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Monday, February 13, 2012

The 5 Conditions of A Woman's Freedom (In Memory of Soraya M.)

Cover of "The Stoning of Soraya M. [Blu-r...
Cover of The Stoning of Soraya M. [Blu-ray], now also available on Netflix.

Odd. I haven't written a directly feminist post in a while but yesterday I did. Just 12 hours later we sat down to watch The Stoning of Soraya M.

None of us could sleep afterward.

If you haven't seen the movie it centers on the death of a beautiful, kind, dutiful young woman in Iran. Soraya died for absolutely no rational reason whatsoever except that she was caught in a horrendously unfair and corrupt web of inequality - religious, political, cultural, psychological and economic.

In the movie Soraya's aunt Zahra tries to save her. Just like in my post I wrote about my aunts as mentors and role models.

Feminism is only the belief that women are entitled to the same rights as men. It's not (or should never be) the belief that women have to follow the dictates of feminists.

Soraya was stoned to death because she had no personal choice:
  • Economic: Soraya could not make enough money to live alone so she was chained to the husband who beat and humiliated her. When she does earn a little money she has to hide it with her aunt so that her husband won't take it away.
  • Religious: Her religion said that women must obey men - father, husband, religious leaders (who are male). Religion was enforced by the state.
  • Political: She had no rights as a citizen. When she was accused of the crime of adultery (note that her husband had unlimited rights to this) she had no right to represent herself at the trial. She was also considered guilty until proven innocent, whereas if she had accused her husband he would have been considered innocent until proven guilty.
  • Cultural: The unfair system was enforced mostly by other women who bought into the system and who said that Soraya's problems were marital and that her husband's philandering was justified by her "neglect" of him. (In fact she did whatever he said, and he beat her silly.) There was no place she could run, no social safety net, no system of support.
  • Psychological: Soraya was conditioned to believe that she could not break the rules even when the rules were unfair - on so many levels. Her aunt Zahra was not "broken" like her.
I wish I could say that this movie were isolated or that this particular culture or scenario is. However the problem of women's deeply-rooted inequality spans history and culture - see The Woman With The Dragon Tattoo, Elizabeth, Kickass, Winter's Bone. While Soraya's story and the situation of women in some countries is horrifically extreme and bad, I can't turn away from the inequality that I see in any situation.

Until all women are free and have the personal choices we are entitled to - none of us are. It is a matter of life and death. Please speak up for those who have no voice.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck.

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