Jonah Goldbeg: Taking feminism overseas (LA TIMES OP-ED) 03/29/11)
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By the numbers, women have largely achieved equality in the U.S. For
those who want to continue the fight, there is plenty of work left to
do — abroad.
Feminism as a "movement" in America is largely played out. The work
here is mostly done.
At a time when education matters more than ever, more American women
attend college than men. More women graduate, with better grades and
get more advanced degrees. As Kay Hymowitz writes in her new
book, "Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into
Boys": "For the first time ever, and I do mean ever, young women are
reaching their twenties with more achievements, more education, more
property, and, arguably, more ambition than their male counterparts."
Even the fight for "pay equity" is an argument about statistics,
lagging cultural indicators and the actual choices liberated women
make — to take time away from paid jobs to raise their kids (never-
married women without kids earn more than men) or to work in
occupations like the nonprofit sector that pay less.
These are the fruits of feminist success. And, as the father of a
little girl, I´m grateful for many of feminism´s achievements. And as
a conservative, I´m delighted that so much of the energy and passion
on the right is fueled by women, a fact that causes no small amount
of cognitive dissonance on the left. For instance, when Sarah Palin
was tapped as the second woman on a presidential ticket in American
history, University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger fumed that
Palin´s "greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman."
That is the kind of thing intellectuals say when they have nothing
worth saying anymore.
The good news for those who want to continue the fight for women is
that there is plenty of work left to do — abroad.
The plight of women in other countries is not only dire, it´s central
to global poverty and the war on terrorism. Jihadism is largely a
male problem. This shouldn´t be a surprise, given that jihadis commit
mass murder in pursuit of a virgin bonus in the afterlife.
Islamist extremism and oppression of women go hand in hand. And while
the correlation between poverty and terrorism is often overstated,
the correlation between prosperity and women´s liberation is
profound. Female education is tightly linked with GDP growth, lower
birthrates and even higher agricultural yields.
It´s also tightly linked with human freedom and decency, which is why
no Islamic "spring" is possible without a feminist revolution.
Countless Islamist countries practice gender apartheid and
countenance wife-beating, honor killings and female genital
mutilation. Islamist radicals have thrown acid in the faces of young
girls for trying to go to school.
In Turkey, long the crown jewel of secular, modern and moderate
Islam, the murder rate of women has gone up 1,400% since the country
lurched toward Islamism, notes my American Enterprise Institute
colleague Michael Rubin. In Egypt, those who hoped for a secular and
democratic revolution are dismayed by the army´s burgeoning
partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood and reports that the military
forced "virginity tests" on female protesters taken from Tahrir
After being admitted to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women,
Iran shepherded to passage the only resolution this session aimed at
a specific country. Apparently Israel holds back Palestinian women
Meanwhile, as Omni Ceren of Commentary has noted, "Iranian prison
guards rape female dissidents before executing them, lest their
victims go to heaven as virgins. Iranian men get to avail themselves
of temporary marriages, de facto legalizing the institutionalized
slavery and rape of prepubescent girls. Iranian women are consigned
to the backs of buses, have to shroud their bodies from head to toe."
But there are signs of hope as well. In a widely circulating video,
Veena Malik, a Pakistani model and actress, tears apart a smug
Islamist mullah berating her for being "un-Islamic." Not only does
she stand up for a modern humane Islam that can tolerate women
and "fun," she tells the cleric, "I am more angry with you people
than you are with me." Malik offers heroic moral clarity that should
cheer anyone who has lamented the lack of moderate Muslims willing to
condemn the extremists.
And she offers a reminder for us all that the real war for women´s
equality is now a battle to be fought in foreign lands. (Copyright ©
2011 Los Angeles Times 03/29/11)
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