Calgary Sun

October 7, 2001

Women fed embittering pap

Sunera Thobani's poisonous diatribe ignores reality

By LICIA CORBELLA -- Calgary Sun

Recently, two young women, both of whom wear hi-jabs -- the traditional headscarves worn by many Muslim women -- informed me that western women are just as oppressed as women in Afghanistan.

Now, these were bright young women. One was majoring in chemistry, the other geology.

But rather than point out the obvious to them -- that what they were both doing right now, that is: Studying at a university, being out of the house without a brother, father or husband and not wearing the prescribed burqa (a long robe which covers Afghani women from head to toe and even covers their eyes with a thick gauze) -- would cause them to be stoned to death in a public arena -- I started out being more subtle.

"How," I asked them, "am I oppressed?"

"Well, maybe not you, but other women in our society are?"

"How?" I asked again.

"Have you ever taken any women's studies courses?" they then asked.

All of a sudden I knew exactly where their argument was headed because, yes, unfortunately, I had taken women's studies courses in university, and much of it was a waste of time and some of it left those who took it feeling an awful lot like victims and turned many of my classmates into rather strident and angry young women.

Now, some of what was taught was very valid -- particularly the historical women's studies courses. But much of it is, quite frankly, embittering pap.

Of course, women's studies has been increasingly in the news this past week after Sunera Thobani, a Women's Study professor at the University of British Columbia, delivered her now infamous poisonous diatribe against the so-called "blood-thirsty" West.

"There will be no emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until the Western domination of this planet is ended,' Thobani told a room of 500 frequently cheering women who were attending the federally funded meeting entitled: The Women's Resistance Conference.

Thobani was practically screaming when she talked of the "jingoistic militarism" being used by U.S. President George Bush and other western leaders in an attempt to rally the troops, so to speak.

Barely mentioning the almost 7,000 people who died on Sept. 11 and not mentioning at all the nightmarish actions of the Islamic terrorists who caused their murders, Thobani was far more outraged that the West is using terms such as: Crusade, infinite justice and cowboy imagery of Dead or Alive posters, and labelled the jingoistic militarism "the most heinous form of patriarchal racist violence that we're seeing on the globe today."

Now, I don't know about you, but I'd much rather have someone chanting the words "crusade, infinite justice and dead or alive" in my ear for 24 hours a day, seven days a week than be burned alive while at work by an act of terrorism.

But hey, that's just me.

Curious, isn't it though, that when about two dozen Middle Eastern men turn commercial airliners into weapons of mass murder, killing almost 7,000 innocent civilians in a few hours, that is not described as "the most heinous form of patriarchal racist violence that we're seeing on the glob today?"

Curious, isn't it, that there is no outrage about that by Thobani?

But when a couple of white western leaders give a few speeches, well, according to Thobani, "the women's movement has to stand up to this."

That, my friends, is what women's studies, for the most part, breeds: Hate, hysteria, histrionics, irrational thought and anger, lots and lots of anger.

Let's go back to the young women I spoke with at the University of Calgary about two weeks ago.

How am I oppressed?

According to them (remember, they learned it in women's studies) I'm oppressed because I'd rather have a body like Linda Evangelista than Licia Corbella.

"Western women are oppressed because they believe that unless they have the perfect body and wear tight Calvin Klein jeans then they are nothing," said one of the women.

"Ah," I replied. "Even if it is true that too many young women strive for the unattainable supermodel body and are slaves to fashion, at least Prime Minister Jean Chretien has not mandated that us women MUST all wear tight Calvin Klein jeans or face the firing squad."

There is an enormous difference, I said.

I have a choice.

The women in most Islamic countries do not -- not on the small issues of what to wear or whether they'll go out today, but on the big issues too, like who they will marry and what they will do when they grow up. It all comes down to choice.

Sunera Thobani would try to have you and me believe that western women have no choice -- that we are powerless. I resent that.

Her rhetoric also insinuates that the U.S. caused the Sept. 11 massacre through its foreign policy that is "soaked in blood."

In other words, she is denying that those suicide hijackers had a choice too. In her mind, we are all unwitting robots controlled by white men who only want to "slaughter people into submission."

One of the young women told me that while her mother does not wear the hijab, she has chosen to do so.

"I'm glad you have that choice," I said, softly.

"Many tens of thousands of young Canadian men, many of them just boys, died horrible deaths to give it to you."

I wonder how many women's studies courses mention that?

Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at Her columns appear Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
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Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.