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Friday, November 11, 2005

MOTHER Africa

As some of you may know by now, today it was just about confirmed that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has beaten George Weah in the run-off election for President of Liberia making her the first female President in African history. Much ado has been made over this as a resounding win for women everywhere due to many things including the persistence of Sharia law in parts of Africa that allows women to be publicly stoned for sexual fornication as well as widespread sexual assault, rape, and abduction that occurs in relation to political and military conflicts around the continent. At this I point out the irony that for all of the lauding that the New York Times is doing on the fact that Johnson-Sirleaf is a woman leading a nation in Africa (a symbolic victory that has yet to bear policy fruit), they neglect the fact that this has never been done in the U.S. and many other "developed" nations. Africa's progressiveness regarding women in politics can be seen in numerous spheres. Even the NY Times recognizes:
The prime minister of Mozambique, LuĂ­sa Dias Diogo, is widely seen as a likely future president. In Rwanda, there is a greater proportion of women serving in Parliament than in any other nation; they occupy nearly half the seats. Indeed, Africa leads the developing world in the percentage of women in legislative positions, at about 16 percent, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization of parliamentary bodies worldwide.
Please stop characterizing Africa as this backwards continent so far behind the rest of the world and in need of Western ideological and financial salvaging. Have you not heeded O yet? Do so, please. Portugal and the Roman Catholic church beat you all to it hundreds of years ago.

5 Comments:

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Isaias Chaves said...

Yeah, the women in Liberia and the rest of Africa are doing just fine. Well, with the expection of so many thousands of them savagely beaten, raped, mutilated, stoned, and sold as sex slaves in civil wars. Women civilians always take the butt of civil wars, and Africa has had post independence more civil wars than all other continents combined in the whole of the twentieth century.

One cannot found a vision for the future in blithe, idle whitewashing of reality. i don't think it does Africa any good to deny its problems.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

I'm not saying the women in Africa are all hunky-dory. I quote, "the persistence of Sharia law in parts of Africa that allows women to be publicly stoned for sexual fornication as well as widespread sexual assault, rape, and abduction that occurs in relation to political and military conflicts around the continent". Nor am I denying Africa's difficulties with political stability.

Whitewashing of reality? What do you mean?

As exhibited above, I'm not denying Africa's problems.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:50 PM, Blogger Isaias Chaves said...

Yet there is an important contradiction in what you wrote:

"Please stop characterizing Africa as this backwards continent so far behind the rest of the world and in need of Western ideological and financial salvaging."

The way I see it, this statement undermines whatever description you might have made of Africa's problems because it implies,as I've written here before, that underdevelopment is merely a construct, some hokey-pokey made up thing created to oppress Africa. But if in fact those problems, that both you and I are aware of, are so brutally persistent and pervasive, then it cannot make sense to talk about "The West" "inventing" this. Not only is the condition of women in Africa, especially because of the persistence of civil war, objectively worse, but also, these oppressive conditions that women experience are in fact endemic to the continent. It seems you agree with my earlier statement that there is something specifically about African polities that makes civil war endemic on a scale above and beyond that of the rest of the world. If it is true that Africa has a recurring problem with civil war atrocities, then it makes no sense to use "the West" as a punching bag. And to the extent that you bring in this social construction with the same breath that you talk about the problems, you insinuate that these problems are not real, or at least not entirely so real. True, there is a lot of cosntruction of "otherness" onto Africa in Western media, but the bottom line is, the place is incredibly war torn. No warping of worldviews there.

As for the tone of my previous comment, it came across the wrong way because I was flippant and not really rigorous in my writing. This type of rhetoric,I should have known, helps no one. So i apologize. I hope this makes it clearer.

 
At 2:31 AM, Blogger O said...

I think the bigger point is to say that women all over the world have it tough, and that although Africa has been portrayed as the most "backwards" in terms of gender roles, African women are (and have) been strong political and economic forces.

and yes, let's use the West as a punching bag for African civil wars, because we're not going to whitewash history and the role of Western goverments and resource-extraction operations in starting, funding, and fueling conflicts in the DRC, Rwanda, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Mozambique. Not to mention the West's depletion and monetarization of many of Africa's natural resources that have led to these harsh conditions for men and women. Africans are very much to blame for all of this too, but let's not forget to give the West the punches it's earned.

Sexism operates in different ways in different places, and in many ways, I think, African women are empowered in ways that women in Europe and America are not.

Part of the problem is also that colonial regimes installed sexist European-style institutions and norms in African countries...


But this is not to say that traditional African societies can be sexist-they are as far as I know, but again they are different forms of sexism, not necessarily worse, not necessarily better.


Being a woman in a civil war is hard. Being a trophy wife in Manhattan stinks. Being a single mother in the projects is hard. Being a woman in an investment banking firm is hard. Being a Yoruba market woman is hard. Being a woman is hard.

 

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