July 19, 2009

Samia's at It Again

Blogging things that make me vaguely uncomfortable, that is. I do believe she's requiring me to think.

I don't get this unspoken idea in the white West that Muslim (esp brown) women are somehow more lost/mindless/submissive/in-need-of-saving than women of other faiths. It seems the bodies, sexuality, and general suffering of many Muslim women are just fine to trot out when they serve the interests of various Western war machines or the egos of some feminists. But there's almost no respect for the personal agency and intelligence of women who choose to practice Islam in certain ways. It's too much for people to try and listen before deciding they Care More and Know Better.

No, if a woman is Muslim, then it's Islam holding her down-- class, cultural, familial, racial, colonial*, layers are blotted out completely. And don't let her tell you different! Even if she identifies as feminist!


Catch the rest of her post on the complexities of restrictive religions and how they are reported. Don't miss the comments, either.

Samia also posts links to writing she finds thought-provoking. This last set is particularly good, so good that even while I strongly suggest you go read the rest, I'm stealing this video. Note that it applies very well to discussing behavior in general, not just in the context of race.


Urban Wild Cat said...

That? That was just awesome.

DuWayne Brayton said...

I really appreciated this the other night. It is one of my pet peeves too - though I may not be very good at making the point and when I do, it is often in the context of gay bigotry...

I try very hard to separate the person from their arguments and make it clear that the argument is grounded in bigotry, not necessarily the person. But then, like he said, folks can easily pass off personal accusations as attacks - I suspect that they are so used to doing so, they simply choose to make those positions an inherent aspect of their identity.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I'm probably more than usually guilty of directing my criticisms at the person rather than their words or actions. It's something I generally quickly correct when it's pointed out, at least, but it's a habit I continue to indulge on a regular basis. No one to blame but myself, really.

Samia said...

I want to add that when Jay tells us not to care WHAT the other person is, he doesn't mean we're supposed to ignore the power dynamics of privilege. Our individual situations affect the impact of our words on each other. If a white person says something racist about my group, it's different from another group member doing it, period.

In his other videos Jay explains that you can't just take responsibility for that you MEANT to do, you have to take responsibility for what you actually DID. And a person's privilege level has an effect on what they DO. Sorry, I have just met way too many white people who tried to carry on conversations on race while pretending we exist in some kind of neutral non-racist vacuum. Then they want to get all mad when someone mentions white privilege, because "we're all individuals!"

Anyway, what Jay is saying is that we shouldn't openly draw conclusions about a person's character based on statements in one or two conversations. It gets people defensive and gives them an easy way out of the conversation.

Thanks for the love, Stephanie!

Stephanie Zvan said...

Samia, I had to post it largely because of that "easy way out" observation. Sometimes people think it's being too easy on someone to focus on behavior instead of character, but I think that's exactly backward.

I do have to disagree with you on one point, though I think we're ultimately in agreement. I think intent is an important part of behavior. That said, however, I also think one measure of a person is how they deal with unintended consequences.

Samia said...

I think we both agree it's not enough to go through life taking responsibility only for the things we *intend* to do. Pointing this out is not the same thing as dismissing intent as a factor in judgments about others' behavior.

A person's good intentions (plus some good luck) may very well result in other folks being willing to explain why certain behavior is not acceptable. I had this happen a while back on my blog when I started wading into territory I am unfamiliar with. I make mistakes a lot, and when someone who knows better than me feels 1) that my heart is in the right place, and 2) their blood pressure can stand it, they attempt to correct me. But their success depends on my acknowledgement that my good intentions might find expression in behavior that is rude or unacceptable for whatever reason.

"I didn't mean to" is a very easy out for some people, especially in discussions about race where charges of oversensitivity tend to be hurled at certain groups over and over. I see it all the time, and not as a preface to statements of validation or apology. This is the only reason I spoke up.

Again, I think we agree. It's great that you shared the vid. Jay has lots of great stuff up on his site (illdoctrine.com).