Making visible gender inequities in the accessibility, acquisition, and transmission of knowledge is essential to breaking ceilings and barriers that prevent women from full participation. This is especially critical in religion, an area in which Patriarchy has bashed women in a systematic, deliberate and cumulative way throughout history.
The current dominant discourses about Muslim women: idealization (sustained by religious patriarchy) and demonization (which corresponds to a Western vision) universalize their own particular way of seeing reality through privilege and representation of female otherness and don´t give women a voice or the chance to declare an epistemic space, meaning a symbolic place of discussion where our experiences with knowledge are relevant.
This is why initiatives like “Not More All Male Panels” and other similar are important. Who dominates knowledge, manages explanations and represents reality is important. If women are excluded, then it is as if women do not exist. The inclusion of women in knowledge serves two purposes: one is simply our presence in instances where knowledge is produced; the other, which my reflection is about, concerns appropriation of knowledge and spaces via movement building.
Panels, Ceilings and Walls
A few weeks ago I participated in a panel to discuss women and feminism in religion. One of my peers spoke to me about the perception of Islamic Feminism. To paraphrase my fellow panelist:
In Islamic Feminism, your voice is ignored and disposable, because you lack all of what gives one authority in that field– You are a Latina, living in the South, with no formal education in Islam. You have no Arab/Asian name and you speaks Spanish. In a Feminist world that should be Intersectional and Decolonial by definition, you’re a woman racialized in contrast with you peers. If not, tell me in how many lists of Muslims Feminist your name is written.
That was hard to hear, but led me to think that the struggle against our lack of presence in matters of knowledge has not only to do with visibility, but also with access and representation. In this sense, I wonder: who is in charge of knowledge in Islamic Feminism? What are the possibilities for any Muslim woman to become a scholar? This is still something only privileged women seem to be able to do. Continue reading “All Male Panels and Feminist Movement Building by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”