Oxford Union: “Feminism has been hijacked by white middle-class women”

I argue that likewise, feminism has been hijacked by middle class muslims. If my white privileges make me unable to understand the struggle, and show solidarity with the struggle, of muslim women of colour, the same is true in the opposite direction. If white feminists look down on muslim women who try to become equal within their own cultural setting and belief frame, the same is true of muslim women who claim that their struggle for equality within the belief frame is of higher value, as here. Every woman who claims that gender segregation is her right, not a means of oppression, fights for a world where women are considered as OTHERS, a world where my right to walk side by side with men, pray side by side with men is trampled. Every woman who claims her RIGHT to be secluded in her husband’s home and says this is equality, is hijacking the concept and arming patriarchal men who want to say I am an unnatural woman for wanting to work. Every woman who claims the veil is her right and a means to be equal, is giving weapons to men who claim that women are the OTHERS and must assume responsibility towards the sexuality and morals of men and must behave and dress differently because she is the OTHER. Every woman who claims that a difference in biology should also mean a difference in society is claiming that racism and apartheid is intrinsically right. So the sisters in the global south who are claiming women’s OTHERNESS is a right are contributing to the on going subjugation of all women. In this article, white women are called to respect the cultural frame works of the global south. We are asked to respect people and not come and project. So why not call for muslim middle class women to respect our cultural frame work and not come and project? There are plenty of well educated, middle class muslimahs who are not individually oppressed, but have a choice. Why should not they, when they come to my space, show solidarity with my struggle within my cultural sphere but in stead scorn the struggle for equality that I have to endure? No – to all muslimahs in the West: If you come to my space, respect me, do not come and project!


This is the transcript of a speech given by Myriam Francois-Cerrah in an Oxford Union debate on 12 Feburary. She was speaking in favour of the successful motion “This House believes that feminism has been hijacked by white middle class women”, alongside Ava Vidal and  Linda Bellos OBE. In opposition: Inna Schevchenko from FEMEN, Michael Kaufman and Natalie Bennett (Green Party).

Ladies and Gentleman, it is a pleasure to be here with you this evening.

I know, I know – the apparent irony of my being a white middle class woman who believes feminism has been hijacked by white middle class women will, I’m certain, not be lost on you.

But – it is in many ways a vindication of my case.

After all, I am a minority within my own community – unrepresentative of Muslim women either here or in the global south, in terms of my either socio-economic profile…

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4 thoughts on “Oxford Union: “Feminism has been hijacked by white middle-class women”

  1. Long time no see 🙂

    I have been awfully busy trying to prepare for my eldest daughter’s wedding. Mash’ Allah she has found a good man who fully agrees that a wife and husband are equal partners in building a life together and Insh’ Allah they will have a good life. But I must admit that I wish the wedding could be over since preparing for it is almost killing me … *lol*
    I know here in Pakistan many woman, and I suppose you would call us middle class, look down on western women. They believe they have low morals and are unnatural. Many women here also believe western men have no sense of honor and are feminine. But also many women want to marry western men to be able to leave Pakistan. I know many women who have married men in the UK and US and they don’t seem to mind if he is non muslim if he can be their ticket out…. I wear a scarf but western clothes. I don’t believe I am responsible for men’s morals. I am going to show the beautiful woman Allah created 😀 And I agree that in claiming that the West must respect our cultural setting we do not reciprocate by respecting the culture of the west. It is very hypocritical. And also I often see that they write that in the west men are cheating with mistresses and there are many divorces. But in Pakistan I can tell you many women want to divorce but they cant due to finances and cultural factors! And just as many men here cheat as in the West! More I would say since men don’t have any esteem for women here lots of the time! I have been blessed with a husband who respects me. More luck than skill though since I was only 16 when I married him. He married also a cousin but only because she would have been desolate otherwise with children. She gave up all physical rights on him in the marriage contract Mash’ Allah. I could not have lived with their marriage otherwise.

  2. True.
    The whole issue of feminism is being hijacked by islam in the West. It is very strange how muslims can scorn western attitudes to islamic misogyny by claiming it is cultural oppression, while at the same time muslims spit at western culture. I thought respect was supposed to be mutual?

  3. Would I be allowed in Iraq, Iran, Saudi etc to walk around in miniskirt and tanktop? Why is my freedom of expression through clothes less worth?

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