Guest Post – Women’s rights and Islam

Whale Oil and others are asking the question about how lefty feminists are managing their conscience over the rights of Muslim or the rights of women.   It appears a conundrum.  And I can only think of small components that don’t make up a whole answer!

When we were fighting for our freedom as women to grow, develop and be recognised as equal to men, we fought the traditional belief systems that have existed almost forever.  In one generation we changed our world.  Not completely, but by a lot.

But many of us, because of our upbringing as women found it hard to do things for ourselves.  The pork chop syndrome was strong. (And for those of you who don’t know the expression, look it up).  It was symptomatic of our lives.  But we could fight for others.  Somehow that was more worthy than fighting for ourselves.  So we could fight for the poor and downtrodden, who were let’s face it frequently women.  We could fight for the children.  We could fight for women’s health.  But hardest of all was to fight for ourselves, our own rights to be recognised as equal to men.  For many of us, in our heart of hearts it seemed wrong, selfish, to fight for ourselves, and right to fight for others.

So perhaps fighting for the right to have a religion accepted as equal (or more so) to our own patriarchal Christianity might somehow seem more right than fighting for Christianity, which is our status quo, and still does not support equality anyway.  Yes I know, Catholics are a minority here, but a strong one.   

We have always fought for the right to wear what we want.  In the current world, oh joy of joys, we no longer restrict what older women should wear by the phrase “mutton dressed up as lamb”, and encourage each other to wear what suits us.  I wear bright colours to suit my mood of the day, and no-one makes disparaging remarks, at least to my face.  So it seems reasonable to continue that logic to say if a woman wants a covered face, then she should be able to.  And I suspect quite a lot of us remember a time in our life when we wanted to hide too.

We are less than fifty years from the time when we New Zealand women were chattels, belonging to men.  They had the right in law to claim their conjugal rights.  Rape within a marriage was actually a right until the early 1970s.  We have yet to have a country full of women who have been brought up in the freedom of equality and in the surety of our own rights being as important as that of others.

I suspect another component is the fact that many of us lack logical thinking skills so that we can take things past the first step.  That is thinking about the downstream effect of our actions.  So many people think only of the immediate effect without looking further down the reaction chain.  For example, the increase in violent attacks on dairies for cigarettes is probably because of the sudden hike in price making the demand for stolen ciggies suddenly very strong.  And instead of stopping smoking they have moved to violence.  Cause and effect!

Freedom is a fragile thing.  We have to hang on to it.  We have to look at the longer term effects of our actions.  And let us keep what we have gained.  Have courage to think deeply about the issues and discuss them with clarity, charity and cheerfulness with our friends and colleagues.  We live in a wonderful country and we must keep it.

And I believe the current discourse around the world over our rights and freedoms is, in an odd sort of way, healing many of the historic wounds caused by the fight for equality between the sexes. When they think about it, most New Zealand men do not want to go back in time.  They have got used to equality in their relationships, and they do not want evil people from other places changing the world they have just got used to!

Frances Denz MNZM

Frances has been instrumental in helping entrrpeneurs establish more than 4000 businesses since 1986. She is an authority on business start-ups and regional economic development and is a keynote speaker at conferences internationally. Frances is the co-founder of Stellaris Ltd and specialises in the small business and government sectors.
In 2013 Frances was honoured by the Queen with Membership of the Order of New Zealand (MNZM) for services to business.

As a Maori woman of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Tainui descent, Frances has worked with many Maori organisations to establish expertise in self-employment. Frances has special interests in the health and horticulture industries. 
She was  the founding chair of the Womens Loan Fund.

Frances is the author of Hope and Rehabilitation, Able to do Business and Women at the Top. She is passionate about encouraging small businesses to establish good governance and management in order to develop into very successful businesses.

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