Sunday, April 03, 2016

Western feminism asleep at the switch when it comes to Islam

An excellent article from 2003 (only recently brought back to public attention) can be found here. Some excerpts are worth quoting:

As you look at this inventory of brutality, the question bears repeating: Where are the demonstrations, the articles, the petitions, the resolutions, the vindications of the rights of Islamic women by American feminists? The weird fact is that, even after the excesses of the Taliban did more to forge an American consensus about women’s rights than 30 years of speeches by Gloria Steinem, feminists refused to touch this subject. They have averted their eyes from the harsh, blatant oppression of millions of women, even while they have continued to stare into the Western patriarchal abyss, indignant over female executives who cannot join an exclusive golf club and college women who do not have their own lacrosse teams.

But look more deeply into the matter, and you realize that the sound of feminist silence about the savage fundamentalist Muslim oppression of women has its own perverse logic. The silence is a direct outgrowth of the way feminist theory has developed in recent years. Now mired in self-righteous sentimentalism, multicultural nonjudgmentalism, and internationalist utopianism, feminism has lost the language to make the universalist moral claims of equal dignity and individual freedom that once rendered it so compelling. No wonder that most Americans, trying to deal with the realities of a post-9/11 world, are paying feminists no mind.

Keep in mind that postmodernism hates any talk of universals: everything is local and radically contextualized in PoMo thought. There are no Great Truths to be found anywhere—no "fundamental nature of" this or "essence of" that. Feminism hitched its wagon to PoMo long ago, inadvertently defanging itself, leaving itself unprepared to accuse foreign cultures and traditions that act barbarically toward women because, incredibly, "All cultures are equal." This sort of insidious, poisonous relativism renders large blocs of the West impotent in the face of such an obviously anti-feminist force. Meanwhile, women are sent to the meat grinder in droves, and their ostensible defenders—feminists—do absolutely fuck-all.

The postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault, one of the intellectual godfathers of multiculturalism and postcolonialism, first set the tone in 1978 when an Italian newspaper sent him to Teheran to cover the Iranian revolution. As his biographer James Miller tells it, Foucault looked in the face of Islamic fundamentalism and saw... an awe-inspiring revolt against “global hegemony.” He was mesmerized by this new form of “political spirituality” that, in a phrase whose dark prescience he could not have grasped, portended the “transfiguration of the world.” Even after the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and reintroduced polygamy and divorce on the husband’s demand with automatic custody to fathers, reduced the official female age of marriage from 18 to 13, fired all female judges, and ordered compulsory veiling, whose transgression was to be punished by public flogging, Foucault saw no reason to temper his enthusiasm. What was a small matter like women’s basic rights, when a struggle against “the planetary system” was at hand?

I knew there was a reason why I despised Foucault. It wasn't just his dense, deliberately impenetrable prose, either.

The article is long and admittedly polemical, but it's worth your time, and it explains much about why the obvious—feminists defending oppressed women—isn't happening. I'm reminded not only of Orwellian doublethink but also of Douglas Adams's darkly humorous prophecy about humanity first proving God's nonexistence, then going on to prove black is white, subsequently destroying itself. For Western feminists not of the Camille Paglia variety, black is most definitely white.


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