Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

"Men steal women to show that they are men"

phenoms's picture

This semester I'm taking a class in Business Ethics. Last week we discussed the benefits and pitfalls of moral relativism versus moral absolutism. The example given in class was about the Kyrgyzstan custom of ala kachuu (translation: grab-and run). Basically, a man kidnaps a women and forces her to marry him. It is estimated that 1/3 of Kyrgyzstan brides are kidnapped this way.

The anxiety, fear, and refusal of the kidnapped women are all accepted as routine. Many fight back. But, according to this New York Time's Article 80% of women relent and agree to marriage.

Now that we've started studying global conditions of women in our class, I think it's necessary we address our own framing strategies and biases. There's something to be said for cultural relativism - to a point. It's hard to recognize the line at which one crosses over from a global to western perspective (in part because we help dominate the shaping of global values).

This is extremely important to think about in terms of activism. I know Judith Butler mentioned the importance of outside, (i.e) objective help and critical distance. But does distance give us objectivity? Doesn't it just give us another kind of bias? Would it be OK for Americans to interfere with the traditions of another country because we see them as backwards? As harmful and violent against women? What would make our interference (speaking on a personal not national level) less imperialistic?

I'm not sure if I have any answers. I think the demographic of women in Kyrgyzstan that oppose this "tradition" are necessary to outside activism. To what degree do self-efficacy and solidarity stand against each other? To what degree can they compliment each other?


Kaye's picture

stretching our biases

I agree that there are always biases--different standpoints from which we view our worlds.  Coming from the outside, where one has different cultural blinders, might give a person a broader and more productive perspective on a situation that is just too difficult to sort out if you've been living with it day in and day out.  However, if you think about woven fabric, a bias can be useful--it is the diagonal line along which fabric most easily stretches and where you can most easily join it smoothly to other pieces.  Is there a way that we can accept our inevitable biases yet keep them flexible enough to construct wearable, workable alliances?