We must remember one thing when we talk about Islam being patriarchal and that is that it just refers to men having the leadership position - the Prophets (peace be upon them all) and the Imams (peace be upon them all) were men - but that does not mean that women are either subjugated or oppressed. After all, Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) was NOT a male and, therefore, not one of the Prophets (peace be upon them all) or Imams (peace be upon them all) but she was still one of the Masumeen (peace be upon them all)!
She did not hold any leadership position as such - like Prophets (peace be upon them all) hold - and yet she was much greater than all Prophets (peace be upon them all) except one ! In fact, I do remember a hadith by one of the Imams (peace be upon them all) which said something like "We are the Hujjah of Allah upon you but Lady Fatima is the Hujjah upon us"!
NOTE: The above hadith is NOT word for word/verbatim but I gave the theme.
This just goes to show her status. This I believe is the most effective and most important statement I am going to make: "As long as Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) is there, Islam can NEVER be called a religion which is either misogynist or suppresses women!"
I know the questions are a bit more of a "ladies only" discussion but I think an important point must be made about the part I have highlighted in point 6 below:
6. What improvements do you think needs to be made toward the status of women in Muslim culture? For example, some women feel that there needs to be translations of the quran by women, or more female scholars to interpret the fiqh rules for women (as opposed to having a male ayatollah decide the rules for them). Do you think they might be unfair or unreasonable? Skimming through the a risalah for example, there is are some details I've always felt are quite difficult to follow, especially rules on menstruation.
I don't think that just because, as according to most Marjas, males makes the laws, this results in either oppression on the females or lead to errors in the laws just because the ones giving the fatwas don't experience what women experience. This is because, for one thing, they can always consult with women and can get an understanding of their issues as well.
I also think that this issue must be divided up into two facets: who makes the laws and how they are, then, delivered to the women.
1. According to most Marjas, women cannot be followed and, therefore, only males can be Marjas. Going with the majority view, we cannot really argue that since women are not the ones making the laws, then this would either lead to errors in the laws or subjugation of women. I believe so because of two things:
a. In the time of the Prophet , he was the one who was giving the laws and he was male. Can we ever argue that the laws he gave were not appropriate, erroneous or oppressive just because he did not experience the issues women face. Obviously not and the sole reason for this is that he was not the one who was making these laws but, rather, he was getting these laws from The Creator who knows the issues and problems women face even better than women and knows their solutions much better than any woman could ever find! Therefore, in the Prophet 's time, the laws regarding women were perfect even though the law giver was not a female. Of course, he did use his wives or Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) to disseminate these laws to the women in the community but that does not negate the fact that he was the prime lawgiver in the society and they were just his messengers. He just transmitted these laws using them because it is, often, inappropriate to discuss such issues with the opposite gender since they are sensitive topics. In fact, IF I AM NOT WRONG - which could be the case - I do remember reading or hearing - I am not sure whether it was from Sunni sources or Shia ones - that when needed, if the issue was complicated enough, he, himself, would go and answer the questions and queries of the females! Of course, I am not sure about this and, perhaps, someone more knowledgeable than me can shed some more light on this.
b. As for the current situation, we must realise one important fact: the Maraje are NOT the ones who make the laws. The Marajes do NOT make their own laws; they just collect the various Islamic sources and pass a fatwa about what they think the Prophet had ordered and, since they don't make the laws, even if they did not experience what women experience, their laws are still good since their source is the Prophet and Ahlulbayt (peace be upon them all) and, therefore, Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì Himself! This is why even these laws cannot be oppressive or erroneous.
2. In regards to how the laws should be transmitted to the females, I do agree that females are mostly uncomfortable talking to men about certain issues but I don't see why the Maraje cannot use females to pass on the laws to the wider community and, then, there is, of course, the Risalah. I don't think anyone could feel uncomfortable reading from a book. I do recognise that, sometimes, the problem may be a bit too complicated for the Risalah to answer and, therefore, a person may need to talk to someone in person and that is why I would greatly encourage more of our females to be more active in Islamic circles and increase their knowledge of Islam on a professional note. If you read my last post, I have named some of the very knowledgeable ladies in our communities MASHALLAH. I am sure there are many more but since women's majalis tend to be a bit more "discreet", I just don't know many of them but the more the merrier!
Therefore, I don't see any reason to believe that males making laws (religious) about females is either subjugation or that it can lead to inappropriate or erroneous laws.
INSHALLAH, I have been helpful, clear and objective in my reasoning, have not hurt anyone and I hope the starter of this thread did not mind me breaking the "ladies only" rule!
May Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì bless us all, our families and loved ones, guide us all to The Straight Path with His Perfect Guidance and may He, The Forgiver of Sins and The Oft-Forgiving, forgive all our sins for, indeed, there is neither any refuge nor any respite for the sinners except in Allah سبحانه وتعالى.