Aug 30 2008

Pakistani senator calls killing women “tribal custom”

Spinster Aunt HQ was gonna be on holiday for another couple of days, but then I got an email from Apostate. Forget First Lady fashion; this pretty much defines the global humanitarian crisis that we routinely downplay as “patriarchy.”

Hold onto your hats.

Balochistan Senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri stunned the upper house on Friday when he defended the recent incident of burying alive three teenage girls and two women in his province, saying it was part of “our tribal custom.” [cite]

The justification for this appalling hate crime? The women wanted “to marry of their own will.”

The fiends perpetrating this savagery — a group that apparently included some village bigwigs — first wounded the women with gunshots, “in the name of honour.”

I will give you a moment to digest the unspeakable horror.




To its credit, within the Pakistani senate there is apparently some outrage, including the assertion that burying independent-minded women alive is no way a Baloch tribal custom, and that the incident was a heinous anomaly. Sure, calling into question the tribal customariness of this practice is all well and good, but in so doing the senate seems to be intimating that a pre-existing woman-burying custom might, under some circumstance, be regarded as a mitigating factor.

Hey, Pakistani senate! Tribal custom or no, what’s the diff? A killing spree is a killing spree.

I recognize that a couple of brutally murdered Pakistani girls may not fascinate to the extent that, say, a Sarah Palin does, but I beseech those bloggers among you to postpone writing another Geraldine Ferraro post long enough to pass this story around. The idea that cultural tradition might even fleetingly be construed by supposedly civilized beings as an excuse for ritual murder is the direct result of the same global misogynist paradigm that brings us “harmless” Western-style femininity, Jesus, the nuclear family, street harrassment, pornography, and rape culture. I am not moron enough to suggest that Western Internet-feminists can prevent barbarism through blogging, but we can damn well get the word out.

And we can damn well crank up our own resistance a notch. This may seem like a weird place to mention this, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I see patriarchal oppression as a global continuum. Furthermore, I am a firm believer in the notion that it’s possible for feminists to ripple that continuum. Well, what I wish is, I wish that Western women could see the big picture from their privileged choice-feminism aeries and actually take a step towards women’s liberation by bagging femininity as a lifestyle choice. The cost would be little compared to what these Pakistani women suffered by daring to express an interest in their own futures, and it could change the world.

The revolution will not be wearing bustiers and nail polish.


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  1. thebewilderness

    I guess if you consider men a “tribe” then murdering disobedient women is a “tribal custom” the world over.
    In the west the patriatchs consider the problem solved because the underfund a few shelters on the public dime where women can go to avoid the menz implementing their ancient tribal custom of murdering disobedient women. Criminy!

  2. Apostate

    Thank you, Twisty.

    These things leave me speechless with rage and a with a sense of my own powerlessness, so I’m glad you are throwing your eloquence behind stuff like this.

  3. Amy

    Hollaback to you, Twisty.


  4. Amananta

    The problem is when Western feminists write about the brutal murder of non-white, non-American women we are scolded for being “culturally insensitive”.

    I went on a rant in my blog not too long ago about getting in a conversation not with one or two, but a whole group of people, including women who claim to be feminist, where I was unanimously shouted down on the idea that there should be any commonly held standards of decency in the world, with them using, as an example, “people” who murder women in other countries for the horrible crime of having unapproved of romances. I was told that no, this was indeed perfectly moral behavior on their part, because it’s “their” culture and who are “we” to say anything about it? “They” can do what “they” like with “their” women and children, I was informed, and those women don’t want to live like that, well they can just move.

    Apparently “culture” belongs to men, and us chicks just have to suck it up.

  5. another voice

    Amananta, I believe that talking about patriarchy as Twisty does calling “patriarchal oppression […] a global continuum” helps people, who really may be trying to avoid ethnocentrism, to see how this system moves throughout many cultures to varying horrendous effect.

    But yes, your last statement probably more accurately sums up “common wisdom,” showing yet more misogyny that masks itself as real attempts to be respectful of difference.

  6. slythwolf

    Amananta, have you yet encountered that particular species of culturally-relativist dude who claims that our outrage at the murder of brown women is merely a product of our culture? That, you see, we can never know if it’s really wrong to murder women, brown or otherwise, because we have been taught from birth that it’s wrong to murder women, so we’re biased.

    I usually wonder which culture these dude are talking about, because it ain’t American culture, wherein killing women is sexxay.

  7. atheist woman

    Of course that was point all along though, wasn’t it. American women were once supposed to be the arbiters of the societal virtue. The pomos didn’t like this very much (because women have silly lady brains) and said fuck morals, there’s no such thing. Anything deemed feminine is either unspeakably bad or just doesn’t exist. Now they can just do whatever the hell they want. Men can rape, they can kill, they can do anything. And if they can’t use the ‘culture’ excuse, then they can just use the “asking for it” excuse, so classic in American Culture. Well if she didn’t want to be murdered and raped why was she walking in such a public area? Why is it that every white lib pomo male on the planet is sooo afraid of being called racist but they give a shit about being called sexist.

  8. atheist woman

    Okay aw fisticuffer , no more tired posting for you! That last sentence should read ‘but they *don’t* give a shit about being called sexist.

  9. slythwolf

    Oh, they care about being called sexist. But not enough to change, only enough to tell the little wimminz to shut the fuck up.


    It is hard to be right when so many are wrong-headed…(Not snark) oops!! I used ellipses! Sorry! But it IS hard.

    While maybe 10% of the female population of THIS country can see the Patriarchy for what it is and defy it and hate it, the other 90% are busy giving the Patriarchy a blow job. Like um whatsername, Palin?

    It is hard to get the Doodz to change. But honestly, how can we get the wimminz to WAKE UP?!?!?! It never stops torturing me that “women” are trated and referred to as a “minority” or “special interest group” when we are, in FACT IN F*A*C*T, the MAJORITY of people both in this country and EVERY OTHER!!!!

    We should be running the goddam show, people!!


  11. denelian

    Twisty, please explain what you mean by “bagging feminity”?

    if you mean living as a feminist and talking and trying to educate, i do that. correction, i *TRY* to do that, i admit that i probably fail more than i succeed. i almost never wear make-up or dresses, only for THE most formal of occasions. i don’t wear heels, or short-shorts. most of the time my hair is in a bun,because it takes too long to do anything else with it. but most of these are because i am lazy, not because of principle; heels were made popular by the men of (if i remember correctly the number) Louis the XIV… and then somehow women were stupid enough to get on that train.

    and though i can see the connection between me acting girly and women being oppressed, i think its a bit tenuous, and i think that, as a whole, rejecting femininity isn’t the answer. not that i think we should be judged more by appearance! no, i am mourning metrosexuality, and the short period where it was starting to be okay for *EVERYONE* to play dress-up and have fun. my boyfriend likes to wear skirts, he thinks they are comfy and attractive. if EVERYONE were able to be feminine as they wanted, then the issue is kinda gone, isn’t it?

    there is a difference between rejecting patriarchy and rejecting things that make one happy. i, personally, don’t want to fuss all the time with makeup and etc, but i know lots of women who DO. who want to spend time dressing up (granted, most of the are “Goth”, but still). i know lots of guys who do too.

    i’m sorry, i think i’m babbling. this whole thing is horrific – killing a woman for *wanting to get married*?!?!? let alone FIVE? and it’s a “Tribal Custom”??? da FUCK? tribal customs are how one dances at a wedding, not shooting the prospective bride for wanting to marry a guy she likes. THAT is just murder, 5 times over. i get ya there.

  12. SoJo

    I don’t know why, but i expected better of a country like Pakistan.

    As always, I agree with Twisty. I think the small stuff is most effective. I have hairy legs and a shaved head and I think it gets people to actually think about me as a woman (or as a dyke/non-person), whereas when I wore skirts and jewelry I was easy to overlook – one of a million sexbots. Dumping the femininity crap makes people – men – actually have too think about the state women are in……..maybe. It’s a pain in the ass to have to be walking showpiece though.

  13. Kira

    Why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why do the people on this globe not recognize misogyny for the most egregious, over-arching bigotry that has ever, and continues to, exist. I’ve spent a lot of hours trying to explain, or demonstrate, that I do recognize misogyny as that. But then I read something like this, and I realize that really, I’ve really done nothing of consequence to help. Sure, it’s a continuum. And sure, I can continue to scoff at and reject actions such as, most prominently in my blaming awareness, the asshat “liberal” men in my life who say things like “I don’t expect my fiance to change her name when we marry. But, I’d be so honored if she chose to.”

    But I feel a very, very deep sense of shame that crimes like the one recounted here don’t mobilize me any further beyond an evening of shock and repulsion and anger. All I do is talk, talk, talk, and try to explain misogyny to asshats. But I don’t really do anything.

    I recently read somewhere a quote that went, “We weep for a bird’s cry, but not for a fish’s blood. Blessed are those with a voice.” I feel deeply ashamed of the juxtaposition of my life next to the women in so many other parts of the word. I have a voice and I am really not that much with it when all is said and done.

  14. Christine

    “Ritual murder?” These five women were tortured to death. All you need to know is that this horrifying act doesn’t rate an iota of the coverage given to any missing pretty young white woman. I guess brown people don’t count even for purposes of sexually sadistic titillation.

  15. Belle O'Cosity

    Cultural relativism can bite me. I can’t believe that this kind of barbary is seen as anything but murder. It is sick beyond belief. I want to cry, but I can’t any more, and what would be the use.

    Oh and as an Alaskan, Sarah Palin can also bite me. The only reason AK peeps like that woman is because the former gov was so utterly evil that she actually seemed like a breath of fresh air. That is how low our expectations are.

  16. Virago

    It’s terrible that women are being murdered in Pakistan just because they want to pick who they marry. And unfortunately, women getting murdered in this country by their husbands or boyfriends is so common that people want to blame the victim. We know who to blame.

    “I have hairy legs and a shaved head and I think it gets people to actually think about me as a woman (or as a dyke/non-person), whereas when I wore skirts and jewelry I was easy to overlook – one of a million sexbots”

    I don’t wear make up on a regular basis, and I never wear skirts or jewelry. I wear my hair in a wash and go style, and I’m too lazy to put myself through all those beauty rituals that other women do. I would rather wear jeans in the summer because its a pain in the ass to shave my legs all the time. I’m as far away from being a sexbot as most women get, and I STILL got sexually harassed at work by a male supervisor that I ended up quitting out of frustration because management didn’t want to deal with it. While I can see Twisty’s point about the bustiers and nail polish, I think that men are still going to treat us as sex objects simply because we have a vagina. Even when I wore the patriarchally approved sexbot uniform, it didn’t seem to make a difference in how men treated me. In the middle east, women are dress entirely in purdah without any skin showing at all, and they still get sexually harassed while being patriarchally approved. Women just can’t win no matter what their appearance.

  17. mir

    I wonder what the P will do when its plan for women is finally fulfilled. It wants us shrunken- literally physically tiny (while men are implored to grow physically large). It wants us invisible- hidden in our homes, silent in our jobs and in our exclusively heterosexual marriages, non-present on the streets. It wants us removed from participation in our communities, our societies, our politics the world over. It wants us dead.

    What will the world do when there are no women left at all?

  18. butterflywings

    I completely agree with denelian. I don’t think bagging femininity is the solution.

    Femininity is not the problem. The problem is that people do not have the freedom to express *both* “masculine” and “feminine” attributes. (And that anything “feminine” is seen as frivolous, at best.)

    I am often lazy, too. But sometimes I like to paint my nails, wear make-up or wear high heels or whatever.
    I mean the bare minimum that is required of men is to be clean and groomed, but who says some men wouldn’t like the option to “prettify” themselves, too? Like denelian says, maybe they would like to get a manicure, wear a skirt or heels or make-up sometimes.
    Yet most men I know wouldn’t even wear a pink shirt.

    How about less rigid gender roles and more just people doing what they feel like!

  19. luxdancer

    The entire concept that frilly skirts and nail polish are “feminine” as in “an attribute of being like a woman” as opposed to just being frilly skirts and nail polish, without gender categorization, is the problem.

    “Guys can be feminine too!” implies that certain attributes or aesthetic preferences are “naturally” (or whatever) the realm of a particular gender.

    Frilly skirts just are textiles gathered at the waist or in layers to create a rippling, voluminous texture. Pink is just a mix of white and red. Bows are just a subset of knots. Any idea of them being “feminine” or “masculine” is artifical, just as the association of femininity with frivolity.

  20. AK-LA

    I am disappointed that patriarchy-blamin’ women think it’s OK to dress up in the trappings of servitude and second class status, just because they “feel like it”.

    Individual actions cannot be separated from the society in which we live. Your empowerful lip-liner and stilettos are sending a screaming message to all who see it, whether you agree with that message or not.

  21. Helen

    Individual actions cannot be separated from the society in which we live. Your empowerful lip-liner and stilettos are sending a screaming message to all who see it, whether you agree with that message or not.

    Well, exactly. And therein lies part of the problem with a “wear nothing that could be construed as feminine” dictum.

    I regularly review what I wear and why, and do some housecleaning of things that pander to the patriarchy at the cost of doing their job well of keeping me clean and comfortable.

    But “nothing that could be called feminine” would create the same problems for me — I’d wind up with less functional clothing than I have now. I’m not willing to go there at the moment.

    Here’s an example: I wear platform shoes when it’s bitterly cold out. The thick sole keeps my feet from getting cold and my frostbitten toe from aching. The thin upper keeps me from roasting alive indoors the way I would if I wore insulated boots all day. Until someone comes up with an equally practical solution that doesn’t smack of femininity, I’m keeping my platforms.

  22. Tripleshack

    Denelian, you say “If EVERYONE were able to be feminine as they wanted, then the issue is kinda gone, isn’t it?”

    But in the real world today, everyone ISN’T able to “be feminine” as they want, so the issue is far from gone.

    And whether you enjoy it or not, if you scratch the surface of “femininity,” it all just boils down to the appeasement and/or attraction behaviors and garb of an oppressed class toward its oppressor. All that crap was just designed to create a false difference that highlights the powerlessness of the female and the dominance of the male.

    And regardless of your personal intent, its message is loud and clear: far from being an expression of one’s individuality or sense of aesthetics, femininity says just one thing: “I’m a compliant member of the sex class, and as such, I wear its uniform.”

    I know most of us must comply to some degree for survival, and in varying ways depending on where we live, but Twisty’s call to “bag femininity” is more profound than it may appear, because femininity is the foundation that supports the patriarchy.

    And as for “cultural sensitivity,” what’s so sensitive about murder?

  23. goblinbee

    Virago: “While I can see Twisty’s point about the bustiers and nail polish, I think that men are still going to treat us as sex objects simply because we have a vagina.”

    But I don’t need to go along and treat myself as a sex object. I can have some self-respect.

    And it is not laziness that keeps me from wearing make-up or shaving my pits; it is loving the natural animal. Humans are fairly hairless among mammals. No matter how much I have (and I am quite a hairy person), it still seems scanty next to my cats.

  24. Eliza

    Twisty, using the phrase “bagging femininity” seems to have derailed the conversation you may have been hoping to have. I have been aware of (and teach about) the horrors of violence against women in the name of “tradition” for along time. I’m disappointed and frustrated that the comments here are more about self-conscious habits of dress than the issue at the heart of your post. A teacher told me once that “when women hear the word ‘tradition,’ they should run the other way.” Words to live by. I have no truck with the argument of that mindless senator in Pakistan and am not afraid to take on the relativism of those who think it’s culturally condescending to comment on others’ practices. Follow the lead of the Pakistani feminist activists on this issue and you’ll have less trouble too. They reject their patriarchal assholery just as we reject ours.


  25. Deanna

    Helen – have you thought of hiking boots or combat boots? Pretty thick soles on those – and no one can claim that they smack of femininity. I like wearing mine around the office just because they make me feel so tall and yes, empowerful, in a way. For some reason I like clumping around in big ass boots.

    My latest story of trappings of femininity:

    Couple of days ago, I bought a new bicycle. I picked out the model I wanted and there were some special things they needed to do to make it work for me. They asked me if I had a colour preference and I said – entirely honestly – that no, it didn’t.

    Well, the next day I got a phone call – the only frame they had in the store that was small enough to fit my short legs was white, with pink highlights. The manager of the store, who has known me for a very long time, realized that although I said colour didn’t matter, there was a good chance that I hadn’t considered pink. Wisely, he called me – and we ended up ordering in a new frame. Red, in fact.

    And it’s not that I hate pink. I have an entry way painted a pale pink, since it’s a warm and welcoming colour. But pink is political, and if I chose a pink bike, even if it was just the last one of that model and frame in the damn store, I would be reinforcing the meme that women will only buy technical, mechanical, or athlectic gear (or tools) if someone colours them pink or lavender. Or puts flowers and sparkles on them. And I was not going there. And good on the manager of the store for checking with me, even though he was getting flak from the store owner for being concerned about it.

  26. Jezebella

    [Yawn] You know what’s boring? Listening to people talk about their grooming habits. You know what’s appalling? Posts about grooming habits in response to a post about TORTURE AND MURDER.

    Cheesus, people, how about a little perspective?

  27. thebewilderness

    “I have hairy legs and a shaved head and I think it gets people to actually think about me as a woman (or as a dyke/non-person), whereas when I wore skirts and jewelry I was easy to overlook – one of a million sexbots”

    I think this that you do is important.
    The current myth is that women like to be treated like sexbots and that is why they make themselves into eye candy for the menz.
    Every woman who dresses the way you are describing is a statement of NO, to patriarchal myth. NO!
    If you think there is anything about what you like involved in fashion, you desperately need to read backlash.

  28. jc.

    Meanwhile in the most sexually “equal” of countries, Sweden, the white collar union has suggested that equality between sexes in the home would easily be remedied by a government subsidized home cleaning services for couples with children, thus allowing swedish women to pursue serious careers on the same premises as their sperm donator
    spouses. Such a subsidy would allow all the “skoda” women of eastern europe to pursue their chosen careers in household sanitation for arayan swedish people in the open instead of on the black market and perhaps limit their availability in swedish whorehouses.
    Of course in sweden we don´t have such problems as in pakistan because all swedes are born with a genetic understanding & appreciation of democracy and equality between the sexes, and government handouts in support of these swedish judeo-christian values are actually just small adjustments in our perfect swedish society.
    Of course we do have a shocking problem with islamic immigrants who continue to commit “honor” killings & beatings of their females and perpetuate horrific gang rapes of SWEDISH women. The other 95% of killings, beatings and rapes of females comitted by swedish men are, of course, only individual aberations and, lets face it, sometimes the bitch asked for it.
    When Gudrun Schyman (leader of the Left Party, formerly communist party) said that swedish men are all talibans this was of course a bad joke which was, and rightfully so,
    condemned by all right thinking swedes (except for a few bitter hairy castrating lesbians who should all move to an Australian mining town where despite their obvious physical
    ugliness they could be made to feel like real women and finally feel at peace with themselves and the world and stop complaining and maybe lighten up a little).
    Anyhow pursuance of the WAR ON TERROR requires the acceptance of a few quaint local cultural customs. To quash the Al Queda threat whats the lives and dreams of a few brown chicks worth? The male Pakistani hearts are in the right place, otherwise we wouldn`t hve given them billions of american tax dollars since 1978, right?


  29. Helen

    Helen – have you thought of hiking boots or combat boots?

    Well of course. I haven’t found any that come anywhere close to fulfilling the same functional requirements.

    Soles that keep cold from my feet when waiting on ice-cold pavement, uppers that don’t make me roast when indoors for hours, no rubbing spots that cause blisters, don’t require heavy socks as this goes right back to the roasting alive problem.

  30. Helen

    jc, of course there can be no solution that involves men actually cleaning up after themselves. That’s for lesser beings. A supply of servants has to come from somewhere.

  31. Jokerine

    You are absolutely right, Eliza. But in the end it is much easier to talk about ones own life than about those we can not influence half a world away.

    Personally I suggest an investment in an NGO that educates Girls and Women in Pakistan, specifically in the tribal areas. That gives them tools against “tradition”.

  32. slythwolf

    “What about the women who love to practice femininity” is the same argument as “what about the sex workers who love their jobs”. I don’t blame the women in either situation for their oppression; the patriarchy, being in charge of every damn thing, is clearly the responsible party. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

    Jokerine, educating women is a wonderful thing, but I’m not sure it’s going to solve the problem; I would venture to say educated women living in areas where women are tortured and murdered for wanting to make decisions for themselves are just as likely to be tortured and murdered as their uneducated counterparts, and probably won’t be in the best position to get jobs and make their own money and move away, since I doubt the dudes in such places are all gung-ho about hiring women. But I could be wrong.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Obviously dismantling patriarchy is the answer, but exactly how to do that remains a mystery to me, since women don’t have the power and men aren’t willing to do it.

  33. Windstorm

    Torture and gruesome murder – a cultural tradition. You’re right, Twisty, we must do something. I like Jokerine’s idea, and supporting groups like Amnesty International.

    Kira, I disagree that you aren’t doing anything. We all do (try to do?) what we can. Some of us can do huge things, some of us can do small things. The point is, if we all do something – even “talk talk talk”, that’s important. Some of us have media appeal and can do huge things, like Angelina Jolie – like the late Princess Di with the landmines. Many of us are just peeps running around the neighborhood, but we still have voices, we can still comment on blogs, we can still support groups that do good works. And we must. Kira, you are doing good just by being here, listening, sharing.

  34. Dana

    Bit of a nitpick. Purdah is the practice of women secluding themselves from society–or, more accurately, society secluding women away from it. The term is, I believe, Hindu in origin. In the Middle East, women may or may not be secluded away–it depends. The expectations differ from country to country and from socioeconomic class to socioeconomic class.

    The commenter who mentioned purdah in the Middle East may have been referring to hijab, which is considered by much of the Muslim world to be a religious requirement and has to do with verses in the Qur’an requiring modest dress from both sexes.

    I have mixed feelings about the whole hijab issue. I don’t like that modesty requirements differ according to gender. It has been explained that men are more visually stimulated than women are by nature, which is horseshit, because I am visually stimulated sometimes by seeing attractive men. Doubly so if dude’s going around with no shirt on, which is even permitted in Islam.

    That said, I also recognize that you can’t change the way other people think. They first must want to change and put in the work required. And there will always be assholes in the Muslim world who think women have to be covered so the men don’t have to walk around horny all the time. In that sense, when Muslim women say they want to cover (and sometimes they do), I feel moved to stand up for their right to do so.

    And to me it’s not even about being “modest” or about keeping men from being horny. There are times I contemplate taking up a more modest mode of dress (and I’m already fairly modest for an American woman, at least in public) not because I’m ashamed of my body, not because I think it will protect me from rape and not because I don’t want to make American men walk around horny all day, but because nobody has the right to look at anything that might be construed as my girlie parts (breasts, butt cheeks, etc.) unless I give them permission to do so. And by gum they had better earn it, because I’m not their sex toy.

    I believe some Muslim women feel the same way and that this is why they see hijab as liberation.

    I also recognize that for many Muslimahs, hijab is forced, and I don’t agree with that either–for that matter, the Qur’an itself says there is to be no compulsion in religion. And the requirements set forth in the Qur’an are for *believers*, which means that if you don’t believe in this stuff, you shouldn’t have to follow it, and that’s between you and God in the end, assuming God exists. (A whole ‘nother can of worms, I recognize.)

    This crap in Pakistan, these horrific murders, that is a whole ‘nother matter. Not permitted in Islam, so except by blaming patriarchy, I don’t understand why Pakistani politicians defend it–surely they cannot believe they are defending Islam. Saying this crap is proper Islamic behavior is like saying working at a strip club is proper feminist behavior.

  35. sonia

    I’m sorry to be a double-commenter, but I have to say.

    whether a woman wears heels is pretty low on my priority list of things to be annoyed about, especially when there are men committing atrocities like this.

    we should be focused on male violence, not female choices which are always crappy at best under this system.

  36. TP

    Short hair, short nails, jeans and t-shirts, hairy legs, hairy pits, no make up, getting up, showering and ready. It’s so easy. Maybe you need to shave the legs – nobody wants to be stared at. The rest of it is below the radar, nobody really notices. Depending on the body shape, people can still tell you’re a woman.

    I’m not saying to do it. But rejecting femininity is rejecting a lot of crap you have to buy and things you have to do. It’s not difficult, because it is verifiably easier. You find your comfort spot along the continuum from girly girl to unadorned human and that’s it.

    The argument that you’re just as liable to raped dressed up as dressed down doesn’t make sense to me. The real crime is that men, in their insufferable dominance, have staked out the unadorned human look for themselves and women comply with this ownership by continuing to regard this look as not feminine enough or even masculine.


    Dana- there ARE those who say that working in a strip club is proper Feminist behavior.

    Just sayin

  38. Ron Sullivan

    Femininity isn’t dressing funny. Femininity is the signaled omnibus submissiveness that’s at the root of dressing funny, and of apologizing for one’s existence, and yielding the right of way in one’s entire life, and smiling when one doesn’t want to, and accepting that sub-par salary, and “naturally” getting to like being generally annoyed by one’s clothing, one’s fellow citizens, one’s co-workers, one’s bosses, one’s family, one’s alleged One True Love.

    I bet there’s another paragraph to be added here, but I’ve had a long day.

  39. denelian

    see, the thing that i am saying is that *at this moment* feminine behaviors and traits are pushed on women exclsivly, so that those traits and behaviors are adjudged “lesser” or “frivilous” because they are *FEMALE*. the problem isn’t those traits and behaviors, but the fact that society considers them “lesser” because they are “female” when they are no such thing.
    as i stated above, high heeled shoes were created by, and FOR, men to use. before the 1920’s, Pink was considered a very masculine color. NOBLE men wore make up and wigs to look more “masculine” – a guy wearing the EXACT SAME THING TODAY would be called “gay” because he was wearing the “feminine clothes” that say the Earl of Buckinham wore to decimate the highlanders. the problem isn’t the MAKEUP or the CLOTHES its the ASSOCIATION.

    as for talking about makeup instead of 5 dead women…
    i seriously asked, and ask again, how giving up feminine things will help other women like this? i CAN see the links between the situations, i just don’t know that getting riding of “femininity” will actually get rid of patriarchy. actually, pretty sure both are impossible, and prefer a subversive stance anyway. HOW? how does it HELP? i don’t even see it helping *ME* to not be at all feminine, let alone someone on the other side of the globe. i’m not trying to say Twisty is WRONG – i don’t know if she is or not! i know how *I* thing on it, which is obviously different, and i was asking for more info on the Twisty side.

  40. another voice

    Don’t know how to track back, but I sputtered about the issue here http://troubledcorpuscles.blogspot.com/

  41. SoJo

    These comments have gone away from the Pakistani issue because I think everyone knows this torture and murder goes on every day and no one cares. And why should they? Women are just part of the scenery of the world. Thats why I think its important to talk about the femininity crap because you can’t expect anyone to care about the *death* of women if they don’t care about the *life* of women – because the real life of women is constrained by ‘femininity’.


  42. xochitl

    “These comments have gone away from the Pakistani issue because I think everyone knows this torture and murder goes on every day and no one cares.”

    No one cares because it is women from Islamic families who are being murdered. Talk about women and girls who are tortured and murdered by fathers and brothers for talking to boys on the internet or not wearing the right clothes and what is the response you get? Silence. Or unsubstantiated allegations that violence against girls and women is not worse in some countries or religious communities than in others, so who gives a shit? Or a defense of and plea for tolerance of right-wing cultural traditions because they are non-Western. The women themselves become invisible, because respecting other cultures means listening to the perspective of dominant, patriarchal forces within that culture. The perspectives of murdered women don’t matter. They are the ones who defied their community’s standards and were punished because of their defiance. They don’t represent their culture and therefore they don’t matter.

  43. Helen

    Blogged about this (and the fact it hasn’t been commented on in the mainstream media at all, as far as I can see) at my brand new blog http://www.sorryforthemess.com.

    Also, fellow patriarchy blamers, get a grip. Why are you bitching about fellow feminists’ beauty regimes/disapproval of your own precious and clearly enlightened beauty regime following this kind of post?

    Sense of perspective, y’all. Get one.

  44. Spiders

    I’m really tired of hearing that cliche, that rejecting femininity is pointless because you’ll be sexually harassed anyway.

    Great. You’re so hawt that your hawtness shines through regardless of what you’re wearing! Congratulations but I don’t want to hear it.
    Sexual harassment has NOTHING to do with sexual attraction. All women can experience harassment, abuse, assault and rape. It has nothing to do with what you look like. It’s about power.

    I don’t encourage women to reject the femininity crap because I think it will harassment/rape-proof them.

    I reject it, and I encourage other women to reject it because as it has already been said, it sends a big signal to men and to the patriarchy. It’s not because I’m too lazy to conform to fem-inanity or I don’t have time or whatever. It’s because I want to. I want to say “up your’s” to every guy I encounter and nothing says it better than not wearing the uniform.
    It’s difficult yeah because people don’t like it, but better to die on your feet than live on your knees, I say.

  45. Twisty

    Is it possible that some of you don’t know what I mean by “femininity”? Apparently it is assumed that I’m just talking about lipstick and hairdos. However, the concept of femininity extends to the full set of unique behaviors performed by the sex class to appease its oppressor, where failure to appease has unfavorable repercussions. Among these behaviors is the tendency of women to marry men, and particularly, as in the case to which I allude above, that women should be so submissive as to willingly become receptacles for whatever husband their fathers select.

    My position is that the construct recognized as “femininity” represents the dominant social order’s successful attempt to otherize an entire class of people for the purpose of oppressing them. Because feminization is among the first steps taken to socialize children, and because it is so readily accepted, deeply internalized, and staunchly defended, it is the primary foundation of patriarchy.

    Unlike the murdered Pakistani women, many Western women have privilege enough to repudiate femininity without suffering life-threatening consequences. My crazy idea is that they should if they can, because women cannot be liberated from men’s oppression until we are de-otherized.

  46. blue epiphany

    Gotta love the cultural relativism argument. But, it’s their culture! If we criticize their culture, we’re saying we’re better than them, and we’re not, we’re just different! Bullshit. And in making that argument, a person has to ignore the fact that our culture was not always willing to give women the (limited) freedoms we enjoy now. Rule of thumb, anyone? Cultures are not static; they change. And culture changes because people speak up.
    But hell, it’s just women, not something important like worker’s rights or the environment, where I’ve never heard “liberal” people argue for cultural relativism

  47. Silence

    Let us say you had twin children, a boy and a girl. They both did the same amount of work around the house, and got similar grades in school. You gave your son $10 a week allowance and your daughter $7.

    My guess is that your daughter would complain. Loudly. If she told her friends about the discrepancy, they would say she was being cheated. If the other mothers in your neighborhood heard about it, they would tell you that you were being unfair.

    And it would be unfair. And yet, that is exactly what women in America endure on a daily basis; 70 cents to a man’s dollar. Why are we not raising a similar stink? Why can we only see issues when they’re on a personal level? I’m not shaking my finger at anyone here; I do it too. I find it hard to wrap my head around the sheer horror of five women being tortured and buried alive in a global context, yet if a man in my neighborhood treated his daughter in such a way, I wouldn’t be able to sleep for a month.

    I suppose that’s why we keep talking about the smaller things, such as our personal appearance and what it means to society at large. It keeps the greater horrors at bay while still reminding ourselves that we actually care — and I’m sure we all do. It’s just how can you come to terms with the fact that men have the right to kill us if we don’t do what they want us to do? And that’s the bottom line. That’s why Zehri can get away with such an atrocious statement. The truth is that across the world, women are only allowed to live on men’s sufferance. Every day, I become more and more convinced that most of them, not all that goodness, would be happy if all of us died, so long as they could find a comparable fuck-substitute and incubator for their male children.

    And that’s why I hate commenting on the atrocities that Twisty posts. They’re scary. They remind me how fortunate I am to be an educated white woman in a safe niche of the world. They remind me how unfortunate I am to be a woman in a world that vies my kind as an afterthought, a creature one step below ‘true’ humanity, i.e. men.

    I don’t know how to get across the point that race, culture, and region doesn’t matter. Violence is done to women because they are women. Any crime against any women, committed solely on the basis of her gender, is, in some way, a crime against me and most people on this board. And the only thing I know to do to counter it is to write, to speak up when I come across crimes against women in public, and to consider what I wear and what message I put across with my words and my body. I’m not a politician. I’m not famous or wealthy, and I have no power in this world. I cannot stop the murder of my sisters in this country, let alone in countries across the sea. In so many ways, I am helpless. And so very, very angry.

    I blame the patriarchy. I blame the years of accumulated tradition that assures people that: ‘it must be this way.’ If the only thing I can do is reply: ‘why must things be this way?’ so be it. It’s a small act, but, I hope, not a futile one.

  48. AnnaArcturus

    Ok, since this seems like as good a place as any to ask: What do all you femininity baggers do about purses? I still carry one. It’s practical. The downside is that the Nigel always wants me to put HIS crap in it. And he appropriates my useful things, excepting the chapstick (I gave in and got it in a tinted version).

  49. Galloise Blonde

    For those of you looking for some action in this case: this story was brought to light by the Asian Human Rights Commission, and they have a campaign here–http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2008/2969/

    They also have an excellent mailing list.

  50. XtinaS


    I use a bag – some cheap over-the-shoulder satchel I got from god knows where.  I’ll be getting a messenger bag soon, because omg pockets.

    Your Nigel can perhaps get away with getting one as well, so that maybe he’ll keep his hand out of your property.

    (I am very touchy about people entering my space without permission.)

  51. XtinaS

    *AnnaArcturus, rather.  Curséd mornings.

  52. Robin

    I offer to carry my Nigel’s stuff (usually his Nintendo DS, which I gave him when I got a nicer one for myself) in my shoulder bag occasionally… but more often, he’ll carry my bag itself, with its several pounds of ADD-assuaging activities that I lug around for my own use inside. I think it comes out even. I guess my advice, if I have any, is to somehow get your Nigel to share the bag-carrying duty, unconcerned about other people’s perceptions of who should or should not be carrying a purse. Unfortunately, I don’t know how one trains a Nigel into that reasonable mode of thought; mine came in (with?) an unbelievable degree of blank-slatedness and unawareness of gendered expectations so I didn’t have to do or say anything to result in this.

    I should perhaps add that although he is happy to carry my bag for me when I request it, he does not see it as something he has a right to rummage in, etc. I’m not sure if that would drive me nuts, but I haven’t had to find out.

  53. other orange

    I carry a messenger bag (a flattish one, in a nice plain black, that fits notebooks and file folders.) My Nigel carries his own. Never the twain shall meet.

  54. Ron Sullivan

    On a teeny little practical note, pretty much a hemidemisemiquaver: If Nigel’s too butch and manly to carry his own damned manbag*, a sachet of lavender buds or rosebuds or whatever femmy scent you actually kinda like, tucked into your purse so as to scent up everything in it just a little, might motivate him to find another solution than “asking” you to schlep for him.

    *A little more than halfway down the page. Worth the trip.

  55. Spiders

    Other than a school bag on school days and a work bag on work days, both of which hold all the obvious stuff you would expect, I don’t bother with bags at all. Wallet, keys and phone all fit into various pockets.
    What else do we need to carry around?

  56. Cathy

    This is so evil. Pakistan, the USA’s supposed “ally in the War on Terror” is terrorizing its own women into submission. Thank you, Apostate, for bringing this to our attention, and thank you to Galloise Blonde, for the link to AHRC, so I could complain about it. I fear the recipients may toss it into the circular file, but we have to try. I’m filled with so much rage and despair that women are terrorized so men can continue to have obedient slaves, and to add insult to injury (and torture and death), barely an eyebrow is raised. Jirga has supposedly been outlawed, yet they cling to it like men to their “jewels.” In the Middle East, family honor equals keeping the females in their place.

    I want to say “up your’s” to every guy I encounter and nothing says it better than not wearing the uniform.

    Well put, Spiders.

  57. Lauredhel

    What else do we need to carry around?

    A large water bottle, in this climate. Sunscreen and SPF chapstick, and a hat. When I was pregnant or lactating, a snack or two. The book I used to always tote has been replaced by an iPod shuffle with audiobooks on it, which reduces the lugging a bit. Sometimes, something warmer or cooler to wear, and/or a raincoat or umbrella. Tissues or hanky (yay hayfever). Medication.

    When I had longer hair, a brush or comb and scrunchie. When accompanied by a baby, I needed lots of other stuff (nappies, change of clothes for him and me, EBM, and so on.) Some people need reading glasses.

    But I use a backpack, either small or large depending on how much I need to carry, not a purse.

  58. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    At the risk of sounding culturally ignorant, I bet these buttmunches take better care of their livestock than they do of their daughters. Not that there aren’t similar communities here in the good ol’ USA. I’m sure there are plenty of places where they’d just love to bring back the merry old tradition of stoning adulteresses.

    And when we live in a post-patriarchal society is the only time we’ll be able to not bag femininity. Until then, it’s simply too costly.

  59. PandanCat

    Major agreement with what Dana said. Also, let’s not forget that not all Pakistani women — or men — are just accepting this. One of my dearest friends from university was a visiting scholar from Pakistan. NCO in the army, teacher and researcher at a military academy, small-town born and bred, arranged marriage to the significantly younger cousin, the whole package. Unlikely as it sounds, he was (and still is) a vocal supporter of women’s rights. It appalls his family and village, but he carries out the same rites and festivities in honor of his daughters that are traditionally reserved for sons and vows to support any decision they want to make about their own lives. In his society, that’s revolutionary.

    Also worth noting is a mainstream (if fabulously old-school, productionwise) movie called Qaid (Prison). It tells the story of a rich young woman from the city (complete with her own jet ski and SUV) who falls for a reformed chauvinist pig. Her daddy stipulates that he must move in to her house (very unconventional) and he finally agrees. They get married, have a daughter and seem to be the perfect liberated, urbane family. (Being a South Asian movie, that part is told in a song and dance number.) They arrive home after a trip to the ice cream parlor and find a group of scary-macho tribal guys sitting in the living room. They inform the young man that his father is dying and that he needs to come back to take over the tribe. She can’t believe that this is happening — and is even more horrified when he agrees to go. Still, she has faith that he’ll change the tribe for the better.

    Well, before you know it, he’s lounging with dancing girls and mustachioed guys with AK-47s and she’s relegated to the zenana (women’s quarters) having all the accouterments of traditional femininity forced on her by the evil mother-in-law. Oh, and she discovers that he’s actually engaged to an elite tribal girl. The only people who have any sympathy for her are the three transwomen and one young woman who is in love with an ‘unsuitable’ nomadic shepherd lad. When the woman planning elopement is murdered by her family, the heroine ends up locked up in a shed and her daughter taken by the tribeswomen. The girl escapes, runs to the shed and, crying pitifully, tells her mother (through the heavy wooden door) about how the mother-in-law is trying to brainwash her about being a ‘proper woman’. The heroine is desperate to save herself and her daughter, and the transwomen come to the rescue. They free the mother, give the pair food and water and smuggle them out of the compound. When the men discover what’s happened, the transwomen confront them about their unjust customs and are summarily killed for their efforts.

    The city mother and child, unfortunately, get lost in the desert. Their water runs out. Far in the distance, she can see her father’s truck. On the other side, though, she sees the armed warparty led by her husband. The men on horseback catch up just before her father arrives and she knows that they’re going to kill her.

    But hey, turns out they were coming to say that they’ve realized the error of their ways — oh, and there’s the not-really-dead girl and her gypsy fiancee and hey, it’s all good! With brilliant low-budget abruptness, the film ends. The tribal women gained their rights, patriarchy was dismantled and everybody lived happily ever after.

    I don’t know how it was received in Pakistan, but the fact that a mainstream song/dance/fight/love/angst film was released with this kind of storyline has to count for /something/!

    I’m sorry for the obscenely long post. However, I feel it’s important to show that sick fellows like that senator don’t represent the only view in town, or that concern about these kind of issues aren’t solely the purview of insensitive white feminists!

    (Not to say that there’s not still an a**load of patriarchy to destroy.)

  60. PoMo

    In case you’re interested, the Asian Human Rights Commission has an online letter writing campaign for urgent appeals here.

  61. butterflywings

    People seem to have misunderstood my comment.

    “The entire concept that frilly skirts and nail polish are “feminine” as in “an attribute of being like a woman” as opposed to just being frilly skirts and nail polish, without gender categorization, is the problem.”

    That’s actually what I was saying.

    And I never mentioned frilly skirts. I rarely wear skirts at all.

    AK-LA, please re-read my comment.

    This is what I meant by “do what you feel like”, that nail polish or whatever isn’t inherently feminine. Similarly high heels were originally for men.

    People do want to adorn themselves. As long as there is no pressure to do so, why shouldn’t they?
    Would you object to men painting their nails, wearing heels, etc. and if so, why?

    The enemy is not nail polish, it’s that certain appearances and ways of behaving are ascribed to one gender or the other.

    And whose lip-liner and stilettos? I don’t wear either. I never said I was a girlie girl.

    That’s my point, right there. There is a thin line between that women should not feel compelled to enact grooming beyond a bare minimum if they don’t want to, and a kind of victim-blaming, seeing women who do comply with “feminine” as enforced by the patriarchy as mere “sexbots” who can’t possibly have a brain. The devaluing of anything seen as “feminine” is in fact misogyny.

  62. Joolya

    I think the thread gets derailed from the atrocities to the mundanities (is that a word?) because the horror of five women being shot and buried alive is almost too much to take in, especially for more-or-less comfortable American/Western people. What response do I have besides visceral rage and disgust at people half a world away? Not an excuse, but an explanation, maybe.
    I just got back from a trip which took me through Las Vegas and Southern California, which, to my Mid-Atlantic/New England brain was a huge mind-fuck of genderificness. I was also a bridesmaid. This involved very straight hair – which did look quite pretty – and a LOT of makeup. And gold strappy stiletto heels. But it’s okay, because the bride thoughtfully provided gold flip-flops for us to change into at the reception! ;) It was a cultural experience that I haven’t quite processed. And not in a small way ED-triggering. IBTP.
    What was my other slightly off-topic point? Oh yeah, Nigels, purses, and man bags. My own dear Nigel – in many ways a better feminist than me, to be fair – is in the habit of nicking my bags all the time. I tried to get him a manly-man bike-messenger satchel-type thing but he conveniently “lost” it somewhere and has resorted again to my H&M bag which is somewhere between purse and backpack in size and design. Just the right size and shape for wallet, keys, glasses, book, phone, and newspaper. (Except that he’s a full foot taller than me with twice as broad shoulders so it looks like one of those mini-backpacks of the late 90s on him.) My not-Nigel is undaunted by this, nor does he shy away from toting around my shiny little evening purse, and is very amused when frat boy types and waitresses giggle at it. That’s my Nigel. Sometimes he lets me put eyeliner on him, too, because it makes his eyes so pretty.

  63. Cathy

    This is so evil. Pakistan, the USA’s supposed “ally in the War on Terror” is terrorizing its own women into submission. Thank you, Apostate, for bringing this to our attention, and thank you to Galloise Blonde, for the link to AHRC, so I could complain about it. I fear the recipients may toss it into the circular file, but we have to try. I’m filled with so much rage and despair that women are terrorized so men can continue to have obedient slaves, and to add insult to injury (and torture and death), barely an eyebrow is raised. Jirga has supposedly been outlawed, yet they cling to it like men to their “jewels.” In the Middle East, family honor equals keeping the females in their place.

    I want to say “up your’s” to every guy I encounter and nothing says it better than not wearing the uniform.

    Well put, Spiders.

  64. Postmodern Man

    According to Germaine Greer Western men are worse than the Taliban so as such I regard burying and stoning them to death as being too humanitarian. I’m a postmodernist like Germaine – ‘its just a cultural right’.

  65. Kate


    I’m 46, I’ve got an education (Phd engineer), I’m not white, I have a 12 yr old daughter.
    I work on a mine site in Australia. I give everyone a chance (usually 6 months) I am totally fed up with the racism, sexism and general red neck stuff. That goes for the young women too I guess they didn’t take the red pill or read Germaine Greer.
    I get paid about 30% less than a man, doing the same job. When a man hands over to a woman, he reads out the list of handover information. When a woman hands over to a man in Australia, she prints out the list and he reads it back to her. OMG thanks for a little bit of Sanity on your site.

    Every day, I get up, smash the patriachy, then get on with running the plant. bless you for your touch of humor and not ignoring the hard issues, like women in Pakistan being murdered.

    I experimented with not plucking my eyebrows for a month and do you know what? It didn’t affect my competence at doing my job.


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