The Western Ideal and the Eastern Ordeal



A Feminist critique on western political ideologies and agendas. An illumination of the brummagem eminence of Capitalism, and a candid look at the required exploitation and extortion that buttress it.

The East has never signed the West’s Social Contract, nor does she recognize his lewd colonization as chivalry; neither does she understand his native tongue, which she berates, for its contrary use of labels. The disparity of the global perspective between the East and the West oppose one another due to the West’s practice of imposing post-colonial theory; act of instrumentalizing Orientalism to form an arrogant Nationalism; methods of degrading oriental culture through intrusive classification. The brute secularism of the West does not recognize, nor care to respect, the modest tradition of Islamic and Arabic cultures, thus, creating a circumventing problem between us and them. Western discourse casts the East as immoral and indigenous when describing Orientalism to buttress the western Nationalists’ ego and oppress the eastern Nationalist. By default, western feminists and queer theorists blindly incite Muslim women and gay men to disengage from customs because of the West’s consideration for science and reason as omnipotent.

Should western women allege to the fault of the West’s childish colonial wishes for their historical position as the domestic housewife, and does that actually make her the imperial offender? In other words, if the West’s unlimited desires are purely conventional, did the western mother spoil the child’s self-interest, in turn, fueling his recognition to reason entirely for his self-interest? In an attempt to answer these questions, I point to Saba Mahmood’s, Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival, where she delineates the various modes of existence, like the Egyptian women of Cairo, and how the West consistently exasperates Islam through nuances made of loose secular analysis (Mahmood 224). In fact, Mahmood demonstrates throughout history how women declared their agency by conventional resistance. For example, in the 1970s, the means for a white middle class feminist to disassemble the nuclear family led to the ends of her self-fulfillment (Mahmood 208). Certainly the western white feminist did not corrupt a child on her own, in fact, the western father initiated the child to identify with the narcissistic western patriotism. However, although the western white feminist feels she emancipated herself from the subservience of her domesticated role, western feminist discourse very well imitates her master by racializing and homogenizing western feminist discourse. Furthermore, the West taught his child that separation is inevitable, further justifying the child’s need for separation for understanding the self in an isolated conscious of verbose dualisms involving the oppression of the other. In addition, the means for a white middle class feminist to disassemble the nuclear family for the ends of her self-fulfillment did not correspond to the modes of existence of Native or African American feminists (Mahmood 208).

Although intersectional feminism has brought about awareness for the inclusion of Native and African Americans on the domestic front, western feminism remains wrapped in post-colonial theory. In Chandra Mohanty’s, Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses, she indicates western feminists’ construction of a third-world woman. The image of the oppressed third world woman promotes a distinction between us and them, which creates the colonial desire in western feminists to spread the hegemony of western scholarship (Mohanty 62-64). Mohanty describes western feminist writing in the U.S. as “still marginalized,” yet, the writings carry “explanatory potential” for a “political effect” on third-world women; “one such significant effect of the dominant ‘representations’ of western feminism is its conflation with imperialism in the eyes of particular third-world women” (Mohanty 64). On the issue of a conflated idea of the West, why would western feminism distort an image of the third-world woman based on the East’s tradition of religious practices? If the accomplishments of feminism have distinguished the personal as the political through an accentuated coherence of fractured self identities, why is western feminism denying the diverse modes of existence? “One of the problems that attends discussions of Islamist movements is that any situated analysis is necessarily seen by many secularists (radicals and liberals alike);” the westernization of religious critique creates the whole of the conflated western image (Mahmood 224). Likewise, the western feminist is lost as a failed copy of the West in her attempt to perform in opposition to western patriarchal power; “although [the paradox of subjectivation] does not foreclose the possibility of agency, it does locate agency as a reiterative or rearticulatory practice, immanent to power, and not a relation of external opposition to power” (qtd. in Mahmood 211).

The looming hegemony of western scholarship acts as if Liberalism’s sense of Individualism scientifically mastered the approach to self-actualization. The West’s secularism discounts all religious methods toward self-realization, with the exception of Christian Protestantism (Mahmood 207). In comparison to religion, Liberalism teaches individuals that self-actualization comes from the awareness of one’s pure self-interest. Little do liberals realize that this false consciousness leads to the continuity of the master-slave model for the own benefit of the privileged liberal. When considering the modes of existence, the Egyptian women’s mosque movement was clearly a defensive act in disrupting the implementation of Western materialism. To draw concise descriptions of the Islamic dress code, I steer to Fadwa El Guindi’s Veiling Resistance. First of all, Islamic dress code and behavioral code goes for both Muslim men and women. The Islamic concept for modesty restricts Muslim men from gazing at women by a conservative code of ethics. Muslim men must follow the behavioral code supported by al-Nur and al-Ahzab, specific sections in the Qur’an, which entails Muslim men to lower their gaze and cover their genitals out of respect towards women by suppressing their forward passion (El Guindi 56). Although the public flaunting of sexuality qualifies as immoral in the Muslim faith, the Islamic image of a woman combines sexual appeal and respectability (El Guindi 57). Moreover, the dress code demands both men and women to conceal the body contours with loose-fit clothing to prevent an adverse arrogance (El Guindi 57).

Prevalent conflicts have arisen from westernization in the East. The distress caused by the West’s imposition of the Shah in Iran led to the Islamic revolution to reinforce the tradition of the dress code. To illustrate the East’s reaction to the incitement of western discourse, “forced unveiling of women in Iran [is comparable to] the shock that Westerners would experience if women of all ages were forced to go topless in public” (qtd. in El Guindi 54). Egyptian women, Muslim and Christian alike, reasserted their freedom and women’s rights by taking back their Egyptianness from colonials’ intervention. By calling the Egyptians “natives,” colonialists branded Egyptians as a nationless race (El Guindi 60). However, some Egyptian men assisted British colonization, like Qasim Amin, who ironically incited a failed mimicry of feminism in Arab culture; “unlike women’s organized feminism, the veil was central to men’s ‘feminist’ discourse” (El Guindi 61). In Amin’s own disdain for his culture, he idealized western hegemony and absolved his self-interest with that of colonials:

The essence of [Amin’s book] and the message I wish to impart to all men… is the special relationship between a man and his mother… it is impossible to produce successful men without mothers capable of enabling them to be successful (qtd. in El Guindi 62).

Amin’s conflated idea of the West projects the eastern man’s growing incitement for patriarchal superiority and denied dependency on women. On the other hand, the eastern nationalists’ rejection of colonization domesticates their women by forcing the veil, creating “two muddled versions of domesticity, a Western female domesticity versus an indigenous man’s vision of female domesticity” (El Guindi 63). The eastern woman’s turmoil starts with domesticated means where she is expected to mold to the eastern man’s torn dual perspective of feminine acquiescence.

            Originally, unveiling was not a feminist initiative since urban women had started lifting the raf’ al-higab before secular feminists lifted the customary burqu’ (El Guindi 63). However, Huda Sha’rawi shocked the Muslim community when she lifted her face cover during her speech at a feminist conference in Rome, yet she never lifted the lawful hijab (El Guindi 63-64). Sha’rawi broke her own conventions from her individual self-actualization, yet she still had western influence. Christian missionary influence has provoked Muslim women to unveil since around 1907, arguably before western feminist encouragement (El Guindi 62). The prevalence of the West’s suggestion to unveil has manifested efficaciously from the addition of western universal feminism to the consolidation of a homogenized western image.

The latest western imposition for universal gay rights has burdened the East with more humanist arguments dealing with natural rights. Institutions such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) assumed the same imitation of western missionary discourse. In Joseph Massad’s Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World, he explains the IGLHRC mission “[is to] protect and advance the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status” (qtd. in Massad 362). Massad makes aware the complete disaster of misapprehension between the West and the East when it comes to the West’s pressing demand for classification. In the West’s confusion towards ‘straight’ Arab and Iranian men who practice same-sex actions, there is a surfacing western gay interest in dominating the supposed ‘closet gays.’ Massad displays the stir in western gay dominion interest through John Boswell’s accounts of romanticizing eastern culture as gay: “most Muslim societies have treated homosexuality with indifference, if not admiration” (qtd. in Massad 365). However, even when Boswell’s western romanticized idea of the East was criticized for not recognizing that ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ are not terms in the Arabic language, orientalist scholars’ still marked Muslim subjects as objects through ahistoricism (Massad 366). In fact, the relevant ahistoricism in western scholarship continues to mistranslate modern eastern behavior due to orientalist scholars use of medieval texts (Massad 367-368).

Western feminists and queer theorists struggle for power and recognition in their failed imitation of spreading hegemonic western scholarship. The Gay International discourse supports itself off the support, but mostly opposition, of western and eastern nationalists:

In a world where no one questions the identification of gayness, gay epistemology and ontology can institute themselves safely. The Gay International’s fight is therefore not an epistemological one but rather a simple political struggle where the world is divided between the supporters and opponents of gay rights (Massad 374).

As a result of Westernization, the Arabic language has altered by adding terms in order for Muslim identities to be fractured like that of the West. From the addition of Arabic vernacular, “western ideologies of hostility, like homophobia,” poses new threats to Muslims that seem homosexual, or for Muslims that falsely identify as something they are not (Massad369). Not only have Muslims attitudes changed towards homosexual activity, but because of Western Christian missionary intervention, women’s rights to birth control and abortion have digressed (Massad 371). The viral dominance of the West’s views on Human Rights causes more tension between the East and the West, and westernization forces the East to recoil in violation; “by inciting discourse about homosexuals where none existed before, the Gay International is in fact heterosexualizing a world that is being forced to be fixed by a Western binary” (Massad 383). The failed impression of the master found in western feminist discourse burdens women and gays even more on their domestic front with the unrelenting egocentric nationalism in the United States.

            In Terrorist Assemblages, Jasbir Puar dissects the eastern and western nationalists’ attitudes towards one another through the assemblages of sexuality, race, gender, nation, class, and ethnicity; and the implementation of homonationalism as the modern norm for portraying patriotism. As Puar points out the dangers of how “homosexuals embrace the us-versus-them rhetoric of U.S. patriotism,” they associate themselves with “racist and homophobic production,” which justifies the western nationalists’ pride in acknowledging globalization through metaphorical rape propaganda (Puar 46-48). Both the East and the West project one another through “failed heterosexuality, emasculation, and queered others,” to wrestle their sensitivities of a distorted national image (Puar 47). Although the acts of terror such as 9/11 have outraged many Americans, this idea of the East as ‘terrorist’ is completely discursive and hypocritical. The customary Islamophobic ideology in American discourse paradoxically conflicts with traditional liberal belief of Human Rights, thus, discrediting the harassing hegemony of western scholarship, proving the imperial motives of the West. The forged altruism of the West conveys his use of instrumentalizing the East for the benefit of the self/other dualism that supports the West’s imperial image and oppresses the East (Plumwood 155). Where the US portrays the eastern nationalist as the terrorist, the US abuses his language and fails to mention his acts of counterterrorism. Where the man denies dependency on the woman; the heterosexual denies dependency on the homosexual; and the patriot denies dependency on the terrorist. The means of the West’s homonationalism will be the ends to the other and the self, hence, the ends to capitalism, reason, and life.

            In conclusion, all the comparisons made in this paper accentuates the necessity for criticism on the West’s power struggle for Globalization. There is more of a critique to be made on the West than the redundancy of secular admonition of religion. I find the need for the West and East to shed their conventional dualistic perspective; just as the West depends on dualisms for their imperial position, Islamic principles insist on integration of duality. I agree with Plumwood’s rejection of duality and the Master story, along with Shiva and the sacredness of diversity. The secular liberals’ animosity towards religion illustrates Liberalism’s closeness to being a religion itself, or a false consciousness of course. I denounce the vain sense of Individuality found in the West due to the liberal’s juvenile yearn for dominion; this so-called reason demonstrates irritable irrationality of a self-entitled imp rather than the sophistication of a self-actualized person. The West needs a revolution from his contrary belief in Natural Rights if he condescendingly excludes particular assemblages from his supposed universal absolutes. Finally, tolerance is key towards disputing the dualistic dispute between the contradicting problems between the East and West. Recognizing diversity and the modes of existence will break the abstract of western hallucination of binaries. Irrefutably, in devotion to Karl Marx, “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”



 Sources cited

El Guindi, Fadwa. “Veiling Resistance.” Fashion Theory 1999: 51-80. Print.

Mahmood, Saba. “Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival.” Cultural Anthropology 2001: 202-236. Print.

Massad, Joseph. “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World.” Public             Culture 2002: 361-385. Print.

Mohanty, Chondra. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.”            Feminist Review 1988: 61-82. Print.

Plumwood, Val. “Ethics and the instrumentalizing self.” Feminism and the Mastery of Nature                     1993: 142-170. Print.

Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham: Duke             University Press, 2007. Print.

Shiva, Vandana. “Women’s Indigenous Knowledge.” Ecofeminism 1993: 164-173. Print.

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