Friday, October 08, 2010

Doing Transnational Feminism

Inderpal Grewal, chair of the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale University, visited our campus yesterday. In her evening lecture at Butler, titled "Transnational Feminist Practices and Methodologies," she explained how the news media create patriarchy as a fixed and stable category in "other" countries through the example of honor killings.

Inderpal Grewal

Grewal studied more than 900 news articles in English language newspapers from the United States, United Kingdom, India, Australia and Europe through the Lexis-Nexis database and noticed that the term "honor killing" was only used in reference to cases in Pakistan, India, Turkey and Jordan.

That is very interesting, because women are killed and disappear in so many more places around the world (for example in Ciudad Juarez), but these killings are not called "honor killings." Why is it that the "cultural argument" is used in only these few countries?

Grewal argues that the media produce "Muslim cultures" as static, unchanging, and patriarchal, while patriarchy apparently does not exist in the United States anymore. As such, Muslims are to blame for violating human rights and the United States is shown as the savior. Very seldom is human rights language even used to discuss practices in the United States, rendering it superior to other nations.

One of the examples Grewal discussed is of Greg Mortenson, author of the book "Three Cups of Tea," who is now seen as the only person in the world who is able to build schools in Pakistan and to rescue the girls. Is it really true that no one else is doing anything about education for girls in the area? A similar example is of Oprah's school for girls in South Africa.

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