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View Diary: Saudi women barred from voting (110 comments)

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  •  Who's talking about "Imposing"? (4.00)
    I don't support invading, occupying and ruling them, but showing "respect" for this kind of evil is morally indefensible.

    I'm sorry, but I think this attitude is profoundly racist. Who ever called for "respect" and "understanding" for white "cultures" when they were torturing and killing their own people?

    •  There is a distinction (none)
      between condemning the practice and figuring out what to do about it.
      I don't know about the poster I was replying to, but I do condemn the practice of disenfranchising women, along with clitorectemy, the practice of keeping women illiterate, etc etc. My post was meant to point out that giving women the vote doesn't necessarily change cultural norms.

      Personally, I, along with Okin, would prioritize (in many instances) feminist ideals over those of cultural diversity. (There are many problem cases, like the practice of wearing headscarves or hajib, which are trickier.) But the fact remains that when there is a conflict between cultures (one with liberal values and the other without), the liberal faces a real conceptual problem. And no, this is not a race issue. It is an issue about consistency. If you think human beings are intrinsically self-determining, are you not obliged to allow others (ie other cultures) to determine themselves, even if their (collective) decisions run contrary to your own values (ie if they do not agree with your account of human nature)? If not, how do you justify imposing your (culture's) will on that of other's without being paternalistic?

      I might sound like John Kerry, but you know, the problem just isn't as simple as telling a whole society that is oppressive towards women they are wrong and come hell or high water, we are going to change it.

      My advice, once again, is to read the Okin. It's thoughtful, its accessible, and gosh darn you might even agree with it and learn something.

      •  Maybe I'll try (none)
        although I have to be honest and say I am incapable of having an "open mind" when it comes to this kind of so-called "liberal" cultural relativism. I can't help but see this issue through the lens of gay experience, where excessive respect for abstract culture has led to nothing but oppression and pain for concrete human beings.

        But when I have time, I promise, I will check out Okin.

        •  Maybe I'll try (none)
          I agree with this wholeheartedly, particularly looking at it from a queer perspective.
        •  Okin is not a relativist (none)
          far from it.
        •  I posted this below by accident (none)
          but Okin is not a relativist. She thinks liberalism is right, and is willing to come right out and say so. Her critics in the volume I referrred to pose problems for that view. The volume concludes with her response.

          Incidentally, Okin (now, prematurely dead) gained fame for her groundbreaking work Gender, Justice and Family, in which she argued that a thorough-going liberalism needs to take a good hard look at family (so called private) structures as deeply unjust. So much the worse for family structures she said.

          Liberalism, the way I am using it, isn't wishy-washy cultural relativism, but rather the view that individuals have basic rights, at the core of which is a right to self-determination or autonomy. I gather from what you were writing that you are a liberal in that sense of the word. Liberals have an easy way to counter gay-bashers: they do harm to others and show a deep disrespect for, or deny the autonomy of, those they bash: they  impose their will on others, and do harm in the process. In our society it is possible to make this move because the US (and for me Canada) is premised on Liberalism.

          Sorry for going on and on like this, but I am leading a reading group on this very topic. It might surprise you to learn that I am the one defending the inherent wrong-ness of cultural practices, while my students are being cultural relativists. Typing this out to you, has helped me to think through just where the problems lie.

          •  Thanks for the clarification (none)
            Okin sounds right up my alley! Now I'll make time to read her.

            Good luck with your reading group. Wish I could sit in on it.

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