Community Issues Affecting Women Shall Not be Silenced

Female community and political activists are often silenced when raising community issues which affect women, with their concerns not being treated equally or brought to the priority list in the resistance battle. The energy women put into enforcing tangible change into communities is often undermined from the grassroots and on a broader spectrum by men who are considered to be activists, progressive or revolutionary, with women unfortunately feeling failed by their supposed male allies in the struggle. Women  were the ones responsible for the uprising and mobilising of thousands onto the streets of Tahrir Square to revolt against an oppressive system which became hijacked by patriarchy attempting to demoralise and discourage Egypt’s women from taking to the streets by the military, police and local men sexually assaulting female activists and carrying out ‘virgin tests’. This backfired when women grew more determined and protested against sexual harassment.

If men resisting capitalism, racism, xenophobia, zionism, empire, white supremacy and every other inequality are unprepared to listen to the points women raise on sexism in a world where we co-exist, it evidently hasn’t been fully digested as to how damaging and regressive this issue actually is. Not only has history evidenced the importance of the role of women in any revolution that has sped for change, but if brothers women are meant to work alongside defensively hold up barriers, refusing to understand or empathise with the struggle women face on a daily basis, then we have a major problem. Women shouldn’t have to be placed with the burden of resisting sexism by brothers in the struggle, alongside standing against various injustices when women should feel inclusive rather than marginalised. Men should equally be prepared to challenge this and neither should women be suppressed or silenced. Racism is not the figment of a humans imagination, neither is sexism.

After witnessing the insensitive way women are approached when addressing the struggles effect on women, the attitude of some men reinforces patriarchy in an ignorant, normalised judgemental manner, whilst subconsciously dividing and ruling women by teaching misogyny to both genders. This often results in women learning to detach themselves from fellow women instead of encouraging women to unite by struggle, where some females are considered superior and other women are stereotyped unworthy, whilst the male is oblivious to the challenges, injustices and oppression each individual female has faced during her lifetime. Does stereotyping women support any form of community change? How would anyone be able to encourage a heroin addict to kick their drug habit by shouting ‘junkie’ then telling him or her they are respected? The two are incompatible and contradict any illusion of empathy.

A project worker working alongside sex workers would never get away with approaching their client with “Why are you stuck in this lifestyle, you whore? You’re better than that.”This approach I have witnessed on several occasions by men and I’m disgusted fellow women, regardless of lifestyle are being spoken to in a dehumanised derogatory manner. This is similar to White Europeans telling African people they use to be slaves and are doing them a favour or Black communities being scapegoated for crimes but told they are better than the crime they are ‘responsible’ for, without issues around poverty and the disadvantages and inequalities faced by victims of a racist society at the bottom of the social hierarchy being highlighted. The intention is to be educational rather than counterproductive as everyone is a product of this capitalist patriarchal system. The duty of a woman is to support fellow women whilst educating brothers who normalise alienating women and to work alongside young men to challenge their views on women before sexism is at risk of becoming indoctrinated.

Before criticising women or portraying oneself to be concerned, can one ask them self whether they would be prepared to work with young sexually active women to understand the breakdown in society which influences them? Would critics be prepared to volunteer their time to work with sex workers to understand their struggle before speaking down their penises at them? Do men give sisters any justice before objectifying them and assuming reasons behind her attachment to him? It’s an unfortunate situation when women do not feel they will receive support from the men they are around to inform them if they have undergone child abuse, rape or sexual violence assuming the brother will blame the incident on her or find the situation too alien or uncomfortable to comprehend, unless he himself has faced a similar injustice. Protecting and defending women who are the first victims of any deteriorated society should be a priority rather than a normalised prejudice. It is unfair when men empathise with the struggle of female sex workers in Asia but are humoured by the struggle of women in England below the poverty line, attempting to put food on the table for her family. Men who are unwilling to listen to the points women raise, have no right to address women or speak on behalf of a 50% population one is not ready to see eye-to-eye with. This self-righteous attitude of enforcing change is reinforcing a system rather than challenging the deep rooted causes of prevalent issues within our society.

Women complaining about street harassment should be taken very seriously. It is not men who get objectified on route to the corner shop or face sexist comments on a daily basis from strangers who scan their assets and jeer whether displayed or attempted to camouflage. Why are there so few men standing against the sexual objectification of women? Why are so many men reluctant to face their internal sexism and prejudice, unwilling to learn about their male privilege and the oppressive nature of patriarchy this system we’re trying to resist needs to survive? It is refreshing to hear the men in Ramallah have mobilised to patrol the streets of their community to monitor sexual harassment but unfortunately, many communities blame the victim. As ineffective as racist jokes being made behind closed doors is, it is not okay to stigmatise and stereotype women, putting them into boxes whilst claiming to be for the people and against an unjust system. Any form of reinforcing gender division, supporting patriarchy or not uttering a genuine word against sexism has every right to be challenged. It cannot be expected for an ethnic minority to receive racist comments lightly. Neither can it be expected for half of the world’s population to remain silent whilst patriarchy has only ever proved to be oppressive.

If a person witnesses the Israeli occupation and the anger from the oppressed, the person has no right to silence or comment on the Palestinians being too angry or negative about the oppression they have faced continuously for over 64 years or stereotype them as anti-Semitic. Why is it when women speak of the oppression they have faced for thousands of years, of 48 women being raped every hour in Congo, it is considered to be negative, too furious or stereotyped as being anti-men whilst hands are held over ears? If empathy is non-existent, the oppressor has no right to tell women how they should evaluate their oppression. Surely humans interacting with each other on a daily basis should treat each other justly and humanely. Men have no right to speak about the human rights of women living on land overseas whilst having no respect or empathy for the struggle women face who live on the same land as them. Any supremacist needs to challenge their own internal superiority complex and ego which allows them to hold such controversial values, similar to that of a racist who defensively refuses to make sense of their nonsense opinions.

It is important for us to work as a collective rather than as individual saviours of an unjust world, which liberalism seeks to encourage. Women are equally capable of leadership and should not be dismissed when critiquing hiccups to the resistance movement, which prove offensive. Men cannot afford to deny their male privilege or assume women are merely playing victims in society and continue to patronise women who are knowledgeable around the flaws of patriarchy and the discrepancies around male privilege.  

When working with young people from ethnic minority communities and addressing issues around territorial gangs, substance misuse etc. a clear framework is looked into to understand the struggle of those affected by colonialism and the system they live under which has let them down. When addressing women, the internal reasons should be scrutinised rather than being dismissive or assuming one is permitted to throw flippant sexist comments and dismiss criticism. One would hope anyone who witnesses racist comments flying around would challenge fascist opinions, so why isn’t sexism equally challenged or attempts made to understand why sexism is so ridiculously offensive to those born in a female body. Men who understand the reasoning of white-supremacy creating self-hating ethnic minorities for being told they are inferior which results in the usage of skin bleaching creams, should equally recognise the effect on women who detach themselves from their bodies whilst conforming to be a slave to the sexual desires of men, normalising mistreatment with low expectations due to never experiencing any better. There should be more sensitivity before Black women are attacked whom internalise oppression and wear weave and blonde wigs, when this criticism of women is a direct result of white supremacy.

I refuse to allow my sisters to be afraid of standing up for themselves whilst some men huddle and jeer at the expense of women in a manner of hooliganism. I refuse to allow my sisters to loathe each other and assume we’re in competition when a man attempts to dominate and create division by treating women unequally. I refuse to allow my sisters to refer to each other as ‘sluts’ and ‘hoes’ for a man has placed these words into their vocabulary and normalised misogyny so intensely, they do not realise they have been indoctrinated. I refuse to permit my brothers to continue dehumanising women like we’ve landed from another planet for having different genitals. I stand against normalising any male ‘role model’ teaching our young men and women that it’s okay to disrespect women and from teaching only women who dress ‘modestly’ preserving their image is deserving of respect. This is also contradictory considering women who wear hijab and fully cover in Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia are not invincible of being victims of sexual harassment and rape. Men who support the slavery of women through sex trafficking, men who sexually abuse women (and men), men who happen to dominate the majority of domestic violence cases considering patriarchy dictates in a capitalist system where working class men are made to feel inferior and powerless when placed at the bottom of the social hierarchy, should always be challenged without women having to feel isolated or encouraged to maintain issues as taboo by brushing them under the carpet out of fear of ruining the reputation of an individual male or generalising men.

Men only have to feel intimidated by women who understand the patriarchal structure and resist patriarchy if they are in denial of their male privilege. Women addressing taboo subjects are not attempting to divide both genders but highlighting areas which shouldn’t be tolerated but tackled. The oppressor is always on edge, the paranoia of the illegal state of Israel’s ‘security’ will demonstrate that. It is heart-warming when working alongside heterosexual men, who are equally as passionate about the treatment of women and their rights.  Liberia’s women shouldn’t have had to stand alone when marching against rape and genocide, but should have been accompanied by men within the community. We cannot deny or discredit the efforts of resistance from the likes of Hermila Galindo, Vilma Espin, Harriet Tubman, Arundhati Roy, Assata Shakur, Sylvia Pankhurst, Winnie Mandela and Sampat Pal Devi. Brothers are you ready to unlearn and recognise your male privilege, recognise the oppressor within you whilst attempting to understand the struggle women face alongside every other injustice we are resisting? Are you ready to support our struggle we’ve been resisting the majority of the journey alone, for over a millennium?

 ‘No march, movement or agenda that defines manhood in the narrowest of terms and seeks to make women lesser partners in this quest for equality can be considered a positive step.’ Angela Davies

Image

INDIA(Bundelkhand): Gulabis “Gang For Justice” founder, Sampat Pal Devi, commander-in-chief against domestic violence. The gang pays visits to abusive husbands, demanding an end to the violence

Shareefa Panchbhaya

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15 Responses to Community Issues Affecting Women Shall Not be Silenced

  1. sophi37 says:

    Thanks for reminding us of how strong women are – a gem of inspiration

  2. sophi37 says:

    And by the way I love the Gulabis picture!

  3. A refreshing article Shareefa, when reading the title I wrongly presumed it would be an anti-male article with too much male bashing going on to see the wider picture. However I really enjoyed reading it, the issues you have raised are real, and the notion of men and women co-existing with equality shines throughout the whole of the article. Consistent and articulated beautifully.

    “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.”

    SH xo

  4. hello says:

    Your tip toeing around the manner in which Islam reinforces patriarchal gender relations, or religions full stop, undermines your article. Its no good to talk the normative and how men should treat women in scripture whilst ignoring the implementation of ‘Islam around the world. Unless one is prepared to unpick all misogynistic power relations you are complicit in their repitition.

    • I think you need to read more around rights of women in Islam. Cultures dominate and reinforce patriarchy. The Prophet pbuh was the one to ban burying daughters in Arabia. There’s so many areas in terms of inheritance rights, men don’t have the right to take the earnings of his wife. “knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim” women have many rights they dont have access to due to cultural barriers where the culture is practised over the faith, hence what you and many others including myself has witnessed. Please read further into this

  5. uzaman901 says:

    Well done! Excellent piece…

  6. Fadeel says:

    Well done very knowledgable and emotional keep up the good work thanks for enlightening us with the struggles women ate facing around the world as sometimes In our busy hectic money orientated lives we don’t even stop to think how or wot are the situations of our brothers and sisters are in our community and around the world it’s a very frightening thought but very true. I would also like to point out no brother with the right morals and etiquettes would ever sit there and watch a sister been dehumanised or degraded by another brother.thank you very much you are very inspirational

  7. Ferdousara Haque says:

    Emotional piece of literature, brilliant how you provide examples of many alternative real situations and ask the reader the question as to how we would objectively react. It’s amazing to think that as a female we first think that it’s just men that opress women but we forget that women are just as capable of misdeed. Once again, well done, your an inspiration x

  8. abdaldewedar says:

    A thorough, powerful and honest piece of writing/work. You started at the most integral point; the home, the community. Expressing some ‘home truths’ that need to be acknowledged and dealt with in order to gain a greater understanding of ourselves and of the global community – ‘work as a collective’ – no small feat but definitely achieveable. It is critical, questioning and well balanced; spoken with a strong voice, an honest and exemplary voice. I have started my journey and hope to ready myself and others on my way.

  9. Zoe says:

    “Would critics be prepared to volunteer their time to work with sex workers to understand their struggle before speaking down their penises at them?” ROFL you have a really powerful voice and manner of expression, Shareefa, love, and you are dead on the whole way through! This also reminded me of a conversation I had the other day about the women’s teams from Japan and Australia being flown into London in economy with the men’s teams in first class – imagine if it had been the Black players relegated to economy seats, while their white colleagues went first class? The outrage that would ensue and the calls for the teams to be banned would be entirely justified, so why was there no similar reaction when women were treated that way? It being women, it’s all a little bit funny, all a bit of a joke. Sexism is not equated to racism in our society even though both are equally disgusting and vile. Racist jokes offend whilst misogynist jokes are categorised as ‘banter’. We have a long way to go and as you emphasize so well, we absolutely need solidarity among women to achieve results. ❤ Zoe

  10. mebz m says:

    Excellent article Sis

  11. Pingback: Community Issues Affecting Women Shall Not be Silenced - Free Your Mind

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