Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book review: "Of Virgins and Martyrs: Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict," by David Jacobson

Copied from my review on the Goodreads website:

The author did a nice job of pointing out the connection between the freedom to choose to enter the job market and choose one's job, on the one hand, and women's freedom in general, on the other--for a woman to be free to leave the home unescorted is a big deal in some cultures. According to the author, some cultures are so dead-set on keeping women in "traditional" roles that they'd rather sacrifice half of (what might be) their gross national product, even though this would not be in their own interest, than allow women the freedom to enter the workforce. This can be what happens in an "honor"-based, as opposed to an interest-based, culture. In an "honor-based" culture, simply being employed gives women not only more freedom in general, but also more freedom to associate with men who are not relatives, which puts employed women at serious risk of being considered, and treated as, engaged in what's considered improper sexual behavior for a woman.

Mr. Jacobson also helped me understand the thinking behind suicide bombings. In my own culture, we are taught that G-d loves life and peace. If I understand Mr. Jacobson correctly, the emphasis, in some tribal and/or patriarchal cultures, on honor, and its corresponding restrictions on roles for both women (daughter, sister, wife, mother)and men (warrior), means that the individual's right to consider his/her body her/his own, to do with as s/he pleases, is also restricted. Since the body is considered "tribal/community property," as it were, sacrificing it for (what's considered) the greater good is held in high regard. Not my cup of tea, obviously, but at least I understand the attitude better.

See also Thoughts re Megillat Rut/Book of Ruth, Shavuot 5774/2014 edition (Tuesday, June 03, 2014).


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