Friday, April 5, 2013

Eurocentrism exposed

There is a deeply Eurocentric mindset to much political discussion among white radicals about feminism & the struggle for women’s rights. That fault line is no where more exposed than in response to the Slut Walks phenomenon & the group FEMEN, the bare-breasted protestors originating in Ukraine but now spreading to some other countries. Misogyny & racism & incredible political insipidity are the toxic miasma emitted from those discussions.

Half-naked women with banners are lauded as the new paradigm for feminism representing the fresh forces of resistance to misogyny & oppression--as if the libidinal was taking the political lead. What’s misogynist about this should be apparent. It excludes the overwhelming majority of women who want to participate but don’t respect vulgarity, exhibitionism & grandstanding. But that isn’t the only problem. It basically ignores what is going on among women outside of Europe & the US & restricts the vision of what feminism is all about. Transitory, flashy political phenomena among mostly white women preempt the titanic transformations & struggles going on in the Arab uprisings & among indigenous peoples: the women of Bahrain playing a central & unrelenting part in the ongoing revolution; the combative Egyptian women who mobilized defense against sexual assault instigated by police agents in Tahrir Square; the Mayan women doggedly pursuing justice against rape & genocide; the Indian women who sat for days in stinking waters to insist on land rights; Filipino women leading struggles against militarism in their country; the Guarani & other tribal women in Brazil taking on the government for land expropriations; the Palestinian women standing toe to toe against Israeli settlers & soldiers.

That fault line is politically deadly & not just to feminism, so it is a relief actually that FEMEN blew it, that they stressed that tectonic conflict to the max not by exposing their breasts but by exposing their reactionary racism & Islamophobia. On April 4th, they organized “International Topless Jihad Day” where they encouraged women to go topless & write “Bare Breasts Against Islamism!” on their breasts. They held rallies in front of mosques & Tunisian embassies, including in Berlin, Kiev, Paris. The political rhetoric was an embarrassment. Alexandra Shevchenko, a leader of the group said at the rally in Berlin (speaking of Islamists), “We’ll fight against them. And our boobs will be stronger than their stones.” Breathtaking in its banality! And bereft of political content other than arrant racism. Arab women do not need half-assed grandstanders to ride in as their saviors. After going through titanic battles with dictators & riot cops, they are the teachers of revolution. Many of them damn well understand that & are making strong objections to FEMEN’s racism.

Tunisian embassies were targeted because Amina Tyler, the 19-year-old founder of Tunisian FEMEN, was placed in a psychiatric facility by her parents & faces criminal charges for posting a naked photo of herself on Facebook. No matter how we view her protest, she does not deserve to be prosecuted & needs to be defended against a repressive government. Please sign this petition on her behalf:

Photo is of Bahraini activist Zainab al-Khawaja being helped by another protester after being shot in the leg with a tear gas canister in Buri, Bahrain (June 2012). Riot cops used tear gas & stun grenades against activists supporting victims of torture.

Photo by Hasan Jamali/AP)

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