Edmonton Sun

October 4, 2001

Feminism was hijacked

By MINDELLE JACOBS -- Edmonton Sun

Women used to proudly call themselves feminists. These days, they're just as likely to blanch at the term. Sunera Thobani's anti-western diatribe is a good reason why.

As a women's studies professor and former head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, Thobani is considered a leading voice of contemporary Canadian feminism. And what does Thobani, a modern women's libber, believe?

That the U.S. "is the most dangerous and the most powerful global force unleashing horrific levels of violence."

That "there will be no emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until the western domination of this planet is ended."

And that the West represents "the most heinous form of patriarchal racist violence that we're seeing on the globe today."

The women in Afghanistan, suffering under the most brutal repression of human rights in the world, would be surprised to learn that the West is the great oppressor.

Afghani women would think they'd died and gone to heaven if they had even the simplest of freedoms that women in liberal democracies enjoy.

In Afghanistan, women aren't allowed to work or go to school. They're forced to wear a head-to-toe burka with a piece of mesh fabric covering their eyes.

They are housebound unless accompanied by a male relative and the windows of their homes must be painted so no one can see inside.

Women are prohibited from laughing loudly (as if they had anything to laugh about) and they aren't allowed to make noise when they walk. They can't practise medicine but male physicians are banned from treating women.

Make no mistake. These gross human-rights violations have nothing to do with Islam. The maniacal mullahs who rule Afghanistan are simply using religion as an excuse for enslavement and misogyny.

The same is true for much of the Arab world. Banning women from driving? That's repression, not religion. Honour killings? Simply a convenient way to hide rape and control women's sexuality.

Banning women from voting and forbidding them from travelling abroad without their husband's permission? That's male elitism, not Islam.

Thobani is an educated woman but, somehow, she has failed to understand that it is not the West's fault that much of the Third World is a political, social and economic backwater.

In her speech Monday, she said she felt the pain of the thousands who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

But then she went off the deep end, suggesting that U.S. foreign policy is more of a global threat than terrorism.

In their warped minds, the madmen who caused havoc in the U.S. three weeks ago envisioned an Islamic jihad against the secular world. But in Thobani's eyes, the battle against terrorism is the "fight of the West against the rest." The U.S. merely wants to dominate the planet, she declared. "The woman's movement has to stand up to this."

Oh really? If this is what passes for feminism now, it's no wonder women are shedding the label in despair.

Feminism used to mean the struggle for equal rights, and those battles have largely been won over the past few decades.

Our physiology no longer dictates our destiny. Women in the West have the freedom to choose any path. To be sure, there are still glass ceilings to be broken but the days of state-sanctioned sexism and discrimination are over.

You'd think at a conference entitled "Women's Resistance," Thobani would have spoken up for Afghani women and denounced the Taliban.

Instead, she demonized the West. Feminism has been hijacked by a bunch of nuts who have fetishized victimhood. It's enough to make real feminists want to wring their necks.

Mindelle can be reached by e-mail at mjacobs@edm.sunpub.com.
Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@edm.sunpub.com.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.