Irshad Manji, Amy Ray in Curve Magazine

The current print issue of Curve features two of my heroes: Muslim reform activist Irshad Manji, and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls.

Malinda Lo's interview with Irshad Manji (p. 30 of the August 2005 print issue) introduces the Toronto lesbian, who lives with her partner Michelle Douglas, and stresses Manji's contention that "unlike most religions in which fundamentalism is relatively marginal, in Islam, literalism is mainstream and challenging it is forbidden." The solution Manji proposes is a return to the Islamic tradition of ijtihad, or critical thinking. Speaking of the reactions of young Muslim women to her revolutionary message, she says: "They're the ones who've said to me, 'We know that we have the least to lose and the most to gain by being leaders of our communities now, so thank you,' and they tell me, 'tell us where we can sign up to do more." She hopes to found an institute where Muslims can engage in open dialog about the issues of the day. "You don't need to choose between one or the other, Muslim or thinker ... you can, in fact, be both." It's great that Curve is giving Irshad the press she deserves.

Amy Ray's new solo album, "Prom", deals with "the dance between gender and sexuality, man and woman, youth and adulthood, authority and rebellion," as Margaret Coble quotes the Indigo Girls singer. The cover art, featuring a double exposure of Ray, should clue you in to that. Amy Ray (who looks much better without the mustache) talks in the interview about her first crush - "I couldn't see anything but this woman; it was all-consuming ..." and about herself: "I have a very strong male energy ... but I don't feel a stranger to my female side, or estranged from my female body." This helps us understand Amy's enlightened attitude toward transgender people, which I posted about here.

Amy Ray is also very perceptive about understanding different kinds of repression/oppression. In one of the MWMF interviews, she says, "It's not really male privilege if it's somebody who has been treated like a freak for their whole life" - meaning that feminists should not assume that every male-to-female TG person has had it easy living as a man. In the Curve interview, she talks about learning how femme lesbians also experience discrimination within the lesbian community, because they "aren't seen in [their] queerness all the time".

A former girlfriend of mine - also a high femme - made a similar comment about the gay scene during the 1970s and 80s. She said that for gay men, hypermasculinity was the rule - "they all looked like the Village People" - while for women, butch was cool and femme was not. It was as if femininity, either in women or in men, was seen as a liability.

Amy Ray's comment about "queerness" might seem a little strange, because, Don't gay people want to be accepted by society? The answer is yes, but nobody wants to have to choose between being themselves and being accepted. And nobody wants to have to choose between being accepted by the (nonminority) society, and being accpeted by their own (minority) in-group. This is the importance of individual liberty - including, most fundamentally, the freedom of self-identification and -expression. (In fact, I would argue that an enlightened understanding of gender is essential for any future vision of feminism that seeks to move away from the victimhood mentality ... but I'm getting ahead of myself. That's a subject for another post.)

Curve has, once again, given its readers a lot to think about: this time with the views of two women who reject religious dogma, political correctness, and victimology.