Women's Rights

Welcome to the beginning of the women’s rights discussion.

 

We began our discussion together about what someone needs to know about your home country. As the conversation emerged, however, many students discussed whether women have (or don't have) equal opportunities in their countries. The conversation moved into thoughts about the obstacles women face in their daily lives and how they still contribute to society. For some, their identity as women also intersected with issues of race or ethnic heritage. This seems to be an important discussion, one that our networks of students in this project could provide important insights. We hope over the next week to ten days, you can talk to each other about how you understand what it means to be a woman in your country. And in having this conversation, perhaps begin to think about the common struggles and opportunities women face within a global context.

Defining Women

Abigail Covington:

Women here are an interesting topic because there's the perspective of how women situate themselves and then there's how women are seen from an external view. The latter holds very little weight with me. However, that point of view comes with consequences as many people may find me loud, obnoxious, or problematic for it. Because I am a woman of color, specifically a black woman, these problems are only amplified. The stereotypes of being an "angry black woman" are constantly being thrown my way regardless of how passive or submissive I may choose to be in a particular moment. That reality is what has evolved my thinking into thinking saying that women are to live their lives as they want them. Society will find a problem with an outspoken woman. They'll call her "bossy" or "rude." If women are soft-spoken, people speak for them and they're seen as incapable. They're just way too many labels and judgments to try and dodge, so I choose to live life according to the way I see myself. This mentality is something I have to continuously reinforce as I navigate throughout various spaces, but it is the only way to exist in the way I would like, while being conscious of my position relative to the person or space I'm interacting with at the moment. Being a woman of color in the United States includes a miscellany of emotions and politics, but it's the intersection that most frequently informs who I am.

Redouane Abir 

Let me first start by introducing myself my name is Redouane Abir from Algeria, specifically from a conservative town called Djelfa. Any topic that includes women is bound to be a controversial. As history started women were oppressed and marginalized by a patriarchal society, but now things are a bit different in terms of equality. Today women have the right to be educated, to have countless job opportunities, the freedom to choose what suits them without fear of being discriminated thanks to demonstrations that demanded equality despite the fact that our religion stated these rights ages ago; but the problem lies in the extreme feminism and this is where we are heading to. For me the role of women is not to be ahead of men, in other words it is not a matter of competition but rather a complimentary relationship. The idea should be corrected into the idea that differences between men and women existed to make a balance, allowing them to complement one another thanks to these differences.

Destiny Reyes 

What it means to be a woman in my country. Being that I haven’t entered the working world just yet, I haven’t had to face the inequality in pay and opportunities based in the career I want to pursue, but I strongly believe that I am going to have these issues. However, as of now I can only discuss the issues I have faced in my life in the past and present. The main struggles I face as a women are the basic sexuality and double standard issues. Women have been sexualized to an extent that is very sickening and sad. Yes, women are beautiful creatures and we actually rule the world! But we are constantly judged because of our decisions, right or wrong. Hence, why we have men determining the right for women to choose whether or not they want to procreate. As women, we are forced to take responsibility for a lot of the things that go wrong involving both men and women, and sometimes just what goes wrong with men. I have been the victim to many situations like this and I know many women can say the same. One story I can share is when I was literally ordered by a man, a stranger basically, to go do something and of course I did not listen, but I walked away in astonishment that this man thought he could actually tell me what to do. When did some men start feeling so superior to women? That is a problem I personally face in America today.

Redouane Abir 

To answer your question, Destiny Reyes, according to me men in America or anywhere in the world started to consider themselves superior to women due to society and how that society allowed them to frame a specific picture of how women should behave, act and even speak, and if you were to ever think of crossing this frame you will be judged by society that created these social strains to control both women and men. Moreover, this behavior by both genders is not done deliberately, but implemented in the sub consciousness of individuals by a patriarchal society, and this is why that man felt that he had some kind of power to command you

Destiny Reyes 

You are absolutely correct Redouane Abir. I suppose what I meant by my question was, if we’re supposed to be living in such a progressive era why didn’t the boy, who is my age, think twice before saying what he did. It is almost like he made no effort to acknowledge how outdated his actions were and, more importantly, how inappropriate.

Redouane Abir 

Destiny Reyes, no matter how progressive we are or developed our actions still and always will be related to society in terms of behavior and way of thinking. This boy, despite the fact that he is from your our generation and living in this modern world, he thinks that men have power over women and this thing is not his fault or done deliberately, but instead implemented by society decades ago and still existing in the mind of the new generation in lesser degrees. These patriarchal ideas can be demonstrated by certain moments that trigger men’s hidden mentality to impose their wishes over women and consider them as a doll to control or manipulate, as they desire. We all experience cases like this and I know it is difficult to give excuses or not judge the man who misbehaved towards you but as you said, we are living in a modern era so we have to think deeper and have think critically while keeping in mind the strains of society and the thoughts that are dug within men's mind are the ultimate reasons for us being treated that way and for them feeling superior to us.

Destiny Reyes 

How do you think progress could be made with attitudes like this? Redouane Abir. This is really a question for everyone as well.

Redouane Abir 

Destiny Reyes, if we would like to progress we need to first start by knowing the problem, then start to diagnose the elements that formed these kinds of actions or mentality. As you know it's easy to point out the detriments of anyone of us, but to get rid of this mentality once and for all we need to dig deeper in our society and try to be flexible to the things we may discover. I’m not giving any guy an excuse to misbehave, but I'm trying to see it from a different perspective by figuring out the reasons that allowed him to have an assumed empowering position, because when we know the reasons behind any problem we can come up with solutions to solve it.

Experiencing Patriarcy

Fatna Ahlam 

A woman is a series of words associated with love, tenderness and humanity. She is the mother, sister, daughter, aunt, wife and beloved. She is me. What about me in society as woman? It can be said that women have been, and continue to suffer over time because of the loss and neglected of their rights. I am a Muslim woman, I live in a Muslim country and I wear a Hijab (scarf), but this not a reason to prevent sexual harassment. I cannot account how much I did face this type of attitude; I feel like I am a doll everyone wants in his spare time just to satisfy lust. So that is why I would hate to be married. In effect, women never forget what hurts them and one of the last commandments of the prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) before his death was about women he said, “be gentle with bottles” Bottles are very easy to break like women, if they are broken it cannot be put back as it was before. Another point is we all know how our mother Eve came from our father Adam's rib. Most people take just take part of the story and reformulate it in their own way, in the way that a woman is a half, which means she is nothing without a man and thanks to man who allowed her to come in this life! Because of their cognitive impairment, they also look at women as if they have half a mind, which means they are stupid. Really, who are you? You are nothing without her, you came from her in her womb, you are the person who lived in her belly for about 9 months and in her lap till now maybe! So she is not half or half minded but you are because you think about her like that. But tell me how we can teach persons who have intellectual disabilities to understand that women and men are equal in rights.

Abigail Covington 

I agree with Fatna Ahlam when she spoke about how women being objectified as sexual beings rather than holistic people. There is so much power in being a woman and possessing the qualities that we have. Yet, patriarchal society will still find a way to reduce us down to the sexual objects they need us to be in order to not feel threatened and continue to exhume their power. But I don't think that the men who refuse to acknowledge that necessarily have intellectual disabilities. Instead, I think they understand it fully but would rather play ignorant than face the reality of their dangerous and violent words, thoughts, and actions.

Fatna Ahlam 

Abigail Covington, the prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said, “There is no difference between the Arabic on the precepts and not between black and white except by piety.” We are equal in the eyes of God, and people always criticize whether you are white or black, don't forget you have a beautiful heart and a beautiful soul. Although I don't know you I imagine that to be true, so you shouldn’t care what they say, be yourself and don't pretending for them. We all face things that make us angry and that doesn’t mean anyone should be labeled the “angry Black woman.” You know Oprah is a black woman and a successful woman, I like her. Believe in yourself that's all you need to convince them about your presence and importance in life.

Abigail Covington 

Fatna Ahlam that's an amazing point! Thank you for those words!

Discovering #METOO

Destiny Reyes 

I want to open up an interesting conversation I had with a few of my peers, who are also apart of this discourse project, with you guys. We were saying that society usually makes it a job for women to fix the problems men have, like rape. For example, Colin MacKenzie was asking a few of us girls if we think an app can be made to decrease or rather end the rape culture, but specifically an app that only or mostly men participate in. Us girls responded with the idea that there should be an app where women can put up their stories of injustice and have it be, sort of like, a warning to other women, and in this way all women in society are working together to protect each other. But then Colin MacKenzie reminded us that it had to be something that men did. At that point we had no answer for him. If there could be an app for us to decrease sexual assault, how would that app look? I know this is a loaded and very complicated subject so I don’t expect an answer, because I couldn’t come up with one, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Fatna Ahlam 

Sometimes women feel weak and find it difficult to face society as victims of harassment, because society is malicious and ruthless, especially in Arab society. They look at her like a criminal, maybe she wears an attractive dress or she is open (so social with everyone), then the man is victim in our society unfortunately, it seems that women are the problem of everything! All that mentality happens because Muslims have moved away from Islam religion. As a woman I’m afraid to sit in a taxi near a man, I’m afraid to go out after sunset, to go and fix my problems in administration. Maybe I exaggerate, but really I write things very special and I write what I feel. Woman worry when someone touches her wrongly because after every wrong action, there’s a big problem.

Abigail Covington 

Based on that, I feel as though "cultures" whether positive and productive or negative and marginalizing are created. It's a system that has to be dismantled and recreated with everyone in mind and not solely those in power.  When discussing positions of gender and sex, it often has to be those who are in higher positions of power and privilege making shifts in the way they, and people who similarly identify, treat others. It's an ally ship that needs to occur in order for culture to begin experiencing a shift.

Destiny Reyes 

Fatna Ahlam, I couldn’t help but realize how similar your description about the culture in Algeria is compared to US culture, especially your first sentence. I also want to say that there shouldn’t be any fear of over exaggerating because, as women, we have been told that we do that too much when in actuality we’re just reveling truths most of the time. I know many victims of harassment personally and I’m sure most of us have been victims ourselves, and I can’t explain to you how accurate your wording is. Women are afraid to say anything that they have been through because we do not want to look like victims anymore. For some reason I have a thought in my head that I can’t share the bad things that happen because I don’t want to be judged or even pitied as a woman. Maybe that’s one way that I can stop thinking as a woman to help the movement of making men realize the problem.

I’m not sure if anyone else in this chat has heard of the hash tag “#metoo.” I recently saw a friend post this on my social media news feed with a photo attached saying that if you have been a victim of sexual assault or harassment then you should post a “#metoo.” My friend posted it and then I shared her picture and also posted #metoo. I really wish that the hash tag reached all women because I know that the world would be disturbed by how many of their close family and friends posted #metoo and then maybe people will really start to understand.

Also, Abigail Covington, I think your post is so relevant to today in America where women are still struggling to have full control of what they do with their bodies. Both people in power and society have to work together and this presidency just shows how impossible that can really be. We have mostly society making a visible effort to protest the power the male politicians have over the female body because the people in power today are men and more importantly, men who don’t believe that we should have that human right.

 

The #metoo movement I was talking about was on the social media platform, Twitter, and it turns out that in only 24 hours the hash tag had been posted “nearly half a million times.”

 

Another fun fact, sorry for bombarding you guys but I’m just doing research, it turns out the #metoo movement was started a decade ago by a woman named Tarana Burke, for women of color, specifically women who have been marginalized, to make their voices heard.

Abigail Covington 

Destiny Reyes, Agreed! With all of the recent accusations coming out about sexual assault in the entertainment industry and high-levels of government, it's imperative that people on both sides participate in the conversation to change the discourse and tide of what's going on.

Fatna Ahlam 

Destiny Reyes, I am sure a few women in Algeria can post #metoo and I am one of them, but what about others? They choose to be silent because they know if they posted it they would never live as natural women, or a natural human. Whether we live in an educated society or not we still lack with this issue!

Noor Bellakhdar 

To be yourself as a woman in a world that is dominated by the male population is very difficult. No matter how hard you work or how sincere your intentions are, you would never be given credit like men are. It is a sad fact, really. I acknowledge there are some tasks that a woman can't do, but what about those we are able to do? Sometimes we do the same job a man does, with the same number of working hours, the same outcome, but we still don't get rewarded or praised like the males, which is just unfair. Most men feel superior to women because they consider us weak and not intellectually equal to them. Men say the "fairer sex, the softer sex" like they are cursing us, branding us for something that, if looked upon from a different perspective, is actually normal, natural. As for harassment, women are always the ones who are blamed for this act. We are always the ones “at fault.” Even rape is regarded today as not that "important of an issue" anymore. I think the only way to solve all these problems of sexism and harassment is to treat it as a disease. It needs a diagnosis, prognosis, and preferably a cure. Some men out there can do with a dose.

 

I know and I 've heard of many examples of women being assaulted, harassed, or a victim of being abducted by some man in the street. Thankfully, at the time of these accidents, things did not get that bad and the women were rescued. The big part in these stories is that the women in question did not file or complain about anything to the police. Most of them could describe the assaulter perfectly, but they don’t because they are afraid. They know that the man in question can get back at her and do worse things and no one would be the wiser. We are, in some cases, really afraid of some men because they are physically stronger than us, and men know that and sometimes they use it against us because they know we, in most cases, can’t retaliate, especially when they give you that smirk which says, “I can hurt you woman, and you know it and I dare you to act on it." It is the bitter truth.

Fatna Ahlam 

Noor Bellakhdar, for an emotional woman, love is her first enemy. Because her love is clean. Female combustion smoke is filled with repeated harassment. We live under the control of men because in their point of view we are lust.

Abigail Covington 

Noor Bellakhdar, you made great points! I kind of eluded to this earlier, but I wanted to know if you think there is anything we can do to shift or change the dynamic that you spoke about? This is also open to everyone in the conversation.

Noor Bellakhdar 

Dear Abigail Covington, I think the only way to put an end to this vicious circle is if, and only if, women truly stood up for themselves. If we all cooperate and voice the same thoughts, things will improve. Unfortunately, some women have convinced themselves that they deserve whatever happens to them. Some females believe that women are a temptation to men, so it is only "fair" (of all the words) that they face obstacles, which is sickly ridiculous. In another case, in "homes” sadly, some females bear all the humiliation and aggression just because a male figure is the care giver or the one who is making a living for them whether that be a husband, brother, father, etc. Since they can't afford to live on their own, they can be hurt sometimes whether emotionally, or physically, and they keep silent anyway to maintain that semblance of a family especially if there are kids involved. You know, there a lot of angles from which we can approach this topic and the only way, like I pointed out earlier, to solve all these issues is if all women spoke our minds and demanded our rights. All women for our rights, but not ONE woman for all rights. I quote "unified we stand, separate we fall.”

Fatna Ahlam 

Sometimes, a man who kills a woman's dreams is not a distant man but a man who is the closest man. Often, the family controls the lives of their daughters, for example after your studies you must be married in order to build a family. Some brothers are suffocating the lives of their sisters with constant doubt in them. It's okay if they have girlfriends, but if their sisters have boyfriends, maybe they aren't in a loving relationship with boys, but being just friends for them is the end of the world. Islam doesn't deny friendship as long as it is in the framework of friendship, but prohibits illicit relations. What I want to say it that my brother wants me to stop my activities at the university club. This is an example of a woman's life—men have the last word in my society, and women have no choice but to accept. Only my father always encourages me, he was a political man and some of his best words are, “women are free whether the man approved that or not.”

Farida Bouhamida 

Being a woman can be very difficult! Many females around the world couldn't do things they like because they were "girls.” I do believe that both males and females have their own separate world, but that doesn't mean that a girl cannot play soccer and boys cannot wear pink! It is true that there is a huge pressure on women (on the way they dress, talk, sit, wear, sleep and even breathe, but why should we follow some rules that were made by a bunch of ignorant people? Be the way you are, have a job that you love even if they say, "you are a girl, you shouldn't do that.” Live your life and your dreams and do whatever you want because you are a female, you make the world better! And if someone says the contrary, punch them in the face girl! Being a woman doesn't mean being weak!

Redouane Abir 

When you brought sexual harassment to discussion I had a flash back to my first year here in college, specifically, to the day when I decided to go (to class) on foot instead of taking the bus. It was a nice day, I was with my best friend heading to our classes chatting, giggling and out of the blue a man pushed me to the wall, his words was “stay out of my way!” like the pave way was not that sufficient, this made me extremely angry, because I didn't do anything wrong. So in my outrage I shouted “why?” and he replied “what are you going to do about it!” thank God someone tried to help me and at that moment I realized that was my queue to escape. Furthermore, I was trying desperately to hold in my tears in front of him in order not to look weak, but the urge to cry was too bad and I couldn't carry on my way, that is why I returned to my room, because my psyche was, mmm ... I cannot find the words that could depict what I was going through but you can guess. I remember that I called my mom crying saying, “I don't want to study, I want to be home.” I spent the whole day thinking what went wrong asking the main question why? Trying to keep myself together, on that day I felt weak like never before, but this accident taught me that there is and will always be differences between men and women, but this does not prevent women from being what they want or getting ahead despite all the odds. Use those weaknesses like as my mate said, “tenderness” is a driven power that excels.

 

In addition, there has been great change in most of women who now feel safe speaking out after years of silence. Some who were brushed off or disbelieved have been vindicated. Some people no longer have to work alongside their harassers. These advances are real and valuable. It’s not yet clear, the right way to make this problem vanish, but we need to stop getting rid of the bad apples and call the problem solved and look deeper at the inequalities that keep harassers safe and victims silent. That will take more than a few cases, but an international campaign that calls for fighting sexual harassment and helping women.

As Mr. Steve asked why society doesn’t look deeper into the problem? For me this related to the fact that in any society we need a weak and a strong part; obviously women will be the week category due to social strains that frame women in a certain way and implement the idea that women could not do it without the help of men. So, the change needs to start by correcting this mentality through the effective use of media and changing the dominant idea that consistently puts women and men in vicious competition, but rather focus on how they are complementary to each other and how each one of them has a crucial role in society. I'm not saying that this change will be that easy, but as they say “the hundred mile trip starts with a step” so lets be the first one’s to launch the change.

Bederina Kheira 

I think being a woman is more than just biology because ultimately being a woman is being a human. All at once I enjoy being a woman and the woman I am becoming, other times I really hate it because of the obstacles not only me, but also every single woman faces every single day. Cruel things like gender discrimination, devaluation, humiliation, and harassments everywhere so much in that we are left on our heels. Despite the fact this generation of women has been raised to be strong and to stand up for themselves, shaping the future of equality, they still suffer from the problems mentioned above and still have a very long way to go and will probably never get there, it’s almost like they’ll never live in a society in which males and females hold equal places or opportunities! I think a main reason why this cannot be achieved or easily achieved is because of the culture within societies that gives the total right to men. The mindset that women are a problem and women are weak allows a man to do or say anything he wants to a woman, etc.

 

It’s was ideas of this sort that society implemented to individuals through the way they were educated, which eventually led to abuse of power. It’s never about who is more powerful than the other, it's about basic human decency! I’ve once thought that when a woman wears a nice outfit and puts some effort into her appearance and then goes out, there’s no doubt she will get harassed, but then I thought about women being human and humans having rights, and that in the case of any man who harasses a woman just because of her attire, then he is contravening human freedom of being, doing, wearing what a woman wants to. Attire is just an excuse for men who harass women, because sometimes even if a woman wears decent clothes, she will still get harassed, this happens simply because societies (and men therefore) see that women represent sexuality.

 

We should know that men are surrounded by society that not only reduces women to sexualized objects, but also a society that protects these men from facing the consequences of their actions, a good example of that is the fact that rape is not regarded as an important issue. But still, this isn’t an excuse for men to harass women! I think while this patriarchal male culture continues to see women as weak creatures and places them as inferior to men, we as decent human beings, have to make a stand to declare that enough is enough; otherwise, if we don’t do so then we are endorsing it. We are implicitly telling men and the coming generation that it's okay to humiliate or assault women and that we validate that this is how women deserve to be treated. So, I think it’s imperative that every woman in this planet should not be afraid to let any man who harasses her learn that this is intolerable behavior, if we really want to embody the values of equality and equal opportunities, then we should never be afraid to talk about what is right and what is wrong.