Women’s equality under the law: nice while it lasted

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 · 37 Comments »

People tend to think that the world they’re born into is normal, even immutable. That’s a big reason why young people in the West take women’s rights for granted. How could it be any different?

I’m just old enough to have experienced the world before women’s equality under the law was in place. I’m also a student of history. Perhaps that’s why I take nothing for granted. For all we know, feminism could be little more than a fad of the 20th century. A soap bubble in time.

For women in the U.K., the soap bubble is already bursting. With sharia court rulings now enforceable by law in the U.K., more than a century of progress has been rolled back. Wife-beating? The British outlawed it in 1861, but now if you’re a Muslim woman under the thumb of your family, the law is no longer on your side. The British established equal inheritance in 1925, but now sharia courts are following Islamic law and giving sons twice as much as daughters.

And it’s legal.

I suppose the defenders of this policy argue that it’s okay because the Muslim women have to “voluntarily” submit to the authority of the sharia courts before the rulings are handed down. But it makes no sense — absolutely no sense — to talk about women under the thumb of patriarchal domination “voluntarily” submitting to their own oppression. As a rule, women and girls in a patriarchy lack the social, financial, and psychological autonomy to buck masculine rule. Dig it: that’s how patriarchy works.

As I wrote last February when Archbishop Eyebrows burbled in public about the inevitability of sharia law:

Hey, why not sharia law in Britain? Oh, but only for family matters, says Eyebrow Man, by which he means the entire spectrum of codified patriarchal abuse that governs women’s personal lives: divorce, marriage, custody, marital rape, marital beatings, financial support, “honor,” etc. Clearly His Very Reverend Eyebrows think it’s just peachy keen for women to be second-class citizens because after all, they’re not really human, are they? They’re just women. Eight hundred years of English jurisprudence and a modern European concept of civil rights are fine and dandy, but they do only apply to human beings. Which lets women right out.

Filed under: Why We Still Need Feminism · Tags:

37 Responses to “Women’s equality under the law: nice while it lasted”

  1. votermom says:

    Why did they do this? Ugh.

  2. Little Isis says:

    It’s official.
    There is no real good in the world. I was only fooling myself.

  3. kenoshaMarge says:

    They did this because deep within many men is the commitment to keeping women subservient to men. And I’m not talking Muslim men, I’m talking good old western, Christian men.

    Look for Sharia law to come to a state near you soon. After all, we do believe in religious freedom, don’t we? And you would get more outrage from people if someone was sacrificing a goat on their lawn than if a woman was subjugated by her own church and her own family and her own people.

  4. tinfoil hattie says:

    “voluntarily submit” is a contradiction in terms. It makes no sense.

  5. RKMK says:


  6. TheOtherDelphyne says:

    Why does this make me feel like vomiting?

  7. Kiuku says:

    Women can “opt out” of the Sharia court? Right. Because I just read not too long ago about a Muslim family, right here in the US who brutally murdered their daughter.

  8. Kiuku says:

    This is just a prime example of governments creating loopholes wherein women only have rights that the men in their lives allow them to.

  9. Kiuku says:

    Why even stop there? Why doesn’t the UK legalize honor killings too?

  10. lisas says:

    There was an attempt to put sharia law in Ontario too, but our govt didn’t let it fly. I’m shocked they did in the UK. Issues like ‘this is not voluntary’ aside, how is any country served by creating a two tier justice system? Ridiculous, wrongheaded, and hopefully doomed to an immediate end.

  11. kenoshaMarge says:

    If anyone still really believes that the Democratic Party is the party that supports women, take a look at what our party has become…


  12. song says:

    Here is part of a long poem I wrote: hope Dr. Socks you know..
    how important you are…how vital, to the oppressed..to women.

    “Oh good souls of the world must raise your heads

    Condemn the malefactors and their wars

    And in a shout across the parallels

    Bring thunder to the foot of heaven’s door

    For women who cry out can’t act alone

    They require numbers of us behind them

    Or their sufferings be hidden in their homes

    They need our Athenas and Magdalenes

    To stand in the face of all oppression

    And demand the rightful fruits of concession

    All oppression in a religion’s name

    Must be totally vanquished just the same

    Until the finer lining becomes the norm

    Until then, media is Gabriel’s horn”

  13. simply wondered says:

    well i spy a host of action coming. if a system of law allowed by the govt is promoting sex (or any other) discrimination then we’ll be hauled over the coals faster than you can say ‘liberty’. and a bloody good thing too; one of the good things about being part of europe if only in a half-hearted way is that whatever dubious laws we come up with european law is sovereign.

    sadly a lot of crap is talked about the tide of sharia law that is supposed to be swamping all us nice (white) british people. it suits the daily mail and its post-thatcherite chums.

    that said, we need to work out what is actually happening and make sure the legal system goes the right way not the wrong way.

  14. Violet says:

    sadly a lot of crap is talked about the tide of sharia law that is supposed to be swamping all us nice (white) british people. it suits the daily mail and its post-thatcherite chums.

    I’ve seen some of that too, and it’s amazing. The thrust is always, “what if this starts happening to us???” where “us” clearly means “people who matter.” For chrissake, it’s happening right now to people who matter. Does being born Muslim mean you’re not entitled to basic human rights?

  15. Violet says:

    Song, thank you for posting that part of your poem. It sounds wonderful and very stirring.

  16. RKMK says:

    Does being born Muslim mean you’re not entitled to basic human rights?

    Conversation I had this afternoon:

    Me: “Can you believe this shit?”
    Liberal Dude: “Well, it’s their culture, who are we to judge?”
    Me: “Oh, so it’s OK to beat your wife, so long as she has BROWN SKIN?”
    Liberal Dude: “No, but…”
    Me: “NO BUTS.”

  17. PGH says:

    Not to change the subject but there’s a great new video on you tube about massive fraud & intimidation in the primaries & caucasses by Obama supporters…..At Youtube type in “We Will Not be Silenced”…then pass it around…

  18. PGH says:

    There are at least two youtube videos called ” We will not be silenced”….Make sure you get the one about fraud in the primaries….. not the one about Bush

  19. song says:

    Dear Dr. Socks…

    This article breaks my heart…I just cannot believe it…
    My heart cannot believe it.


    women, all over the world Dr. Socks..

    this is just one example…

  20. song says:

    Thank you Dr. Socks..for the kind words. I dedicated the whole section of that long poem to:

    Marieme Helie-Lucas:

    Here are a few quotes from her:

    For fundamentalists indeed are ideologically close to fascism/nazism. Of course one cannot equate Muslim fundamentalism to fascism because those phenomena happened in different times and history. However, there are similarities that should ring a bell to our ears: just like fascists, Muslim fundamentalists believe not in a superior race but in a superior creed, like nazis they believe that non believers or ‘kofr’ are ‘untermensch’ ( some of them even used this very term !) that should be physically eliminated (and please please please remember that it is Muslims who do not adhere with their version of Islam that are first targeted by Muslim fundamentalists and are their first victims); like fascists they believe in a mythical past ( whether Ancient Rome or the Golden Age of Islam) that justifies their superiority ; like fascists they are pro-capitalists; like fascists they put women in their place ( church, kitchen and cradle); etc…

    This is why we called them ‘Islamo fascists’.

    “If you demonstrate, as I hope you will, please support democratic anti fundamentalist forces in our countries, do not let fundamentalist forces manipulate you in the name of human rights. Make a clear-cut difference between 1. migrants from Muslim countries, 2.Muslim believers (who are the only ones who should be called ‘Muslims’), 3. Islam, and 4. fundamentalists: these are different categories that cannot be intermingled without playing into the fundamentalists’ game, and against women.

    to read the whole article here is the whole link:


    Again, Thank You Dr. Socks



  21. Foxx says:

    This is so vile. Vile.

    And meanwhile all these women around me think they are safe, and are so afraid of being racist and offending men of color that they abandon women of color and girls of color to torture and murder. THAT is the real racism.

    We are not safe, none of us is safe. And yes, islam and sharia are just the stalking horses for men in general. They all want to subjugate women.

    I am on one list where lesbians from Europe said their feminist activity was defending the right of muslim women to wear head scarbes. I wrote that that was not a feminist activity. And I was called racist by so called feminists and even separatists. How do the real Arab feminists, the Women against Mulsim Laws and others, feel seeing these “safe” complacent ignorant women undermining their work?

    And yes, Obama is part of this. He went to Africa and campaigned for his relative, Odinga, the mass murderer who wants to bring sharia law to Kenya. That didn’t bother Obama, this fraud that Kate Michelman said was the “real feminist” in comparison to Hillary.

    Sometimes I don’t want to call myself a woman anymore. It doesn’t put me in good company.

  22. Little Isis says:

    I have changed my mind. There is good in the world. Song, that poem is so beautiful. It makes me believe that with women like you and Dr. Socks, there is hope for feminism and women. I know there is. There must be. I know it, and believe it, because it is all I have.
    So there!

  23. song says:

    Oh yes, Little Isis, Yes! there is great good in this world. Never, never believe otherwise..
    and when you forget, if you ever do..think of Dr. Socks
    or when you cannot find the words..
    remember the Rose.

    Was it Love that Grew You, Rose?

    “Was it love that grew you, Rose?
    Not harboured on the Cliffside by the sea
    Red petals beaten by the salt and wind
    And litter tossed beneath you carelessly

    How delicate the fragrance of your flowers
    So ravaged near the careless salty tide
    No love has made you, Rose
    And Yet your presence whispers, I abide

    Was it hope that grew you, Rose?
    Did a gardener come and visit you each day?
    Was it one or five or three leaves ‘neath the bloom?
    To make such flowers to take my breath away

    No care has come to you by any hand
    I see no shears or powders by your side
    No hope has made you, Rose
    And yet your presence whispers, I abide

    Was it faith that grew you Rose
    As winter burned your leaves to memory
    And left your little branches cold and bare
    Sweet flower on the Cliffside by the sea

    How barren are your branches in the snow
    Your vibrant flowers are frosted and denied
    No faith has made you Rose
    And Yet your presence whispers, I abide

    Was it peace that grew you Rose
    You heard “she loves me not, In singsong way”
    Your petals scattered on the ground below
    Confetti on the earth for children’s play

    Your blooms will never be a bouquet held
    For hybrid roses please the city bride
    No peace has grown you Rose
    And yet, your presence whispers, I abide”

    “It was life that grew you Rose
    Not faith or hope or love or peace, it’s true
    As you braved the barren snows
    It was life,that nestled deep inside of you

    A force defying logics of the mind
    More passion than all human love confides
    It was life that made you Rose
    I hear your presence whisper, I abide

    In the place beyond us all
    I visited with you by the morphic sea
    You survived the winter snows
    As sweet roses past revived your memory

    And in simple heart I know
    As I memorize these lines before repose
    No wise man can realize
    How profound you are my precious cliffside rose.”

  24. Little Isis says:

    Star, you are amazing, and that poem is so beautiful, it put tears in my eyes. I will never forget this poem, and I will think of it every time I start to give up.

  25. will says:

    Any comment about McCain’s dismissive statement last night about women’s health?

  26. Kiuku says:


    I’d like to point out that abortion rights do not secure rights for women, but often, rather abortion rights simply exist for men who do not want to become fathers. In a patriarchal society or country it is not better to have abortion rights or to not have them.

    I didn’t like the way Obama had answered this question in the past, saying abortion was ok because women were consulting their families (aka brothers/fathers/husbands) and their pastors (men).

    He answered it the same way this time, but to a less extent.

    McCain may have made a typical pro-life stance, but he does have a woman running mate…and he’s not a liar.

  27. Kiuku says:

    A real Feminist would be discussing women’s right to reproductive choices short of her husband’s input, being there..and ability to have access to Plan B, for instance, even if she isn’t married, and even if she isn’t consulting her pastor..ugh

  28. Kiuku says:

    Abortion, for instance, is legal in strict muslim countries, and it was legal in ancient Rome where women were cattle. It exists to protect the interests of men.

    I can’t support a misogynist in exchange for abortion rights for men.

  29. Violet says:

    I didn’t watch the debate, so I had to go see what McCain had said.

    His remark was stupid and offensive; mostly to me it didn’t make sense. But the ironic thing is that he and Obama are playing the same game. McCain says “health” shouldn’t be used as a reason for abortion; Obama ridicules women’s mental health and says women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions because they’re “feeling blue” — as if that’s what women are doing — and goes on to add that women should have to consult with their husbands and pastors.

    So which would you rather have, a Republican touting the usual Republican line, or a Democrat who’s turning the Democratic party into a clone of the GOP? With the one you get business as usual; with the other you get the equivalent of two Republican parties in this country.

  30. Kiuku says:

    I feel you.

    I wish that they would discuss women’s issues a little more in these debates. I mean there is more to women’s rights than abortion. They almost never discuss women’s sexual autonomy and women’s access to Plan B and contraceptives without the input of men. Equal pay for equal work. Equal representation in positions of power, which we know the Democrats and Obama do not support.

    The way the Republicans rallied around Palin gave me hope..that the progressive party is not longer the misogynist left.

    When it comes to “women’s issues”, a term I dislike, too often we are relegated to the Abortion ghetto.

  31. Kiuku says:

    The way I see it Republicans, especially McCain supports women’s equal pay for equal work, and equal representation. McCain had specified, among those he would choose as his vice mate, that they be comprised equally of both qualified men and women candidates. His women are also paid equal if not more than the men. You also see this when McCain considers appointing a woman, Meg Whitman, to head his finance program. Obama would never. When McCain answered the question, I believe he answered honestly, that he would not apply any bias toward judge nominations. Under McCain we will likely not see Roe V Wade overturned. With Obama, who knows. I thought it was very hypocritical of Obama to discuss women earning equal wage during the debate when he does not pay women equally, and does not feel they really have any place in positions of real import.

  32. will says:

    First, the Obama v. McCain staff pay is a red herring. You have to compare apples to applea. (ie an administrative assistant working for 20 years for the government is going to make more than one who has only been there three years.) I believe that when you do that, you will see that it is a red herring issue.

    Second, McCain said that judges who support Roe wouldnt be qualified so Roe will be overturned. The feeling blue part is bs on the part of both Obama and McCain. I dont believe that Obama’s remark about consulting with your spouse or pastor was patriarchal, although I can understand it if some might. Kiuku is off base on the abortion being about men. A man does not have the right to stop his partner from having an abortion. (Obviously, men have certainly been the primary- but not only- ones responsible for restricting access to abortion.

    With regard to women’s health, McCain is horrible.

    My comment really wasnt designed to elicite a comparison, but I would have thought that it would have generated more outrage.

  33. Carmonn says:

    will, there is a 5 Justice conservative majority on the Court as it is. They don’t need anymore votes to overturn Roe. Kennedy is useless, so once the Senate replaced O’Connor with Alito, Roe was doomed. The Democrats were more than happy to give up without a fight so they could continue to use this as a scare tactic rater than actually do anything about it. And Obama had to practically be physically restrained from voting FOR Roberts, so if that gives you any comfort about what kind of Justices he’d be likely to appoint…

  34. Kiuku says:


    Those who are “outraged” at McCain for a typical pro-life stance, should also be outraged at Obama’s entire campaign, the media, and the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin. We are not abortions. I am out of the abortion ghetto. I’m not outraged because I’m not in the abortion ghetto.

  35. soopermuse says:

    will, I don’t think you understand the comparison. It has nothign to do with the length of service someone has, the comparison wa smade between the McCain and Obama Campaign staff. The women on McCain’s campaign staff ae paid on average equal wages or slightly higher than the males doign similar jobs. Also McCain has a lot more women on his staff.
    Women working for the Obama campaign are paid on averagre lower than males doing similar jobs. That simple, and easily provable since all the doccumentation is online.

    S please, do not try to come and assume we are too stupid to know how to read and investigate.

  36. street_parade says:

    If I was living in Britain, THIS is why I would vote Conservative. They (the Conservatives) have said they will overturn this pathetic capitulation by the Labour government. Labour no doubt did this in the vaunted name of “multi-culturalism”. The world has turned upside down for me this year. Thank you for your website, you are an oasis of sanity.

  37. TeresaInPa says:

    WTF? this is just another example of people so open minded that their brains fell out.