Monday, January 31, 2011

On standpoint questions.

The most popular critique I've heard back home to feminism is that it's Western-based, or Eurocentric. That's understandable, since mainstream feminism is based on the lives of women in 18th and 19th century European and US educated classes. Marxist feminism is based on the lives of wage-working women in the 19th and early 20th century 'industrialising' or 'modernising' societies, and Third World feminism is based on the lives of late 20th century women of Third World descent, and these different Third World lives produce different feminisms. There is no single, ideal woman's life from which though should start.

In my own social situation, there exists our own kind of feminism. My intersection of identities and perspectives are: (politically-classified) Malay, Muslim, upper middle class, university-educated, unmarried, childless. There are not many like me in Singapore - rumour has it that it's only 3% of my age group.

We're marginalised if we speak purely of numbers. From our standpoint (standpoint theory by Sarah Harding), we are in a better place to ask critical questions about the dominant socio-politico-religious order in Singapore. And here are my critical questions:

Why is it rare to find a woman working in the higher ranks of MUIS or community mosques? In mosque committees one often finds the Board of Directors to be almost all men, while the teachers are all women. Exception is the current CEO of Mendaki.

Why does MUIS give male students overseas scholarships to high-ranking institutions, while most female students can only get a local scholarship? Even when she has a Master's degree or a Phd, she is paid less, has a lower rank, or is put into an irrelevant department than an equivalent male student in MUIS.

Why are women who do not cover their hair assumed to be disinterested in Islam and/or contemporary issues related to Muslims?

When do some men prevent women from entering some mosques via the front entrace? Case in point: the mosque behind IRAS in Novena.

Why is a good Muslim woman one who stays at home (whether by force or choice), and not one who speaks out against and fights for social justice, like MP Halimah Yaacob?

Why do young Muslim men care so much about how young Muslim women dress?

Why are we regarded as such an anomaly?

Why are young Muslim men scared of young Muslim women who travel a lot and meet new people?

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"Are we biologically programmed to succeed at nothing and fail at equal participation in governing community and society?" (Harding, 2005).

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