Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cultural Relativism and Misogyny

I'm going to go out on a rare limb of quasi-socio-political controversy with this one. A friend posted a New York Times article recently that got me thinking.

The article was about intentionally suppressed female sexuality in a particular culture. Specifically, girls being raised from birth in an insulated environment with no knowledge of their bodies and complete sexual disconnection and/or disempowerment, and the struggles, both physical and psychological, that they confront later as a result.

It hardly matters what culture the article was about. It was--and is--about nearly every culture to varying degrees, including (by more subtle measures) our own media-saturated culture of First World Secular America.

Apologists for misogyny and female oppression everywhere invoke the unassailable shield of "cultural relativism." Well, it should be noted that (at least according to the omniscient Wikipedia) the World Conference on Human Rights "rejects" that anthropological concept as quote, "a refugee of human rights violation."

It's also worth noting that all of these power structures were established, and are cultivated and maintained, 
by a dominant patriarchy highly invested in retaining its dominance by divesting women of sexual, educational, and professional/financial equality at every turn, and by any means necessary, up to and including straight-up murder. 

The same euphemism of "cultural relativism" has also been used to justify non-plural forms of government like oppressive dictatorships and kleptocracies.

The thing all oppressive and misogynistic patriarchies fear most is exposure of the oppressed to any alternative, because most women when presented with an alternative want to know what their clitoris is and does. The same analogy holds true for political dictatorships like North Korea that do anything and everything to keep their citizens in the dark of oppression. 

So everything is relative, sure. And maybe we as humanity are OK with the worst wolves of that relativity being cloaked in the sheep's clothing of tradition and culture. 

But readers of this blog know I like to keep it real. So at least when it comes to misogyny and oppression--which is timeless and universal--let's all maybe just admit that the emperor of cultural relativism has no clothes.

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