Only Free Women Have Rights

Guest contribution by Marwa Abed

Are all women created equally? This, is not a question we often asks ourselves. When talking about the quest for equality, discourse is usually shaped along gender lines, ignoring the colorization of equality. It has become so much easier to quantify and isolate women’s rights by, giving us gals a day, a Google doodle, and a surge of empty acceptance, without allowing a deeper deconstruction and contextualization of the role of women throughout societies. Women’s rights is not a white Western model nor is it a black post civil rights celebration. Women’s rights, and International Women’s Day, should become a cross cultural and cross racial movement for women’s solidarity. We must understand, and internalize, that no, not all women are created equality and that race, place, and religion have a big part in how women are treated.  As women, we must stop isolating our issues, and open our eyes to the struggle of all women, and all people, and understand the humanity of equality.

International Women’s Day is still a point of celebration. It is a day that celebrates the achievements of women throughout history and should be used as a platform to highlight the continued inequity and need for progression.

As a Muslim-American-Palestinian-Woman, my identity includes many hyphens, each of which comes with its own baggage of struggles. Often times, people assume that hyphenated identities allow for partiality, belonging neither here nor there, and becoming a fluster of confusion and contradiction. I disagree. My multiple identities have allowed me to first create solidarity within myself. I understand and accept the challenges that come with being a Muslim in America and being a women in a “man’s world” and being a Palestinian in a society that has called me “invented.”

I challenge others to then look internally and ask themselves whether they have formed the same sort of solidarity. Do we ask questions like, do “invented people” have rights, let alone women’s rights? Women’s rights has often become a right of the privileged. We have to change this.

Sometimes I think about the women in Afghanistan or Iraq, women who are struggling to feed their children and keep them away from conflict. I think about Hana Al-Shalabi, a Palestinian women who is under administrative detention in Israeli prison and has undergone a twenty plus day hunger strike in protest. Where are their rights? Women’s rights only fit into the context of freedom. Oppressed people—male or female—do not have rights. As American women, we should not shy away from our privilege, but we should use it to educate ourselves and others about the injustices occurring to women throughout the world, often because of unfair U.S. policy. All women are created equal; it is just politics and ignorance that tear us apart.

Marwa Abed

Marwa Abed is a Palestinian American currently working in immigrant organizing. She freelance writes to whoever will post her ramblings.

Editor’s note: Interesting bio.

There is one comment

  1. Samuel Nichols

    Thanks for writing, Marwa. This is an especially important perspective as diplomatic conversations about NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan increase. The protection of women’s rights is often raised as a reason for a continued foreign military presence. It would behoove those decision makers to read your post.

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