week 14

sociologygender
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A world that is truly human
A world that is truly human
In this last unit of class, our topic is a broad one: how to envision and work towards a world that is truly
human. Disch reminds us in her introduction to this section of one of the ideas of an early women’s
movement: “feminism is the radical notion that women are human” (628). While this may seem
self-evident to us today, we should remember that the idea of what is human (particularly in the Western
world) has long been based on a white patriarchal standard, and that inequalities between men and
women continue to exist throughout the world.
Hopefully, we have learned throughout the semester about the multiple and intersecting forms of privilege
and oppression that have and continue to divide societies. To recall one of our early class units—it’s
never just about gender, since each of us experiences various combinations of privilege and oppression
based on social factors like race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, etc. Understanding the ways in which we differ
is crucial for broadening our perspectives beyond our own identities and experiences, creating empathy
for others different from ourselves, and analyzing the systematic workings of power and oppression.
Envisioning and working towards a more human—and more humane—world means to build coalitions
across differences with the common goal of social justice.
“Tapping Our Strength” by Eisa Nefertari Ulen
1) “Tapping Our Strength” by Eisa Nefertari Ulen
In this last unit of class, our topic is a broad one: how to envision and work towards a world that is truly
human. Disch reminds us in her introduction to this section of one of the ideas of an early women’s
movement: “feminism is the radical notion that women are human” (628). While this may seem
self-evident to us today, we should remember that the idea of what is human (particularly in the Western
world) has long been based on a white male standard, and that inequalities between men and women
continue to exist throughout the world.
Hopefully, we have learned throughout the semester about the multiple and intersecting forms of privilege
and oppression that have and continue to divide societies. To recall one of our early class units—it’s
never just about gender, since each of us experiences various combinations of privilege and oppression
based on social factors like race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, etc. Understanding the ways in which we differ
is crucial for broadening our perspectives beyond our own identities and experiences, creating empathy
for others different from ourselves, and analyzing the systematic workings of power and oppression.
Envisioning and working towards a more human—and more humane—world means to build coalitions
across differences with the common goal of social justice.
Building broad-based coalitions between Muslim and non-Muslim feminists is what Eisa Nefertari Ulen
advocates in “Tapping Our Strength.” I have replaced our other readings with Ulen’s essay this week
given its timeliness with respect to current events. Ulen brings up the issue of hijab—Muslim women
wearing head scarves to cover their hair—which has been subject to much debate in the Western world.
Some non-Muslim feminists view the hijab as a sign of Muslim women’s submissiveness and oppression
and advocate for unveiling as a form of liberation. Ulen, however, argues that such views are intolerant of
religious difference and contends that Western women subject themselves to various kinds of pain and
body modification in order to conform to patriarchal standards (e.g. cosmetic surgery, eating disorders,
uncomfortable hypersexual clothing). “To me,” Ulen writes, “American Muslim women who choose to
cover undeniably act out real life resistance to the hyper-sexualization of women and girls in the West”
(646). At the same time, Ulen criticizes her Muslim sisters who deride Western feminism as a “secular
evil.” Instead, what is needed in her opinion is a recognition that the similarities between the oppression of
both Muslim and non-Muslim women outweighs the different ways in which they are manifested. Ulen
https://umb.umassonline.net/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_46663_1&content_id=_1884938_1#
https://umb.umassonline.net/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_46663_1&content_id=_1884938_1#
asserts that she can be both a feminist working for social justice and a devout Muslim who believes in the
peaceful and egalitarian aspects of her faith.
Question-
A world that is truly human
In this last unit of class, our topic is a broad one: how to envision and work towards a world that is truly
human. Disch reminds us in her introduction to this section of one of the ideas of an early women’s
movement: “feminism is the radical notion that women are human” (628). While this may seem
self-evident to us today, we should remember that the idea of what is human (particularly in the Western
world) has long been based on a Western patriarchal standard, and that inequalities of various kinds
between men, women, and intersex and non-binary people continue to exist throughout the world.
Moreover, in light of the recent news of the leaked draft majority opinion of U.S. Supreme Court in favor of
overturning Roe v. Wade (the landmark 1973 court decision that protected a pregnant woman’s right to
have an abortion without excessive government restriction), many people are worried that a woman’s
right to choose what to do with her own body and health may be under threat. If the Supreme Court does
indeed overturn Roe v. Wade, then individual states can make their own laws about abortion. So far this
year, 31 states have already introduced abortion restrictions, and a SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v.
Wade would enact “trigger bans” in some states–meaning that abortions would be made illegal afterward.
These developments are very discouraging for people who believe that abortion is a fundamental human
right and deeply personal decision, as well as for the feminists who have advocated and fought for a
woman’s right to choose. Can we live in a world that is truly human if abortion is banned?
Hopefully, we have learned throughout the semester about the multiple and intersecting forms of privilege
and oppression that have and continue to divide societies. Even though Massachusetts abortion laws
may not be affected by the SCOTUS decision, abortion bans in other states will disproportionately affect
poor and low-income people, under-age and single pregnant women, and people of color who have less
resources and capacity to get adequate health care and travel to states where abortion is legal. To recall
one of our early class units—it’s never just about gender, since each of us experiences various
combinations of privilege and oppression based on social factors like race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, etc.
Understanding the ways in which we differ is crucial for broadening our perspectives beyond our own
identities and experiences, creating empathy for others different from ourselves, and analyzing the
systematic workings of power and oppression. Envisioning and working towards a more human—and
more humane—world means to build coalitions across differences with the common goal of social justice.
What are your thoughts on the aforementioned ideas?
2-
“Tapping Our Strength” – Eisa Nefertari Ulen
Building broad-based coalitions between Muslim and non-Muslim feminists is what Eisa Nefertari Ulen
advocates in “Tapping Our Strength.” Ulen brings up the issue of hijab—Muslim women wearing head
scarves to cover their hair—which has been subject to much debate in the Western world. Some
non-Muslim feminists view the hijab as a sign of Muslim women’s submissiveness and oppression and
advocate for unveiling as a form of liberation. Ulen, however, argues that such views are intolerant of
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/read-justice-alito-initial-abortion-opinion-overturn-roe-v-wade-pdf-00029504
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade

religious difference and contends that Western women subject themselves to various kinds of pain and
body modification in order to conform to patriarchal standards (e.g. cosmetic surgery, eating disorders,
uncomfortable hypersexual clothing).
“To me,” Ulen writes, “American Muslim women who choose to cover undeniably act out real life
resistance to the hyper-sexualization of women and girls in the West” (646). At the same time, Ulen
criticizes her Muslim sisters who deride Western feminism as a “secular evil.” Instead, what is needed in
her opinion is a recognition that the similarities between the oppression of both Muslim and non-Muslim
women outweighs the different ways in which they are manifested. Ulen asserts that she can be both a
feminist working for social justice and a devout Muslim who believes in the peaceful and egalitarian
aspects of her faith.
Do you agree with Ulen’s argument about hijab or do you believe that it is a sign of Muslim women’s
oppression? What do you think about her suggestion that non-Muslim and Muslim feminists build
coalitions based on the similarities in their oppression as women rather than focusing on their
differences?

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