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April 24, 2014

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Western Feminists Life Safe, Soft Decadent Lives, and Focus on the Trivial at the Expense of the Profoundly Important

My words, not hers, but that's her point.

"The white man is held to a moral standard that, in the West, men [who have immigrated] from other cultures are not held to," she told the Herald. ''If a white man sold his daughter into marriage, most people would be appalled and there'd be an outrage in any national context in any country in the West. But when it's a man from Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen or India, then what you see is this: 'Oh yes, but …'"

...

Hirsi Ali, who lives in the US, believes women in developed countries are distracted by issues like work-life balance when they should focus on big-picture issues, such as women's safety. She says it is the responsibility of Western feminists to push these issues onto the public agenda - but only if the movement returns to its original values.

This is a several-weeks-old story, but I'm revisiting it on my way to discussing a newer story.

The letter demanding that Hirsi Ali be dis-invited from speaking at Brandeis was, get this, largely signed by women in the Women and Gender Studies program, and more-or-less-explicitly stated that Ali's focus on genuine repression of women took the focus off the trivial microagressions they prefer to gab about.

The Brandeis professors who demanded that Ayaan Hirsi Ali be "immediately" dis-invited wrote that "we are filled with shame at the suggestion that (Hirsi Ali's) above-quoted sentiments express Brandeis's values." The professors also castigated Hirsi Ali for her "core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples" and for her suggestion that "violence toward girls and women is particular to Islam." The professors note that such a view "obscure(s) such violence in our midst among non-Muslims, including on our own campus."

Well, they're not practicing forced clitorectomies at Brandeis, nor are they practicing forced marriage (which is essentially family-arranged rape for life), so I take their complaint to mean this:

Hirsi Ali's own story of genuine oppression, and her agitation about important, fundamental rights of, and dignities owed, to women, makes our own neurotic prattlings seem rather silly and fluffy by comparison.

One of the most important ideas in Post-Feminist philosophy (it's post-feminist now; this is just a degenerate, decadent, silly thing) is the concept of "rape culture."

"Rape culture" is crucial because it is the means by which the trivial is transmogrified into the profound. The fact that a man might commit a "microaggression" against a woman by opening the door for her is, in a series of logical steps, rapidly connected to something serious -- rape -- and thus invested with seriousness itself.

Even though it is by no means serious itself.

But the quick silly skipping "logical" steps go like this:

1. A man commits a "microaggression" against a woman by holding a door open for her, "Otherizing" her and suggesting she is infantile and unable to accomplish small tasks on her own.

2. This is a microaggressive power play which reifies the assumptions of the Patriarchy, about woman's role in society as essentially that of Object or Ornament even Trade Good.

3. This dehumanization of women -- the conscious microaggressive stripping of dignity, agency, and autonomy from women -- makes it more easy for a member of the Patriarchy to treat them as inhuman things.

4. This increases the likelihood of rape and in fact reinforces a "rape culture."

That's the reasoning, such as it is, and this reasoning is assumed (rarely spelled out for the listener) whenever a Post-Feminist attempts to invest some absolutely trivial, bubble-headed cultural complaint (such as Tina Fey's character on 30 Rock not being a real feminist) with some imaginary weightiness.

No one can argue that rape isn't a crime of great weight, and so whenever a Post-Feminist senses she's saying something so absurd and trivial it may make her look absurd and trivial, she knows to go through the "Rape Culture" Algorithm to insist that what she's saying isn't absurd and trivial at all, but Very, Very Important.

But of course I can play the same game with any subject and connect it to rape, murder, or Hitler, as you like.

I can connect, if I wanted, a movie I didn't like to Hitler in four steps or fewer; that would not make my whining about The Hobbit 2 any less trivial or any more "political." (But seriously, it was the worst movie I've seen in years. I literally said aloud, "I hate this f***ing movie" about halfway through. I think it might be worst than the Holocaust, but I'm not sure.)

This is a silly game, indulged by silly people.

Hirsi Ali's story is a threat to this version of Post-Feminist trivial pursuits, as that letter readily admits. Hirsi Ali is speaking of real rape -- not "rape culture" -- and real, physical aggressions, clitorectomies, daylight murders, all of which have the inevitable effect of making the pet obsessions of the Brandeis Women and Gender Studies Department seem rather more ridiculous than they already might appear.

Charles C.W. Cooke discussed this some weeks back:

Prepossessed as he was with the all-encompassing wars of his era, George Orwell complained that political language was “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Unlike Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the culture warriors of America’s pampered campuses are unlikely to be dealing in murder or in warfare or, for that matter, in anything of much consequence at all. Nevertheless, they enjoy playing assassin, painting glowing targets onto the backs of any idea that threatens their power and, one by one, seeking the bullseyes.

So, here's my point. Slate is a magazine much-devoted to the trivial and silly -- until recently, they were the proud (?) publisher of the mindthoughts of Matt Yglesias, now of Chuckleheadz.com -- and never is Slate more trivial and silly than its embarrassing, woman-shaming "XX Factor" column, aka "Politicz for Grrls."

And so here's he latest masterpiece from the XX Factor brain trust.

It comes -- appropriately enough -- from a junior in high school.

This is what Post-Feminists would rather talk about than Ayaan Hirsi Ali's first-hand encounters with real-world oppression of women.

McDonald's Gave Me the “Girl's Toy” With My Happy Meal. So I Went to the CEO.

By Antonia Ayres-Brown

We found that 92.9 percent of the time, the store simply gave each child the toy that McDonald’s had designated for that child’s gender.


In the fall of 2008, when I was 11 years old, I wrote to the CEO of McDonald’s and asked him to change the way his stores sold Happy Meals. I expressed my frustration that McDonald’s always asked if my family preferred a “girl toy” or a “boy toy” when we ordered a Happy Meal at the drive-through. My letter asked if it would be legal for McDonald’s “to ask at a job interview whether someone wanted a man’s job or a woman’s job?”

A few weeks later, I received a short response from a McDonald’s customer satisfaction representative claiming that McDonald’s doesn’t train their employees to ask whether Happy Meal customers want boys’ or girls’ toys, and my experiences were not the norm.

This response was unsatisfying, so I began visiting more than a dozen local McDonald’s locations with my father to collect data. Ultimately, we brought a complaint to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against McDonald’s for discriminating on the basis of sex. Despite our evidence showing that, in our test, McDonald’s employees described the toys in gendered terms more than 79 percent of the time, the commission dismissed our allegations as “absurd” and solely for the purposes of “titilation [sic] and sociological experimentation.”All in all, this was a pretty humiliating defeat.

When a Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities tells you you're being absurd, you're probably doing something wrong.

But I still couldn’t let it go.... So this past summer, we decided to test this assertion.

In a series of 30 visits, we sent boys and girls, ages 7-11, into 15 McDonald’s stores to independently order a Happy Meal at the counter. We found that 92.9 percent of the time, the store, without asking, simply gave each child the toy that McDonald’s had designated for that child’s gender...

In the most egregious instance, a McDonald’s employee asked a girl, “Would you like the girl's toy?” The girl responded, “No, could I have the boy's toy?” When the girl opened the container a moment later, she learned that notwithstanding her explicit request, a McDonald’s employee had given her the girl’s toy. This girl went back to the counter with the unopened toy and requested, “May I have a boy's toy, please?” The same McDonald’s employee replied, “There are only girl's toys.” We then sent an adult male into the store who immediately was given a boy’s toy.

"The most egregious incident" involving cisnormative distribution of Happy Meal toys, she means. I suppose, within that particular set, this might indeed be "the most egregious incident."

Oh by the way, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not permitted to discuss her own experiences of genital mutilation and attempted forced marriage because that might "distract" from the important agenda items being pushed by Post-Feminists.

I will say one thing for this Junior Member of the Women and Gender Studies Social Justice Committee -- she is a more lucid writer than Matt Yglesias, and her piece actually contains information.

Not important information, but still, better than Yglesias.

By the way...

The precocious inquiry yielded a series of communications between Ayres-Brown and the fast-food chain. It also led to some serious data collecting by the girl and her dad Ian Ayres — who is, unsurprisingly, a heavy-hitting Yale law professor and economist who has previously collaborated with his daughter on research — about McDonald’s employees and the Happy Meal gender bias.

Sounds like maybe someone is acting Paternalistically in helping someone get their Ivy League application essay together.

Yay feminism, I guess...?


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posted by Ace at 05:10 PM

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