Thanks to a clamor (ok – one request) for more posts on faith and feminism, I'd like to note TIME Magazine's little piece on how the Iraq government is filling its quota of female politicians. Briefly, they're forcing irritated women to run for public office. The women don't want to be all liberated and feminist, but Iraq passed a law last fall that 25% of its council members have to be women — so the men are making the women run anyway. 

It seems to me that this is, in microcosm, the big question of the Iraq war: Can you coerce someone into freedom? If a group of people doesn't have the worldview that supports freedom, can you force-free a people that doesn't want to be freed? Do you have to change their social structures before you can change their worldview, or do you have to change their worldview first? Should you use education or force? 

Bottom line. What is innate: freedom or tyranny?

People give conflicting answers. Conservatives repudiate most quotas that are supposed to force progressivism, but they would say the Iraqis can and must be liberated. Liberals would applaud the quotas but say to leave the Iraqis alone. 

And I (as is common with me) am not really sure … 



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Alisa Harris

0 Responses to Forced Freedom, Forced Feminism

  1. Interesting. This is my central argument with militant feminism—it’s actually reverse oppression, with “traditional” women now being socially demeaned by the “liberated” women who freed them from men. The Iraq situation is a fascinating parallel.

  2. Kari says:

    @sharongracepjs: I absolutely agree with your comment. Regardless of the cultural situation, if women are forced into more traditionally masculine roles the outcome is really no different than forcing them to accept traditionally feminine roles. Women are still pigeon-holed into an identity that they have not chosen freely. Maybe the challenge then becomes to find ways to revise our North American definition of personal freedom to embody a sense of choice and to separate it from our political concepts of progress and liberation. But then I’m left to question how that change should occur and who is able to instigate that change; I’ll confess I’m left a bit unsure as well.

  3. Alisa says:

    I agree that women should be free to choose, but I think it’s important that it’s an actually educated, mentally liberated choice.

    It’s definitely true (and I’ve personally witnessed it) that some women aren’t really free to choose because they’re constricted by their own view of themselves and their role. It’s not even that they’re unhappy with the role they’ve chosen or that they want something different. It’s that they have a mental block that keeps them from even considering something different. Their worldview keeps them from being free.

    Of course this is nothing profound and it can work both ways. A traditionalist might never consider the fact that she would be more fulfilled doing something else. A career woman might never consider that being a stay-at-home mom could be fulfilling, too. I just think these choices need to be educated, thoughtful ones —- not ones that are really just reactions to social conditioning either way.

    And in the case of the Iraq women, I think that some social change needs to happen before they can actually make a free choice. Some of them might be great public servants and leaders. They’ve just never considered the possibility because their society and religion tells them no. That does need to change before they can make an actual, free choice.

  4. David says:

    What I was wondering about this is: does the quota help those women who ARE interested in running? The piece talked about how women in Baghdad were bolder, and some were excited about campaigning for office. What about those? If the quota is abolished, do they lose out, too?

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