Afghan Women, Racial Justice Activists, Feminists Respond to Time Cover

[Trigger warning for images and descriptions of brutal stuff happening to women in Afghanistan]

About the Time Cover that shows an Afghan women whose nose was cut off by the Taliban.

Response of Sonali Kolhatkar, “co-author of the book Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence. She is also co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S.-based nonprofit that supports women’s rights activists in Afghanistan.” [Via Commondreams.org]:

This is the same type of justification that the Soviets used (among others) to explain why they should remain in Afghanistan: to save Afghan women from the ‘backward’ fundamentalists. Foreign armies have always sought to protect Afghan women from violence by fomenting violence themselves. But in the end, just like the Soviets did backroom deals with radical misogynist groups, the U.S. has been empowering non-Taliban misogynist fundamentalists since the start of this war. There are incidents happening every day in Afghanistan of women and girls being harassed, raped, flogged and killed by pro-U.S. warlords and local commanders that are not working with the Taliban — these incidents are rarely covered by the Western media. In many ways the U.S. occupation has actually made things worse for Afghan women. Afghan women activists I work with prefer to resist two threats to their security (the Taliban and the U.S.-backed central government) instead of three (the third being the U.S./NATO occupation) and have long called for U.S. forces to leave. Time magazine is playing to age-old racist stereotypes: that brown women need a foreign white army to save them from their men.

From Colorlines:

Activists have panned the cover as a reflection of imperialist arrogance. The “women’s liberation” canard masks the ongoing, intensifying crises that women are truly facing: political oppression, economic destitution, and the social death of eternal warfare.

Samhita at Feministing has written:

And why a woman’s body or a face? When we talk about “women of the world,” and the impact they experience with sexism and other forms of oppression, there is an explicit focus on what they look like, as opposed to what they are saying, what they are organizing around or what their demands might be. Their oppression is always reduced to a physical harm done to them, out of context, our fixation being on what they look like or how barbaric the act itself was. As though the worst harm to be done to a woman is alter her physical appearance. This is in no way to minimize the brutal impact of patriarchy felt on the bodies of women in Afghanistan, but to put it in context with the other oppressions they face such as access to education, medicine, religious gatherings, marriage laws, child marriage, divorce laws, domestic violence and the list goes on. Using one image to generalize an experience and therefore a solution doesn’t end up being as effective as we want it to be. If anything it furthers the idea that Afghani women are “others,” living in a prehistoric time where people do barbaric things to them.

From the Feminist Peace Network:

So there you have it, we’ll have to stay another ten or fifteen years so that women can achieve equality. Imagine instead of contributing to the violence in Afghanistan that further harms women, we were to provide humanitarian aid that improved the lives of Afghan women. Imagine if we had taken the billions of ‘reconstruction’ funds that are unaccounted for in Iraq and given that money to responsible organizations to actually rebuild and strengthen the social infrastructure of both countries. Oh wait, then we couldn’t use the women excuse to continue to fund the military industrial complex. Enough already, women are not an excuse for militarism and war.

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