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Zaar spirits as a mechanism of female solidarity
April 22nd, 2013 by Breigh Montgomery

(Disclaimer: For the sake of simplicity, I wrote the post with heteronormative assumptions. I don’t mean to imply that other communities don’t exist or aren’t subject to similar issues regarding solidarity, it was just easier.)

Something I feel Western culture severely lacks is solidarity and support between and among women. Instead of community, we are fragmented by competition, often for the attention of men. Behavior such as slut-shaming divides us from coming together to create positive change that promotes equity and equality for all genders. One my favorite quotes is by a man named Kumani and I feel that it describes the struggle that all disenfranchised groups face in trying to create solidarity: “Part of the mechanics of oppressing people is to pervert them to the extent that they become the instruments of their own oppression.”

Due to this difficulty, I find Zaar as a mechanism for female solidarity incredibly fascinating. Aspects like, “in societies where women are off-limits to all but a small circle of men under a limited set of circumstances, we can be certain that men only know what women want them to know (Boneham, 64),” present such an interesting paradox to my own cultural experience where personal information tends to be far more public, rather than private and enclosed. The construction of identity beyond traditionally assigned, normative roles through ritual–such as becoming the “bride,” healer, or engaged by way of the jinni connected to your lineage– would ordinarily be viewed as deviant and transgressive, but instead becomes not only accepted by the community and indeed considered to be vital and necessary roles. Additionally, the matriarchal tracking of zaar spirits within families and the bond that is created through that commonality proves interesting because it stands in direct contrast to Islamic laws of inheritance and those allotted power within those structures.  In this instance, female solidarity is engaged on a new level while also openly contradicting a gendered Islamic tradition.

 


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