Category Archives: Global Feminisms

Favorite Feminist Heroes, Part 2: Gloria Anzaldúa

Our second installment in our Women’s History Month miniseries on Favorite Feminist Heroes comes to us from SIUE Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy Alison Reiheld. Don’t miss Part 1 from Sociology Prof Kiana Cox, and keep reading for more!

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Alison Reiheld

My favorite feminist hero is Gloria Anzaldúa, who has been a big influence on me as a as my thinking has developed. Her identity as a queer Chicana feminist born and raised in the Rio Grand Valley on the US side of the border is reflected in her writing. Perhaps her most famous work, and certainly the one that most deeply affected me, is Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Another one not to miss is the anthology she co-edited called This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorNot long ago, she even got her own Google doodle.   Anzaldúa considered the impact of crushing heteronormativity, of being perceived in America as Other, and the ongoing impact of colonialism on the lives of Mestiza women whose heritage includes both native peoples and European colonizers. She also worked from her experience of growing up with a chronic medical condition and provides food for thought for folks working in disability studies. As a result of these many intersecting identities, she felt that she lived in many worlds at once.  Rather than seeing this as a source of a fractured self, Anzaldúa developed the concept of border-crossing and bridge-building as metaphors for a productive way of existing in a diverse world with people from other groups and also across multiple group memberships. Border-crossing means being in deliberate contact with people who are different from oneself and working to understand their lives and needs, being able to live and be in community with many people.  Of course, there is a lot more to it than this, but we could all use a little mental border-crossing and bridge-building skill in this world of ours.

If you’re interested in how Anzaldúa’s work continues to live on after her death, check out the cool Podcast “Anzaldúing It” (“2 best friends + queer Latinx woes. Powered by echale ganas, tacos, cochinita pibil and Selena. Episodes come out every other Week!”) or this sweet half-hour long NPR show commemorating her work.  

 

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Cool Link: Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW)

From the Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE, Alison Reiheld, comes this Cool Link.

The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) at Lebanese American University sent their Director, Dr. Lina Abirafeh, to be interviewed on MTVAlive on August 11, 2017.  The video has a few short segments in Arabic, but most of the interview is in English. I commend it to you as a source of information about this great program, about women’s and gender issues globally, and as a window into women’s studies in a part of the world to which folks in the United States don’t always have (or don’t always seek) exposure.  Among other topics you might not expect, the professor who is interviewed discusses sustainable development and a recent student product to make an animated video for a song on partnership and gender equity.

Check out the interview and the IWSAW. If the embedded video isn’t working, you can get it here.

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Filed under Body Image, Feminist Songs, Gender, Global Feminisms, Race, Religion, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Visibility & Piety

This blog entry comes to us from SIUE Philosophy professor Saba Fatima.  Dr. Fatima has published on social and political concerns as they pertain to the Muslim identity. Here, she combines her interest in Women’s Studies with her work on religion to reflect on an important topic: the presence of women in Islam.  Scholarship in history and in religious studies has long examined the role of women in Judaism, the Catholic Church, in protestant Christianity and in Islam.  Dr. Fatima joins that tradition by turning a careful gaze–one both critical and respectful–toward Islam and its varied forms. Being herself a Muslim, Dr. Fatima’s reflexive gaze comes from within  Islam.

Reservations

 I have been thinking about writing this blog for over a year. My reservation stemmed from the fact that for as long as I can remember, there has been a plethora of negative misconceptions about gender & Islam in the Western world, and I would hate to add any fuel to the fire.

Just recently, at the Republican debate in Miami on March 15, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, stated: “There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means…Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.”

Such rhetoric (and its tamer forms) has been historically used to justify imperialistic wars against Muslim men, women, and children and has made the American public complacent to war crimes committed by Western governments. For some Americans, part of bombing the Middle East until ‘the sand glows in the dark’ is for their own benefit. To kill indiscriminately, in order to save their women from their men…. Or so the thinking goes.

This is all to say that when minorities are critical of certain practices within their own frameworks, the criticism is almost always re-appropriated to alien contexts by the dominant political frameworks in order to justify larger systemic harm to that minority. As a Muslim American woman, such flawed logic makes me very apprehensive.

Visibility and Piety 1

Muslim Americans praying in front of U.S. House of Representatives, Washington DC. Bodies kneel and bow, oriented toward the east face of the building looking over the National Mall, and thus facing toward Mecca.

That said, I also think Muslims have a lot to contribute to discussions on gender relations, and co-opting of internal-criticism by Western worldviews has often kept us, Muslims, from challenging the status quo; it has kept us on the defensive. However, if there are to be any challenges to the status quo, they have to come from an internal critical analysis. And I am Muslim, and I am a woman, and, yes, I do live in the United States. My critical outlook on issues that are systemic in nature and that I face, are situated from my particular social location. And thus, this blog appears in my university’s women studies program blog. The placement may appear as an external gaze, but I want to own my location as that of a Muslim, similar to if I had lived in a Muslim majority culture.

So what is it that I wish to write about, that required such a prologue?

I want to put some thoughts down about how much space women are allocated in the two most holy sites for all Muslims: Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

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Feminist Songs…: Day 8, deglorifying honor killings in middle east pop music

SIUE graduate Robert Budron was a philosophy major who took a women’s studies course through our program that changed utterly his opinion on feminism as a conceptual tool, one which he now uses in graduate school at Loyola University to consider intersectional oppression. He brings us this deeply moving song by the Palestinian group DAM, a cultural source not often encountered in mainstream American music.  The group is deeply influential, with a song in the early 2000’s distributed for free by Rolling Stone in France. They are based in Israel new Tel Aviv.  English translation of lyrics is provided below if you want to read them as you watch/listen. Do please note that the video contains material depicting violence against women.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of SIUE Women’s Studies

This is a song by the Palestinian rap duo DAM which tells the story of a young woman killed by her family for refusing an arranged marriage.

The song was supported and funded by UN Women as part of initiative to raise awareness among youth of ‘honor killings’ with the hopes of mobilizing an effort to end this practice. The final Arabic script reads “Freedom for my sisters.”

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For Malala

Today’s post is contributed by Prof. Carly Hayden Foster, who is currently teaching WMST/POLS 441: Women in Politics in America, and will teach both WMST 200: Issues in Feminism and WMST 490-02: POLS 449: Women in Lawmaking next Spring.  Here, she turns her attention toward the devastating cost of women’s activism in Pakistan, considering the enormous bravery of 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai and the unthinkable consequences of her courage.  

I was inspired, about a month ago, when I read about a brave Pakistani teenage girl named Malala.  Malala wrote about the dangers and injustice she experienced living in the Swat region of Pakistan, where the Taliban has ordered the closing of schools for girls. The BBC carries her blog posts which vividly describe her experiences, and her fears that her own school will be closed, burned, or bombed, as happened in nearby communities.

And now I am heartbroken by the news that this brave girl has been shot by the Taliban.

Lest we get discouraged by the mundane, mid-semester feeling of too much work left and not enough time, let us instead take a moment to reflect on Malala’s bravery.  As a teenage girl in an intensively repressive and misogynist environment, she spoke out against what she knew in her heart was injustice.  She fought for her right, as a girl, to be allowed to go to school. She did this knowing that the men with guns knew who she was and where she lived.  Malala understood the importance of school, and she put herself at risk so that she and other girls like her might get an education.  As I write this, Malala is still alive, but unconscious, and on a ventilator.  She is not likely to fully recover from the damage to her brain caused by the bullet.  Let’s send Malala and her family, and all the girls who have to fight for access to education just because they are girls, our thoughts, wishes, prayers, and whatever else we might have to offer. Here are some links to organizations that help further the cause of providing education to girls.

Room to Read

Shining Hope for Communities

Afghan Institute of Learning

Also, the Half the Sky Movement has links to additional gender focused global charitable organizations.

Perhaps the SIUE community could make some contributions in Malala’s name.

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