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2019 Jotwell: J. Things We Like 1 (2019)

handle is hein.journals/jotwell2019 and id is 1 raw text is: 
The Journal of Things We Like (Lots)

Exclusionary Equality: France's State-Feminism and Its Other


Author  : Cyra Akila Choudhury

Date : January 7, 2019

Darren Rosenblum,  Sex Quotas  and Burkini Bans, 92 Tul. L. Rev. 469 (2017).

Feminism  in the Global North began as a critical social movement emphasizing the societal oppression and exclusion
of women  and the inadequacies of the patriarchal state. Since the 1960s, it has evolved into a fragmented constellation
of groups and theoretical positions often with deep divergences and seemingly intractable disagreements. One of these
disagreements  has been about feminism's relationship to the state. Some feminists have traditionally been
uncomfortable with and wary of institutional political power. And for good reason. Alliances with a patriarchal state
produces only limited success with considerable costs. Other feminists have taken the position that we must take what
we can get. In order to improve the lives of women, we must engage the state-become insiders and change the
structure from within.

Regardless of how feminists orient to the state, most commonly recognize that state-alliances invariably result in mixed
results often with unintended and undesired consequences. Often the gains benefit elite women at the expense of
minorities. Furthermore, engagement with the state and the use of state power can present problems if one takes the
position that generally feminism is a politics and a project that promotes liberation and equality. For example, the
critical feminist literature on mass incarceration points out that the use of criminal law and state apparatus has resulted
in the disproportionate incarceration of men of color. This has resulted in serious consequence for women by
destroying many families and communities of color. Furthermore, gender neutral applications of criminal law have
sometimes  led to the policing of women themselves.1

Darren Rosenblum's  essay, Sex Quotas and Burkini Bans, is part of this critical literature raising important questions
about feminist alliances with and uses of state power in France. Rosenblum's article adds to the literature by exploring
state uses of and, indeed, promulgation of a state feminism. Rosenblum traces the feminist movement for equal
political representation (Parit6). With the passage of Parit6 giving women a 50% quota, the state absorbed the
feminist interest in sex difference and women's equality making it a core state value. And then, as Rosenblum
shows, these ideas disappear in plain sight. (P. 470.) The state, having incorporated a feminist position on equality,
used it to exclude certain categories of women.

The central contribution of the essay is the juxtaposition of Muslim exclusion with elite/mainstream inclusion that
demonstrates the way that a patriarchal state can (ab)use feminism. In this case, feminism comes in handy to
discipline a beleaguered minority further marginalizing its women through the very language of equality and rights and
the construction of freedom itself. The state, with the help of some prominent feminists (and feminist groups like Ni
Poutes, Ni Soumises), established its feminist credibility through arguing that in order to achieve equality, Muslim
women   must be assisted out of their patriarchal religion, out of their seclusion behind the veil, and into the public
sphere where they can be seen to participate.

According to the proponents of the veil ban, the law reflects a commitment to feminist principles. Of course, as
Rosenblum  notes, there were feminists on the other side of the debates on the headscarf as well. These outsider
feminists pointed out the irony of being forced into the state's notion of freedom and the oddity of having liberty defined
and imposed. Muslim  women  are required to conform as a condition of belonging even while their unsurmountable
difference is used to exclude them from the mainstream. Unenumerated Muslim minorities remained subject to socio-
economic  exclusion and restrictions on their self-expression. (P. 481.)


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