Friday, July 29, 2016

Dangers of False Equivalence

Lately I’ve been noticing a growing trend of people (mostly feminists) talking about two very different things in the same context/sentence/paragraph, as if they were one and the same thing. I’m of course talking about the systematic abuse of women in Muslim countries and the gender pay gap in the West. One example: the #whatIReallyReallyWant remake video of the Spice Girls hit “Wannabe” by the charity “Project Everyone”.

On the surface, it seems to make some sense. Both are about mistreatment of and/or bias against women. But can we really suggest that the kind of abuses Muslim women throughout the world face on a daily basis is somehow related to the lack of absolute gender equality in the modern Western workplace? That practices like honor killings, banning of education for girls, child marriages, and female genital mutilations are somehow all issues on an equal footing with the perceived lack of equal opportunities and remunerations for working men and women in the West?

Consider honor killings. In some Muslim countries like Iraq and Pakistan, you can literally murder your own sister for being raped by a stranger and get away with it with no legal consequences as long as your family “pardons” you. Over 1,000 such cases were reported last year in Pakistan alone. Consider also the fact that in 2016, a Saudi Arabian woman may be seen in the public only if her head is fully covered up and she is accompanied by a male guardian. It’s an uncomfortable truth that throughout the world, wherever Sharia law is enforced, women are treated as less than individuals with equal rights as men.

Next to such systematic subjugation of women sanctioned on national and religious levels, we have the gender pay gap. Don’t get me wrong, the gender pay gap in the West is a real issue and deserves its own meaningful debate and discussion. There is a time and place for it. But it’s not in the context of the gross mistreatment of women in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Those are two very different things, and when we conflate them, we run the risk of patting ourselves on the back thinking we have done our part by speaking against the injustices in Western capitalist system, when in fact nothing has been done towards solving the systematic human rights abuses under Sharia law. The all-female “Ghostbusters” remake and Hillary’s Democratic Party nomination are legitimate causes for mourning and/or celebrations. They just have nothing to do with women’s well-being in the Islamic world.

No comments: