Category Archives: Feminism

Relativism: Cultural or Ethical….

In the recent days, much of Canada’s newspapers has been engrossed in the Shafia trials. In this trial Mr Shafia (a wealthy Afghan Canadian Business man), Tooba Yahya (his second wife) and their son Hamed was accused and found guilty of killing four family members. They were Shafia’s first wife Rona (who was childless), and three of Shafia and  Tooba’s daughters. They were killed because they did not want to follow the traditional Afghan way of life, had boyfriends and wore western clothes. There killings were labeled as ‘honor killing’ by the prosecutors and the media. The prosecutors brought in cultural experts who supported that claim.Shafia was caught on tape berating his daughters as they had brought shame on the family. The only way to rectify the situation was to kill them. 

I was talking to hubby about this and he told me that my views were too western. He said different places and cultures have different norms, and we should respect that. He said what they could do in Afghanistan doesn’t mean that they should do it in Canada. After talking to him for a while, I explained that I was a cultural relativist but not an ethical relativist.  I understand that cultures have different morals and standards, but I cannot fathom having different ethical standard.

A crime is a crime no matter who commits it and where it is committed.  If a crime is a crime, then why don’t we have universal standards for justice? Are standards of justice and reconciliation different around the world? I guess they are….of course they are. But why? Why can we not agree to standard way of finding justice? Or should we allow cultures to have their own freedom of creating their own notions of justice?  If that’s the case,how do we stop “honor killings” from happening?

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What’s in a name?

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while. Why did I decide to call myself a bou/wife in this blog?

After I got married, I did not take Hubby last name. I am deeply connected to my own name. My first name has a part of my dad’s name, and my last name is my mom’s first name. In essence, I have two first names (SS). It is very musical name :D. That is my formal name (bhalo naam). I also have a nickname (daak naam).  Those who have read The Namesake  by Jhumpa Lahiri know what I am talking about. My daak naam is a very Bengali and translates to Rainy Season in English. I was born in during the monsoon season and my name signifies that.  My daak naam is used by my family, family friends, friends from my childhood.  Most of the time now, when I introduce myself I use my bhalo naam.  Even though hubby uses my daak naam , I call him using his bhalo naam (I should really change into using his daak naam).

After I got married people who call hubby Bhai (A respectable term, refers to being an older brother…in Bengali culture we usually don’t refer to people with just their names as it is disrespectful if they are older than you) started calling me Bhabi   (Bhai’s wife). People who started to call me Bhabi included my brother-in-law, and hubby’s friends. To my brother-in-law, I asked him to call me apu (older sister). My brother calls me apu  and I consider my brother-in-law as my own brother. Using a term like bhabi reinforces the fact I am connected to him by marriage, not by blood. I really don’t want to differentiate between him and my brother. So I prefer that he calls me Apu. 

To Hubby’s friends, I always remind them to call me by my name (as most are older than me and some are my age). I want to reinforce that I have my own identity. By allowing myself to be a bhabi, I feel like I exist because there is a bhai or hubby.  Whenever I am introduced to new people as bhabi,  I always take a stand and correct people. This is, I guess, taking a feminist stand  (in my mind).

Considering the fact that I do not like being called a Bhabi, why am I calling myself a Bou (wife) in this blog?

I have spent the last 11 years of my life outside Bangladesh and only had very limited interaction with Bangladeshis. When I married a Bangladeshi guy, my connection to my homeland, my culture and my heritage was reinforced. Becoming a wife allowed me to connect to my culture in different ways. Becoming a wife has also changed me for the better. Becoming a wife has made me very happy as I found an amazing life partner. Being a wife has also become a large part of identity. I know there are certain things I will not do because  I am a bou and I know there are things I will do because I am. My relationship with parents have changed because I am married.  I have learned to understand life differently since I got married.  To appreciate all of those things, I decided call myself a bou as how and what I write about is effected  by my marital status.

On a serious note: Army

My mother always said that in our family we don’t marry anyone in the army. Considering the fact my grandfather was a prisoner of war for 4 years during the Bangladeshi Liberation War in Pakistan, I understood her position. Her family had a very negative impression of the armed forces.

In a few of my classes, we discussed the need and role of a professional army and its implication.

Few days ago, American Marines urinating on dead Talibans caught  the media’s attention. And now there is a new video out of a few Indian Border guards brutally torturing a alleged cow theif/smuggler who is a Bangladeshi. The man is beaten, his clothes were taken off….I haven’t been able to see the video till its end. I am embedding the full youtube link, but I don’t know how it will stay there as the video has already been flagged. The sound captured in mostly hindi….but the images of violence and torture are universal.

 

Is there a connection between being part of an armed force and brutality? What happens to their humanity? Is the power they hold because they can legally carry weapons? Or is it the training they go through that makes them so inhumane? What happens to them?

I wish we could live in a world without the need for a professional army.

On a serious note: Rape!

When I first started writing this blog, I thought I would only concentrate on my experiences as a bou. Soon it became apparent to me that if I were to only write from the perspective of a wife, I won’t be doing much growing and would probably be annoying and whiny. Inspired by this blog,  I have decided to post about some serious content as well: to bring my academic and social activist side to view. Since I am not doing a lot of active social activism now, this will be a good way to wedge my way back in.

Today I will write about if certain women deserve to get raped. Few days ago, in Bangladesh, a model was murdered. She was probably raped,and buried in haste without her family’s knowledge.  I was surprised to see the responses from a few of my Bangladeshi Facebook acquaintances. They talked about how indecently models dressed and that’s why they deserved to be raped. One of even commented that since models dressed in immodest clothes, it is not surprising that they would be raped. One would, of course ,be surprised if a hijabi women were raped!

Of course, comments like these angered me. I replied to a few of them explaining that rape is not about sex, sexuality, sexual desire or how one dresses. It is a way to enforce power and to keep women/and men suppressed in this patriarchal society. One can dress/act anyway one wants, but that does not mean that they became rape-able. In response to this, I got a reply that if you have nice things in your house, you lock the door because you do not want to get robbed. To that I say, just because I have nice things does not mean it is okay to rob me, right??

Rape is wrong! No reasons can justify it! Women get raped! Men get raped! Good girls get raped! Lesbians get raped! Gay men get raped! Prostitutes get raped! Wives get raped! Hijabi women get raped!

Today, if we justify that wearing certain clothes makes a woman more likely to be raped because she is arousing men, then who knows what we will say tomorrow? Tomorrow, we will say she spoke too loud, she spoke aggressively, she took a walk outside her home, she is too educated, she is not educated enough, she has a job, she doesn’t want to get married etc, so she should be raped. Rape has been used a weapon in war situations. In those situation, it did not matter how young, beautiful  those women were or how they dressed.In those situations, women’s bodies became a site of war, a site violence (I can’t remember the citation for this).

Rape is a tool for sexual assault! We can not blame the victim for being raped. The rapist makes a conscious choice to rape and should be held accountable for their actions.

~bou