In his book, “The Victim’s Revolution”, Bruce Bawer shows one irony after another in the “woman studies” and “black studies” and “Queer Studies” and other victims studies programs that proliferate in American universities. Sometimes the individuals who run these programs get conflicted. For instance, Autumn Marie Reed of the University of Maryland is a
young white woman who professes to be worried about Western rhetoric that “disempowers” non-Western women. Her topic: honor killing in Pakistan. She explains that when she watched TV news coverage of “honor-based violence” in the United States (she says she prefers that term to “honor killing,” but doesn’t explain why), she was troubled by the networks’ “Orientalist” discourse. On the one hand, “as an activist I felt coverage would help,” but “the more critically I watched . . . and thought about Orientalism and postcolonial feminist theory . .the more uncomfortable I felt.” Why? Because while honor-based violence is, well, violent, the manner in which honor-based violence is discussed in the West “is also violent”—it involves demonization of Muslim men”; … is about “saving the brown woman from the brown man” and is used as a “way to demonstrate Muslim inferiority.”
In other words, her problem is, what do you do when one victim group persecutes another of your favorite victim groups?
In the world of victims studies, there are various issues that they worry about, such as “intersectionality.” “Part of the idea of intersectionality is that when you’re “analyzing” oppression, it’s important not to isolate one category but to look at all of them so that you can see how the different forms of oppression work together.” In other words, if you are a woman, you are oppressed, but if you are a gay black woman, you are triply oppressed, and the interactions of all this oppression require academic study. They have another term, called “hegemony”, which describes the situation where you are oppressed, but don’t realize you are oppressed. At least in a dictatorship, you might know you are oppressed, but in the West, you are worse off, because you are unaware of your oppression.
I read Bawer’s book shortly before reading Wafa Sultan’s book about her religion “A God Who Hates”. Wafa was brought up in Syria, but she saw the abuses of Islam, and gradually moved away from it. She’s an atheist now. To its credit, Al Jazeera, an international Arabic TV station, lets her debate occasionally with believers.
She has a chapter on women, and it really shows that Islam has caused much misery to women. Starting with Mohammed she says:
Of all Muhammed’s marriages, however, his marriage to Safia was the most horrific of all. Safia Bint Hayi was a Jewish woman whose husband, father, and brother Muhammad had killed when raiding the Khaybar tribe…
Wafa’s earliest memory of her mother is her story of how she chose Wafa’s name. Her mother and father had wanted a boy. But they got her.
Under pressure of this calamity, my mother was at a loss of what name to give me. One morning my paternal uncle was passing by the veranda of our house when he saw my mother carrying me in her arms. He greeted her and asked: “Haven’t you chosen a name for her yet?”
My mother replied “Not yet. Do you have any suggestions?”
My uncle said without hesitation: “Call her ‘Shit,’ it’s the only name she deserves.
Wafa’s mother told this story often to amuse her female friends. Every time she did, Wafa felt hurt.
In one of the Jazeera debates, Wafa was being interrupted by her opponent more and more, so she shouted at him “Be quiet! It’s my turn!”. Wafa says that never in the history of Islam has a woman clearly and forcefully asked a man to be quiet because it was her turn to speak.
She received many letters because of this remark, some supportive, and some with curses for her.
But the point is, even in Syria, which was not as extreme as lets say – Iran or Saudi Arabia, women are oppressed. So when Western women regard it as a “war on women” when there are people who don’t want to pay for them to have contraceptives (such as some churches whose beliefs tell them not to include this in their insurance plans for employees) you have to wonder at the very elastic view of oppression here. In my view, they can pay for their own contraceptives, and they still would not be oppressed.
Then there is “men’s studies”. Men’s Studies is a “camouflage version of Women’s Studies” in which the “operative question” is “Why are we men so awful?” Its founding father and “presiding guru” was Australian sociologist Robert W. Connell, whose 1995 book “Masculinities” is the main text in the field. Connell coined the term “hegemonic masculinity,” which refers to the supposed fact that society teaches men to dominate women and one another…
Given that Connell helped establish an academic discipline the entire point of which is that men are authoritarian bullies, it’s not irrelevant that he is now a she: in 2008, it was revealed that Connell had undergone a sex-change operation and was now a woman named Raewyn Connell. Connell’s colleagues accepted this change in politically correct fashion, but one must be permitted to ask: what does it mean that the male founder of a discipline called Men’s Studies turns out to have been, all along, a transsexual—a person, that is, whose self-image was that of a woman trapped in a man’s body, and who viewed that body as alien and abhorrent?
There is actually another version of “men’s studies” out there, which really does study men, including codes of honor of the Samurai, and its not anti-men. In general, though, there are many contradictions here. For instance, Moslems don’t approve of homosexuality, and it is a very bad idea to be “gay” in Iran, for instance. So how can a caring progressive be for both victims groups? Or if you are a Marxist, as many of these victim’s studies people are, then should you be emphasizing “class unity” or “racial separation”?
Sometimes they simply overlook the conflict inherent in their ideas:
While in Berlin for Gay Pride events, she [Judith Butler of the University of California] praised Hamas and Hezbollah, which she described admiringly as organizations of the left…Her readiness to side with the tormentors of gay people because those tormentors belonged to a group that is generally considered sacrosanct on the orthodox left underlines the fact that Queer Studies is not about advancing the rights and security of gay people, but is rather a movement of the left whose leaders are prepared to support allegedly leftist groups and causes even if they represent a clear and present danger to gays.
This is all kind of amusing, and I feel sorry in a way for people who spend their working hours developing nonsensical theories, but the point is, that if you start defending bad people so you can live in a world where nobody’s feelings are hurt, you become an abettor of evil.
In fact, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is talking with sympathetic American officials about possible restrictions on anti-Islamic speech in America. Will they silence Wafa Sultan?
The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind – Bruce Bawer
A God Who Hates – Wafa Sultan