Femen: Who Should Save Whom?

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  Femen has continued its racist brand of feminism,  which puts white women up on a pedestal as the saviors of poor, repressed Muslim women. They ignore the fact that the social problem of misogyny affecting Muslim women is largely cultural, not intrinsic to Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was a staunch defender and promoter of women’s rights. Hundreds of years later, great Muslim women such as Nana Asma’u would rally for educational opportunities when such opportunities were denied to women in the west. But in their parades, Femen holds signs that say things such as “Muslim Women Get Naked,” equating the right to public  nudity, immodesty, and lasciviousness with women’s liberation. Yet, they neglected how  women in their own western societies are oppressed.

In secular societies, many people live for materialism rather than seeking to increase their spirituality. These hedonistic societies are all about enjoying one’s self, neglecting to balance pleasure with substance. As a result, these societies are hypersexualized, and many women are made to believe that they can only be valued in terms of their sexuality, not their intellect or any other aspect of themselves. People are continually exposed to images of airbrushed, photoshopped women, and rather than encouraging harmony, this sparks competition among women as they all seek to become the unrealistic “ideal” that is relentlessly promoted by the media. Super Bowl advertisements, which is the most watched tv broadcast in America, reach an average of 111 million people—and many of these advertisements feature scantily clad women with body proportions that are simply unattainable without plastic surgery. Many women who are  unable to afford professional cosmetic surgery and have low-esteem turn to the black market.  The results are disastrous:

“Teased by her family and friends about her flat “pancake” booty.”

This obsession over reaching an unrealistic sexual ideal has gotten to the point that some women actually have their lower ribs extracted in order to achieve an even thinner waist than would otherwise be possible. In fact, society’s ideal of what a woman’s body should be like is so out of sync with reality that, if a woman had the exact proportions of a Barbie doll—the classic view of a “perfect” woman’s body—she would be physically unable to lift anything or even walk upright due to her anatomical structure. Entertainers such as Nicki Minaj embrace the “barbie” image and many young women follow.  From television to magazines to billboards, the media is continually sending subliminal messages regarding what a woman is “supposed” to look like.

    Feminists have been quite vocal about the oppression of Muslim women, citing honor killings, female genital mutilation, and denial of education as some of the horrible effects of misogyny. However, Islamophobic feminism fails to account for the unique ways in which cultural practices and the effects of colonialism impact Muslim women’s rights, electing to make Islam the scapegoat.  Western women see that the Taliban forces women in the Middle East to wear burkas, and incorrectly assume that because they are not forced to wear extremely modest clothing, they are free.  However, Western women are faced with a similar problem, yet instead of being hidden away in several yards of fabric, their bodies are objectified to an astounding degree and the male-dominated social structure has a heavy influence in how they dress.

Unlike the Taliban, the males in our society don’t need to use physical force or the threat of violence to force women to wear certain clothes. Their manipulative methods are much more subtle, making the oppression of Western women so dangerous, as they hold the illusion that they are, in fact, “liberated.” Harriet Tubman summed up this problem—though in a different context—when she said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Slavery and oppression are bad enough on their own, but if those who are being enslaved and/or oppressed falsely believe they are free, then the captors have that much more power over their victims. If women do not realize they are being oppressed, then they will do nothing to attempt to stop their oppression, thereby giving more power to those who are oppressing them.

          Western society has successfully infiltrated women’s psyches, influencing them to accept, follow, and embrace the traits and roles expected of her by the patriarchy. It is a more destructive and deplorable form of the Taliban’s blatant oppression of women, particularly because it is largely unnoticed and the impact it has on women is ignored. The toxic cosmetics, fad diets, cosmetic surgeries, and other methods that Western women use, all in the name of having the “perfect body,” are hazardous to their health, yet the majority of society sees such behavior as completely normal.

Cosmetic surgery in Europe is a $2.2 billion business.[1] Some of these procedures include:

  • Breast augmentation (“boob job”): silicone implants are used to enhance the woman’s bust
  • Breast lift
  • Butt lift
  • Rhinoplasty (“nose job”)
  • Ear pinning: for those who have ears that protrude, ear pinning simply pins the ears back
  • Liposuction

All of these cosmetic procedures are the result of a society that has profited from women having low self-esteem.Western women do not wear burkas, but their clothing is dictated by a multi-billion dollar fashion industry that is set up specifically to control who wears what via advertising, peer pressure, and other tactics. You may think it is your choice to go on the newest fad diet or get cosmetic plastic surgery, but in reality, you are being influenced by an entire social system. Before you try to liberate others.


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[1] http://www.lajollaworld.com/cosmetic.html

Hakeem Muhammad is public speaker, researcher, aspiring public intellectual, activist, and writer.  Visit his blog at HakeemMuhammad.com

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