Sunday, May 20, 2007

For Women Everywhere

In The Weekly Standard Christina Hoff Sommers writes an article called "The Subjection of Islamic Women" that should be required reading (and study) for women everywhere.

In her article, Ms Sommers discusses the differences between current American feminism and the growing feminism of Islamic women. She also points out the differences between current feminism in America and the "first wave" feminism of a century ago here in America. It is a long article, but well worth your time to read.

In her first two paragraphs, Ms Sommers lets us know of her concerns:
The subjection of women in Muslim societies--especially in Arab nations and in Iran--is today very much in the public eye. Accounts of lashings, stonings, and honor killings are regularly in the news, and searing memoirs by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi have become major best-sellers. One might expect that by now American feminist groups would be organizing protests against such glaring injustices, joining forces with the valiant Muslim women who are working to change their societies. This is not happening.

If you go to the websites of major women's groups, such as the National Organization for Women, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the National Council for Research on Women, or to women's centers at our major colleges and universities, you'll find them caught up with entirely other issues, seldom mentioning women in Islam. During the 1980s, there were massive demonstrations on American campuses against racial apartheid in South Africa. There is no remotely comparable movement on today's campuses against the gender apartheid prevalent in large parts of the world.

You would think that the subjection of Islamic women would be of major concern to all feminists throughout the world, especially American feminists who, in spite of their statements to the contrary, have more freedom than any other women in the world and thus are free to help their sisters in the far more oppressive regions of the world. Ms Sommers' article discusses why the American feminists are not of more help to the women in other countries:

The reasons are rooted in the worldview of the women who shape the concerns and activities of contemporary American feminism. That worldview is--by tendency and sometimes emphatically--antagonistic toward the United States, agnostic about marriage and family, hostile to traditional religion, and wary of femininity. The contrast with Islamic feminism could hardly be greater....

One reason is that many feminists are tied up in knots by multiculturalism and find it very hard to pass judgment on non-Western cultures. They are far more comfortable finding fault with American society for minor inequities (the exclusion of women from the Augusta National Golf Club, the "underrepresentation" of women on faculties of engineering) than criticizing heinous practices beyond our shores. The occasional feminist scholar who takes the women's movement to task for neglecting the plight of foreigners is ignored or ruled out of order.

Ms Sommers goes on to discuss American feminist writings both radical and moderate and talks about some of the methods used to accomplish early equality in the United States. She also summarizes what Islamic women have been doing--they aren't waiting for American feminists to help them. In her final two paragraphs, she states:
The women who constitute the American feminist establishment today are destined to play little role in the battle for Muslim women's rights. Preoccupied with their own imagined oppression, they can be of little help to others--especially family-centered Islamic feminists. The Katha Pollitts and Eve Enslers, the vagina warriors and university gender theorists--these are women who cannot distinguish between free and unfree societies, between the Taliban and the Promise Keepers, between being forced to wear a veil and being socially pressured to be slender and fit. Their moral obtuseness leads many of them to regard helping Muslim women as "colonialist" or as part of a "hegemonic" "civilizing mission." It disqualifies them as participants in this moral fight.

In reality, of course, it is the Islamic feminists themselves who are on a civilizing mission--one that is vital to their own welfare and to the welfare of an anxious world. A reviewer of Irshad Manji's manifesto celebrating Islamic feminism aptly remarked, "This could be Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare." Ipso facto, it should be our fondest dream. And if, along the way, Islamic feminism were to have a wholesome influence on American feminism, so much the better.

I would really like to see women everywhere read this article and give some serious thought as to what it means and what they can do to help others, as well as re-thinking their more radical positions here in America, where we have widespread freedom and equality.

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At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Pop said...

Great piece, Mary, another that helps to show the true colors of the radical left, for that is what they are. A woman being stoned isn't worth their time, but not having a job that they are not qualified for is of the utmost importance.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Mary A said...

Thanks, Pop. I realize that many feminists aren't radical, but some are and they influence the rest. I just want people to think for themselves. Not that I'm perfect.... :D


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