Thursday, April 01, 2010


This is inspirational. The most sickening side of cultural relativism is when people defend horrific acts in the name of culture. In this instance, Melanie Butler wrote a master's thesis where she claimed that women campaining for women's rights in Afghanistan were forcing their views on others. She seems to have become so caught up in the idea of cultural relativism that she believes that institutionalised rape; a life of servitude; assaults and murders for the 'crime' of showing an inch of flesh or walking down the street unaccompanied; barring to education and more assaults and murders of women who would like to go to school; are all excused or justified by culture. They are not. It is exactly culture that's the problem here.

In this article, 13 year-old Alaina Podmorow explains why she has been campaigning for women's rights in Afghanistan since she was 9 and why she's not about to stop now:

No one will ever tell me that Muslim women or any women think it’s ok to not be allowed to get educated or to have their daughters sold off at 8 years old or traded off at 4 years old because of cultural beliefs. No one will tell me that women in Afghanistan think it is ok for their daughters to have acid thrown in their faces. It makes me ill to think a 4 year old girl must sleep in a barn and get raped daily by old men. It’s sick and wrong and I don’t care who calls me an Orientalist or whatever I will keep raising money to educate girls and women in Afghanistan and I will keep writing letters and sending them in the back pack of my friend Lauryn Oates as she works so bravely on the ground helping women and girls learn what it is to exercise their rights. I believe in human rights so I believe everyone has the right their own opinion, I just wish that the energy that was used to write that story, that is just not true, could have been used to educate a girl in Afghanistan. That’s what the girls truly want. That’s what the Women in Afghanistan truly want. I have a drawer full of letters from them that says just that.

Well quite. The emancipation of women in countries like Afghanistan is a moral emergency. Abuse like this is something we cannot allow to continue, particularly if the objection to stopping it is concern over offending the very people who are carrying out and perpetuating that abuse. How dare we allow half a country's population to live in brutal oppression and how dare people like Melanie Butler tell me that respecting a brutal, oppressive culture is more important than protecting half the members of that culture from horrific, sustained and institutional abuse.

Donate to Alaina's campaign here:

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