Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Feminisms Recover: in Others' Words

In Aristotle’s time, . . . the facts of women’s nature were certainly not sufficiently comprehended . . . . [But to] any true appreciation of a woman’s qualities . . . Aristotle, by the whole trend of his prejudices, was opposed. His mistake was that he failed to realise the moral aspects of feminism. A nation that degrades its women will inevitably suffer degradation itself. Aristotle lent the weight of his name to a profound error, and helped to perpetuate the malady which had already been the chief cause of the destruction of Greece.

There has been a dramatic increase in the size and scope of Israel's feminist organizations over the past 18 years, with 69 different groups, including nine rape crisis centers and 14 battered women's shelters, currently operational. . . . Although the report will be published in full only next January [2009], [Dorit] Abramovitz presented partial data on Thursday at the country's 16th National Conference on Feminism, which runs through Saturday in Nazareth. . . . Beyond the issue of Israeli-Arab coexistence, she said, there had been numerous joint campaigns in such areas as sexual discrimination, the sexual abuse of women by public office-holders, and the economic independence of women and their place in the workforce. Abramovitz said the report would be published in Hebrew, Arabic, English and German.
--Ruth Eglash, "Major rise in number of Israeli feminist organizations"

In these three sutras, Candrottara, Jewel Brocade, and Queen Srimala not only provide positive role models for women seeking enlightenment, but also address the issue of sexual transformation. The Buddha was male, and much has been made of the necessity of being male in order to attain enlightenment. The Mahayana tradition holds that one of the thirty-two major marks of a Buddha is maleness, thus women cannot hope to become Buddhas unless they transform their female bodies into male. However, in The Sutra of the Dialogue of the Girl Candrottara, Candrottara speaks on the meaninglessness of sexual transformation. . . . Jewel Brocade, . . . in The Sutra of Sagara, the Naga King, responds to the claim that one cannot attain Buddhahood within a woman's body. . . . Alex and Hideko Wayman, translators of the complete scripture The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala would place Srimala in one of the last three Bodhisattva stages. Although not a Buddha, at such a high level of realization Queen Srimala remains an important example of the potentialities of women on the path to enlightenment.
--Kerry L. Fitz-Gerald, "Buddhism Needs Feminism"

In India after 1947, laws were made to men’s advantage; it was men (mainly upper-caste Hindu men) who put the Constitution together. When policies and plans were formulated, they made no mention of women. For Indian nationalists, some citizens were more equal than others. But then, I tell myself, Indians are not unique in this: there’s hardly a place in the world where national liberation movements have meant liberation for women. . . . Today, the problem hasn’t gone away. Rather, it has become more complicated. India’s new nationalism, vocally pro-pounded by the Hindu right wing, sees women as mothers and wives, supporters of men as they struggle for a Hindu rashtra or nation. Feminism is an ugly word. Good Hindu women stay at home and help to shore up patriarchy.
--Urvashi Butalia, "Mother India"

In the Muslim world the women need to be empowered in all respects. I am not calling for a feminist movement in the Western sense. I am calling instead for the Khadijaization of the Muslim women who should be economically independent, educationally well-equipped, politically alert and socially active. This class of Muslim women is the need of the time. The welfare of the Muslim community cannot be uplifted unless its female half is uplifted. The phenomenal success of the microcredit scheme and the Grameen bank experiment in Bangladesh is a clear illustration of what women empowerment can do to the development of Muslim societies. A woman is just another insan created by Allah who has endowed equally with all the faculties that Allah has granted to men. An insan is creative in essence and it is the duty of the society to remove any obstacle that prevents the blossoming of this creative faculty of insans. Islamic orthodoxy has been a killer of female creativity. Muslim women are breaking out of their shackles. Their struggle for emancipation from the bondage of tribal traditions and irrational customs has started. Hundreds of Muslim women intellectuals and activists in every part of the world are leading the struggle. It is a new and revolutionary wave that is lashing the intellectual and social beaches of Islam. In this country also Muslim women have established their own research and action forum. This gives me a sense of optimism and hope and it is a sign that another of Azeez's visions is becoming a reality.
--Assalamu alaikum, "The Muslim predicament: some reflections on local and international challenges"

Carolyn Custis James wants women to be theologians—passionate, unabashed, and learned theologians, regardless of their official title. Her book When Life and Beliefs Collide encourages bake-sale supervisors to do this as much as academics. James is so audacious, that she wants every single Christian woman in the world to appropriate theology as a way of life, a discipline, a relationship, and a spirituality. And she wants men to recognize this desire as being in conformity with the will of God. . . . The [Christian] Scriptures, unsurprisingly, have been a battleground regarding women's involvement in theology, and it is precisely on this territory that James endeavors to win women back. She is disgusted, and rightly so, with the false dichotomy between Marys and Marthas. The former, it is assumed, live in their heads and neglect proper service projects, while the latter more comfortably settle into a hospitality role without a care in the world for useless theological abstractions.
--Sarah E. Hinlicky, "The CT Review: Reuniting Mary and Martha; Theology is women's work, too"

Aristotle believed you could not teach philosophy to women and slaves. A sexist society would love it if women continued to see themselves as either saints or slaves, victims guilty of nothing or demons guilty of everything, for none of these roles demand inclusion in the human contract of responsibility and justice.
--Naomi Wolf, Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and how it Will Change the 21st Century

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