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Swagger Like Us: Should Women Be More Like Men or Not?

For decades, women have been told just to get ahead in an unjust system — but should they be amplifying their aggression to mimic successful men?

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This is a really long excerpt from Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi’s book, Beyond the Veil, first published in 1975, later edited in 1987. I read the whole thing and it gave me a better understanding of male-female dynamics in modern Muslim society.

Islam’s basically positive attitude toward sexuality is more conducive to healthy perspectives of a self-realizing sexuality, harmoniously integrated in social life, than the West’s basically negative attitude toward sexuality. Serious changes in male-female conditioning in Western countries imply revolutionary changes in society which these reformist countries are determined to avoid at any cost. Muslim societies cannot afford to be reformist; they do not have sufficient resources to be able to offer palliatives. A superficial replastering of the system is not a possible solution for them.

At a deeper level than laws and official policy, the Muslim social order views the female as a potent aggressive individual whose power can, if not tamed and curbed, corrode the social order. It is very likely than in the long run such a view will facilitate women’s integration into the networks of decision-making and power. One of the main obstacles Western women have been dealing with is their society’s view of women as passive inferior beings. The fact that generations of university-educated women in both Europe and America failed to win access to decision-making posts is due in part to this deeply ingrained image of women as inferior. The Muslim image of women as a source of power is likely to make Muslim women set higher and broader goals than just equality with men. The most recent studies on the aspirations of both men and women seem to come to the same conclusion: the goal is not to achieve equality with men. Woman have seen that what men have is not worth getting. Women’s goals are already being phrased in terms of a global rejection of established sexual patterns, frustrating for males and degrading for females. This implies a revolutionary reorgnization of the entire society, starting from its economic structure and ending with its grammar…

…The problem Arab societies face is not whether or not to change, but how fast to change. The link between women’s liberation and economic development is shown by the similarities in the conditions of the two sexes in the Third World; both sexes suffer from exploitation and deprivation. Men do not have, as in the so-called abundant Western societies, glaring advantages over women. Illiteracy and unemployment are suffered by males as well as females. This similarity of men and women as equally deprived and exploited individuals assumes enormous importance in the likely evolution of Third World family structure. George Tarabishi has pointed out the absurdity of men who argue that women should not be encouraged to get jobs in Arab society, where men suffer from unemployment. He argues that society should not waste human resources in unemployment, but systematically channel the wealth of rsources into productive tasks. The female half of human resources is more than welcome in the Arab future.

One may speculate that women’s liberation in an Arab context is likely to take a faster and more radical path than in Western countries. Women in Western liberal democracies are organizing themselves to claim their rights, but their oppressors are strong, wealthy, and reformist regimes. The dialogue takes place within the reformist framework characteristic of bourgeois democracies. In such situations, serious changes are likely to take a long time. American women will get the right to abortion but it will be a long time before they can prevent the female’s body from being exploited as a marketable product. Muslim women, on the contrary, engage in a silent but explosive dialogue with a fragile ruling class whose major task is to secure economic growth and plan a future without exploitation and deprivation. The Arab ruling classes are beginning to realize that they are charged with building a sovereign future, which necessarily revolves around the location and adequate utilization of all human and natural resources for the benefit of the entire population. The Arab wan is a central element in any sovereign future. Thoes who have not realized this fact are misleading themselves and their countries.

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hostessNYTimes has decided to explore the exotic world of Japan and a new “trend”–women there it seems “are often limited to low-paying, dead-end jobs or temp positions.” And thus these “well-paid flirts” are stuck with the job of drinking with men.

I see several problems with this piece.

My first, what qualifies a “well-paid” flirt. How much is flirting worth? Apparently “$100,000 a year, and as much as $300,000” is considered a good salary for faking affection for men, according to Hiroko Tabuchi.

Good to know, I think some of us are underpaid.

How many times are you expected to smile for a man, simply because you’re a woman. You’re supposed to be happy, you’re supposed to at times fake enjoyment of a man’s company. I’ve never been a good faker, but think about it. A job interview? A meeting with a professor? Someone’s uncle? Some man says a joke and regardless of the level of hilarity, a certain level of enjoyment must be shown or else names get called. And this isn’t something just experienced by young women like myself. Female politicians must laugh a little to avoid looking “bitchy”. Female waitresses are often forced to accept harassment simply to get their tips (which keep in mind is actually their salary). It’s the sort of situation I suspect anyone who has been in the presence of someone with more power, regardless of gender, has felt. But unfortunately sex alone can create this sort of subtle imbalance in everyday situations. Everyone laughs at the King’s jokes. And unfortunately for women, there are many Kings.

My guess is that this “trend” is not new for the women of Japan. And it’s certainly not limited to Japan’s borders. And I’d wish that oppression of women would be treated as a world wide and local problem as opposed to an exotic concept.

While Hiroko Tabuchi seems to be mildly concerned about this “less-than-glamorous reality” of women “lavishing adoring (albeit nonsexual) attention on men for a hefty fee,” hoping they would instead get a job as a “civil servant” or “nurse,”  I hope the civil servants and nurses are charging that “hefty fee” for their attentions to men as well.

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i haven’t really formed my thoughts on this yet, but what do YOU think? women bullying women

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So recently I went to this learn how to network post graduation thing. I won’t say exactly who it was I talked to because I don’t want to jeopardize my career in case someone wants to find this and use it against me. It was a group of older women. The older women at my table (and all the other tables that I could see) were both white. The students at my table, including me, were all South and East Asian.

The younger lady at our table talked about how women have historically been bad at networking. I was like whaa? She clarified by saying that women are better at networking as mothers, not as employees. I was like oh. It kind of made sense. American women didn’t even used to be employees, as in America, it used to be culturally unacceptable until very recently for women to have jobs. So it makes sense that American women, as a group, could potentially be lacking in the kind of assertiveness that is required for successful professional networking. An interesting theory, at least.

The older lady, more authoritative, agreed with her peer. She said something to the effect of, “Yes, that’s true. Especially when you come from a certain country, where if you’re a woman, you don’t just go up to a person and say hello, you don’t just do that.” She went on to look at the student to her left, who had a Vietnamese accent, and nodded understandably at her.

At the end of the meeting, I decided that I really liked both these women who were helping us learn how to network. Overall, they seemed like good people to get to know. But at the time of the above little chat about the inability of women from “certain countries” to network, I felt offended.

Is that reasonable? Does it make sense for me to be annoyed at this white woman for pointing out what she sees to be the truth? And isn’t it kind of the truth, in objective terms? That women from South and East Asian countries aren’t given the latitude to be bold in professional settings? Was this lady being racist, in talking about the passivity of Asian women? Part of me is saying “Yes” and the other is saying “No.”

Furthermore, am I being racist to readily accept that women from South and East Asian countries are forced to assume less-than-assertive roles in their societies’ workplace? I lived in India for 13 years and what I saw completely validates her statement. Should I hold my horses before I extend this observation to large, heterogeneous parts of the rest of the world? Are “Asian” women, whatever that means, actually not passive? Is it anti-feminist to think of them as passive? How is “passive” being constructed in this case?

What is really complicating the picture here? I am so confused. Readers, and I know there are millions of you, feel free to chime in with insights.

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Obama signs the Fair Pay Act:

obama-equal-payhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/us/politics/30ledbetter-web.html?hp

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