Friday, August 13, 2010

Morally bankrupt feminists

It's awfully nice to sit in Cambridge, England as a female academic. You can enjoy a comfortable upper middle-class lifestyle, choose to study as you wish, travel as you wish. You don't need to rely on men to defend your rights, indeed you can associate with whomever men and women as you wish (and who wish to associate with you). You can be unmarried, married, a mother, childless, heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, chaste, atheist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever. You can pose nude, or live the life of a hermit. You have a range of freedoms delivered through law, but more importantly culture and modern social norms that are the envy of many in the world.

So why does Priyamvada Gopal writing in the Guardian think that what the West offers women in Afghanistan is

"little to offer Afghans other than bikini waxes and Oprah-imitators"


In the affluent west itself, modernity is now about dismantling welfare systems, increasing inequality (disproportionately disenfranchising women in the process), and subsidising corporate profits.

You see she opposes the military intervention in Afghanistan, whilst also opposing "misogynistic violence". Yet she offers the women of Afghanistan absolutely nothing in return.

Her claim is that "The real effects of the Nato occupation, including the worsening of many women's lives under the lethally violent combination of old patriarchal feudalism and new corporate militarism are rarely discussed."

Her evidence for this is patchy. Besides scorning a single book about something called "Kabul Beauty School", she trots out the usual Marxist/new-left rhetoric which is more about language than substance.

The patriarchal feudalism of Afghanistan is appalling, but the Taliban was the codification of it as law - with all women and girls effectively property of fathers and brothers The phrase "corporate militarism" implies a sinister profit-driven military mission, an assertion which has little substance when there are now substantive efforts to extricate national armies from Afghanistan.

However, it is party of this privileged academic's view that the West is not worth her pissing on, in comparison to Taliban run Afghanistan.

Her hyperbole continues:

"The truth is that the US and allied regimes do not have anything substantial to offer Afghanistan beyond feeding the gargantuan war machine they have unleashed."

Gargantuan? By what measure? By the fact that much of Afghanistan remains outside allied control?

What does she have to offer?

The usual vacuous bleeting "social justice, economic fairness, peace, all of which would enfranchise Afghan women".

Nonsense. Peace existed IN Afghanistan when the Taliban was in charge. It enfranchised no Afghan women. "Economic fairness" is the typical Marxist platitude which means "give the people I support more money by taking off those I don't support". Quite how this is meant to happen spontaneously is curious, but since she doesn't have to say what it is (and you'll be accused of being foolish for not knowing what the hell "fairness" is), then it doesn't matter of course.

Finally "social justice"? Does she expect that if Afghanistan is left well alone, that the culture and traditions of that society, with the heavy dose of Islam than runs through it, will produce "social justice"?

Is she just stupid and naive, or is she simply part of the cadre of leftwing feminists who hate the relatively free and open West that grants them unparalleled choice, economic opportunity and individual freedoms who overly romanticise cultures that have none of it?

She believes in "radical modernity", and with the exception of her neo-Marxist buzzwords, says nothing about what this looks like or how to get there. However that's ok. Like all of the West's critics you can damn what is happening, claim the West is, in effect, little different to stoneage patriarchal tribalism, and feel you've done your bit to spit on the USA and carry a torch for Afghan women.

It's morally bankrupt. Bankrupt because without major intervention, the prospects for serious change in the lives of Afghan women are glacial. Bankrupt because with intervention there have been positive changes, but nothing remotely on a scale necessary to make Afghanistan a haven for basic individual rights.

However, anti-Western fifth-columnists like Gopal would reject that. She would damn a wholescale military and political occupation that, as in 1945 Japan, would instigate a constitution, government and laws that would explicitly protect the individual freedoms of Afghan women, girls AND men and boys, and create a secular state. Her interest in Afghan women is exactly the type of tokenism that she accuses Western nations of applying. She believes Western powers treat the plight of women in Afghanistan as a way of gaining sympathy for continued military action. She is not entirely wrong, but the motive is not a mythical "corporate militarism", but part in parcel with the need to defeat the Taliban. It is one of the clearest examples of the Taliban's moral bankruptcy.

No, you see for her the plight of Afghan women is part in parcel of her being able to blame the West for it, and not only that but to deny the blatant differences in the rights and freedoms of women in the West with those in pre-modern societies.

Toby Young in the Daily Telegraph goes a step further, in claiming that the very same feminists remain muted about the treatment of women in Iran. They don't want to join what they see as "racist" or "far-right" criticism of Islam, so the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani gets neglected. Young says that with few exceptions, notable Western feminists keep their mouths shut:

"We’ve heard nothing from Germaine Greer, nothing from Gloria Steinem, nothing from Jane Fonda, nothing from Naomi Wolf, nothing from Clare Short, nothing from Harriet Harmen."

Another case is now that a 14 year old girl in Abu Dhabi is now in prison for "consensual sex" with her school bus driver. She claimed rape, and in much of the Western world the issue of consent would be irrelevant, but this is the UAE. A stone's throw from Iran and similar moral standards.

You'll notice that the standard leftwing feminist blogs are silent on all of these cases.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil makes it better does it?

What is this silence about?

Is it fear that damning Islamists will result in retribution? In which case these feminists are like the meek little girls they never wanted to be treated as, and don't deserve to hold their heads up as defenders of the rights of women.

Is it the very racism they may accuse others of? That is, that women in "those" countries live in different cultures and it would be wrong to judge their torture and abuse by "our" standards. "Exhibit A" in moral bankruptcy.

Is it the fear that damning systems or countries that are not Western aligns them with the very West they all live in, enjoy the advantages of, but continue to criticise? Maybe so. However, is this not just childish political tribalism that keeps one morally blind to the seriousness of what is being ignored?

Or is the more honest point that none of them know what to offer? Without the use of force to overthrow tyranny, it isn't obvious how to confront brutal well-armed dictatorships of one kind or another. Yet if thousands or millions of women in the West confronted the embassies, politicians, companies and media of those regimes that have warped moral standards around women surely it would make a difference. Would the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have quite as much moral fortitude if most of the Western feminists weren't docile in the face of his butchering clericocracy?

As Toby Young says, we don't know, but if would be nice if those who claim to care would speak up:

"Could the West’s self-appointed defenders of women’s rights have done anything to prevent the wholesale slaughter of their sisters in the developing world if they’d taken up their cause? Could a feminist outcry today about the plight of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani do anything to prevent her death? We will never know, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that their continuing silence reveals the moral bankruptcy of their movement."


Roger Thornhill said...

Spot on. Much psychological projection and moral/ideological/intellectual bankruptcy from the FabianoGramsciMarxists.

Anonymous said...

The 'feminists' in the blogosphere are just middle class white women who do not have to stray too far from a latte. They sit in front of their computers thinking they are changing the world. Real issues like the ones you posit are never addressed - it is rather "Should I make my son play with dolls?"

Back in the day when I blogged fem blogs provided an endless supply of blog fodder/amusement. I used to call it "Spice Girl Feminism". I don't think there is anything sinister or particularly Marxist in it - just "me me me" priviledged 'selfishness' in the way Rand never intended.