Here’s the scene - it’s a master’s of social work class and the professor is explaining her PowerPoint lesson. She started giving examples of what social justice issues are when she moved forward to this slide. I was tired, but listening, until I read ‘women in the Middle East’ on the list. I immediately asked the professor how Middle Eastern women are considered a social justice issue. She turned the question to the class. To my dismay, some classmates had ready answers. People were saying stuff like “because they’re oppressed by their leaders and the men of their country” and “they don’t have any control over their bodies” and some people were nodding their heads in agreement. My hand shot up, and I explained the difference between culture and religion, with the added twist of region and wealth. Not all aspects of culture are monotone; there are so many degrees in variations of differences and to make such a blanket statement was very unfair. It was when another student tried to justify the professor’s statement by talking about how “all Muslim women are forced to cover, which leaves them not in control over their own bodies” that I briefly stated that a vast majority of women that cover do so of their own choosing. I then brought up Govener Rick Perry. I mentioned how he has passed laws directly restricting Texas women from making various choices in governing her body. I asked her that as a female actively living in Texas at this very moment, did she have full control over her body? There was a few moments of silence before the professor looks over the class and says “I don’t know about you guys, but I live in America and I’m a strong, independent woman who has 100% control over my own body!” The professor then turned to me and told me that it was a list of social justice suggestions, then briskly moved on to the next topic.
It’s kind of funny that cultural competency is a social work pillar, cause none of that was very culturally competent of her. This is not the first time I’ve had to feel like I had to defend Islam or Middle Eastern culture and people in this class. Seriously, wth.