Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Silence of the Feminists

Yesterday, while posting about the Turkish teenager who was buried alive, I mused that we should not have to leave these stories to Phyllis Chesler.

Where there ought to be a worldwide outcry against honor killings, the movement feminist voice has strangely fallen silent. For my part I find this alarming.

Today, Phyllis Chesler has, inevitably, posted her own analysis of the situation. Link here.

Chesler argues that the feminist silence about honor killings is of a piece with the current European debate about whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear burqas and veils. In France and Ireland, among other places, legislators are asking whether Western cultures can be true to their own values while colluding in the sartorial oppression of women.

Have feminists added their voices to the debate. You would expect that feminists would be at the barricades demanding that women be liberated from their burqas and niqabs.

Yet, more often than not, they have demurred. Western feminists have been snookered into absorbing the mythology of Western oppression of third world peoples, and now, to remain true to that myth, they will cast a blind eye on women who are shrouded in public. Better that than to see themselves as imperialist oppressors.

If feminism means that women should have every right to live public lives, to work freely and to participate in the marketplace, how is it possible that this once-noble movement should have been hijacked by the multiculturalists and become an apologist for the oppression of women?

Surely, this tells us that we should be very careful while playing with ideas. Unless you are fairly sophisticated it is easy to be lured into an ideological passion that will eventually lead you to positions that are the precise opposite of those you hold most dear. It is all too easy to exploit the moral enthusiasms of the young and direct them towards ends that are utterly and totally morally repugnant.

Seducing minds is not the easiest thing in the world, but, once it happens, it leads to some startling reversals of adherence.

It is not just about the oppression of women. Three score and a few years after the defeat of Naziism a significant number of European thinkers have swung to the side of anti-semitism. Who would have imagined that it would have become acceptable in polite European society to denounce Israel as the reincarnation of Nazi Germany?

As Western intellectuals have been seduced into believing myths of oppression, they have become like flagellants punishing themselves for belonging to the nations and cultures that they hold responsible for all of the world's ills.

If so few many Westerners take real pride in their own cultures, why would we expect non-Westerners to emulate them? Mark Steyn noted the other day that as long as Western women do not take pride in their freedom there is no real reason for non-Western women to emulate their example.

Steyn was writing about the fact, also taken up by Chesler, that Egyptian women, formerly modern and Westernized, have recently returned to wearing the headscarf, and even the veil.

Perhaps it is an accident, but they all are all in love with America's great contribution to moral relativism and multiculturalism, Barack Obama.

When Obama went to Cairo to explain to the Muslim world that America is just as bad as anyone else, who would have imagined that his words would provide another rationale for the return to the most visible signs of female oppression.

Clearly, European states are working to legislate their values against the onslaught of a culture that is founded on female oppression. And yet, it takes more than law; women in Egypt and Turkey will be unaffected by European laws. More importantly, it is a matter of setting an example.

Ask yourself what self-image Western women are presenting to the world? Are they presenting themselves as proud members of the workforce, dignified participants in the world of business and commerce? Are they aglow with accomplishment and self-respect?

Sometimes the rest of the world looks to America and does not see proud, confident women. It sees girls gone wild. It does not see women who revel in the opportunities that their culture and freedom offers them. It sees women who seem to feel that freedom is not freedom for but freedom from.

For too many American women, freedom consists in immodesty and indecency.

If that is what freedom means to Western women, and if they are perfectly happy to indulge it themselves, while not caring a whit for what is happening next door... then perhaps it is not too much of a surprise that non-Western women are increasingly repudiating their hollow example.

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