BY KATHERINE TOMS
This is a response to Feminist hypocrisy on honour killings published in the National Post Jan 31, 2012.
Geeti, Zainab and Sahar Shafia plus Rona Amir Mohammad, found dead in June 2009 (Trial evidence via CBC)
Apologies, Barbara Kay, but let me count the ways your article about “feminist hypocracy” misses the mark. Your article suggests that:
1. Domestic violence in the West is “individual domestic partners who have a problem on an individual level,” whereas honor killings are culturally based.
North Americans do live in a sexist culture. Violence against women here doesn’t just consist of individual men and women fighting in the privacy of their homes. There are ingrained, systemic, deep-rooted assumptions and practices within our culture that make abuse, rape and murder of women so prevalent in our news, entertainment, language, and daily realities.
2. Honour killings force Feminists to choose between defending abused women or defending multiculturalism.
Although many reporters have turned the Shafia murder trial into another post-9/11 contemplation about violent Muslims, honor killings need not be an issue of religion. Islam is no more about the abuse of women than Christianity is about war, or Catholicism is about child abuse. Let’s not “throw the baby out with the bath water,” as you put it.
Let’s not bury our heads either. As with recent controversy over a high rate of sex-selective abortions among certain populations, denying there is a problem is pointless. Solutions need to come from within the community.
3. Feminists think violence against women is “an inherent impulse in men” and not “contingent on historical and cultural circumstances.”
See number 1. (And thanks for re-hashing the classic man-hating feminist stereotype – that never gets old!)
Violence is not an inherent impulse in men. Anger is an inherent instinct in all humans, and unfortunately, our historical and cultural pattern is to punish men who show emotion that isn’t anger, or take action that isn’t aggressive. This is damaging to everyone, men included.
4. Western Feminists want to rescue women from their cultures, and liberate them from their families.
There’s a misconception, even in North America, that you can’t be a liberated woman and a wife or mother at the same time. Staying home with kids means giving up your career, and leaving your kids in daycare means giving up your kids. Women are constantly judged for their life choices. But we at least have those choices.
One aim of feminism is to ensure that women have control over their own destinies. Women should feel safe from violence whether they decide to wear hijab, bottle-feed their children, opt for an arranged marriage, pursue a career – or decide not to.
Diversity isn’t just about race; it means that we are all different, and have value as unique individuals even when our choices and lifestyles differ.
That diversity applies to feminists, also. Despite the differences between radical SlutWalk supporters and the socially conservative “family feminists” you identify with, we can all agree that what happened to the Shafia women was horrifying and wrong.
Violence against anyone must not be tolerated, whether it’s an honour killing, or another form of spousal abuse. There are many explanations for why it happens, but there is no excuse for letting it continue.
Katherine Toms is a member of Media Action’s Board of Directors. She earned a degree in Information and Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario with a focus on gender studies and identity.