Failing Women of the Third World; How the 'Soft' Feminists Betray Their Highest Ideals

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 13, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Failing Women of the Third World; How the 'Soft' Feminists Betray Their Highest Ideals


Byline: Suzanne Fields, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

March is Women's History Month, and Laura and George W. Bush celebrated International Women's Day with a White House reception for women of Third World countries.

"Our history was altered because strong women stood up and led," the president told his gathering. "These women broke down barriers to equality."

He's right. The suffragettes and the second wave of feminists pushed hard for the vote, for breaking down doors to enable women to exploit opportunities that had long been denied to them.

But the feminist movement, if not authentic feminism, has become soft, selfish, insular, marginalized and irrelevant. Phyllis Chesler, who fought in the hard battles of the decades just past, is one of the few feminists with the courage to challenge her soft sisters for having "failed their own ideals and their mandate to think both clearly and morally."

The plight of Islamic women abused in the name of Allah in the Middle East and in Europe requires aggressive rebuke from women in the free world, but feminists in the West, and particularly in the United States, are struck dumb in an academic ghetto, stuck with a parochial approach to women's studies and obsessed with their personal "body rights" and their sexuality.

"The multicultural feminist canon has not led to independent, tolerant, diverse, or objective ways of thinking," she writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education. "On the contrary, it has led to conformity, totalitarian thinking, and political passivity. Although feminists indulge in considerable nostalgia for the activist 60s and 70s, in some ways they are no different from the rest of the left-leaning academy, which also suffers from the disease of politically correct passivity."

American women are the most pampered women in the world. It's no surprise that the phrase, "You've come a long way, baby," was easily co-opted to sell them cigarettes. Enlightened self-interest is neither misdemeanor nor felony, but it has blinded the feminists to the larger picture.

Islam, whether isolated in enclaves in European cities or dominant in the Islamic nations of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, is exploited to oppress women. But feminists with the big microphones keep the silence of church mice. "Because feminist academics and journalists are now so heavily influenced by left ways of thinking," writes Phyllis Chester, "many now believe that speaking out against head scarves, face veils, the chador, arranged marriages, polygamy, forced pregnancies or female genital mutilation is either 'imperialist' or 'crusade-ist.

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