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Dec 21 2008

Father of the year

Blamer Sofia was kind enough to depress the crap out of me this morning by sending along this repellent bit of news from Saudi Arabia. The gist: Creep runs low on dough, marries off 8-year-old daughter to another creep (aged 58) for a consideration of $8000. Mother of 8-year-old petitions for divorce, but it’s a non-starter. Court says mother doesn’t have legal standing to initiate divorce proceedings for someone other than herself, so kid stays married. Girl can, court rules, petition on her own behalf when she reaches puberty.

So: a kid can be sold into marriage at 8, no prob, but 8 is too young to be liberated from sex slavery? And how, I’d like to know, will the court determine that she has pubesced? DNA from her first tampon? Her subscription to Teen People? Armpit inspection?

According to the article, the kid is still living with her mother and has no idea that she has been auctioned off like a pork belly. She has her loving father to thank for that great kindness. This sterling example of human magnanimity apparently persuaded his daughter’s middle-aged purchaser to agree, via a “verbal contract,” not to take formal possession, i.e. rape her, until she’s 18. Man, when she finds out about this, no doubt she will shower him with “World’s Best Dad” coffee mugs.

I can’t get behind marriage of any kind, but arranged marriages really add that extra little whiff of crapulence to the whole kaleidoscope of misogyny. If a kaleidoscope may be said to possess whiffs.

36 comments

3 pings

  1. larkspur

    I mentioned this on another blog, but it’s about fathers and Saudis, and I want to share, damnit, because it’s also about our beloved media and their adorable sense of whimsy.

    Early this morning I heard a little bit by Brian Banmiller, who’s a business commentator on CBS radio. (Don’t know if he’s national or local to SF Bay Area.) He did this short riff with an Odd But True spin on it. He was all bright and droll, and said something like, “Hey, you know that guy who threw the shoes at the president? Well, who knew he could get married on account of it!” (Cue commercial.) Turns out that this very funny story Brian had to tell us was that a Saudi prince, so overwhelmed with admiration for the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist’s courage, has generously offered up his 20 year old daughter as a reward.

    The segment was short and stupid and this is the patriarchy, so it was irrational of me to anticipate any reference to the fact that the journalist is (I believe) still in custody and getting beat up, and that humans, even women-type humans, really oughtn’t to be traded as goods and/or services, even in Saudi Arabia. (And even if they’re 20 and not 8.) But that was it, the end, such a cute story about quaint customs and that wacky Middle East.

    But shouldn’t Banmiller know by now that this story is neither heart-warming, wacky, or cute? I mean, I’m sure he knows that a story about a lynching that, say, praises the picnickers’ potato salad, would be kinda totally horrific, right? It wouldn’t used to have been, but it is now. Most radio guys even know enough not to make on-the-air rape jokes any more. Feh. What’ll it take?

  2. nolabelfits

    How freakin’ awful. I wish I had something insightful to add but I can’t top Twisty….I just found this blog and have spent the last three days reading archives and unashamedly drinking.

  3. Ron Sullivan

    Tampon??? Why, Twisty, I’m surprised at you! Don’t you know tampons can spoil one’s invaluable Virginity(tm)? I’m sure they’re de trop in Saudi Arabia.

    I think I’ll go kill some more mealybugs now that I’m in the mood.

  4. denelian

    the saddest part is that this story is COMMON.

    i really really really hate shit like this.

  5. incognotter

    Speechless.

  6. Amalthea

    Yes indeed, that was a depressing bit of news. The world is a sad place.

    But sometimes there is happiness to be uncovered. I just wanted to say I recently discovered this gem of a blog via my addiction, Feminist Philosophers. Because I am at the house of my parents instead of at university due to the winter holidays, I’ve had a lot of time to cruise through some of the archives here, and read opposing viewpoints from some other blogs in regards to material found here. In doing so I had an interesting thought… (well, I think it’s interesting; you all may very well have different opinions!)

    It is not always easy to read the content here. The material is difficult to face; that patriarchy is all pervasive, that we all participate in it in some way or another and therefore promote it, and that avoidance of unnecessary promotion would require us to – gee, here’s the zinger – radically change? Change is often a struggle, especially when it is in regards to things that are close to our cultural heart, such as dietary habits, holiday celebrations, recreational activity, etc. We often become offended when confronted with information that makes us feel guilty – I know I do – and though I might rationally follow an argument, I irrationally still cling to beliefs/desires/whatever because damnit, I like to have a Thanksgiving feast / wear lipstick / whatever.

    But I think when disagreements are reached, and they are so fundamental to our persons that no accord will be found, it is then MOST important to press forward in trying to understand the opposing side. Reject it if you must, but by forcing ourselves to confront it, we can only being doing ourselves a favor. I think that when I have read people criticizing this blog, its author, and its fans, they have failed to recognize the value in analyzing what it is precisely which frightens, angers, or otherwise vexes them about this blog. Or heck, radical feminism in general…

    So mostly I’d like to say that I don’t jive with everything here, but I still really dig this blog, think it’s a pleasure to read, and look forward to more thought-provoking insight.

    If you ever feel beaten down by the jerkfaces on the blogosphere, know that you’ve got people rooting you on, too :)

  7. virago

    An adult woman does not have the right to file for divorce on behalf of her 8 year old daughter, but the 8 year old daughter can file for her own divorce when she reaches puberty when she was too young to consent to the marriagte in the first place? WTF? However, dad can do whatever he wants no matter how old the girl? The sad thing is that the girl will probably petition the courts for a divorce when she reaches puberty, but the courts will probably deny it because it goes against her father’s wishes. This is horrifying enough, but what it’s even worse that a 58 year old man can legally rape a little girl because she is his “wife”. This makes me sick to my stomach. The girl is lucky that she has a mother who at least tried to fight for her daughter. The fact that the mother had physical custody is unusual because a lot of women end up losing custody to the father, and he dumps the kids on a second wife or whatever. The U.S. is starting to see this trend a lot. Anyway, I hope the father doesn’t try to take custody of the girl from the mother in some kind of revenge or something. IBTP.

  8. Jeni

    Yuck.

  9. tinfoile hattie

    In most of this world, women have such horrific lives it makes life in the western world seem like a picnic for women. It’s hideous. I’m so sickened when I really contemplate how women and (girl) children are just one more piece of property to be sold, bargained over, tortured, abused, and mutilated. I can no longer “choose” to not see the world for what it is, thanks in large part to this blog.

    Ugh, ugh, ugh.

  10. ellecain

    In our newspapers it says the man giving his daughter to the Iraqi journalist is some rich Egyptian dude (and I think they said she was 18). It’s possible that more than one patriach has hit upon the brilliant idea of “gifting” his daughter to an unknown man in a foreign country.

    Either way, it’s disgusting.

    What does the father get in in return? Reflected glory? Wouldn’t it be better to just throw your own shoes at the President?

  11. speedbudget

    Ellecain, the guy giving his daughter away gets rid of her. That’s what he gets. Sheesh.

  12. Maggie

    It is hard to imagine the lives of these women, but then again, domestic violence comes just as easy to Western civilisations as Eastern. On the whole though 8 year olds are safe from marriage to an old git.

  13. CassieC

    Dear Blameatariat,

    this story reminded me of another classic from Spain in the late 1980s or early 1990s. A girl had been raped by her uncle from the age of 8 onwards, at 14 she became pregnant and sought an abortion with her parents’ support. The issue went to the courts because of her age – it wasn’t clear if someone so young could legally agree to an abortion under the restrictive conditions in Spain at the time. The Spanish courts decided that the girl was too young to agree to an abortion at 14, but had been old enough to consent to the rapes of her uncle at 8.

    For me, that was a big ah-a! moment in my understanding of the catch 22 used by oppressive structures. On the one hand the victim has agency, since it’s the victim’s own fault for being coerced into a horrific situation, on the other hand if the victim tries to get out, her agency is denied. This kind of logic is used on women, poor people, queer people, children, immigrants, etc all over the world.

  14. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I’m glad this wasn’t an option when I was 8. My dad would’ve taken $8K for me in about half a heartbeat.

  15. Amananta

    Having grown up in America and lived here my entire life, I can say I’m not impressed with how much kinder and gentler toward women our society supposedly is. The term “shotgun wedding” exists for a reason, you know. And I do personally know girls who were, as young teens, married off to older men who’d impregnated (and therefore raped) them. There is a legal age of marriage in most US states but a judge can, in almost all cases, allow someone younger than that to marry. Theoretically the girls didn’t have to “consent” – but if told “you will marry or we will throw you out”, what kind of “consent” is possible?

  16. Thealogian

    This is horrorific, agreed.

    First I wanted to thank the commenters thus far for not going off on some “Islam is more misogynistic than my religion that worships a white dude in the sky who rapes virgins.”

    Second, I wanted to acknowledge that this case exemplifies the way consent/age laws and parental rights are used against the human rights of children. If this had been a girl who was prostituted by her father in a Southern state (my own, KY) for example, and she wanted to get an abortion that same father/mother could deny her that right–BECAUSE THEY OWN HER.

    Of course, in this case, the country in question denies mothers ownership rights over their children–therefore she could not pursue divorce for her 8 year old daughter. The laws as well as the practices are particularly patriarchal in nature.

    Our laws may be less patriarchal, but our practices in many cases still are. A father can give permission for his underage daughter to be married (sell her off, as it were) and the mother can object, yet only one parent is necessary for a 58 year old man to marry a 14 (at least in West Virginia and Hawaii). 14 and 8 are a significant age difference, only in that puberty has probably struck, but still–it could happen. If your father needed to settle a bet and he allowed a 58 year old man to “date” his daughter and marry her, maybe she might give her consent, but it will be a consent based out of an abusive and dysfunctional home in which women are property.

    Though we do have better laws than we used to and much better than Saudi Arabia, we need our practices to catch up.

  17. D

    This is apparently a common way for fathers in parts of the Middle East to settle their debts. There were more than a few articles run about men in Pakistan and Afghanistan who have sold their daughters (pre-, peri- and post-pubescent) because the only other alternative was that they themselves be punished for their unpaid debts. The ones that were interviewed sniveled on about how heartbroken they were, but said that that selling their daughters really was their only alternative.

    A little more love here:
    This morning’s Washington Post ran a letter about young girls in Afghanistan being attacked while walking to school – men on motorcycles are spraying their faces with battery acid shot from water pistols.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/21/AR2008122101447.html

    And still our government rants on about terrorism.

  18. Puffin

    Were this creep American and had he had access to some computer equipment, he might have opted to just raise the cash by photographing her doing cartwheels in pink underwear and giving her her own modeling website. Exact same thing, just culturally relevant.

  19. orlando

    At the risk of sounding as if I’m objecting to the placement of the deck chairs on the Titanic, could we please use the term forced marriage rather than arranged marriage? There are cultures that use arranged marriage without it involving rape, child abuse or selling anybody, and where adult, uncoerced consent is not treated as an optional extra.

  20. ElizaN

    What timing! I was cpopping on to rant about the ad for engagement rings I just came across. It wastes half a page going on about how great their diamonds are, and concludes, “There’s no better way to tell the world, ‘She’s taken.’” All cultures treat us as chattel, the difference is in how we’re reminded of it.

  21. yttik

    Puffin hit the nail on the head.

  22. Ciccina

    @ Thealogian –

    I believe this is the real reason – or one of the real reasons – why the United States is one of only two countries in the world that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the age of consent for marriage in many of states is too low to meet the international standard. The other country that has not ratified is Somalia.

    Of course, simply ratifying hasn’t stopped child marriage, but it would be nice if we could at least act like we give a sh-t.

  23. speedbudget

    We can’t even get it together in this country to declare that adult women are worthy of civil rights. How can we expect the country to tackle children?

  24. Cathy

    Fathers shouldn’t own, much less sell off their children. The nuclear family is a perfect vehicle for continuing the tradition of male ownership of women and children. Meanwhile, not far off in Nepal, they’re selling daughters for far less money:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/111358/virginity_for_sale:_the_dark_world_of_forced_teen_prostitution/

    (sorry, I forgot how to post a link)
    Whenever AlterNet pasts an article about pricks, the liberal dewds feel compelled to defend patriarchy, so read comments at your own risk.

    I’m confused about the concept of dowry – I had thought the dowry was the sum the bride’s parents paid to the groom to take the burdensome female off their hands, and that insufficient dowry was a common excuse for setting the bride on fire (“kitchen accidents”) in India. Here, it is being used as a purchase price for said livestock. Can someone clarify?

  25. Bird

    In this case, the sum of money is more accurately referred to as a bride price. Of course, despite (or perhaps because of) its accuracy, that term makes me sick.

  26. larkspur

    Cathy, I’m far from an expert, but I think we can draw a distinction here between dowries, which occur in the context of a socially sanctioned event (which can be nonetheless hugely problematic for the women and girls involved, at least as brides, because, oh yes, the patriarchy? We’re soaking in it). A marriage like this could happen in a way that is respectful of the bride: for example, if it truly is agreeable to both bride and groom; if the dowry is regarded as primarily ceremonial; and if married life for the man and woman is regarded as more of a partnership, which I think does happen, and quite often, in modern Indian life. (U.S. hetero weddings often involve the father “giving away” the bride, but it’s not taken literally.)

    But the other stuff: women and girls are being used as currency. I’ve only read about Afghanistan, but it is apparently common and traditional to hand off girls to (as has been said) settle debts, broker truces between clans, enhance the father’s standing in the community, and so on. The outcome may involve marriage, but that’s not the primary goal. I also understand that this is happening more and more in Southeast Asia, and that there is a link between this and the fact that the PRC’s bloody one-child decree has produced millions of young men and boys whose potential brides didn’t survive birth or infancy. So, there’s a market.

    Honest to Stanley, I get what people are saying about the differences in our societies being one of degree, not kind. But that factor is monumental. I mean, it’s true that not all women and girls in this country whose lives are being threatened have the means to run away. And if you’ve been mistreated long enough, you may not even be able to get your mind around the concept of leaving. But if you could, there are safe places to run to. I mean, I don’t want to go hungry, but if I had to, I’d rather be hungry in a country where there’s food around that I can steal. In places like Darfur, where do you go?

    In Afghanistan, who helps? Individual courageous Afghan women, at great personal risk, do the best they can. But – and here’s the unifying theme – their struggle isn’t high on the To-Do list of the occupying army.

  27. Twisty

    Nice blamin’, larkspur.

  28. Twisty

    orlando: “At the risk of sounding as if I’m objecting to the placement of the deck chairs on the Titanic, could we please use the term forced marriage rather than arranged marriage? There are cultures that use arranged marriage without it involving rape, child abuse or selling anybody, and where adult, uncoerced consent is not treated as an optional extra.”

    I feel ya, orlando, and the distinction is noted. But all marriage scenarios, whether voluntary, arranged, or forced, blip very close together my Blame-O-Meter.

  29. Dan

    puffin, that’s a pretty big leap. there may be creepy child-modeling agencies in america, but that simply does not compare to a real life sexual/romantic relationship between a grown man and a small child. in america, that relationship would be met with violent condemnation from society and great legal rammifications for the “husband”. i hate to sound close-minded, but cultural relativism too often prevents some westerners from acknowledging the grave flaws of others cultures. Saudis- don’t bang kids.

  30. denelian

    i have to wonder…
    is pedophilia a much more common problem than i thought? because this who “selling of girl-children into marriage” is very common. also, the fact that the current “standards of beauty”, at least in MSM, are women who are so thin that they have no curves and can look prepubesent. is this a Thing? is pedophilia THAT common?

  31. slythwolf

    Dan, we’re not talking about a relationship between a grown man and a small child. We’re talking about a child being sold to a grown man, to be delivered when she’s an adult.

  32. Mau de Katt

    But… but… but…! We all KNOW that for the last FIVE THOUSAND YEARS that ALL cultures and ALL religions have defined marriage as between one MAN and one WOMAN! Why, we don’t apPROVE of relationships between an adult and a child being called MARRIAGE!!! NO one does THAT!!! After all, this is why two gay or lesbian people CAN’T GET MARRIED!! It just isn’t DONE, I tell you!!!!

    /heavy snark mode off

  33. Mau de Katt

    (note: just in case anyone might misunderstand my meaning, I am NOT comparing marriage between two consenting homosexual adults to the forced “marriage” and rape of a small child. I am instead snarking on the absurdity of the claims being made and reasons being given to deny marriage to those consenting adults.

    Hypocrisy and lies — stock in trade for The Patriarchy.)

  34. speedbudget

    In many western countries, my understanding was that a dowry was a form of insurance for the wife. It was supposed to be her money in case the husband decided to kick her out and get a new model. Cold comfort, but there it is.

    Which is different from a bride price, which is paid to the father for the pleasure of selling his daughter to the new dewd.

  35. thebewilderness

    Dear denelian,
    Yes.

  36. Vanessa

    I feel sick to my stomach.

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