How Do You See the Film in Light of Lila Abu-Lughod's Text Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?
As an anthropologist who has spent decades doing research on and with women in different communities in the Middle East, I have found myself increasingly troubled by our obsession with Muslim women. Ever since 2001, when defending the rights of Muslim women was offered as a rationale for military intervention in Afghanistan, I have been trying to reconcile what I know from experience about individual women’s lives, and what I know as a student of the history of women and of feminism in different parts of the Muslim world, with the stock images of Muslim women that bombard us here in the West.Over the past decade, from the girls and women like Nujood Ali, whose best-selling memoir I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced was co-written, like so many of the others, by a Western journalist, to Malala Yousafzai, they have been portrayed as victims of the veil, forced marriage, honor crimes or violent abuse. They are presented as having a deficit of rights because of Islam. But they don’t always behave the way we expect them to, nor should they.
These crusading enterprises--which, as Abu-Lughod points out, yoke feminists and nonfeminists, liberals and conservatives alike--may be legalistic, as in the burqa ban in France, or military, as in the US invasion of Afghanistan (both measures ostensibly undertaken to liberate Muslim women), but in reality they cause extensive hardship and actual harm (Yegenoglu, Meyda. 1998).
Missionary work and colonial feminism belong in the past, Our task is to critically explore what we might do to help create a world in which those poor Afghan women, for whom "the hearts of those in the civilized world break, can have safety and decent lives.
Kandiyoti, Deniz. 1994/2016. The paradoxes of masculinity: Some thoughts on segregated societies. In Dislocating masculinity: Comparative ethnographies, ed. Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne. Oxford and New York: Routledge.
Nussbaum, Martha C. 1995. Human capabilities, female human beings. In Women, culture, and development: A study of human capabilities, ed. Martha C. Nussbaum and Jonathan Glover. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Yegenoglu, Meyda. 1998. Colonial fantasies: Towards a feminist reading of orientalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.