas (2005): “It is also a transnational political movement. This makes it different from most other religious rights that also use religion for political purposes but are more geographically located. ‘Religious’ demands made in Europe and North America to give visibility and specificity to ‘Muslims’ have all been done under the control of fundamentalists with an exclusive focus on the control of women. For an example, in France, Muslim fundamentalists demanded the end of co-educational schools, a different curriculum for girls in state schools that includes a banning of sports, music, graphic arts, biology (like Christian fundamentalists in the US, they refuse Darwinism and want creationism to be taught—at least to girls!), the ‘right to veil’ for girls under age.”
Thus Islamic fundamentalism has a global character and imposes all Muslim women of the world to be conformed to that character. So if anybody even tries to leave her/his country to enjoy the privilege of secular law in the adopted country, the fear of death in names of ‘fatwa’ runs after them. Fatwa of persecution after Salman Rushdi, Taslima Nasrin, and Nawal el-Saadawi are only a few examples.
There is a growing gap between secular and religious Jews in Israel, and there is a high degree of overlapping between positions on religion and the nation, observes Yuval-Davis (2004). In a very recent article O’Loughlin (2008) mentions that the Haredi sect has launched an aggressive campaign against the secular lifestyle of women in Jerusalem. Self-appointed moral guardians, dubbed the ’modesty police’ through Israel’s modern secular media, roaming through Jerusalem’s ultra-religious neighbourhoods, enforcing the voluminous and ever growing list of rabbinical laws such as the recent decree banning the sale of MP4 players.
Inside the Haredi neighbourhoods separation between the sexes is becoming increasingly strict. Husbands and wives socialise separately and during Jewish holidays men and women walk on opposite sides of the street. With the demographics skewed in their favour, government authorities are acquiescing to the growing demands of the ultra-orthodox. The transport ministry, has allowed operators to provide ’kosher’ or ’pure’ routes, where women are required to sit at the back and cannot board unless ‘appropriately’ dressed.
According to Menachem Friedman, a sociology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv (quoted in O’Loughlin (2008)), “They’ve built an imaginary idealistic world where everyone is pious.” Increasingly, Jewish women in Jerusalem are required to conform to that vision. Length of the skirt is increasingly being the test for the level and type of religiosity.
Fundamentalism has for long been associated with greater or lesser degrees of oppression of women. WAF felt that women were the main targets of fundamentalism. Its founding statement claimed that, “At the heart of the fundamentalists’ agenda is the control of women’s minds and bodies. [All] support the patriarchal family as a central agent of such control. They view women as embodying the morals and traditional values of the family and the whole community.” (WAF, 1990). Similar views were being developed in other places. For example, Hammami and Jad (1992:17-21), two Palestinian feminists, wrote, “The commonality between movements profoundly lies in their obsessive focus on the rights, rules and behaviour of women as pivotal to both their strategy of rule and as an aim in itself.”
The attempt of contemporary fundamentalist movements to control women can be seen not just as an idiosyncrasy but rather as a typical characteristic of authoritarian regimes and political movements, which have placed the regulation of women’s reproductive capacities and sexuality at the forefront of their agendas. The 18th century Enlightenment in Europe, with its emphasis on civil liberty, individual rights and political democracy, contributed the first great challenge to women’s subjugation. Throughout the 20th century, social change and ‘modernisation’ have had a significant impact on sex roles and gender relations, often giving rise to actual or perceived threats to traditional male supremacy. (Feldman and Clark, 1996). Industrialisation and the spread of capitalism have in many places opened new economic opportunities for women. Though women’s opportunities are still limited, population growth, land shortage and unemployment have weakened kinship solidarities, and men’s power in the family. Hence, the relative position of men and women may have changed, at least as much through the weakening of controls which men had, as because of real gains by women.
In 1930s Europe, economic depression and declining birth rates were frequently perceived in terms of ‘degenerate’ moral codes and cultural trends which justified the reassertion of strict regulation of the family and of sexuality, in order to promote fertility (Feldman and Clark, 1996). In terms of effective state control this view found its most notorious expression in Nazi Germany but the subordination of women as a form of pressure to produce children has also occurred in the Soviet Union as well as in democratic states such as Britain and France.
This is the time of globalisation – globalisation of capital, thought processes through information technology and fundamentalisms. Women are the first victims of the globalisation of the ‘triumph of invested capital’ and they are the worst victims of religious fundamentalisms. But women issues are almost missing in the contemporary mainstream socio-economic, political and communicative discourses; the woman’s voice is scant in the ‘public sphere’. This paper presents a comparative analysis of eastern and western forms of fundamentalisms with an especial emphasis on the inbuilt male-centric components of hegemonic constructions of both the fundamentalisms and how the eastern and western feminisms are addressing these issues. The paper casts light on how in the era of overwhelming information revolution, the all-controlling, and patriarchal nature of fundamentalisms and capital wash away the marginal voices and widens the gap between hegemonic discourses and the participation of women as ‘others’ in that process. Unless the social control on the means of production as well as information can be established, this only being possible in a participatory democratic process, this marginalisation cannot be reduced. Therefore, this paper suggests that despite significant differences between various streams of feminisms in the eastern and western perspectives, women movements throughout the world demands a three-sided fight: against religious fundamentalisms, all powerful capital and for democracy .
Today’s world is passing through “The Clash of Fundamentalisms” (Ali, 2002). Jensen (2006) argues that there are four fundamentalisms that interplay the threat to a sustainable democracy – religious, national, economic and technological. He mentioned these four types of fundamentalisms in the context of ‘threatened’ democracy of the USA. There might be differences of opinions regarding the taxonomy of fundamentalism, but there is hardly any confusion about two vigorous forces that are controlling the whole world right now (perhaps, they always did in different names): religious fundamentalisms and corporate capitalism or neo-liberalism, which is to some scholars “synonymous these days with economic fundamentalism, or market fundamentalism” (Jensen, 2006). While the threat of religious fundamentalisms is well discussed in public spheres and well documented and conveyed, a thought especially established in the readymade example of 9/11 and women’s position in the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the threat of corporate capital still seem like a concern issue only among leftists and at the best within academia.
There is no organized sex-positive movement. It is a discussion that has grown over the recent years, starting in the 1930's. It can mean a great many things to just about everybody and that is kind of the point, really. The basic idea is that sex is a natural part of human, mammalian existence and that we can embrace it in its variety as a part of normal life.
People in many groups organized around specific aspects of sex and identity often participate in sex-positive conversations and find the ideals and values of their individual and group identities overlapping sex-positive thoughts and goals. Some of the more frequent of such groups and individuals identify in terms of Sex work, BDSM & Kink, LGBTQI "Pink" , disability, feminism, genderqueer, transhuman and many, many more.
Note: I spend a good portion of this post, talking about my own experience. This is not because I'm particularly enamored with myself, but rather to offer my recent thoughts as one person's reactions to something that may echo in your life someplace. It may not. I won't pretend to know how anyone else should feel or react and I won't dictate to others the terms of their identity.
I have been having a crisis of faith lately. This is of course funny because I am not religious and the faith in crisis is more about my own identity than how I feel about invisible beings. In the larger sense it is about what it means to be 'sex-positive' but it really is about how to deal with privilege.
In the span of a week or so, I attended several Sex-Positive events. One was the showing of a documentary film with discussion afterward, the second was a discussion on sex-positive at a BDSM social club and the last was an invitation to join a group of sex-positive activists. I suddenly realized how very privileged the conversations and these groups were. At one event, there were some people of color but at the others, it was all white, professional, educated, middle to upper class and english speaking US citizens. I like everyone in these groups and this post is not about them but about my experiences and thoughts about privilege.
HAVANA, Sep 22, 2010 (IPS) - Men representing an array of sexual identifications have organised in Cuba to defend sexual rights and promote respect for "other masculinities," with the belief that greater visibility is needed to achieve true social change and acceptance.
Hombres por la Diversidad (HxD, Men for Diversity), a group "for the right to free sexual identity," promotes social transformation and "works along the lines of education and advocacy for sexual and reproductive rights," coordinator Alberto Roque told IPS.
HxD stands out in this socialist-run Caribbean nation for spreading the human rights focus to other associations and groups dealing with related issues.
The group tries to maintain a balance between the institutional world and autonomy, which can be a challenge for citizen initiatives in Cuba.
Although it has offices at the government's National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX), making the most of "organisational support and space provided by the institution," HxD maintains its own objectives, said Roque.
The immediate goals, he went on, are to consolidate as an organisation, become a presence on Internet-based social networks, participate in the annual events of International Day Against Homophobia (May 17), and organise a national symposium on sexual rights, which would involve individuals and groups with similar aims.