As a white American feminist, I do not feel comfortable making statements or judgments about other cultures, especially statements that suggest one culture is more sexist and repressive than another. American feminism is often linked to and manipulated by the state in order to further its own imperialist ends.
Ms Sentilles has complained that Wall Street Journal reporter John Fund did not interview her and that he lifted(?), from her blog(?), her comments out of context. The missing context? – State manipulation of feminism “in order to further its own imperialist ends.” Leaving that out was doing her a favor.
Mark Steyn presents another view of non-relativist cultural attitudes:
…In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:
“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
One wonders how Ms Sentilles feels about suttee – cultural-crit speaking – and, for example, forced female genital mutilation as topics appropriate for judging the treatment of women. The judgmentalism, that is, that she purports to be her expertise.
Ms Sentilles and her ilk have only needed 30 years to degrade the meaning of the word “feminism” to the point where most people consider it to be the very definition of pseudo-intellectual, hypocritical, anti-capitalist – and, as demonstrated, racist – harridanism. If a small cadre of females can do so much damage to women in so short a time, and be proud of it, female superiority in masochism is a given.
It took 250 years to similarly damage the word “liberal.” We have Ted Kennedy, Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore as the result of that devolution. For “gender” balance, Cynthia McKinney, Harvard professor Nancy Hopkins and Barbra Streisand have been no slouches.
Without the torturous deprecation of the word “liberal” the demeaning of the word “feminist” would probably not have occurred, but the people who confiscate ownership of an ideological label end up defining the ideology itself. Feminism is “Liberal”, and grew from the perversion of that tradition. Islamofascism is a parallel example.
A counter-example is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a person who can easily define what feminism ought to mean, and whose courage in so doing weighs a order of magnitude more, morally, than the sum of all those Americans who proclaim “Feminism” as their virtue. Hirsi Ali in The International Herald Tribune:
…Every year, from 1.5 million to 3 million women and girls lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect.
How could this possibly be true? Here are some of the factors:
In countries where the birth of a boy is considered a gift and the birth of a girl a curse from the gods, selective abortion and infanticide eliminate female babies.
Young girls die disproportionately from neglect because food and medical attention is given first to brothers, fathers, husbands and sons.
In countries where women are considered the property of men, their fathers and brothers can murder them for choosing their own sexual partners. These are called “honor” killings, though honor has nothing to do with it.
Young brides are killed if their fathers do not pay sufficient money to the men who have married them. These are called “dowry deaths,” although they are not just deaths, they are murders.
The brutal international sex trade in young girls kills uncounted numbers of them.
…What is happening to women and girls in many places across the globe is genocide. All the victims scream their suffering. It is not so much that the world doesn’t hear them; it is that fellow human beings choose not to pay attention.
…The Islamists are engaged in reviving and spreading a brutal and retrograde body of laws. Wherever the Islamists implement Shariah, or Islamic law, women are hounded from the public arena, denied education and forced into a life of domestic slavery.
Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values – an “Asian,” “African” or “Islamic” approach to human rights.
This mind-set needs to be broken. A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men. [Get it, Della?]
(Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch legislator, lives under 24-hour protection because of death threats against her by Islamic radicals since the murder of Theo van Gogh, with whom she made the film “Submission” about women and Islam. This Global Viewpoint article was distributed by Tribune Media Services.)
American Feminists can’t be bothered outside of their cultural redoubts, but if Della Sentilles had any balls, she’d be first and foremost protesting the murder, mutilation, torture and rape of WOMEN. It really doesn’t have anything to do with culture. It’s murder, torture and rape. They’re women. QED.
Ms Sentilles should try to get those bits of patriarchal malfeasance addressed before she worries about the composition of the hard sciences faculty at Harvard, the imperialist uses of the feminist blather she dispenses, or even date-rape at Yale; at least while her sisters are having forced back-alley clitorectomies.
American Feminists aren’t really afraid to criticize other cultures, they’re afraid their own complaints will be revealed as trivial. They are cowards and hypocrites. They betray the common-sense purposes of their own purported cause for political gain and cultural sabotage.
Ms Sentilles would learn something from listening to another woman under death threat, Dr. Wafa Sultan. From a previous TOC post, “Backward by choice”:
Dr. Sultan is a psychologist and a Syrian expatriate who resides in the U.S. She recently appeared on Al-Jazeera television where she attacked Islamists as “backward.” The video is here. You should watch it.
She is articulate and relentless in her contention that the war with Islamofascism is not a clash of civilizations. To summarize Dr. Sultan’s position: To have a clash of civilizations, you’d need a minimum of two civilizations, and Islam is generally too backward to be so considered.
Mark Steyn explains:
Fate conspires to remind us what this war is really about: civilizational confidence. And so history repeats itself: first the farce of the Danish cartoons, and now the tragedy – a man on trial for his life in post-Taliban Afghanistan because he has committed the crime of converting to Christianity.
The cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were deeply offensive to Muslims, and so thousands protested around the world in the usual restrained manner – rioting, torching, killing, etc.
The impending execution of Abdul Rahman for embracing Christianity is, of course, offensive to Westerners, and so around the world we reacted equally violently by issuing blood-curdling threats like that made by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack: “Freedom of worship is an important element of any democracy,” he said. “And these are issues as Afghan democracy matures that they are going to have to deal with increasingly.”
The immediate problem for Abdul Rahman is whether he’ll get the chance to “mature” along with Afghan democracy.
…as the Canadian columnist David Warren put it: “We take it for granted that it is wrong to kill someone for his religious beliefs. Whereas Islam holds it is wrong not to kill him.”
Read the whole thing.
We can, and must, make judgments. Many of them will involve culture. Culture is not more sacred than religious conviction, nor than a secular belief in the right to abortion on demand.
Ms Sentilles, do you understand what Mark Steyn is saying? Can you appreciate the risk Dr. Sultan has taken in defense of freedom – for men and women? Can you hear Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
We need a worldwide campaign to reform cultures that permit this kind of crime. Let’s start to name them and shame them.
If you cannot hear Hirsi Ali, did you hear Malalai Joya speaking on your own campus last week? The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund did:
The BBC calls Malalai Joya the most famous woman in Afghanistan. On Thursday the 27-year-old women’s rights activist, a member of the Afghan Parliament, mounted a stage at Yale and turned her fire on the university’s decision to admit a former Taliban official as a special student.
“All should raise their voice against such criminals,” she told a crowd of 200. “It is an unforgivable insult to the Afghan people that he is here. He should face a court of law rather than be at one of your finest universities.” The Yale Daily News reported that the large attendance at her speech showed that the former Taliban official “continues to be widely controversial.” Last night the Yale College Council, the undergraduate student government, began debating a resolution urging the university’s administration not to admit Mr. Hashemi as a regular sophomore in the fall.
Ms. Joya has standing to speak for Afghan women. She ran an underground school for women during the Taliban’s rule and today receives frequent death threats after giving speeches in Parliament against “fanatical warlords.” She is strongly critical of U.S. support for her country’s new government, which she claims is increasingly influenced by warlords, as evidenced by the now-abandoned attempt to try an Afghan named Abdul Rahman for the capital crime of converting to Christianity. “Why has $12 billion in foreign aid not made it to my suffering people?” she asked me during an interview. “Fraud and waste have largely diverted your aid to others.”
But it was her criticism of Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the 27-year-old Taliban ambassador-at-large turned Yale student, that stuck in the minds of some audience members at a reception afterwards. “Before I was like, who cares if the guy was Taliban or not?” Yigit Dula, a sophomore from Turkey, told the Yale Daily News. “But it means a lot more to [Afghans] to have someone like Hashemi educated at Yale.” Aisha Amir, a physician who fled war-torn Afghanistan, told me she sympathized with the difficult choices people had to make to survive under the Taliban, but added that “there are so many more deserving Afghan students who belong in Hashemi’s place.”
For example, the women of the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women.
…A small effort to help build a modern economy in Afghanistan was launched by Paula Nirschel in 2002, when she founded the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. Her goal is to match qualified women with at least a GPA of 3.5 or more with U.S. colleges, where they can pursue a degree. The initiative grants all its women full four-year scholarships. They come to college prepared; none need remedial classes. (That’s something that can’t be said of all U.S. students. Last year, only 52% of entering freshmen in the California State University system passed the English placement test.)
As The Wall Street Journal reported in an editorial Friday, Ms. Nirschel sent a letter to Yale in 2002, asking if it wanted to award a spot in its next entering class to an Afghan woman. Yale declined, as did many other schools. Today, the program enrolls 20 students at 10 universities.
Yale has yet to admit these Afghani female applicants who possess better qualifications than the former Taliban Ambassador.
There’s a real feminist cause in there Ms Sentilles; if you can get over your refusal to recognize Afghan women as humans victimized by a “culture” your purported principles would rationally leave you no choice but to condemn.
A documentary that aired on PBS in 2004, [“Afghanistan Unveiled”] … is the work of young female Afghan video journalists working with a French director. … The heart of the film is a searing journey to Bamiyan, a place that made headlines in March 2001, when the Taliban blew up giant 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha there. That month Mr. Hashemi visited me and my colleagues at The Wall Street Journal to launch an impassioned defense of the destruction of the monuments, which had been declared a world heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
At the time, no one knew what else the Taliban were doing in Bamiyan beyond blowing up Buddhas. Nearby, the Afghan video journalists found the remnants of the Hazara tribe. One survivor told them the Taliban had “tried to exterminate” the entire tribe, starting with the men.
Zainyab, a Hazara woman so thin and wrinkled that her age was indeterminate, was found by video journalist Marie Ayub living in a cave “like an animal.” She told the filmmakers that “from hundreds of women here, not one has a husband. From 100 children, maybe just one still has two parents. They bulldozed houses with women and children inside; they cut off women’s breasts.” But despite the devastation, she hasn’t given up hope. “Bring us looms,” she tells the filmmakers. “Then we can be paid to weave rugs.”
How do you answer her, Ms Sentilles? “No comment, wrong culture.”?
Remember, the only reason Mr. Hashemi did not “launch an impassioned defense” of the butchery of females and the murder of children was that no one asked him about it.
Asking about it would have been a job for the culturally insensitive, as contrasted with the culturally insensate.
Update: 9:18PM. From the Yale Daily News. Read it all.
…Outrage over religious fascism ought to be the province of American liberals. But in Hashemi’s case it has been almost entirely trumpeted by Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and right-wing bloggers. A friend of mine recently remarked that part of his and his peers’ nonchalance (and in some cases, support for) Hashemi has to do with the fact that the right has seized upon the issue. Our politics have become so polarized that many are willing to take positions based on the inverse of their opponents’. This abandonment of classical liberal values at the expense of political gamesmanship has consequences that reach far beyond Yale; it hurts our national discourse.
In a bold declaration that she will, with any hope, one day come to regret, Della Sentilles ’06 wrote on her feminist Weblog, “Broad Recognition,” “As a white American feminist, I do not feel comfortable making statements or judgments about other cultures, especially statements that suggest one culture is more sexist and repressive than another.” While I cringe at the implications of this, I applaud its honesty. It lays bare a method of thinking that is quite pervasive on our campus, and that many, if not most, students claim allegiance to. It is at once racist — for holding non-Westerners to a lower standard of behavior — and dangerous in its cold abandonment of those who suffer under totalitarian and theocratic regimes. “They shamelessly defer to oppressive religious and cultural norms in the name of respecting diversity, betraying the victims of oppression in the process,” British gay-rights activist and self-described “radical, left-wing Green” Peter Tatchell wrote of his comrades on the left who refused to condemn barbaric practices in Muslim societies. Joya has no problem saying Taliban Afghanistan was “more sexist and repressive than” the U.S. Why can’t Sentilles?
Some of these Bulldogs can hunt.