Guest contributors run the gamut, but they all pretty much rock.
Guest Contributor April Joy
My mother always says that God gives us what we can handle, and I’ve started saying this too. Not so much because I’m becoming my mother — that’s my sister’s job — but more out of a deep cynicism that can only be eased by the dark humor of this phrase being applied to certain circumstances. Example: The woman I used to know who went on at length about her darkest moment, the moment she depended on God entirely — the day her nanny moved away. She had to figure out what to do with these kids she’d never really related to before. Thank God she found another nanny soon afterward. Literally. Thank God. I mean, he totally came through for her there. (Did I mention that she was a stay-at-home mom? People are fun.)
Me, to her: Well, you know God gives us what we can handle.
Her, to me, serenely: I just wish he didn’t think so highly of me.
Me: Uh, yeah.
I think of this as I read this article about the now-iconic woman who removed her hijab in protest during the recent uprisings in Iran. She’s been sentenced to two years in prison, which seems egregious, considering the average sentence for removing one’s headscarf is about two months, but the chief prosecutor won’t let this corrupt woman get off easily. The thugocracy in Tehran isn’t full of pushovers, you know.
More than 30 Iranian women have been arrested since the end of December for publically removing their veils in defiance of the law.
Most have been released, but many are being prosecuted.
Why does this obvious example of hardship and oppression make me think of a phrase I’ve sarcastically muttered when the beta male in front of me at Starbucks is lamenting the lack of whatever seasonal sugar beverage he just ordered? (No, I can’t be more specific — these people sound like Charlie Brown’s teachers to me.) I think it’s obvious: We live such coddled, bubble-wrapped, reality-free lives that I’m not entirely convinced we are capable of understanding the abnormality of our predicament. Third wave feminists, awash in a sea of microaggressions, have the luxury of choosing which outrage they will wear for a week, or until their hashtag stops trending — whichever comes first. I am aware of the millions of characters that have been devoted to the mocking of slacktivism or hashtag activism, but it still is not enough. While women in Iran go to prison for showing their hair, women in this country debate whether “eye-raping” is legitimate sexual assault and if maybe we should just give women the ultimate safe space — an option to avoid interacting with men entirely in public.
Maybe God gives us what we can handle, but are we just in decline? Does the fact that I have the freedom to sit up, late into the night, scroll through social media and the news on my tiny supercomputer make me less capable of hardship? Yes and no. Life is difficult and unpredictable, and what is hard for me is not necessarily a big deal for someone else, and vice versa. But when I’m as disconnected from real life as we in the West are to an extent, it makes it more difficult to put things into perspective. What if we tore ourselves away from gazing at our navels and instead focused on people in the world — women in this world — who could use our considerable clout?
The included slideshow from Reuters features several arresting images of women throughout the world — Mexican women protesting cartel violence, Venezuelans standing on line overnight for diapers — alongside pussy-hat wearing, upper middle-class white girls and “handmaids.” There are no pictures of Yazidi women who have endured and escaped sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS.
Don’t misunderstand. This is not a game of trauma oneupmanship, but merely an attempt to remind us in the West that we’ve got it pretty good. Last week, Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote a short, precise piece for WSJ entitled, “Will Saudi Arabia Free Its Women?” briefly examining the reformist promises of Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. He seems determined to modernize the Kingdom, having already allowed laxity in the guardianship laws, but there is a long way to go.
Saudi women do not have freedom of movement and never become fully independent legal persons. Regardless of age, they need permission from a male guardian to travel overseas, apply for a passport, marry, or be released from prison. The guardian is usually a woman’s father or husband, but can also be a brother, cousin or even son. Imagine the humiliation of a middle-aged woman having to ask a young son’s approval for important and mundane life decisions.
Guardians’ reach doesn’t stop at the border. Last April, 24-year-old Dina Ali Lasloom was held up by Filipino authorities as she changed planes at Manila International Airport. Ms. Lasloom had left Saudi Arabia against her family’s wishes. Her Saudi uncles appeared and whisked her back to Riyadh. An airline official told Human Rights Watch he heard Ms. Lasloom begging for help before being carried out in a wheelchair with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands. The Saudi government said this was “a family matter,” and she has not been heard from since.
We are very, very blessed to have such freedoms to take for granted. I can’t imagine asking anyone for permission to go to the store, let alone the doctor’s office. Having a guardian at 40 would be absolute hell.
Having been raised in the age of third wave feminism, I had always assumed that Western feminists would take up the cause of women in truly oppressed parts of the world. After 9/11, when I started paying attention to these things, I waited for the articles chronicling the treatment of women as property in other countries. I waited for the prominent feminists decrying the fact that women are punished for their own rapes unless men had witnessed it. That the testimony of women is only worth half that of males. There were some, to be sure, but eventually, these became so sparse as to be basically nonexistent and we settled back into talk of wage gaps and the lack of women in STEM being examples of institutionalized sexism.
And now, after Weinstein and MeToo, we get talk of women-only train carriages. Separatist feminism seems to have taken hold, and it’s baffling.
But if you look beyond the current hysteria, something sinister is happening. Barriers between men and women that had been knocked down by feminists are being resurrected — in the name of feminism. Whereas it used to be religious groups that enforced sexual morality, in our modern, secular culture, the loudest voices on the internet are taking over that responsibility.
Culturally, we are now witnessing the pendulum swing from freedom of expression toward a sort of self-censorship at the urging of a small but strident number of alarmists. Regardless of where one falls on the social spectrum, this has to be disturbing. Modesty and situational awareness are wonderful things, but being ruled by fear is another.
Giving up our liberty in the name of “safety” from the possibility of the uncontrollable nature of man is the sort of thing used in the past to deprive women of rights in the first place. It is the argument used in places with some of the worst human rights records imaginable.
Are we really considering giving up the rights our forebears fought for — rights that women all over the world dream of — voluntarily, based on fear and alarmism? Or should we fight for women in these dark places, while seeking to change the behavior toward women in the West that is obviously abhorrent? Giving up our rights isn’t a step forward, it’s a step toward making our handmaid fever dreams a reality. One Mike Pence and Donald Trump would have absolutely nothing to do with creating.
For more of @hyacinthgrrl’s writing, be sure and visit her blog, The Hyacinth Girl.