Women and society
Recently, the big thing on my mind has been my family. Piecing together hints and whispers, it seems that perhaps they really have been murdered. If this is the case, it tells me that ‘people’ are bad or evil, and that the UK state is a waste of time. However, I live in hope that I’m mistaken, and have drawn the wrong conclusions. The weather today, although chilly, has been sunny here. No matter how bad things are, flowers keep growing, and birds keep singing.
I have recently started on a new medication, clozeril. The staff here have been making big claims for it, so we shall see how things progress.
Earlier today, I was on Instagram, and came across a user who described himself as a ‘global citizen’. I like that phrase. It reminds me of all the things that are happening beyond the horizon or behind closed doors.
I think it fair to say that the biggest driver of ‘cultural’ or ‘social’ globalisation is the modern media. People who have never physically met, and who have very different ancestries, can talk online about people neither of them have met, or places neither of them have been.
A particular matter on my mind in recent times is the place of women in non-western, and specifically in Muslim countries. What worries me is the human tendency to look at a situation which needs solutions, and to frame those solutions as two opposing polarities. I’m no psychologist, but I’d guess that this ‘binary’ approach is hardwired into the brain.
In terms of Muslim women, the dichotomy seems to consist of either strict adherence to particular interpretations of religion (and in many parts of the Muslim world, to traditional ‘secular’ culture), or to wholesale acceptance of Western models. Of course, in reality, in many parts of the Islamic world, the debate is more sophisticated and complex than this.
Nevertheless, I think there is a tendency for the human psyche, when presented with a culture or society more powerful than its own, to pretty much accept it, or to pretty much reject it. What this can mean for (young) Muslim women is that they can be subjected to various, and sometimes contradictory pressures within the modern world.
I think that one answer is dialogue between different religions and cultures.
Another is to have education systems that give young people the tools they need to make good decisions in an increasingly fast and phrenetic world.
Social and cultural change doesn’t come about only, or even mainly, by rulers telling women they can’t wear headscarves, or that they can’t wear tight fitting coats.
It comes about by the billions of decisions made by ordinary people every day. If we want to see positive changes in the world, it’s not a bad idea to live our own lives in a good, positive way. All human beings have free will, and Muslim women are no exception. They can decide whether they conform to religion, or to tradition, or to American culture, or to radical political movements.
Of course, for many women, following some of these models is fraught with danger. Everyone has to make their own decisions, based on their own circumstances. In that sense, we are all creators of culture.
Ultimately though, free will transcends such things as gender and age. By making the decisions that they make in their own lives, Muslim women are creating, perpetuating and destroying the different threads that run through religion, society and culture. It’s not about men versus women (or at least, it shouldn’t be). It’s about allowing women to be mature, responsible adults, alongside men.