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Feminist movement akin to separatist movement

Letter writer JS Shaari presented an interesting and thought-provoking opinion defending the idea that "feminism is not about male-bashing".

However, I must caution that it must not be taken as representing that of all females. The Malaysian feminist movement itself is presenting itself like a separatist movement struggling for self-determinism. Besides this, they must decide what kind of feminism they are going to be defined as.

In the West, we see so many variants of feminism, from struggling for universal suffrage to the rights to same sex marriage. This doctrine has evolved like products in the American shopping mall there is feminism for a variety of causes. Each one has its own shelf life. Each one can be transported globally, as convenient as the American Empire wants to transplant "liberal democracy" the world over.

All most often assume that females are the oppressed sex, without taking into consideration the pattern of kinship, the pattern of social reproduction, and the complex social structure as it pertains to the development of changing roles in society. The writer misunderstood my intention due to the lack of careful reading.

It is clear in my article that Malaysian feminism is developing into such a doctrine of male-bashing and I think males are beginning to be increasingly uncomfortable with such an accusation. Herein lies the growing fascination of the Malaysian feminist movement - to take the excesses of what Western feminism has to offer and to use confusingly as a platform for their struggle.

What is even worse is that the argument that men are shackling women is beginning to be spread to girls growing up amongst feminist parents. The girls will grow up confused - as their feminist parents have been - of what constitutes a family life. This is going to be a dangerous trend that will retard the development of an ethical civilization. One need not be a feminist to be a champion of universal human rights, if feminism is itself a misunderstood idea amongst Malaysian feminists themselves.

Let there be no mistake in my propositions enshrined in my article. I applaud what some enlightened peacemakers, males and females, are trying to do with the Islamic Family Law. It need not be a "female" struggle exclusively.

The work of Malaysian feminists is admirable in the area of protecting the rights of women that are abused and unfairly treated in relationships. In fact we should teach girls to continue to continue their struggle against "digressive forces in society" that are pushing humanity backwards. In Africa it is a about genital mutilation, in Malaysia it is about something less clear.

The problem though is that Malaysian feminism is an elitist movement and trapped in its gender-specific shackle that looks merely at a limited number of issues without looking at the structural violence governing those issues. Because its members are mainly from elites of the upper and upper-middle class predominantly, their view may be limited to looked at "bourgeois-type" of issues that mirror the "struggles" of their Western counterpart.

Whatever that is fashionable in the West becomes transplanted as ideology of the Malaysian feminist movement. Feminism of this sort does not have its originality and it cultural-specificity, not to mention it being devoid of the understanding of class issue within the context of political economy.

The Malaysian feminist's understanding of feminism itself lacks depth. It lacks the understanding of the metaphysical depth of the relationship between man and woman in the complex yet harmonious relationship between Man, Woman, and Human Nature.

Why would Islam say that "paradise is at the mother's feet" if Islam does not value the role of women? Why would the mother be regarded metaphysically higher in status than the father in the scheme of relationship between Man and Woman? Isn't this notion of the metaphysical and mystical nature of women enough for feminism to be debunked and cease to exist as yet another irrelevant "isms"? Why do we call this planet Mother Earth if there is more philosophical worth in the "feminine" aspect of natural evolution of this universe?

Even in the legend of Si Tenggang, human beings get turned to stone for being ungrateful to the mother. Read the legend of Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup. In it, children gets swallowed by a "cave" merely for the crime of not saving/reserving the "telor tembakul" for the mother enslaved by the economic condition she was in (perhaps in a society in which the Sultans get to eat caviar for breakfast). Such powerful examples of the power of the female which the Malaysian feminists have to start reading up on. Such an elevated status women were accorded even in times of pre-Tun Teja.

Malaysian feminists, in order not to be trapped by the ideology of "myopic feminism" must read the excesses of feminism as embodied in the characters of individuals I call "historical feminists" such as Mumtaz Mahal who made Shah Jahan insane, Cleopatra (who was actually a Greek) who brought the downfall of Mark Anthony, and Marie Antoinette who brought the separation of King Louis XVI's head from his body through Dr Guillotine's invention.

What makes this exclusive club of feminists think that the majority of Malaysian women are oppressed? Who are the ones not happy with the self they inhabit - the Malaysian feminist, or the females the feminists are "fighting the rights" for? This is a classic postmodernist/ post- structuralist example of the process of "Othering" who speaks for the "other females"?

There is so much one, especially the self-professed Malaysian feminist, needs to learn of the genealogy, historicity, and post-structurality of feminism before one embraces it blindly as yet another transplanted Malaysian bourgeoisie country-club movement. Is it not a movement of the privileged few who are merely armchair human right activists cheered by international media interested in seeing how much a nation can be fragmented through subtle neo-colonialist strategies?

Again it not merely gender but class and caste that is the issue. I suggest Malaysian feminists deconstruct themselves and refocus their struggle to question the fundamental nature of our social ills the prolonged existence of the system of corporate crony capitalism that is privileging the children of those in power.

There is no need for the Malaysian feminist to exist only to become yet another smokescreen to a larger issue.

The writer can be contacted at: [email protected] .

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