When my classmate made the comment about the ‘impressionable girls in our midst who can be lead astray by the presenter’s views on Islam’, I wanted to raise my hand and object. Can’t girls in our class think on their own, I wanted to ask! Strangely, no girl present in the class found the comment unpardonable, or at least uncalled for. Not even the teacher! The discussion and the preceding presentation were supposedly about the phenomenon of Islamophobia. The topic no doubt is fodder for raving array of thoughts. The skewed views put forth by the presenters (where they subjected Islam to same representations and stereotypes from which the presentation was supposed to liberate it) were rebutted by more narrow comments drawn from the audience.
‘Women can’t think’ was one such comment I took out from the vapid discussion. It has become a habit of sorts in our classrooms, private discussions and shop-front chats where the ‘subjectivization’ of women is done like paring cheese. Almost always it is invariably decided that women have no voice of their own. In matters of religion, it’s worse. Unable to voice my discontent with this view in the class, I humbly asked my classmate to explicate further on “women can’t think” comment. He replied with a resounding “No, they just can’t think.”
It ended the day for me.
A classroom discussion is often a window towards grasping the intellectual bearing of any society. In my days at the university, of what I can objectively tell, the state of affairs is dismal. Furthering this belief are the pseudo-defenders of women’s rights, as if rights were invented and meant to be thrust upon a gender. The fundamental problem I see with the ‘empowerment of women’ brigade is that they see and project women as receivers of rights and privileges, not as bearers of those rights by themselves; that rights are supposed to be given out as a favor to women, and are not fundamentally their own.