Gendered Islamophobia has become accentuated in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. The way in which the question of the Islamic headscarf was handled by hegemonist feminists in Europe, especially in France, reveals similarities with the colonial narratives of the late Nineteenth century that pointed to the veil as a symbol of inferiority of Islamic culture and as a threat to Western cultural values. The ‘headscarf affair’ demonstrates that ethnocentrist prejudice continues to encumber Western feminist discourse. Ethnocentrism, which is founded on the primacy of difference and implies domination, reproduces the binary thinking that has marked Orientalism. This paper shows that the border line between ethnocentrism and Orientalism as the ideology of colonialism is porous and that the ‘othering’ process, characteristic of colonial discourse, has resurfaced in Western feminism. Racist and colonialist stereotypical images of Muslim women have thus become commonplace. Like in the colonialist era, Muslim women are depicted as oppressed, eternal victims of patriarchy, characterized by enforced confinement, ignorance, passivity and powerlessness, and in need of rescue by Western feminists. This paper refutes ethnocentric assumptions that essentilaize the differences between us/them, emancipated women/oppressed women, and that have contributed to historical invisibilization and victimization of non-Western women. It criticizes ethnocentric feminist and intellectual paradigms that mark hegemonist currents within Western feminism, and advocates a universality that is not imperialistic.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 5-27
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.