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April 06, 2007

Islam and the Death of Feminism

Biggest shock: I didn't know feminism had still been alive.

[Phyllis] Chesler's experiences in Afghanistan have helped shape her thoughts about the failure of feminism to engage with what she sees as the oppression of women in Islamic countries. After "40 years on the front lines" of feminism - she is now emerita professor of psychology and women's studies at the City University of New York - her current project means that she gets a "chilly" reception from fellow feminists. It does not help, perhaps, that her latest book is called The Death of Feminism.

Isn't the title somewhat stark? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say there are trends in feminism that she, personally, finds disturbing?

"I am still a feminist," she insists. "The reason that I have announced the death of feminism, which I agree is stark, is that from my point of view, looking at mainstream feminism in the west - in the universities, in the media, among academics and the socalled intelligentsia - there is a moral failure, a moral bankruptcy, a refusal to take on, in particular, Muslim gender apartheid. So you have many contemporary feminists who say, 'We have to be multiculturally relativist. We cannot uphold a single, or absolute, standard of human rights. And, therefore, we can't condemn Islamic culture, because their countries have been previously colonised. By us.' I disagree."

...

Western feminism's failure to confront the problems raised by Islam, Chesler believes, is a result of the creation of a hierarchy of sins, "an intellectual culture in which racism trumps gender concerns". The example she cites as the embodiment of wrongheaded priorities is "gay and lesbian movement activists rooting for the Palestinians who, meanwhile, are very busy persecuting homosexuals, who in turn are fleeing to Israel for political asylum".

The result, she argues, is that "instead of telling the truth about Islam and demanding that the Muslim world observes certain standards, you have westerners beating their breasts and saying, 'We can't judge you, we can't expose you, we can't challenge you.' And here in the west you have a dangerous misuse of western concepts such as religious tolerance and cultural sensitivity so that one kind of hate speech is seen as something that must be rigorously protected. That means, principally, lies about America and lies about Jews."

...

Chesler will not accept the Islamophobe label. She claims it is a blanket term used to silence those who portray Islam accurately, and bemoans feminism's embrace of what she sees as misguided causes."Feminism began to fail when they began to say, 'We can't judge barbarism. We can't even call it barbarism, because the barbarians will be offended'," she says. Feminism has become just one part of a wider anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist movement, "so much so that many feminists are now much more concerned with the occupation of a country that doesn't exist - namely Palestine - than they are concerned with the occupation of women's bodies worldwide".

Thanks to Son of Nixon.


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posted by Ace at 01:13 PM

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