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The recent year in my country saw an unusually large interest in private moral failings. Lashings for adultery and drinking beer -- when did we start doing that? But what did we expect?

When a society is intellectually stifled and apathetic, there is not very much else to do but pay attention to the personal wrongs of your fellows. It's a blinder, one of many, from the issues that creep in during extended periods of prosperity: the growing spread of corruption, nepotism and a widening income gap. Into that vacuum of intellectual detriment swoops Islamic radicalism, a predator that thrives best on this closed, tight circuit. Its philosophical discourses promise mental stimulation, but its branches are stunted by the invisible embrace of an all-answering deity. The switch of moral discussion from far-reaching, interlinked communal dialogue to skirmishes of personal honour (ie. personal religion as a matter of 'face' for greater society) only hastens the maintenance of the status quo.

In the long run, it encourages the intellectual noose to grow ever tighter. Rather than discuss how we as individuals can affect our wider environment by making the personal moral decisions we do, we become preoccupied with how our moral choices make us look to others, whether our actions cause us or our direct community to lose face. At that point, the will to innovate is slowly sapped away, as is the desire to shape our own rational convictions in preference for what someone else (in the form of our elders, our holy texts or our gods) tells us to do. Especially when society runs out of ways to express itself, women become scapegoats. Whether the moral failings of women are real or imagined, our grandmothers, mothers, aunts and sisters bear the brunt of the blame for society's shortcomings. This is why the news talks about women who are lashed and jailed for adultery, and a woman who must be whipped for having a beer.

The first logical question to ask in this situation is, "But where were the men who helped contribute to these situations?"

The second logical question to ask is, "And why should what someone does in private matter to us?"

Does it really affect you when someone else engages in a sexual (proven or otherwise) relationship with another person prior to marriage? Does it really affect you when a person drinks a beer?

And if it doesn't, what better thing could you be doing with your mind? What new subject could you learn? What interesting question could you ask yourself today?

What could you do that isn't spying on your neighbours to justify what is right about you? Why are you so desperate to be right, anyway? Don't you have something better to do?


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2011 07:02 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, all your question are answered by the cultural idea that men are superior, while not exclusive to Asian (I do include the area from Japan to Lebenon in this) South American and African cultures it is definitely more dominant there than in Western society (not to say there isn't sexism here). Where males are allowed to make the rules, women are going to be subjugated and where zealots are in control personal choice will be curtailed.
Jan. 16th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
While I agree with you that there is a large disparity between the level of dialogue on women's rights between the East and West, many basic rights are still restricted to women in surprisingly similar areas.

For example, if we look at Malaysia, where I come from, and the US, women's control over their reproductive health is still a contentious issue both culturally and politically. The degree of what is accessible in both countries is different, but the sentiments that drive them are universal.

A vocal and politically active right-wing faction grasps on similar ideas in both countries to restrict women at the highest levels of government and by propagating fear at the grassroots, ie. that sexual education and family planning practices (contraceptives; access to abortion) are precursors to rampant sexual misconduct; and that pre-marital sex is a sin, thus, social stigmas against single mothers are valid because these are bad women.

In the mainstream, subtle cultural expectations about women's behaviour exist that are similar to both countries, most notably about motherhood. Women are still generally expected to defer their careers to care for their children more than men, and successful women are the ones who balance career and family. These aren't blatantly stated outright, but are portrayed in a roundabout fashion in, for example, the media, from TV ads to full profiles in print.

What I'm trying to say is that the blame for these social presuppositions about women have their historical roots in earlier social systems where men were superior, but their modern incarnations are different beasts, where everyone in society carries some responsibility for propagating equality (and equal responsibility when equality falters). Men and women in modern Eastern and Western societies may share the same economic and educational rights, but their ingrained cultural ideas about gender roles are still in the process of equalizing.

You and I are privileged enough to live in social circles where some of the more idealized forms of equality are our norm, but that may not be true in other communities in our town, our state or in the greater majority of our countries. The question then isn't about men being allowed to make the rules, but how to change cultural sentiments about gender equality so that practices match social reality.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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