Women against women

Christina Hoff Summers writes in the Weekly Standard that the mainstream Western feminist movement is ignoring "the most pressing women's issue of our age": the treatment of women in the Muslim world. And she's right. It's often frustrating to me that one of the biggest issues for college feminists today is The Vagina Monologues and not the fact that women are legally and culturally subhuman in large parts of the world.

The standard diagnosis, which is spot-on, is that the gender feminist movement is so focused on criticizing American culture that it doesn't want to criticize the US government's enemies—wouldn't want any of this enemy of my enemy stuff.

OK, great, but now what? I really like my approach to this stuff: separating governments from cultures. True, they're related, but they're not the same. I love American culture, and at the same time I can't stand and don't support the government that claims a monopoly on justified violence in its territory.

But the gender feminist movement dislikes American culture and American government, you say. That's fine. They can now feel free to criticize fundamentalist Islamic cultures without reference to political categories like states and wars.

Ultimately this would fall short: the government of Saudi Arabia (for example) enforces misogyny with full legal force, and needs to be challenged. But hey, baby steps.

Link via Arts & Letters Daily

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Think Locally

I think they do it because local issues are more important to them than issues that don't personally affect them. One could make the same criticism of libertarians: Why do we focus so much energy on the US when things are incalculably worse in North Korea? Obviously it's because the bad things that the US government does hurt us, while the bad things that the North Korean government does don't (well, except insofar as we miss out on the positive externalities a prosperous North Korea would generate).

That said, American feminists do seem to be pretty hard up for legitimate local issues.

Libertarians are generally

Libertarians are generally anti-war, pro-free trade, and against domestic protectionism and subsidies. That's looking out for us and everybody else, yes?

Not only that, but mass feminist pressure could much more easily be mobilized to affect things abroad than mass libertarian pressure.

Lefty Double Standards

I have gotten the same rejoinder from leftists when I have complained that those who beat up on America are missing the fact that it is incomparably better here than elsewhere. When we are doing better than the world we are measured against idealistic perfection.

The same people don’t use this logic when touting other countries that have a “superior” society. Examples of statements they typically use to show why they hate their homeland might include: 1.) America is one of the only countries that has capital punishment, 2.) America is one of the only countries that doesn’t have socialized medical care, 3.) America is one of the only countries where people have the right to carry a pistol. 3.) America has as higher fetal death rate than Cuba. 4.) America has a higher murder rate than Wazoolooland. 5.) It has a higher rate of homophobia than Neanderthal Land. etc. etc.-- ad nauseum.

my eyes are open

So that's how it works...
... eh Brandon Berg?

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

Julian Sanchez has a pretty

Julian Sanchez has a pretty amusing observation on the Summers piece.

Amusing, but not

Amusing, but not particularly relevant for my purposes now that I've held my nose and linked to the Weekly Standard.

First time for everything

Well, her current article is dealing. I probably engage in them myself without realizing it, but I'm not a big fan of tu quoques. Imagine applying them against myself: "I haven't been exercising enough lately. But who am I to talk - I haven't been exercising enough lately myself." I would never get beyond stage zero if I took that tactic when dealing with my own self-criticism. "Why, you hypocrite (talking to the mirror) who are you to criticize me, you are me."

Besides the observation that

Besides the observation that Summers and other conservative anti-feminists are just as guilty of the crime of ommission as actual feminists, there is also the important fact that Summers accusation about actual feminists is flat out wrong.

For any who doubt that this sudden concern of conservatives for the rights of women living in Muslim countries isn't simply an ex post justification for war and empire, let's see something written by a conservative about Muslim women's rights published prior to 9/11. Yeah, I didn't think so either.

Tu quoque doesn't work here

Anti-feminist: "You know what, you're not what you pretend to be."

Feminist: "Oh yeah? Well, you're not what I pretend to be either."

:)

Good one. Exactly what I was thinking.

I don't get it. The point of

I don't get it. The point of the three links above is that the feminists are what they pretend to be.

I know

I was not responding to that part of your comment, but to another part. I do not know much about American feminism and Islam. I am not either denying nor admitting your claim, but addressing your tu quoque counterattack.

These are the women who stand out in my mind when I try to think of women who are critical of Islam's treatment of women: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, and Irshad Manji. I am not sure of their current nationality so I don't know whether they could be classed as American feminists. [update] OK, Ayaan is apparently still Dutch (I'd heard noises some time back about her citizenship being revoked or some such thing, and about her coming to America), Irshad Manji is Canadian, and Nonie Darwish is American.

Mostly true

Some are and some aren't. So just assume her article was directed at those who aren't. If you wrote an article extolling the virtues of immigrants I wouldn't assume you were talking about the murderers and scoff laws that come here.

wow...

Hi Five to Micha- he makes a great point. I defend his argument from Constant in point 2B.

I don't know why the organization of this post winds up being so odd, but It really is (mine I mean.) Bear with me.

First off, it truly is ironic that Sommers goes after Eve Ensler. After all, Ensler works with what's probably the most important women's group in the region: RAWA. RAWA is an amazing organization and deserves much help and support. Is RAWA pro-US? Do they think that the US charitably assisted them during their time of crisis, and are the feminists just stepping away from RAWA because they hate the US so much? Sommers seems to imply as much (more broadly) and yet, of course, RAWA was heavily opposed to bombing of Afghanistan. From what I could gather, Sommers was in favor of it which could well mean she was actually opposing the interests of Muslim women, rather than just "ignoring them" as she accuses feminists of.

Here are a few basic arguments of import for this issue:

1. You're responsible for what you do, not what other people do. Therefore, people should pay more attention to the behavior of their own country because that's what they are responsible for. This is a question of basic morality, but one that many people (like commenter Dave, above) seem to have trouble understanding. I think there are worse things in the world than the US, but I spend my time criticizing the US because it's the country I can effect the most change over, and the country that's actions I'm somewhat responsible for. Criticizing the Uzbek policies on women is almost like criticizing Genghis Khan, which is exactly why people would rather have you spend time doing it- it's almost totally ineffectual.

2. The actions of individual feminists are hardly "selfish" as I understand it. A feminist who spends hours a day trying to shrink the wage gap is unlikely to see a return on investment at anywhere near the time she spends, obviously. It'd be smarter for her in a selfish sense to just spend those hours of being an activist working, as even success. She certainly wouldn't expect any serious immediate change beyond a few cents on the dollar, and so rather is active because she thinks it's "right."

Articles like Hoff Sommers' work by being imprecise and relying on us filling in the gaps. I seriously missed several things in her article, and if someone can find them (they might be in there) that'd be great:

1. What is her proof that American feminists don't care/ don't take action? Is it the fact that she said she browsed a few websites and didn't see anything?

2. What is her argument as to why feminists should drop their causes in the US and promote only muslim causes? I could detect three strains, though again, by never making this clear she does us a serious disservice. Here are the strains I could detect:

A. ALL forms of feminism operate on principles which, taken to their logical extent, would imply a greater level of involvement with Muslim women's causes than presently exists. Furthermore, ALL forms of feminism will be most effective promoting a cause (because even if there was a principled argument for it, if they could have no effect than I don't know how you would blame them.) Clearly this argument is silly, as she doesn't bother to name the principles of feminism (shared by all strains) that would lead us to conclude this or- far more importantly- discuss the practical considerations of how to best effect practical change. I feel safe rejecting this one as an unlikely position.

B. The severity of the horrors faced by Muslim women are such that a movement should exist to help alleviate their suffering. American women should drop what they're doing and help this people. This seems the closest to her "argument" and it's this that I think Micha was correctly responding to. In this case it's quite important to ask whether the author is actually interested and isn't just trying to take a cheap shot at an activist movement in a conservative mag (and does anybody SERIOUSLY not think that's the case?)

3. Assuming that feminists aren't active in muslim women's rights, is it because they are anti-american? This seems an especially extreme assumption, since I really have a hard time lining up US policies with Muslim feminism. Oh, we should talk about Afghanistan again? Scroll up if you missed it.

The 1st gen feminists that Sommers thinks are "heroes" must have been criticized along the same lines when they sought the right to vote: "Why in the Bongo Bongo, women are the property of men and can be raped at will, yet YOU need the right to vote? How about sitting the fuck down and shutting the fuck up unless you are the MOST oppressed group in the world."
aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

You're responsible for what

You're responsible for what you do, not what other people do. Therefore, people should pay more attention to the behavior of their own country because that's what they are responsible for.

I just can't seem to wrap my head around the obvious contradiction between these two statements. I am no more responsible for invading Iraq than I am for flying airplanes into the world trade center.

Are all forms of feminism rational?

"ALL forms of feminism operate on principles which, taken to their logical extent ..."
Are you so sure that their principles are self congruent or even logical in every case? Taking their principles to their logical extent might cause their brains to explode like some hyper logical robot in some Star Trek episode.

Certainly there are some feminists who are rational, and so your argument does work. By espousing the principles alone they can be opposing Islamic oppression of females indirectly.

The problem is that many feminists believe in multiculturalism and postmodernism, which lets them believe in women's rights for themselves but not for females from other cultures. Irrational but who says everyone is rational.

tricky kinda responsibility

I just can't seem to wrap my head around the obvious contradiction between these two statements. I am no more responsible for invading Iraq than I am for flying airplanes into the world trade center.

I wouldn't say that you are "responsible" as in directly responsible, or deserving of punishment for inaction. I guess I fail to see the counter-argument. It's your money that's being spent for killing in your name, effectively. You have the power to stop it, with other people. I guess we can plug our ears and say that's just somebody else, but I guess I'd ask who's responsibility it is then. It's the responsibility of the people "stealing" our money and ordering bombs to be dropped, you say? Well then who's responsible for ensuring they don't do it and/or are brought to justice?

A few possible responses I could see:

1. "the money is stolen." That's somewhat right, but not totally. There have been income tax witholding protests for extreme criminal spending (i.e. Vietnam.) Government spending has been manipulated in the past by political movements. It's under our control.

2. "We don't actually have the power to stop it. " That's head-in-the-sand. Wars have been stopped before, and the only way to make sure a war ISN'T stopped is by taking the attitude that nothing can be done.

We can argue about how infinitesimal the responsibility is (because again I'd stress, it's anywhere near the arena of the "punishable" or anything of course) but certainly we're more responsible for US policies than French policies. The more totalitarian a society is the less responsible the people are for the actions of the their government.


Are you so sure that their principles are self congruent or even logical in every case? Taking their principles to their logical extent might cause their brains to explode like some hyper logical robot in some Star Trek episode.

Hey, I should advise that what you quoted was a characterization of her position. The stuff in italics was meant to be "what argument could she possibly be making." I think the argument that ALL forms of Feminism feature logical imperatives to help Muslim women is inane at best (and so I think we agree.)

The problem is that many feminists believe in multiculturalism and postmodernism, which lets them believe in women's rights for themselves but not for females from other cultures. Irrational but who says everyone is rational.

Exactly. Because this lady fails to even address the guiding rationales of feminism, much less the political efficacy of their behavior, her argument really relies heavily on our stereotypes of feminism to paint the blanks in.

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

I wouldn't say that you are

I wouldn't say that you are "responsible" as in directly responsible, or deserving of punishment for inaction.

What exactly do you mean then by responsibility? Moral culpability in the sense that I deserve moral criticism? If responsibility doesn't even rise to the level of deserving moral criticism for failure to act responsibly then it seems pretty meaningless to me.

But if so, why should I be criticized for my unwillingness to risk jail time by refusing to pay tribute to the state? I certainly have no problem with those who are brave enough to do so (or silly enough, depending on your perspective) - in fact, I have a certain amount of respect for those who are willing to risk their property and freedom this way - but at the same time, it just doesn't make any sense criticizing those who are not so willing. It's sort of like when John Derbyshire criticized the Virginia Tech students for not fighting back (unarmed, mind you) against the shooter. Those who did fight back (by blocking the doors with their bodies or pieces of furniture) should be praised for exceptional bravery, but only a fool would criticize the others for self-preserving inaction.

Further, a single individual's refusal to pay taxes (or vote) would do absolutely nothing to change U.S. policy. Many of us here at Catallarchy argue against democracy as a decision-making mechanism for government for precisely this reason - it's an exercise in futility and frustration that does little more than reinforce the false notion that government authority is legitimate.

Instead of responsibility, maybe influence would be a better word for what you are trying to say? It's still problematic to say that you and I as individuals have more influence over US policies than French policies, but at least influence doesn't have the same sort of ethical implications as responsibility does.

first, the converse

This reminds of a time when I wrote that terrorism was "understandable" but because I knew that it could be misconstrued, I wound up spending about 2 paragraphs distinguishing the sense in which you can obviously study and understand the roots and causes of terrorism (my point) from the colloquial sense in which people say "oh that's totally understandable" which means like "I would do it too" (not my point, and something I find atrocious.) So, before unpacking the term let's first establish that we both disagree with the converse of my point. As follows (special note- this is a statement I'm attempting to disprove) "Democratic Citizens are in no way responsible for the actions of their government."

1. Do you think that we (Americans) still owe the national debt to the banks? The loans that have been taken out on behalf of us, are half of them simply null and void since Reagan's dead?

2. Do you think that if 100 million people push for a "Nuke Africa" candidate and elect him to office and he nukes africa they are morally no different than you and I?

3. Do you think that the reparations on Germany were wrong on moral grounds (not pragmatic grounds, which is arguable)?

4. Similar to 2, is an outright unrepentant former flag-waving Nazi (who let's say, never killed a person but was extremely active in supporting hitler politically) is absolved from all wrongdoing by virtue of him not actually killing?

Examples 2 and 4 are extreme, and are EXTREMELY different than a US citizen. Nevertheless, I am using the examples to prove a point in the abstract. Now what makes issue like this so difficult is, like the example of the word "understandable", is that there are pieces of human waste like Ward Churchill who will take a word like "responsible" and argue the colloquial sense like "oh these people are the efficient cause of these bad actions and are guilty."

A way of crystallizing what I mean is to talk about the killing of Kitty Genovese. I think everyone agrees that her neighbors were "responsible" for calling the police (hence to huge outcry.) But would anyone excuse the killing of her neighbors? Would anyone feel anything other than sad if one of her neighbors died the next day? Would anyone say that the neighbors were "responsible for her rape"? No, I doubt it. Rather they'd say they were responsible for trying to stop it, or responsible for trying to help her. That's the difference. They had a responsibility, but they aren't to "held responsible" in the sense of being punished.

But if so, why should I be criticized for my unwillingness to risk jail time by refusing to pay tribute to the state?

It's an interesting point, but this is the present situation in which you are considering the action. Why should you have to do it is a question like "why should I have to get a permit to own a gun." It's unfair in the larger scheme of things, sure, but it is what it is. If the risks of registering with gov't are too high, then don't do it. I'm not interested in getting into the business of second guessing other people's methods- income tax withholding is only one way, and I certainly wouldn't say "you have a moral responsibility to withold your income taxes."

It's sort of like when John Derbyshire criticized the Virginia Tech students for not fighting back (unarmed, mind you) against the shooter. Those who did fight back (by blocking the doors with their bodies or pieces of furniture) should be praised for exceptional bravery, but only a fool would criticize the others for self-preserving inaction.

I agree with this- some risks are too high, and derbyshire was being a prick for that. In Russia they'd send you to the gulags, and I think keeping your head down was completely justified though like you I admire the bravery of those who don't. We just get called bad names if we speak out though (usually), and I think in such a situation it's quite different. Go back to Genovese: if one of the neigbors only methods of calling the police was to use the public phone in the midst of some gang crossfire, it's a different story altogether. So we're agreeing here, and my eggshell-walking here is because of guys like Derbyshire.

Further, a single individual's refusal to pay taxes (or vote) would do absolutely nothing to change U.S. policy.

That's true, just like YOU not buying a Coke won't change their policy in Colombia. But that's not all you've got. You organize with others and write letters and make public what you're doing. That's not only effective in theory, but there are plenty of occasions on which this kind of activism has achieved phenomenal results. Have a look at the history of East Timor- it might have looked hopeless in 1979, but the movement snowballed. I mean, how many groups can you name who can actually say "We stopped a genocide?"

Instead of responsibility, maybe influence would be a better word for what you are trying to say?

Influence is a part of it for sure. I hope I've been clear. Tonight's not going to be the night where I put my philosopher's hat on and try and define the term precisely (too much beer) but I hope I can convey the meaning like you might with a word like "justice"- through examples and analogies.

See ya tomorrow.

Matt
aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

1. Do you think that we

1. Do you think that we (Americans) still owe the national debt to the banks?

No. We, as individual Americans, do not owe anyone anything for the debts incurred by the government. However, that doesn't mean that debtors don't have legitimate claims to portions of federal and state property.

2. Do you think that if 100 million people push for a "Nuke Africa" candidate and elect him to office and he nukes africa they are morally no different than you and I?

Not at all. I would certainly hold them morally culpable. But what about the people who voted against this candidate? Or those who, like me, refuse to vote at all? Are they at all morally responsible for policies they do not support simply because they don't want to risk the consequences of tax avoidance?

3. Do you think that the reparations on Germany were wrong on moral grounds (not pragmatic grounds, which is arguable)?

I'm assuming you are referring to the reparations that were punishment for WWI and contributed to a great extent to causing WWII? It's difficult for me, as a consequentialist, to answer a question on moral grounds when my moral theory is based largely on the foreseable consequences of a proposed action. Regardless, reparations seem as misguided as economic sanctions placed on countries with policies we dislike, in that they rarely hurt the political elites; they mostly just hurt the regular people trying to get by, uninterested in global politics. To the extent that reparations and sanctions coerce electorates into changing their voting habits, or punishing electorates for their past decisions, this is just ugly collectivist bigotry, punishing the entire population for the actions of some, even if that some is a majority. I suppose this at least makes more sense when its done to a democracy rather than a dictatorship, but that only makes it a little less insane.

Kitty Genovese is an interesting case. I was just reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point recently in which he discusses Genovese's murder. Gladwell cites the work of two psychologists who studied this phenomenon after the fact. (I'll mix paraphrase and direct quotes here.) What they found was that the one factor above all else that predicted helping behavior was how many witnesses there were to an event. When people are in a group, responsibility for acting is diffused. Each person assumes that someone else will make the call, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem isn't really a problem.

I'm not sure if any of this relates to our discussion, but it's interesting nonetheless.

like rocking a rhyme that's right on time

I'm not sure how I feel about this "scroll way up to see who's responded to you" thing. I get the feeling that I'm going to miss alot of stuff from the thread. I'll answer you here and then try to jump in on the more recent stuff below.

No. We, as individual Americans, do not owe anyone anything for the debts incurred by the government. However, that doesn't mean that debtors don't have legitimate claims to portions of federal and state property.

But so do you think Reagan was the one who owed the debt? We start to get into tricky issues about the origins of property here, as usual. Do they have more of a claim to federal property than we do? After all, the government (from your perspective) has stolen our money for years so one might assume that we'd be the ones needing to be paid back first. Who has a more legitimate grievance- people who took a risk and made a loan, or people who had money stolen from them? Even with generous estimates of federal and state property values, I think that you'll find paying back all living taxpayers consumes the money well before we get to the international banks. It's not necessarily an inconsistent position to say that the massive national debt is simply unowed, or that Reagan owed it personally but I doubt many people would agree with you.

Not at all. I would certainly hold them morally culpable. But what about the people who voted against this candidate?

Right- I think it can be said that they behaved morally and fulfilled their responsibilities at least in part (whether that's exhaustive of their responsibilities is another thing.)

Or those who, like me, refuse to vote at all? Are they at all morally responsible for policies they do not support simply because they don't want to risk the consequences of tax avoidance?

We shouldn't conflate methods like voting and tax withholding, though I should say that from what I understand of tax withholding it's not often that the person is punished. Usually you just put the owed tax in a savings account and pay it when the war's over, but I only know a few cases so that may not be representative. Again, I'm not often interested in second-guessing people's decisions. I think a case can be made (though I find much fault with it) that our responsibilities are best met my abstaining and refusing to participate. Again, I'm not interested in debating what you choose to do, but only the choices are made within the context of moral responsibility.

Regardless, reparations seem as misguided as economic sanctions placed on countries with policies we dislike, in that they rarely hurt the political elites; they mostly just hurt the regular people trying to get by, uninterested in global politics.

We agree here.

I suppose this at least makes more sense when its done to a democracy rather than a dictatorship, but that only makes it a little less insane.

the difference is instructive.

I was just reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point recently in which he discusses Genovese's murder.

Pretty good book methinks. I have a serious love/hate relationship of with Gladwell, because while he's a fascinating compiler (and filter) of information, his writing shows the restraint of a guy who's trying really hard to please everyone at the party while still being interesting. Consider his stuff on Diallo (maybe that's from blink) where he's doing about 100 backflips/m to try and reduce any political impact.

I think he's an honest guy, but is finding out pretty quickly that he has become the tangy marinade that makes the bland chicken of an MBA taste better and seem more exciting. I think he butted up against that reality a few months back when he ran an honest piece about the "Celtic Miracle", overturning the common idea that the the standard free-market refrain of (say it with me now) "cutting social spending/deregulating industry/privatization/lowering marginal tax rates are what did it." One wonders why he doesn't but up against the same controversy when he implies that Marketers/ad execs are actually engaged in production and not sales. Actually, no one doesn't.

Alright, enough ranting.

Each person assumes that someone else will make the call, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem isn't really a problem.

Exactly, that someone else will step up to the plate. The one thing not questioned in society's outrage is that that group of Genovese witnesses had the collective responsibility to produce at least one phone call to the police and perhaps even to intervene to a greater degree.

What do you think of the book?

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

The one thing not questioned

The one thing not questioned in society's outrage is that that group of Genovese witnesses had the collective responsibility to produce at least one phone call to the police and perhaps even to intervene to a greater degree.

To me, this just indicates the uselessness of a concept like collective responsibility.

Gladwell is an interesting writer and speaker, but as you said, his refusal to step on political toes is frustrating. Though, of course, I'd want him to go in the opposite direction than your politics.

Actually he was wrong about that

"I think he butted up against that reality a few months back when he ran an honest piece about the "Celtic Miracle", overturning the common idea that the the standard free-market refrain of (say it with me now) "cutting social spending/deregulating industry/privatization/lowering marginal tax rates are what did it.""

No, he got it wrong here. The free market view you caricature is closer to the truth. There's been a fairly decent education system in Ireland for decades and the upshot of it was to provide Irish school-leavers and university graduates with sufficient skills for careers in London, New York or Boston. None of which ended up benefiting Irish "society" or the economy at all - our economy only really picked up after economic liberalisation in the mid 1990s and the biggest contributor to that is the "low" corporation tax.

answers


To me, this just indicates the uselessness of a concept like collective responsibility.

I don't know that such terms are useful in discussing our moral intuitions. Don't we all feel that that group owed Kitty Genovese a phone call to the cops? Of course we all do. Now we might go "well I don't think I SHOULD feel that way" and that' another matter. Suffice it to say that I wouldn't choose to defend collective responsibility as being useful (though a case can be made) but rather just true.

Frank:
Actually he was wrong about that

I hope you understand by my prefiguring comments that I assumed many of the people on the board would think that. The group that thinks he's "just wrong" about marketing being production instead of sales exists too, but my point is that they aren't a big part vocal of his audience.

None of which ended up benefiting Irish "society" or the economy at all - our economy only really picked up after economic liberalisation in the mid 1990s and the biggest contributor to that is the "low" corporation tax.

It barely even tracked of half of what it was during the Keynesian period of 48-73. The minor cyclical upturn of the Clinton years is probably a better argument AGAINST liberlisation just because of how anemic it looked compared to the Keynsian period.

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

"It barely even tracked of

"It barely even tracked of half of what it was during the Keynesian period of 48-73. The minor cyclical upturn of the Clinton years is probably a better argument AGAINST liberlisation just because of how anemic it looked compared to the Keynsian period."

I should be clear, I'm Irish, the "our" I was talking about is the Irish economy which has benefited from economic liberalisation since the mid 1990s and it's no "minor cyclical upturn". This is something which Gladwell got wrong - the education system he lauds was in place way before the boom and even before the really bad bust in the 1970s and 1980s and it's not even reasonable to make the case that this system in any way "prepared the ground" for the boom as the bulk of its product ended up emigrating.

I'd be interested if you can

I'd be interested if you can cite a single example (let alone "many") of a feminist who believes that misogyny is okay when it happens to women in other cultures. The conservative obsession with multiculturalist and postmodernist bugaboos is a whole lot of nonsense.

not me right?

I admit that "exactly" might have been too strong a word in response, but I was really just trying to hand out a do-over since I didn't communicate my characterizations of Sommers' position vs. my position very well.

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

Not you, correct. Notice

Not you, correct. Notice that my reply was indented after (and thus a reply to) Brian's post, not yours.

Okay

How about the laws in Australia and Europe that allow muslim women to be beaten, because its supposedly their custom and so its ok? All passed by lefty/socialisty/feministy/multi-culti governments.

For example:
http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2007/03/22/sharia/

As for American feminists -- they may not be in favor of it, but what are they doing about it?

Um, yeah. Citing a single

Um, yeah. Citing a single example of one German judge's decision that was not only roundly condemned by everyone in Germany, including woman's rights groups and Muslim organizations, but was overturned by the court itself does not in any way constitute an example of "laws in Australia and Europe that allow muslim women to be beaten." If that's the best source for your claim that you can find, well, try harder.

As for American feminists -- they may not be in favor of it, but what are they doing about it?

What are conservative anti-feminists doing about it? Bombing Muslim women into oblivion?

Australia

OK, I couldn't find the example I was thinking of from Australia right away, and I'm a little sleepy... but I found it.

"The Australasian Police Multicultural Advisory Bureau has published and distributed 50,000 copies of an 82-page handbook for Australian police officers, directing them on how to deal with people from all the unfamiliar cultures that an Australian policeman may encounter. A Sikh, for example, may receive a three-day reprieve from arrest if the arresting officer happens upon him while he is reading his holy scriptures — a practice that takes fifty hours, and must not be interrupted. And Muslim husbands who beat their wives must be treated differently from other domestic violence cases, as a matter of cultural sensitivity: “In incidents such as domestic violence,” says the handbook, “police need to have an understanding of the traditions, ways of life and habits of Muslims.” "

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=20034

That is the basic problem with "multi-culturalism" -- its just moral relativism. There are other examples -- in France and elsewhere too. That German incident was not isolated as you suggest either, as the Slate article mentions "the case was not an isolated instance of a pernicious kind of cultural relativism seeping into court cases involving marital violence"

And the problem is that plenty of people you would expect to be outraged instead support the "accepting of cultural differences" and basic multi-culti garbage.

Show me a mainstream (read:

Show me a mainstream (read: not frontpagemag) discussion of this Australian handbook. Surely if something approaching a law in Australia allowed Muslim women to be beaten, there would be a significant outrage in major newspapers, like there was in the New York Times for the German case you mentioned. And, as was true in the German case, I strongly suspect that if frontpagemag's description is even close to accurate, as soon as it was made public, there was widespread condemnation and immediate modification of the ruling.

Just define it away

It's easy enough to redefine things that might have struck us as misogynist. For example, the burka. Is that misogynist? Or not? Some feminists think it is so misogynist that they use it as a symbol of misogyny. But others are not so sure. Here's a bunch of feminists struggling with themselves and with each other over multiculturalism and feminist ideals.

Let us eavesdrop on the discussion. As you will see, some feminists are quite conscious of and concerned with the problem of some feminists bending over backward for the sake of multiculturalism. You may notice that none of the feminists portrays herself as bowing down to foreign cultures at the expense of the women who live in them, but some of them nevertheless see others as doing that. There's a really good long bit at the end (starts out "I've had my share of the leftist übertolerant mindset") about the danger that left wing multiculturalism allows real oppression of women to happen.

I suppose one feminist interpretation of the burqa is that it prevents the objectification of women, but obviously that is a large burden to place on women for mens' objectifying them. Further, and this should go without saying, it is heavily correlated with the segregation of society, entirely to the detriment of womens' access.

IMO, there is nothing wrong with the burqa itself, but because of history it has become, justifiably, to be seen as a cultural symbol reflecting deeply conservative and sexist societies.

[...]

How is there nothing wrong with the burka itself? What is the burka itself, is there some sort of intrinsic character or essence of a burka that is independent of its use, the women wearing it, the society demanding its wear? Something that has to be protected from culturalist assault?
The supposedly feminist interpretation of a burka as preventing the objectification of women is completely distorted. The burka is the result of the objectification of women: Women are completely reduced to the appeals (and reproductional functions) of their bodies. In societies holding this view it is common sense that women's bodies need to be "protected" from unauthorized access - in the most extreme example of Afghanistan employing burkas, confinement to the house etc - with the effect that the woman's body is owned by a man. In the process a woman ceases to be a human being and approaches the status of livestock. That is objectification for me.

[...]

By saying that we all wear burkas (whether actual burkas or metaphorical ones) we're subverting that idea that somehow Western women are so much freer than say, women in Iraq or Afghanistan.

[...]

Jessica, I'm curious, please tell me why you think Muslim women are not so oppressed and why do you think Western women are not so much freer.

Liza, you are pretty enraged about cultural ignorance of Western women, but you aren't cautious with generalizations, either.

[...]

This isn't about "spreading the virus of the American Empire" or patronizing Muslim women in their efforts for more rights. In your culturally relativist selfrighteousness you're completely missing the point here.

[...]

For you the burka obviously represents a cultural icon that is only peripherally connected to the oppression of women, so you are very quick to diagnose the demonization of Muslims.

[...]

it's not that I don't think Muslim women are oppressed, it's that I don't think that Western women have a right to judge their oppression as "worse" or "better." (And to even assume a hierarchy of oppressions.)

[...]

How can you say the burka further's women's objectification? How about jeans or low-cut dresses? It's just such a culturally uninformed assumption. White American feminists need to drop this burka bullshit and not speak for muslim women, some of them feminists, who choose to wear it for political and cultural reasons.

There are muslim women choosing to use the burqa as a sign of their religious choice, autonomy and cultural pride. Who the fuck are we to say that wearing a burqa is demeaning? That's my point. It's bigotted, it's cultural insensitive.

[...]

American/Western women should not speak for Muslim women.

[...]

I agree--the discussion is absolutely necessary. But I wasn't trying to say that I saw this as a campaign speaking in solidarity with Muslim women. I agree that that would be majorly misguided, considering that (I'm assuming), Muslim women weren't a part of creating the campaign. And to be honest, I think the campaign probably should have been posted with some sort of analysis or context. But just because that analysis wasn't there, it doesn't mean that the TGW created it from a place of insensitivity or ignorance.

[...]

But again, I am torn in many ways on this one...

[...]

You are all going on about burkas in their various incarnations, and by virtue of these discussions epitomise American xenophobia regardless of your individual origins and your efforts to defend or minimalise their existence.

[...]

I've had my share of the leftist übertolerant mindset that is so caught in its political correctness and anticipatory appreciation of just anything, mistaking positions of individuals or political/religious parties for cultural traditions and opposing in principle any interference of "Western" people into the affairs of members of other cultures or religions. This leads to exactly the distortion this burka-discussion displays. It may well be that there is actually women who choose to wear burka (there's definitely those who choose to wear a headscarf) which I personally don't understand and also think it problematic. But as long as 99% of women wearing burka are forced to do so and are oppressed in many other ways of which the burka is only the visible symptom - I think it's a slap in the face for these women that Western feminists are protecting the burka as a completely normal garment to wear, pointing at those few women (mostly living in Western countries) that chose to wear it.

In Germany this mindset of having more sympathy with oppressive practices from other cultures than the people of that culture themselves has led (together with general failures in the immigration policies) to the emergence of a Turkish-German parallel culture that is actually more conservative than the native culture of these people. For instance, a lot of Turkish-German men born here marry women from Turkey that may have worked there and had a life of their own. When they get here, their husbands' families keep them from learning German, lock them in the house and exploit them as child-bearers. Women who try to escape this, but also young girls born here who want to live as liberatedly as their girlfriends (not wearing a headscarf, taking part in school sport, attending mixed-gender parties...) can end up murdered by their brothers, fathers or husbands' families. This supposedly is an act of honour and it is happening in Germany. The notion of accepting everything patriarchal fathers might come up with as cultural traditions forgets to grant the human rights at least to those people living in our countries, if we can't grant them to everyone.

What's the priority here, 1. showing appreciation and tolerance of every variant of convictions people from other cultures or religions hold, thereby blurring your vision and risking losing out of sight the goal (human rights for everyone and, since we're feminists, especially for women) or 2. helping women from other cultures or religions in their own struggle for more liberties and thereby risk offending a minority for whom bona fide symbols of oppression signify autonomy?

[...]

Meanwhile this controversial little shirt is our all time best seller. And, no, our readers are NOT "ignorant", "bigoted, imperialist, racists."

I'd like to point out that one of the reasons the left is losing this civil war is that we on the left qualify and nuance ourselves to death

I think we are getting too

I think we are getting too far away from what sparked this discussion, which was my questioning and demand for proof of Brian Macker's startling claim that:

The problem is that many feminists believe in multiculturalism and postmodernism, which lets them believe in women's rights for themselves but not for females from other cultures.

Does any of this interesting but irrelevant discussion of burka wearing touch on feminist beliefs about culture-specific women's rights? What I hear people in that thread arguing about is whether the burka is necessarily a symbol of misogyny, or whether it can have legitimate cultural and religious uses. What they are NOT saying is that, say, women should have the right to refuse to wear burkas in the west but women should not have the right to refuse to wear burkas in Afghanistan. Rather, the question is, given that women should have the right to wear whatever they please, is exercising that right by wearing a burka compatible with female equality on religious and cultural grounds, or necessarily opposed to it?

My mother and married sister both wear head scarves for religious reasons, and while I think those reasons are unfounded for the same reason I think religious belief in general is unfounded, I still support their right to cover their hair. That's the sort of multiculturalism I see from the excerpts you've posted, and there isn't anything at all objectionable about it.

I see them objecting to it

The feminists certainly seem to find each other's positions objectionable. There were two clear sides there. One of the sides was roughly the Jack Straw side - the culturally insensitive side, one might say. The other one was the multiculturalist side. And you might have no problem with either side, but they did.

Keep in mind that there is more to feminism than just libertarianism applied to women. Feminists have critiqued their society in ways that often have nothing to do with libertarian concerns - they talk about things like the relationship between the sexes, which isn't just a question of men chaining and beating and otherwise coercing women in a way that a libertarian would recognize as coercion and object to, but a critique of customs that libertarians do not as libertarians have anything to say about.

In particular, feminists have not stopped short of criticizing other women for going along with what feminists perceive as subservience to men, and have sought to raise their awareness and change their minds. So, among many feminists, whatever a woman wants to do is not automatically perfectly all right, not if it is happening (say) as a result of cultural inertia that serves to perpetuate some important gender inequality (the burka would be a perfect example of this). It is only natural that feminists should apply their comprehensive feminist critique of society to other societies, and this is blocked by the multiculturalists among them, who declare foreign cultures out of bounds lest they become guilty of cultural imperialism and the like. That, at least, seems to be the point that gets bounced back and forth in that discussion I excerpted.

Now, what I was responding to was this statement by you:

I'd be interested if you can cite a single example (let alone "many") of a feminist who believes that misogyny is okay when it happens to women in other cultures.

Misogyny is not just outright coercion of women. It is perfectly comprehensible to say that the burka is misogynistic, whether or not women are coerced outright into wearing it. A mere remark can be seen as misogynistic. Certainly the custom of wearing the burka can. Just as the custom of wearing the girdle can. Or pretty much anything that serves in one way or another to "put women firmly in their place."

And also this statement:

The conservative obsession with multiculturalist and postmodernist bugaboos is a whole lot of nonsense.

Clearly multiculturalism isn't just nonsense in the heads of conservatives. That thread was about multiculturalism. Maybe it was about "libertarian-compatible multiculturalism." [edit] (But keep in mind the feminists themselves did not all see it in this innocent light that you see it in.) However, you hadn't specified "un-libertarian multiculturalism" in your statement.

So, I think I addressed both the statements you made. Of course, we can step back as you suggest to an earlier juncture in the discussion, but that was not what I was responding to. I have no particular opinion on that earlier score. At present, anyway.

That's not what I said. I

That's not what I said. I did not say that I "have no problem with either side." Nor did I claim that they don't find each other's opinions objectionable. What I did claim was that the multicultural toleration that allows women the right to cover their body, even though we may have good reason to believe that this sort of covering is motivated by and perpetuates misogyny, is not objectionable, and in fact, no one in that thread objected to it. Note that this is a claim about whether or not women should have the legal right to do something, not whether that something is a wise or moral thing to do. Libertarians of all people should be able to recognize the distinction I'm making here.

Keep in mind that there is more to feminism than just libertarianism applied to women. Feminists have critiqued their society in ways that often have nothing to do with libertarian concerns - they talk about things like the relationship between the sexes, which isn't just a question of men chaining and beating and otherwise coercing women in a way that a libertarian would recognize as coercion and object to, but a critique of customs that libertarians do not as libertarians have anything to say about.

I am well aware that feminism is a broad and often radical doctrine. In fact, I've written extensively on this point. But I disagree that these concerns have nothing to do with libertarianism. You are assuming that the only true form of libertarianism is "thin libertarianism", whereas I am arguing from a position of "thick libertarianism." As I said in that post, "While it is logically possible to have a society in which both bigotry against a minority group is socially acceptable and that minority group does not have its rights routinely violated, it is not likely. In order to have a society that respects the rights of minority groups, there needs to be more than just the absence of organized coercion; there needs to be social norms against bigotry." Creating and maintaining these sorts of social norms is certainly an important part of the libertarian project.

Arguing about something

You seem to be dancing around the fact that they are arguing about something, and rather heatedly. They themselves use terms like "culturalist", "cultural ignorance", "culturally relativist", "culturally uninformed", "culturally insensitive", "leftist übertolerant mindset", and "sympathy with oppressive practices" in the process of arguing with each other and in an attempt to describe in general terms the nature of their disagreement with each other. They seem to be having an argument about multiculturalism, and this seems to deflate the bare, claim that

The conservative obsession with multiculturalist and postmodernist bugaboos is a whole lot of nonsense.

Surely there is something there. Conservatives aren't entirely hallucinating when they talk about multiculturalism.

And one of them says, clearly believing that what she is saying concerns the disagreement:

What's the priority here, 1. showing appreciation and tolerance of every variant of convictions people from other cultures or religions hold, thereby blurring your vision and risking losing out of sight the goal (human rights for everyone and, since we're feminists, especially for women) or 2. helping women from other cultures or religions in their own struggle for more liberties and thereby risk offending a minority for whom bona fide symbols of oppression signify autonomy?

Going by her rather hard words to her fellow feminists, she seems to perceive an effective, if not intentional (there was never hope of an intentional), example that satisfies your challenge:

I'd be interested if you can cite a single example (let alone "many") of a feminist who believes that misogyny is okay when it happens to women in other cultures.

A Frathouse version of Feminism

The history of the Burka is kind of fascinating, by the way. The burka wasn't required but was initially taken on voluntarily as a way of honoring the women around Muhammad . ANYWAY.

feminists certainly seem to find each other's positions objectionable. There were two clear sides there.

That's why the best response to an article like this is to just laugh. Something like "feminism" winds up being so broad you might well throw anything on its back. I took Micha to mean things like "Cultural relativism" which is what that first guy implied, and it seriously overblown.

It is only natural that feminists should apply their comprehensive feminist critique of society to other societies, and this is blocked by the multiculturalists among them, who declare foreign cultures out of bounds lest they become guilty of cultural imperialism and the like.

See, I think this is a seriously mistaken understanding of the trends in feminism. An attempt to eliminate patriarchy from one's own life and raise awareness about the cultural phenomena of patriarchy does not imply that harmless and voluntary forms of patriarchy shouldn't exist in the world. It's the difference between "I want to stop watching sports so as not to imbue myself with statist tendencies, and perhaps I will writie book about that so that others may consider it" and "I'm going to petition that the NFL be banned."

I should also mention that the careful personal and cultural decisions that feminists engage in (such as the decision to take a Man's name upon marriage) are not simply a matter of right and wrong, but a matter or attempting to tease out the differences between the harmless and acceptable traditions of any society vs. symbols and vestiges of oppression. The reason I, as a feminist, would hesitate to criticize a Muslim woman for wearing a Veil isn't because I believe (as some postmodernists do) that right and wrong changes with latitudes, but rather that the deep understanding necessary for such a teasing out is simply not available to me.

Clearly multiculturalism isn't just nonsense in the heads of conservatives. That thread was about multiculturalism. Maybe it was about "libertarian-compatible multiculturalism."

Perhaps multiculturalism isn't the best word (I would've gone with a derivation of "cultural relativism") but I think that the gist is correct. I think it's a frathouse understanding of Feminism that assumes feminists are radicals who want women to conform to their ideas of what a culture free from patriarchy should be, and yet cease to maintain that position because they are such politically correct pussies that they adopt the "cultural relativism" line. Again, I think my point about culture above is relevant. A feminist might battle for the freedom of Muslim women to make decisions about which cultural traditions to keep or not (and as was pointed out in a link, they often do) but criticizing them for not advocating against specific complex traditions for women in an unfamiliar culture misses the point in a big way.

Matt

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

Frathouse feminists

Perhaps multiculturalism isn't the best word (I would've gone with a derivation of "cultural relativism")

One of the feminists did in fact use the term "culturally relativist" to depict some of the others and was not corrected (e.g. along the lines of, "you misunderstand, what I mean to say"), but rather was responded to as you might expect a cultural relativist to respond (called ignorant, imperialistic, etc).

Surely there is something

Surely there is something there. Conservatives aren't entirely hallucinating when they talk about multiculturalism.

I never claimed that conservatives are just making it up; that would be ridiculous and easily refutable. Rather, their claims are overblown and, of course, unsupported, when they do things like claim feminism as a movement has failed to address the plight of Muslim women, or when they claim that many feminists use multiculturalism to justify the oppression of Muslim women.

The case of the burka is a perfect example of when multiculturalism is important to take into account. There is definitely a tension between respecting a foreign religion and culture that we disagree with, and being concerned with whether members of that religion and culture have true freedom to make decisions for themselves. The French willingness to ban headscarves from school is perfect example of what happens when you refuse to take multiculturalism into account, and it rightly outrages many of us who otherwise dislike such religious practices.

Libertarians, similarly, are not immune to this problem. Just as multiculturalism brushes up against feminism, so too does multiculturalism brush up against libertarianism. Should we allow religious enclave communities to aggress against their own members, or should we intervene? Chandran Kukathas is a libertarian who takes these issues seriously. Here is his take on the issue.

Micha, stick to what I say

"like claim feminism as a movement has failed to address the plight of Muslim women, or when they claim that many feminists use multiculturalism to justify the oppression of Muslim women."

This type of argumentation really annoys me. I claimed nothing of the sort. In fact, I was explicit that some feminists do and some do not address the plight of Muslim women.

When you wrote: "I don't get it. The point of the three links above is that the feminists are what they pretend to be." I replied "Mostly True. Some are and some aren't."

My point was that this is not always the case and often due to hatred for capitalism, dead white males and the like the feminists take the wrong side.

I think you also have a very naive view of both multiculturalism and postmodernism and their intellectual roots. Multiculturalism isn't about tolerance, it's about intolerance for a particular ethnic group, whites. Look up whiteness studies and see if you can see the similarities of that baloney and the old class warfare Marxist stuff. These, I don't know what to call them, dogmas I guess, have their roots in Marxism. They've substituted "white male" for bourgeoisie, and "minorities" for proletariat. It's a kind of racism where the hated race isn't inferior intellectually or physically but morally.

Orientalism was a term invented by an English teacher and not a history professor. Edward Said didn't find the history wrong he instead used postmodernists style analysis and reasoning to generate what is essentially a broad brushed ad hominem attack against all white males. These educational movements aren't about rationality.

In any case these people are so irrational it's hard to tell what they will come up with next.

Sorry Micha that's not what I said

"I'd be interested if you can cite a single example (let alone "many") of a feminist who believes that misogyny is okay when it happens to women in other cultures."

Why would I even try to defend your mischaracterization of my statement. I said that many feminists were multiculturalists and postmodernists (as well as just nuts in general like Rosie O'Donnell). In fact they even have a term for them postmodern feminists. Wack jobs like Naomi Wolf.

I was arguing against a particular statement that apparently the writer did not mean the way I took it. He got my point and pointed out that he didn't mean what it apparently said. The quote was, ""ALL forms of feminism operate on principles which, taken to their logical extent ...""

You'll also note that I said that postmodernism "lets them believe in women's rights for themselves but not for females from other cultures." I didn't say that it was some logical conclusion the "must" come to. You see I think postmodernism is so irrational it lets you come to most any conclusion you want to. One can rationalize any which way you like basically ignoring what the words really mean. Thus you get postmodernist feminists who come to completely opposite conclusions like Katherine Bullock vs. Fatima Mernissi.

Turns out that Bullock is the counterexample to your challenge. She sees cultural otherness and dignity for women in traditions that Mernissi sees as patriarchal misogyny. Notice how it is not me but Mernissi, an actual Muslim woman from a Islamic country, who holds this position. Note that Bullock is western woman and recent convert from a non-muslim country who doesn't have to live under the full oppression that Sharia brings. Yet she defends aspects of it.

One feminist, Hiadeh Moghissi, wrote a book with essentially the premise that postmodernist feminists from the west were inadvertantly undermining womens rights in foreign countries.

"However, the author argues that regardless of the sophisticated argument of postmodernists and their suspicion of power, as an intellectual and political movement, postmodernism has put itself in service to power and the status quo. She brilliantly demonstrates how this has given rise to a neo-conservative feminism--or a new feminist orientalism, asking some hard questions of those who denounce the racism of Western feminism but uncritically embrace the Islamic identity of Muslim women."

I had a funny thought when I read your article on head scarfs, which I believe are not motivated by misogyny, when I though of the orthodox Jewish traditions that are. Along with the misogynistic teachings of many other religions. Seems like you think that with the color of religion one can convert a misogynistic statement into a perfectly acceptable religious practice.

Thus the misogynistic statement "Women are wicked and unclean temptresses who must cover themselves" becomes a perfectly acceptable religious practice if we add "God says" to the beginning and perhaps forget the origins of the practice. So "God says women must cover themselves" seems just fine even if married to a religious text that gives a misogynistic background story on why they must do this. I wonder if you'd think the explicit statement "God says women are wicked and unclean temptresses who must cover themselves" is perfectly acceptable and chuckled to myself.

"The conservative obsession with multiculturalist and postmodernist bugaboos is a whole lot of nonsense."
Now that's an ignorant statement. First off, I'm not a conservative. Secondly, both those schools of though are offshoots of Marxist thought and have become quite prevalent and powerful in our society. Speech codes on campus, racial double standards, stacking of college faculties, teaching crazy theories in English departments instead of writing skills, whiteness studies, crazy fake Indian professors, etc. It's bizarro humanities out there.

BTW, I see lots of protest on "conservative" blogs about mistreatment of women in Muslim countries. All with a very rational tenor.

Does Christopher Hitchens

Does Christopher Hitchens count as a "conservative"? It wasn't 9/11 so much as the fatwa against Rushdie that got him interested in the issue of intolerance within mainstream Islam (note: a subset of which is oppression of women). But in any case, "prior to 9/11" doesn't prove anything - we're all of us much more familiar with the Islamic world since the events of that day whether we like it or not. It's entirely possible for someone who had been hitherto oblivious of this intolerance to take notice of it after that date without "war and empire" having anything to do with it: your "War and Empire" Conservative is no less of a strawman than that of the "Postmodern Multiculturalist" Feminist.

Fair enough - it is indeed

Fair enough - it is indeed possible that some conservatives are legitimately interested in Muslim women's rights, and aren't just using the issue as a hobby-horse to one-up feminists or rally for war.

As for Hitchens, I don't see why anyone would consider him a conservative. The only issue he shares in common with Republicans is a hard-on for war. Other than that, he seems to be a recovering socialist moving in a left-libertarian direction.

I don't consider him to be a

I don't consider him to be a conservative (but then I don't consider any American "liberal"s to be liberal) but probably most of the people who disagree with him consider him to be (now) some sort of conservative. I don't think that conservative/non-conservative is really the appropriate framing to use in relation to the arguments about Islam or war. Plenty of (2003 era) Iraq-hawks and Islamosceptics, particularly those who profess concern for the rights of women/minorities/political dissidents, are not conservatives at all - the likes of David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm etc. and are genuine in this even if you think they're wrong or misguided.