Many thinkers became increasingly mired in a calcified liberalism. The marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the impoverished, most often embodied in the figure of the Arab woman—with her body and its adornments as the site of contest and definition—became the object of choice for study and sympathy. Liberals eulogized the collective body of the people and along with it, the possibilities of politics and popular sovereignty. Radicals who pushed us to challenge central liberal tenets also seemed to foreclose the possibility of politics. An epistemology of despair took root alongside the authoritarianism that knowledge producers (activists, journalists, and academics) failed to explain.
If the authoritarian state benefits from championing women’s causes, why do women ally themselves with authoritarian patriarchal structures to achieve more rights and visibility while others invite the state to maintain the status quo? Saudi women have not been able to gain the consensus of their society behind their emancipation. In fact, some women resist the idea, and seek greater restrictions on what they consider to be threatening their own interest as women. Given such a lack of unity, weak groups such as liberal women seek state intervention and protection to avoid reprisals from society. This is compounded by the fact that women are denied the right to organize themselves into an autonomous pressure group. In fact, Saudi Arabia remains one of the countries where civil society is curtailed by a legal system that does not leave great space for non-governmental organizations to operate outside state control. Even women’s charities are heavily controlled by the state through extensive princely patronage networks. Saudi women of all persuasions look for the state to increase its policing of men, restrain their excesses, and force them to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities towards women. In such a political context, Saudi women are left with limited choices. An authoritarian state proved to be willing to endorse some of their demands, increase their visibility, and free them from the many restrictions that they are subjected to. The power of the state and its wealth have proved too good to resist.
An excerpt from Madawi Al-Rasheed’s new book, A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics, and Religion in Saudi Arabia. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
For a longer excerpt of the book, as well as an interview with Al-Rasheed: New Texts Out Now: Madawi Al-Rasheed, A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics, and Religion in Saudi Arabia
It is important to recognize that the “war on terror” (which constitutes a number of different but interconnected processes, including military and intelligence measures, economic restructuring and political and diplomatic alliances) not only has differential effects on different social groups (according to the configurations of intersecting gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, and other significant relations of power) but that groups resist these processes in ways that also have implications for gender and other relations of power, and, in turn, for wider political, socio-economic and cultural processes. However, the subject of resistance to the “war on terror” has been under-studied.
An excerpt from Nicola Pratt’s "The Gender Logics of Resistance to the ‘War on Terror’: Constructing Sex-Gender Difference Through the Erasure of Patriarchy in the Middle East." Third World Quarterly 33:10 (2012).
Read more about the article, including an interview with Nicola Pratt.
Violence against women is a complex political, moral, and ethical issue, but the burning questions we face in our everyday work are how to address and respond to violence against Palestinian women inside the Jewish state. How do we portray the killing of the colonized woman by the colonized man? And who profits from such criminality?
"The question of French repentance for the crimes committed in Algeria also reveals a deeper fear that transcends the question of colonialism. Indeed, these historical claims are often linked to anxieties around sex, gender, and race. For these individuals, defending France’s strength and honor by insulting an Algerian minister is part of a broader struggle to save a normative racial and heterosexual political order. For example, a media figure like Eric Zemmour, whose racist statements have provoked many a debate, has been particularly worried about the extinction of manhood. For him, French society is facing a dangerous process of feminization. This intersection between gender anxiety and racism is present not only in the writings of Zemmour, but also in the non-repentance for the aforementioned French crimes committed in Algeria.”
As I walk back and forth between my home and the library at the maison de l’avocat, where I conduct much of my research, I pass by three tanks and six permanent stations of soldiers. At night, there is sometimes a checkpoint at the mouth of my street where soldiers check drivers’ papers for minor infractions. If you are discernibly male, you are likely to be stopped, while the opposite holds true if you are discernibly female. As an unmarried woman living alone, there are times when I feel safer knowing that there is a twenty-four hour army presence less than one hundred meters from my home. There are other times when that same presence makes me uneasy. Here, the gendered difference between the army (all male) and the population (majority female) they are supposed to control/protect (these two functions are, after all, different sides of the same coin) has an effect which is rarely dwelled upon. Most of the women I know have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives by these men with guns. The uniforms these armed men wear, emblazoned with the Lebanese cedar tree, only underscore the fact that this harassment is backed by the force of law.