And now you know why…

by Yule Heibel on November 4, 2004

People like to say, “trust your instincts,” and I suppose it’s good enough advice, but I have occasionally acted on principle against mine. My instincts tell me to be a “nice,” accomodating female because that’s the surest way to preserve a sense of safety. As soon as I’m not “nice,” the warning lights start flashing: uh-oh, this could put me in danger, down this path lies confusion, dissent, critique. Hey, I’ve already had Nazi whackos send me anonymous hate mail twice, and who knows what other readers think of me, so why don’t I just shut up and disappear? But I’m a feminist; I will not shut up in a world going to hell on the backs of women. And so I blogged my views on the Theo van Gogh murder yesterday against my instincts, thinking “this is going to get me in trouble, this will not be understood by knee-jerkers.” See, I endorse the tenets of multiculturalism and tolerance, and I would derive far greater relief and closure if I could simply tsk-tsk the murder, mouth a few platitudes about van Gogh being a deliberate provocateur (which he was), and then say pious words about how I hope this won’t feed nationalist xenophobia in Holland, and that we all must learn to live together, etc. etc. Well, that would be so much more pleasant, but… there’s this tiny issue of women and their human rights involved, which most reports and commentators are either forgetting entirely, or, worse, are dismissing as irrelevant. I don’t think it’s irrelevant, I think it’s central, and that’s why I’m willing to say some things that probably also sound scary to the left. All too often — and sheesh, didn’t we learn this in past decades — leftist men are blind to women’s issues. While the men plotted and theorised, the women got to type manuscripts or make coffee. Heirs to those men, contemporary champions of progress will say the politically correct thing, but will stop short of criticising men from oppressed ethnic or economic groups … men who are busily oppressing “their” women. Sometimes they might add a caution: that if we criticise individual practices, the xenophobes will use it as a stick to beat the entire group. The progressive’s reflex is to say instead, “Let’s respect their traditions and practice tolerance, and once the big bad We-the-West stop oppressing the poor oppressed mass, these men will see the light and stop oppressing their women.” Nuh-uh. It’s the other way around. You have to start with the women. If women are free, society has a chance to become freer. If women are systematically oppressed, made invisible, or silenced, a society will never ever be free. If, on the other hand, women can make economic choices and exercise control over their bodies, they will raise their children differently. Their daughters will be able to learn to make choices not based on fear, their sons will enter into relations with women on a completely different footing because the first woman they knew, their mother, was a free person. How can sons grow up to reach their potential when they know their mother lives without the freedoms the son learns to take for granted as soon as he reaches young adulthood? I think that a man whose first experiences with a woman (his mother) are with a subaltern will develop a stunted imagination. Since I already felt exposed enough by yesterday’s entry on the background to van Gogh’s murder, I wanted to drop the subject. But I checked in a few times on the continuing story, and …well, there go my instincts. For example, we have Rohan Jayasekera (who, googling, I learn has brilliant lefty credentials, including a stint as an Institute for War and Peace Reporting trainer) writing in Index for Free Expression, a forum “with the goal to protect the basic human right of free expression,” founded in 1972 by Stephen Spender (remember him?). Jayasekera paints an unflattering portrait of van Gogh by whipping off a breezy “cultural critique” of the entire Dutch society. Their “tolerance” is self-satisfied and in reality intolerant, their credentials are forever flawed by the fact that they are “progenitors of the Afrikaner, history’s most exclusive, reclusive, deluded race,” and van Gogh was “the Jerry Springer of Dutch social-political discourse.” By now halfway into the article, Jayasekera has characterised the Dutch as xenophobic “idiots” who thrill at exposing their backward views at every turn. But he has not mentioned women’s rights at all. In fact, he doesn’t once mention women’s issues, except to execute Hirsi Ali through character assassination:

Artistically van Gogh’s shock-horror work looked juvenile. And his working relationship with the Somalia-born Dutch MP Ayann Hirsi Ali – a lost soul, tormented by personal experience and embittered into a traumatic loss of faith – appeared faintly exploitative. [More…]

And now you know why I’m a feminist, and why I’ll tell the leftwing progressives to take a hike when push comes to shove. The guy who so casually but viciously dismisses as mentally unbalanced a woman who in merely ten years worked her way into Dutch society, learned the language, went to university, and became a member of parliament is Associate Editor at Index on Censorship. I wonder what their board looks like? Here, at any rate, is a picture of The Institute for War and Peace Reporting at work, training homegrown reporters: I defy you to find a single woman! If I ever recover from my apoplexy, which was exacerbated by a report I heard today on CBC while driving to an errand, I’ll write about our lovely Western society, where attitudes to women are just the effing same. It won’t take much for a Christian Right to push us back into the home, out of the public sphere and into economic dependence, because there are enough men ready to give us the shove. (Thanks to Gentle Breezes for the link to Christian Reconstructionism — have to explore this myself, suggest you do, too.) Note: I posted another brief update on Ayaan Hirsi Ali on December 10/04, here.


Frank Fisher November 11, 2004 at 6:30 am

>Index on Censorship. I wonder what their board looks like?

Sorry to disabuse you – it’s not a male bastion. You may be dissapointed to learn that ehadin gup the show is Ursula Owen, ex of Virago.

Index cares not one jot for free expression any more, as is obvious from that quoted editorial, but they do bang on endlessly about women’s rights etc.

Frank Fisher November 11, 2004 at 6:30 am

damned typo… “heading up the show”

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