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Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 1/2, Looking Back, Moving Forward: 25 Years of Women's Studies History (Spring - Summer, 1997), pp. 268-270 Published by: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40005439 Accessed: 29/05/2010 08:00
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Of courseit is only in the academy. I have a particularly becausein the societyin whichI grewup. Offeredconcurrently "Perspectives the Blackand Hispanic was on the from a and. ously.coherent and amenable to coherence. Myown interest being ThirdWorldwomen. . being awareof the responsesof a highly and diversely responsive to audience."AngelaJorge.quite differentfrom those in scholarlywriting.ordered. TheBarnard Conference. describedexperiences of the Black treating and related them to PuertoRicanculture. that the discussionof formally."Defining Erotic" lesbianperspective. the erotic betweenwomen. is new.not because zYwas incoherent. I attended the workand Race Issuesin Women'sStudies. ferment.And then it came home to me: how simple the one-dimensional experience of reading: how easy. such a richnessand generalmanifoldness it. shop on "Class the topic experientially.in Cairo elaborateunder268 "TheScholarand theFeminist" my April 1980. Americanexperience: all this makesit impossibleto respond to the conferenceas a coherent event. Family. and amenable to order it makesthings seem." anotherI wassorryto miss.Encounter with American Feminism: A Muslim Woman's View of Two Conferences Leila Ahmed Summer 1980 first direct as opposed to page-mediatedencounter with American feminism. listening to papersthat often clearlydrewon the rhetoricalstrategiesof an oral tradition. straining catchverbal sometimesclearlymissingnuancesthatreliedon a depth of shortcuts. relationsbetweenwomen.and Hispaniccommunity FlorenceHowethen outlinedrelevant in developments women'sstudies. discussingthem at least in that vast arrayof nonthrough verbalwaysthat we have of "discussing" things (gestural language vividsense of this being only the most obvious).obvibut preciselybecausetherewassuch a sense of vitality.Womenhavebeen discussing suchtopicsamongthemselves down the ages. even in that feminist scholarshipself-consciously the dismantling rigiditiesof tradition. such topics.and a sense too of the to manifoldnessof feministstancesin America. Sittingin that hall.
althoughno culas ture is more directlycontinuous with the Judeo-Christianthan the Islamic. analyzed consequences of political change for women in terms of a grid of variables(typesof revolution. I headedfor sessionson ThirdWorld women.1 Women StudiesQuarterly 997: 1 & 2 's 269 about how women related to women. not "hidden.internalized themselves. not focusing of on particular societiesbut aiming at a theoreticaloverview. Muslim. allowourselvesto become awareof the culturalimplicationsof this? Thatif one could laythe blueprints cultural of ideologiesone overthe other Christianity.it remainedinarticulate. one thing had become ThentheNWSASecondNational Convention Bloomington.We all knowthatJerusalemis sacredto Christian.Thus."Teaching aboutAfrican Women": BrendaBerrian(University Pittsburgh) of showedthatcomparisonscould be made between women in Africaand ThirdWorld womenin America lookingatwomenin parallel situations moving by from ruralto urbansettings. second. such an uneasy Americaninterest ThirdWorld in women.no partof the worldcloser to the (older) Westernworld. it is always Other. Whenwe are seen.third. Islam the lineswouldmostoftenmerge? Judaism. achievedvisibility as throughrevolution.Cuba. I wonder. The women who seem to be excluded by these definitionsare the Muslimwomen of the ThirdWorld these are most particularly the invisible ones.it could mean minority womenin the United women (butwith States.China. makes in in that it so necessaryfor us to be Other. disregarding even running counter to the domiof.or by the kind of languagewith which we surround a subject.or didn'tcount. culturalmatrices).makes difficult.was I I invisible. "statements" but nevermade verbally were signaledin an infinite numberof ways: by silence sometimes.Sudan).Morocco.But do we Jew.notably"Comparative Studyof Women: Womenin LiberationStruggles.Guinea Bissau. funny-shaped a shrunkencontinent no it could mean a ThirdWorldthat had Egypt. at Here too . readingthroughwomen'sstudiesmaterials attending and the conferences: wasn'ta ThirdWorldwoman. Well. "Third World women" nowcameto understand. were standings.ensuing economies. clearto me."Women Development: In and ThirdWorld." SureshtR. Is it this submerged resemblance.Irene Thompson (University Florida)spoke on of women in China. this mirroringback in differentculturalidiom of all the inbuiltinjusticesto women institutionalized theirownsocieties. Bald (University California/SantaCruz). nantculture.it couldmeanPuertoRicanor African an excludingnotionof Africa.Mozambique.SusanRogers(University Minnesota) of sharedoutlinesof her courses." dangerous.natureof struggle." anothersession. couldmean one of three things:first.Mysense too is thatmuch of whatwasthus conveyed wasobliviousto. in Chinaor Cuba.
The firstbegan by pointing out that Muslimwomen had had rights (to own property) only women thus attemptingto establishthat recentlygainedbyWestern the Muslimworldhasn'talways been backward comparedto the West.) Panelists also said that in Islam women and men are equal. wasactually beingrestrictive.I waswhollynonplussedto find that the general thrustof the presentation wasthe mind-boggling assertion thatIslamwasa feministreligion.for women in those countrieswhere Islamis not too implacableeven to permita fight.The sessionitselfI foundbizarre. . in the the conquestof Egyptby the Arabs.constrictive disand but. twowomenmusttestify everyone for men can havefour wives the list of inequitiesis interminable.and its Islamicization? yet all And this is not to denyIslam's and equalityfor all. howcan anyEgyptian anynotion of Egypt's with preIslamichistory.in Islamit has always been available. What'salwaysleft out when we hear "howit improved the condition of women"is that it improved it in Arabia.270 StudiesQuarterly 1997: 1 & 2 Women's thing. customallowing more. man. girl-infants in permitting wives. The panelistswere three Muslimwomen. and see resolution socialchangeand the rejection that of onlyin radical ideology. to the stanceof radicalfeministswho see Islamicideologyas fundamentallyinimicalto women.believethatno mere reformcan be adequate. comingof monotheisms. had had to be bitterlyfought for in the West. . this looking at Islam? One sessionat the NWSA Conventiondid focus on Islam.Expectingthe panel to addresstopicswithinthatspectrum.the room "Islam Feminism": no waspacked. regard astrous termsof lostrightsandfreedoms. for (Available men.Divorceis stillbitterly foughtfor. Leila Ahmed studiedEnglish at Cambridge and and is a teacher University writer. they said. .All thisis standard Muslim previous apologetics that we Muslimsgrew up with. though this vision has not been realized in the letter of its laws. theyshouldhave said. visionof dignity. justice. . since it depriveswomen of their childrenand can deprivethem of shelter. Divorce. and dearthof topicsto whicha sessionwithsucha titlemightaddress itself fromthe law-reforms life Muslim relatingto marital that"conservative" feministsare fightingfor.piecemeal. But womeninherithalfwhatmen do. Butfrom then on the claimsmade for Islamand whata generallynice "feminist" religionit wasseemedto me to growmore and more absurd. as anything for women.againstentrenchedresistance. TheysaidIslamwasa feministreligionbecauseit bannedthe murderof four it and. Howcan I.
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