Monday, February 27, 2006

In defense of feminism

(plus the word on the street about porn week)

If you didn't see it, check out Della's opinion piece in the Herald on why feminism is still relevant, at Yale and in the "real world." She is responding to these two pieces from last week's edition, which defend Sex Week for its "universality" and accuse feminism of being too "radical" to address real problems. Della sounds off on the shaky motivations and dangerous implications of both opinions.
Denying that sexism exists suggests that women would rather be silently victimized by men (and by themselves) than admit to being oppressed and actually doing something about it.
Also: despite its final recommendation, at least this snippet acknowledges the real audience and nature of last week's fashion show:

Despite the hype, Brynne Lieb’s lingerie show, which capped off Sex Week 2006, failed to impress, blue-balling audiences looking for a hot night...Next year, if you’re looking for some hard-hitting scintillation, get your suitemates to pool the money you would have spent on tickets, and get a real show at Catwalk, New Haven’s finest gentlemen’s club. Now that’s what I call skeezy.

15 comments:

Keith said...

Della,

Having read your op-ed, here's a question for you: Why don't you call out Rahmatullah Hashemi, Yale student and former lackey for the Taliban, as a mysoginist? If hatred of women is so prevalent on campus why don't you start with a member of the Yale community who represented a regime that oppressed and victimized women more than any in modern history?

-Keith

Anonymous said...

Keith,

While you have a point that the Taliban itself is a repressive regime especially with regard to its treatment of women, I'm not sure that it's fair to single out Rahmatullah as THE spokesman for the Taliban. And, if you read my article carefully you would have noticed that I did not single out anyone in particular (minus the two op-ed writers I was asked to respond to). If I wanted to single out individuals I might have even started with you and your desire for "feminine innocence" and the likes. But that's not really the point in my article. My point is that misogyny at Yale is everywhere; we are all sexists conciously or unconciously, including Yale women.

Additionally, 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. Sure, ending the global gag rule would be nice and to do away with any conception of universal human rights leads to a bit of paralysis, but it's also a really dangerous and presumptuous idea. For instance, when you ask a lot of Nigerian women what they think about American women coming to Nigeria to "fight" female genital cutting they'll probably tell American women to piss off because if they really care about African lives they'll worry about food and plumbing and the likes. Or, in the case of Afghanistan, the notion of women's liberation from the burka is a part of the US's justification for intervening. I dont think dropping bombs is a way to save people and I think it is audacious to presume that "we" have it right and they do not. It's a fairly controversial argument to make, but some feminists in the states relate breast implants, high heels and anorexia as a very similar to wearing a hijab or even a burqua. The argument being that all of those things can be read as a performance of the ideal female body for the male gaze. I believe it was Benhabib who wrote that American feminism abroad often involves the act of "saving brown women from brown men". You're an intelligent, well-read man, I'm sure you know that the United States pretty much created the Taliban in order to fight the "communist" threat. So who oppressed and "victimized women more" in modern history? If you say the Taliban that you're also saying the US.

An interesting movie to watch would be the Battle of Algiers. In it, women are torn between the occupying colonial power (france) and the colonial resistance movement (their algerian Muslim husbands) and they have to choose and show that choice by the clothes they wear. In other words, women's bodies are were the clash of "cultures" gets played out and often times the feminist group gets itself entangled in violent, paternalist and imperialistic quests.

If you have any other thoughts or concerns or disagreements feel free to respond. I'm glad you're taking the time to read.

-Della

Keith said...

Ah, cultural relativism rears its ugly head once again. I figured that had something to do with your silence, but I didn't think you were honest enough to admit that your unwilligness to criticize Rahmatullah stems from the fact that he is, as you quote Benhabib, "brown." You'll leave it to bloodthirsy neocons like me to denounce genocide and human rights violations in the rest of the world because you wouldn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities. Kudos for at least being honest.

Your breast implants/burqa comparison is "controversial" because its patently absurd. There are no laws in the U.S. mandating women to get breast implants and to wear high heels. To compare the treatment of women in Afghanistan to those in the U.S. insults my intelligence and that of your readers.

I appreciate your attempt at a history lesson, but it's wrong. Let me correct it: We didn't create the "Taliban" to fight the Communist Threat. The U.S.S.R. left Afghanistan in 1989. The mujahideen, whom we supported against the Soviets, captured Kabul in 1992. It wasn't until 1994 when the group calling itself the Taliban came to power, and defeated the other more moderate factions. They did so without U.S. support or funds. Some of their members may have fought against "communism" (I like your quotes, as if "communism" was some abstract notion or a myth peddled by Western white men), but by the time they came to power, the U.S. did not support them, nor even recognize their country.

What I resent is the fact that you are perfectly willing to attack me and others like me who are white men (I happen to be conservative to boot) by tossing around "misogynist," "homophobe," or "imperialist." Yet when true misogyny strikes you square in the face, you don't lift a finger, much less say a word. You seem to have a penchant for picking out apparent double-standards, but on this issue, you're blind to your own hypocrisy.

CP said...

I'm a feminist and appreciated much of your op piece in the Herald, Della. But I absolutely disagree with your refusal to judge the Taliban or gential mutilation because they are of another culture. As a feminist, I can't ignore these hugely blatant violations of human rights against women. And I don't think most feminists do either.

But Keith, I definitely disagree with you that liberal feminists leave conservatives to fight human rights battles-- no frickin way. Take, for example, Darfur. It's liberal students and journalists who are the only ones I see paying attention to the fact that tens of thousands of women are being systematically raped there. Our conservative (well, Republican at least) government does nothing. I'd love an example of conservatives doing anything about human rights violations, with the notable exception of the overthrow of the Taliban. I'll go ahead and let you know that if you give Iraq as one, you're unlikely to convince me.

Jamie Kirchick said...

Uhh, it was actually evangelical christians who started the human rights movement for sudanese victims of the Khartoum regime in the early 90's, long before Nick Kristof or anyone at Yale could even point to Darfur on a map. And the Weekly Standard, the mouthpiece of the contemporary neo-conservative movement, has been calling for armed intervention in Sudan, something which liberals (and, you're right, the Bush administration) has opposed.

Michael said...

I agree with Jacqueline Martinez's opinions in her Herald post.

Firstly, I think it's rather hypocritical of you to say "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," then go on to attack her as saying "I guess she would feel more welcome if the feminist movement just kicked out all the lesbians." That, to me, is a pretty obvious attack on conservative culture here in the US. I don't think that she felt excluded from feminism at all; I interpreted her piece as merely pointing out the exclusion of the feminist movement itself from mainstream American thought. And, just because her stance on gay marriage or abortion don't resonate with you doesn't mean that they don't resonate with other, non-liberal feminists as well. In fact, I feel that your blog's stance often has more to do with liberal politics than actual feminist issues; if this were, say, a southern college, I doubt you would represent mainstream feminism at all.

Secondly, I'd like to make one point. Martinez makes several real, pragmatic, fundable, institution-wide suggestions for the improvement of the life of women at Yale. While this may lack the same "literary" force of your vague criticisms of sexism, power struggles, and whatever other sociological babble you'd like to insert, I would like to point out that they are real suggestions that would enrich the lives of women students, faculty, and staff far more than anything you suggested in either your response or in this blog (which, I dare say, is mostly just media-based and reactionary, instead of constructive). I think therein lies the answer to why feminism is so often unpopular; to outsiders of the movement, it is seen (as in your blog) as unguided anger, resentment, and academia-based attacks centered vague terms of empowerment rather than hard issues like dollar amounts. If the feminist movement at Yale, and perhaps nationwide (I obviously am not sure) were as practically minded and offered specific examples like Martinez' article, I think it would be far less hated and far more embraced.

On a personal note, I seriously wished you cut down on the socio-babble and perhaps provided real-world examples and used common sense English, not confusing words looked up in a sociology textbook. This isn't an academic publication; it's a blog.

cp said...

Jamie, on the point that evangical Christians started the protest about Darfur, I can believe it... I would lump most Christians in the category of being progressive with many human rights issues. On some women's rights issues and gay rights, more morally conservative branches are way off. But I think on the whole they're a great force for good.

But you can't conflate evangelical Christians with political conservatives. Most people who identify themselves as evangelicals don't identify themselves as conservatives in any political sense (or as politically inclined at all). I'm talking about political conservatives and liberals, who the earlier poster, Keith, was talking about. His claim that liberals leave conservatives to do all the human rights work strikes me as unfounded. The weekly standard would seem to me to be an exception. Who is putting up the fuss about Guantanamo? Not conservatives.

Anonymous said...

What's funny to me about all of these posts is that what I'm still being attacked for is my failure to acknowledge and criticize one man on Yale's campus. Maybe you're right. His comments from 9/11 are troubling and offensive and scary. I didn't say I felt uncomfortable because I don't disagree with those practices, but rather because my arguments are often misused and abused by a government that wants to intervene for other reasons (e.g. money, oil, ego). And, if you have the audacity to mention that Iraq is about freedom and democracy, just take a look at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the number of US women in the armed forces who have been raped and killed by their own peers in the army. Are those enough examples?

You are right, however, that cultural relativism leaves us in a state of paralysis. But that paralysis is also because of our particular location in this country and in this school. We live in a country that only cares to intervene when something else is worthwhile. It's not like you're carrying on about Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or even Turkey. My argument was more that feminist movements in the US get coopted and manipulated to the point where we worry more about a burqua rather than the fact that women are raped and killed and have no safe place to reside. Dropping bombs doesn't improve the lives of those women or anyone for that matter.

I apologize that my editorial wasn't encompassing enough and didn't target enough groups, but I only had 800 words and it's my opinion and my project. I'm interested in misogyny at Yale and violence against women in the military. I can't attack everything. What bothers me about this dialogue is that you all would rather focus on what I left out than face what I have called out.

Martinez is right about childcare and the likes. There's the Women's Faculty Forum; it's their job to advocate for those changes not the women's center. And, I do feel that I can critique Martinez's views because she's talking about American feminism and why she feels excluded and obviously we both have different views on what feminism should be. I don't think American lesbians should be excluded from the feminist movement. To say so is homophobic. I don't think one can be anti-choice and a feminist; one can be against abortion for oneself but no one should tell anyone what to do with her body. Martinez disagrees I know. But I wonder why and that is why I wrote my article. If there is anyone I'm singling out in my article it is a woman who refuses to identify as a a feminist, not just neo-cons, not even just white men.

My main question for all of you (by the way funny how many white men have been commenting on this) is why do you feel the need to respond at all. What is so threatening to you about my article? Why won't you start with baby steps and begin to examine the sexist world around you. Do you think Yale's rape policies are legit? Do you think students should parade outside the WC yelling no means yes and yes means anal? Do you think women should have less opportunities for tenure and childcare? Do you think someone else should tell a woman if she can or cannot have a baby? If so, who should tell her? Aren't you against big government, you neocons?

-Della

Anonymous said...

Well said, della. Yes, guys, patriarchy is everywhere. Attacking it can take many forms- broad and specific arguments, local and foreign. Some attacks are more problematic and dangerous than others. Accept it!

Michael said...

Della, first of all, I'm not a white man, so it's kinda ridiculous that you are stereotyping your blog's audience. Second of all, your funding is for an outreach blog to increase discussion right? So we're discussing-- that's what you want right? Why do we feel the need to respond? To help you see all angles perhaps? To increase discussion? By the tone of your writing, I think you'd prefer we just shut up and accept your view? I don't find your article threatening, but that doesn't mean I agree with it. And since you have a wonderful medium here to respond and interact with people, I think it's misfortunate that you discourage those who question your opinion or disagree with you.

For instance, I do examine the "sexist world" around me. However, I think baby steps should be constructive, while the main content of your posts seems to be finding some flyer, advertisement, or remark that you believe sexist and pointing this out. While the sexism might be subtle, we're not stupid. I would much rather hear some constructive things that could be done about this sexism. Have you tried emailing the originators of those remarks? Maybe dialogue with them, however rude they might be, might shed more light on the issue, something you could share with us as part of your mission. As far as I'm concerned, you haven't "called out" much that an intelligent Yale student wouldn't have already seen. Yes, that barely clad woman on an email advertisement for some party was probably sexist. But you haven't exactly reinvented the wheel-- so maybe you should take this criticism in stride and perhaps "face" the fact that maybe some of the suggestions some of us "guys" are offering might be positive.

Finally, as far as I'm concerned, even though I'm not as you so rudely stereotyped a "neocon," the government is not telling women whether or not to have babies, but rather once the baby is conceived whether or not (or at what time period) it's wrong to take that life. You may disagree with me, but I think it's fairly naive to lump everyone into "neocon" "liberal" or "other." And, as a last note to anonymous (I thought anonymity was discouraged here?), I don't understand what "attacks on patriarchy" I should be accepting? Perhaps if you could be more... specific.

Matthew said...

Um, that was a little weird of you to ask why people feel the need to comment. I thought they were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Michael said it: not everyone who disagrees with your opinions feels threatened by them. Sometimes maybe (maybe) they just don't agree and want to share cause they've been invited to.

We are happy to have so many responses to our posts from all different voices - even voices of disagreement. -Della and Sabrina (emphasis mine.)

But I hear you about the discussion not going towards the point of your article. I think that just happens sometimes, and really, what can you do? I think you made your points well, and again in your comments, and maybe if people are more interested in genital mutilation and Afghan history, then that's just the way it is, unfortunately or not.

As for the conceivability of being anti-choice and a feminist, while I believe no one could call anti-choice arguments feminist, and legislating against choice is anti-feminist, I wonder if it's possible not to deny the term to anti-choicers who self-identify as feminists because they hold that incompatible viewpoint. I'd like not to, because I think it reinforces a "you're with us or you're against us" mentality. As it is, 'feminist' has become a slur with a lot of today's teenagers, and I think it may be better to welcome people who embrace the term and then proceed to work/deal with them one issue at a time, rather than go around securing the borders of a "pure feminism".

Lastly, since I hear "the charge of nit-picking is one to which [you] will gladly plead guilty", I should let you know you missed a few question marks in there. I don't mind all the big words, but nit-picking on your proofreading might be better for the blog's image than verbosity.

love,
Matthew

P.S. Don't call me white.

Keith said...

Della,

Congratulations, you're famous:

From the WSJ - http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110008051

From today's Boston Globe -
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/03/13/educating_the_taliban_at_yale/

Why haven't you told your readers? Or do you no longer stand by those comments?

-Keith

Ananda said...

It's liberal students and journalists who are the only ones I see paying attention to the fact that tens of thousands of women are being systematically raped there. Our conservative (well, Republican at least) government does nothing.

Nothing? It was the Bush administration that mediated the peace talks in Kenya between Khartoum and the SPLA, which led directly to the January 2005 cease-fire in Sudan and the settlement in which the rebel leader John Garang was made vice president and other rebel leaders joined the government. This was especially important because the U.S. believed that Garang, with his strong ties to Darfur, could use his new position to help end the Darfur genocide. In other words, it was precisely the sort of diplomatic solution that liberals say they want the administration to do more of -- relying on domestic politicians and existing coalitions to effect change within other countries, rather than bombing, invading, or strong-arming. The Kenya talks were the culmination of one of Powell's top agenda items -- he spent three years on it -- and Rice carried it on. Sadly, the treaty was destroyed by Garang's death in a helicopter accident. But all that is "nothing", right? It isn't "something" until some bombs are dropped, is that it?

Meanwhile, the liberal students and journalists you are talking about have proposed exactly zero viable solutions to the Darfur problem (I particularly loved Kristof's solution of an African Union peacekeeping force with logistical support from NATO -- he might as well have argued for a peacekeeping force of little green men from Mars, which would have been more likely to succeed).

I did not vote for Bush in either election, but the fact is that his administration has done a great deal on behalf of the Sudanese people wracked by civil war, and the fact that it has not done more is only regrettable to the extent that doing more would have been physically impossible.

Ananda said...

Oh, and it's kind of funny to read:

"...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..."

since, after all, you are calling for a change in the culture (towards more child care, a greater value on the work women do, a greater emphasis on the hiring of women faculty, and so forth). In other words, call the culture we have now "America1", and the culture we'd have if the things you advocate were adopted "America2". You imply that it is illegitimate to say America1 is more sexist than America2, since that would be suggesting that one culture is more sexist than another. So why should we change to America2? It would not result in a less sexist culture.

Anonymous said...

"My main question for all of you (by the way funny how many white men have been commenting on this) is why do you feel the need to respond at all. What is so threatening to you about my article? Why won't you start with baby steps and begin to examine the sexist world around you. Do you think Yale's rape policies are legit? Do you think students should parade outside the WC yelling no means yes and yes means anal? Do you think women should have less opportunities for tenure and childcare? Do you think someone else should tell a woman if she can or cannot have a baby? If so, who should tell her? Aren't you against big government, you neocons?"

My main question for all of you (by the way funny how many white men have been commenting on this) is why do you feel the need to respond at all. [?]

Invitations to do so are probably one reason, a foucs on REAL information and double standards might be another.



What is so threatening to you about my article?

Because you imply we should aide and comfort an enemy of the United States of America? Because you deny even to yourself and your tiny audience that you live in fear of muslims to the extent you TOTALLY ignore your so called standards and embrace those if islam? No not ebrace them, but just dow down to their demands and expectations, after all you are but a female.


Why won't you start with baby steps and begin to examine the sexist world around you. [?]

Sexist does not begin to describe the world radical women like yourself have created! Not even able to scratch the surface.


Do you think Yale's rape policies are legit?

Does Yale condone rape? But yet first WHAT IS RAPE? Did you rape yourself and sue the maker of your dildo? Feminzies love to re invent the defination of words before they use them. Rape to a femi is if you spoke to her in a manner she did not approve of at that moment in time!

Do you think students should parade outside the WC yelling no means yes and yes means anal?

WC= water closet? Today we call them restrooms. Talk is cheap. So laugh and bend over honey! See what happens when you take things too far? Today's women are by far worse everywhere from vocalization to performing acts of sexual carnage. Ladies like yourself have contributed to them being the sluttiest generation on the face of the earth. Also the fattest! Is it proper for illegal aliens sucking off the public teet, to demonstrate in our streets?



Do you think women should have less opportunities for tenure and childcare?

Not sure how these two relate. But first off Tenure should be eliminated totally and completly for all levels of public funded education. Got that!? GONE, YOU too can earn your job each year that I am being taxed to pay for!

Near as I can tell childcare centers are open to the public. Since they are a business they also fall under the civil rights act of, (dig this), 1964! 42 years! FORTY TWO YEARS of availability to childcare of your choosing!

Do you think someone else should tell a woman if she can or cannot have a baby?

Depends on how big of a liar she is? Notice I did not question if she would lie, just to the extent she does lie! Go Go GO roe v wade for men!!

If so, who should tell her?

How big of a liar she is? She swears that she can't get pregenant, ends up pregnant. You tell me now that I must cough up 5 bills a month for the next 18 plus years? I've no problem in letting her know in no uncertain terms, the cost of termination will be split. Any other UNILATERAL decisions she decids upon, she is on her own dime!

Aren't you against big government, you neocons?

Yes so quit making reasons to expand it! What is a neocon anyway?