Language is a frail bridge upon which to send out our thoughts and feelings over time and space. Where is the congruity between puffs of air and our inner lives? To achieve communion with someone outside ourselves is akin to magic.
That bridge becomes frailer when we factor in age, gender and cultural differences. Too often, when I talk to young women about the Women’s Movement, I come to recognize I am old. Do I fail to see what is important to them because I’m living in the past? Or am I too far along a road they have yet to travel?
Given the difficulty I feel in communicating with young women of my culture, imagine the gap that exists between me and women of other cultures. Rafia Zakaria, a Muslim woman from Afghanistan, writes about her perspective of the Woman’s Movement and it is far removed from mine. (“Sex and the Muslim Feminist,” by Rafia Zakaria, New Republic, March 2016, pgs. 8-11.) She seems to think sexual freedom and the pursuit of sensual pleasure is the centerpiece of western feminism. (Ibid, pg 10) Muslim feminists exist, she retorts, but they don’t take their role models from the heroines of Sex and the City.
If I could speak to Zakaria, I’d tell her I respect her feelings, though she may have misconceptins about our Women’s Movement. More importantly, I’m prepared to learn about her view of feminism. I understand when she writes Muslim women have no wish to be freed from their faith. What they wish to do is alter the centuries of religious laws that have been written and interpreted by men. Her feminism would give women the power to interpret these laws for themselves and allow them to be seen as legitimate scholars with a right to redefine a woman’s role in Islamic society. (Ibid pg. 10)
I wish I could give my Muslim sister a hug and assure her a communion exists between her goals and those of western feminism. Words and misperceptions, alone, separate us. We in the west want to help. Tell us how.
(Originally posted 3/3/16)