Thursday, September 27, 2012

Never depend on others to fight your issues for you

I used to be one of those who thought that a progressive society would immediately and naturally run to the assistance of the most vulnerable among us to secure them and do that which pure common sense dictates, to protect them. Boy was I wrong! We live in politically complicated times were 'lobby groups' can actually insist on their rights to oppress and brutalize those within their domain and these lobby 'rights' are upheld.

I have come to realize that if the vulnerable don’t stand up for themselves and recognize and articulate their situation, the powerful strong lobby desiring the status quo...well it will crush them underfoot!

As a BWE proponent, in theory I accept that we as black women are on our own but it sometimes takes real life examples to remind me again and again how bad it is.

I was watching a program called Newsnight on the BBC a couple of months ago on the subject of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Now most of you have come across the term and know a bit about it. FGM is another name for clitorectomy (the cutting off of the clitoris of females). The medical community describes FGM in types; 1-3 with 3 being the most severe form of it. FGM is correlated with but not limited to Islamic cultures though there is a lot of debate on whether it is an allowable practice by the various Islamic schools of thought.

In this Newsnight program about five-seven young Somali girls from ‘Integrate Bristol’ (you can google their website) where in one corner arguing for the government to exert pressure to safeguard tens of thousands of minority girls who continue to be in real danger of undergoing FGM despite the practice having been criminalized for years now.

A little background here:

In the UK the procedure had been criminalized for ten odd years and has resulted in not one single prosecution! An investigation by The Times Newspaper earlier this year revealed that an estimated hundred thousand British girls had undergone the procedure. In France the procedure has also been criminalized but for a shorter time, and there have been dozens of convictions because of the 'no nonsense approach' adopted by the French government, while the UK pays lip service to its duty to protect minority women, preferring to sacrifices them on the altar of ‘cultural’ sensitivity. Apparently families from other European countries are now travelling to the UK to have their daughters ‘FGMed’! Indeed the UK is seen as such a laughable soft touch and they can get away with holding FGM parties here were up to ten girls are done at once! Shocking stuff!

The discussion was so very revealing. On one side was the government minister arguing in favour of ‘more cultural sensitivity’ in approach to the issue (the same approach that had led to zero convictions and parents continually brutalizing their daughters unimpeded). She was joined by a ‘Community leader’ Somali male, throwing as many ‘politically correct’ barriers as he could muster (you know invoking the right political language, 'No stereotyping', 'racial targetting', 'racism' etc etc), to ensure that the status quo situation (which was resulting in continued brutalization of women in his community), remained intact. He kept insisting that no community under any circumstances, should be ‘targeted’ and singled out for scrutiny-even though such scrutiny could save the wellbeing of young women from his community who were having their lives blighted and suffering infertility, infection and even death from the procedure.

The young Somali girls were essentially on their own on the other side, trying to counter what essentially was an attempt to resist the change that would rescue fellow sisters and friends, even the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities, (herself a Jewish woman) Lynne Featherstone was busy insisting how intrusive it would be to carry out medical examinations on young girls to deter and also ascertain that young women had not undergone FGM. Imagine that!

The young Somali girls clearly had broken rank with their communities and the politically correct culture that is currently imprisoning the UK around minority issues. I can only imagine how much pressure they must be under from their communities. I can imagine the names they will be called; sell-out, native informant, Oreo. But they sat there insisting on the minority woman’s right for protection no matter how many political correct taboos that would need to be transgressed.

I couldn’t believe that this was 21st century Britain, and that cultural sensitivity (whatever that means), was taking precedents over the real and actual lives of black and brown women. Where were all the raging voices of feminism damning the establishments for daring to submit the very wellbeing of women to statutes of cultural sensitivity? How come there wasn’t a strong contingent of feminist voices to be heard reminding the ‘community leaders’ and their enablers that women's rights and wellbeing trumps all and we have no intention of reversing hard won women’s rights for some BS sensitivity to accusations of racism?

At the end even the host of Newsnight himself was exasperated with the Under-Secretary for putting community ‘sensitivity’ before the very lives of the black women affected.
Black women need to know that...

The wider society sees black women as the property of 'their' men and 'their' community and think these two entities have rights over black women that need to be respected. This is something they would not even begin to think of if white women were under consideration

If black women do not come out strongly and vigorously against any form of in-house oppression they are experiencing, this is seen as them agreeing with their treatment and a cue for society to let it be. With regards to black women, society does not even consider that black women may be unable to speak out or advocate for self or might even be suffering Stockholm syndrome. The notion that minority women are so totally oppressed and coerced that they cannot even speak out and might require intervention to break the stronghold, is one which isn’t allowed for with black women.

Individual black women are required to extricate themselves from even the most harrowing of brutality and the inability to do this is seen as an endorsement of their treatment.

Many black women are forced back into oppressive situations and social milieus by the wider society and by those who invalidate her right to be free from and act independent of community. Remember that breaking rank and acting free of community is deemed as an inauthentic choice for the black woman who is supposed to be community-tied always.

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Patricia Kayden said...

WOW. Sounds like the UK allows certain religious minorities to run roughshod over its democratic, western principles.

You're so right that those poor Somali girls are on their own. Are there no Black British feminists who can speak out on their behalf (outside of the Somali community)?

I get why a White woman wouldn't care too much what goes on in the Somali community, but I don't understand why other Black women don't speak out against this, brutal violence and misogynist practice. FGM must be stopped everywhere and certainly should not be allowed in a so-called civilized country like England.

ak said...

I agree and this a viewpoint on both sides of the pond which is why I thank God for the works, the perseverance and diligence of the authentic BWE websites and similar websites like Halima's. They let us know from the start that other blacks would not support or protect us even in the face of hell most of the time so that we can start setting up our own circles of community with like minded reciprocating people as friends or as allies.

Connie Fused said...

I have to read up on the history of Black Women in the UK but I know for sure African American where politically independent for generations; forming their own organizations and platforms around issues that mattered to them. They'd work with other groups (including black men) at their discretion. They diverted their resources for Civil Rights efforts BEFORE the Movement gained popularity and when it did they were pretty much omitted from the record for their contributions. Then came Black Power (which turned into the Black Manhood Marketing/PR campaign of the 70s) and black women and their contributions to the Civil Rights Movement as well as the African American activism were either de-emphasized, ignored, or out right omitted. Black Power asked black women to: step aside and let black men assert their manhood, "re-acquaint" themselves with their natural roles as nurturers and homemakers (even though their monetary contributions and participation were equal to and sometimes exceed those of black men), and suggested that once Black Men were liberated they too would be liberated. A trickle down effect if you will. One of the reasons why black men found it harder to organize themselves was their egos and lack of accountability amongst each other. They didn't know how to organize themselves around more than one issue and delegate responsibilities effectively. Black women's organizations tackled race, sex, class, the needs of poor children, economic independence/entrepreneurship, and education. They were also able to put most of these organizations under one umbrella to establish a standard of conduct and chain of command. I'm not bragging as much as I want any reader to understand than you don't have to wait on Black Men or Black Male IDed women to see the potential of black women. West Africa is full of women who are politically and socially active with the sanction of the men in their cultures/nations.