Phyllis Chesler has impeccable credentials as a feminist, including a lifelong history of activism and over a thousand articles and sixteen books on feminism, including the famous Women and Madness. You’ll probably think, as did I, that she makes too much of these credentials in her new piece in Tablet, “Against faux-feminists who deny the rights of muslim women and Jews.” Six paragraphs of her introduction lay out her accomplishments, which sound a bit too much like bragging, but I suspect that when writing an article like this—which takes Western feminists to task for ignoring the patriarchy of Islam, and also defending Israel—she has to establish her bona fides lest she be dismissed as a “sister punisher.”
I’ve banged on for several years about the double standards of both the Western Left and its feminist moiety: while viciously finding fault with every aspect of The Patriarchy in America—including things like a space scientist wearing a shirt made by a woman friend that was festooned with semi-clad women—they dutifully ignore far worse oppression of women under Islam. This is because, in the Victimization Hierarchy, being a person of color ranks above being a women, so that the oppressions of Islam (a religion supposedly held by people of color) are excused because they’re promulgated by brown people. It sounds crass to say it that way, but it’s true. And it’s hypocritical.
Chesler is mad as hell, and calls this double standard “faux feminism,” which she characterizes (accurately) like this:
. . . a new and what I describe as a “faux feminism” has arisen in the last 30 years, a postmodern and postcolonial feminism that passionately condemns Christianity and Judaism as the greatest danger to women’s rights but dares not critique religiously supremacist Islam for this same reason; an intersectional “faux feminism” that condemns only Western imperialism and refuses to acknowledge the long history of Islamic imperialism, colonialism, slavery, anti-black racism, and religious and gender apartheid; a “faux feminism” that is far more concerned with the alleged occupation of Palestine than it is with the occupation of women’s bodies, faces, minds, and genitalia world-wide–including those women who are being forcibly face-veiled, death-threatened, and honor killed in the disputed territories.
Women’s studies associations, national feminist organizations—many feminist Jews—are not merely “politically correct”; they have become “Islamically correct.” They are currently more concerned with the religious sanctity of head and face veiling than they are with FGM, forced face-veiling, honor-based violence, polygamy, child marriage, and honor killing in the West. Not only have faux feminists betrayed the Jews—in the name of anti-racism, they have also abandoned tribal and immigrant women of color—Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus—to barbaric misogyny. Above all, they have abandoned the most heroic ex-Muslim, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu feminist dissidents, both in the developing world and in the West.
And that’s the tragedy—that so many Western feminists have become such conformists. They are no longer independent thinkers. Faux feminists have also been persuaded that Islam is a “race,” not an ideology or a religion; that America’s historic enslavement of black Africans, and South Africa’s apartheid regime, is exactly the same as alleged Israeli discrimination against Arab Palestinians, including Jew-hating bomb makers and terrorists with blood on their hands.
Fundamentalists are trying to destroy what feminists have accomplished.
Feminists in America exposed, condemned, and analyzed rape. We began rape-crisis counseling and changed the laws about rape. Today, Western professional feminists—our women’s studies professors, politicians, journalists, human-rights activists—are not rescuing rape victims in Islamic communities, either in the Middle East or in the West. Feminists are too nervous about being called “Islamophobes,” “racists,” or “colonialists.”
Dare I, as a man, even intrude into discussions of where feminism has gone wrong? Yes, I do, and I will.
“Well,” you might say, “It’s simply easier to combat sexism at home than in the Middle East or elsewhere in Asia.” But that’s not true either, for, as Chesler notes, there are many organizations you can donate to that help oppressed women throughout the world. Further, it’s our responsibility as progressive Leftists to call out faux-feminism and criticize those behaviors of Muslims, and those tenets of Islam, that victimize women. It’s time for real progressives to push back against the faux feminists who are metastasizing in our ranks. There is only one reason why feminists are so eager to call out the oppressions of Christianity and Orthodox Judaism yet so loath to do that with Islam—and we know what that reason is.
Here are a few organizations that combat violence against and oppression of women around the world, and use their money judiciously (they’re rated highly by Charity Navigator):
Global Fund for Women
Futures Without Violence
Center for Health and Gender Equity
American Jewish World Service (helps everyone, not directed only at Jewish women)
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
The second part of Chesler’s piece is about the Left’s anti-Semitism, and of course it will be more controversial because Israel is the Demon State, universally criticized by the Left. Chesler herself has been deplatformed for defending Israel. A few quotes from her piece:
One of the things that’s new about the “new” anti-Semitism is that it is coming to us both from the Islamic world and from the Western intelligentsia—and this time it’s global, and 24/7, via videos, the internet, cable vision, doctored footage, etc..
Like many people, I had assumed that the world’s hatred of Jews had ended, that Jewish history would never again repeat itself. I was wrong. Those who still believe that Jewish history can never again repeat itself must dispense with that illusion. Jewish history has always repeated itself and may continue to do so until the coming of the Messiah. [JAC: Well, Chesler’s going to wait a long time. . . ]
After publishing The New Anti-Semitism, I went on to write six more books, two not yet published, and nearly a thousand articles. I also conducted and published four studies about honor killing. This pioneering feminist research about femicide enabled me to submit affidavits on behalf of Muslim and ex-Muslim girls and women in flight from being honor killed in immigrant communities in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, India, and Africa. This research has also been used in honor killing prosecutions in the United States and Canada.
The fact that I am also a passionate Zionist has been used to marginalize my feminist work. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I have been disinvited as a keynote speaker at conferences. I have “made” some death lists. I have seen American classrooms being invaded by American totalitarians, fascists who, in the name of “free speech” and “academic freedom,” are verbally and physically violent. They mean to censor all objective truth, but especially the truth about Israel and Islam, and to redact history.
Today, my closest allies are not faux-feminists for Palestine. I work with genuine dissidents. Therefore, none of us are politically correct. We are anti-Islamists or anti-Sharia-ists: As the feminists of yore, we share one universal standard of human rights. We support post-Enlightenment Western values such as individual, human, and women’s rights, free speech, the right to dissent, freedom from and freedom of religion, the separation of religion and state. These dissidents comprise the major resistance movement of our time. Many write under pseudonyms and live with 24/7 police protection.
I can no longer work with Jew-haters. It is too painful. Therefore, my allies and I all support Israel’s right to exist and flourish.
I’ve made the point several times that anti-Zionism (that is, the opposition to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state) is hardly distinguishable from anti-Semitism, and I’ll reiterate that here. Look at it this way: many of the Left who are “anti-Zionist” are nevertheless in favor of a Palestinian State, and for reasons similar to those leading to the establishement of Israel: as a refuge for “oppressed and persecuted Palestinians”, just as Israel was a refuge for Jews who had been persecuted in many places.
In other words, the Palestinian state will be a nationalist state in the same way that Israel is a nationalist state. (But they will of course differ: if you consider Israel, which has a sizable population of Arab citizens with rights equal to those of Jewish citizens, as an “apartheid state”, you haven’t seen anything until you see what a Palestinian state will do!). Yet if you oppose Israel’s right to exist (anti-Zionist), you will argue that you’re not an anti-Semite. But if you oppose a Palestinian state’s right to exist (and I don’t), you’re called an Islamophobe and a racist. This asymmetry in attitudes leads me to believe that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, for why else are affirmations of Israel’s right to exist demonized while calls for a Palestinian state valorized?