September 09, 2002
It's not so silent if you're paying attention

Avedon is "inarticulate with disgust" over this rant by Steven den Beste in which he claims "[...] there's been a deafening silence from such people about the sheer brutality and barbarity of some of their customs, particularly in how they treat their women. You'd think that those in the Women's Studies departments in the major universities, and activists in the Women's Rights movement, would be in the forefront as supporters of our war against Islamic extremism, based on the kind of hell that strict enforcement of Sharia makes life for anyone with two X chromosomes..."

Part of den Beste's problem is that he seems to link criticism of the War On Terror as it now stands with criticism of the initial US invasion of Afghanistan. The document he links to was published on June 14, quite a bit after the bombing began, and states that its purpose is to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11, 2001", which includes such things as the Patriot Act and military tribunals, the sort of government encroachments on American civil rights that once upon a time riled up people like den Beste. They argue, and rightly so, that not everyone agrees with the idea that we're best served at this point by attacking Iraq or anyone else the president doesn't like. There's a lot in what they wrote that I think is correct.

That said, I wouldn't have signed this document. They don't actually draw a distinction between the initial invasion that led to the overthrow of the Taliban and the subsequent expansion of the WoT, a fatal flaw in my opinion and worthy of the criticism that den Beste and others levelled at it.

If only den Beste could have left it at that. But no. Like Wile E. Coyote, he had to go chasing it right off the cliff, leaving behind any trace of rationality. I don't honestly know how it is that den Beste thinks that feminist concern for women in Afghanistan and other Islamist countries is a new phenomenon. Perhaps he never got the eternally-forwarded anti-Taliban email petition that made the rounds starting in 1999. If he had, he might have taken the time to check out the Snopes Urban Legends page, which in turn would have pointed him towards RAWA, which was founded in 1977, and this Feminist Majority page, which describes its anti-Taliban activities since 1997. Having done that, he might have taken a moment to look around the Feminist Majority page, where he would have seen these recent stories, complete with Action Alerts, as well as these older stories, all about the very anti-woman excesses of sharia that he got started ranting about.

But hey, who has time for research when you could be bashing those dumb ol' multi-cultural types? It's so much easier to win an argument against a non-existent opponent.

So yes, the Professional Women's Libbers are aware of these cruel and vicious things that den Beste writes about. I'd be willing to bet that like Avedon, they've been well aware of them long before den Beste was. One can certainly argue that a continued use of force is the optimal way to help these women, just as one can argue that there are better solutions that don't invlove the military. Asking "[w]hy aren't women's advocates raising their voices about this cruelty?" when they've been doing so all along is just butt-ignorant.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 09, 2002 to Other punditry

You're right about Den Beste stepping out of line -- the stories about Taliban oppression, especially with regards to women, were widely critisized. Hell, I even wrote a column about it in the Trinitonian my freshman year.

Yet I will say that, in academia, there is a general consensus that it is wholly improper to say that one culture is inferior to another. While feminist activists have been willing to criticize Middle Eastern culture for its abuses against women, others have stood firm with cultural relativism. Perhaps Den Beste should have moved his crosshairs over a notch, and focused on that mindset, rather than tilting at windmills.

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on September 10, 2002 1:55 AM

I noticed something a bit inverse from what den Beste describes. A number of feminists said that going after the Taliban was one military project they might support. Then, once we were going there, they backed off that statement.

Chances are they weren't serious when they were speculating and it's not a case of reversing themselves (kind of like how a number of people think we should invade Saudi Arabia, but if it came down to it I suspect most would back off).

In any case, feminists were, to their credit, ahead of the game when it came to the Taliban.

Now if only we could convince many of them to move beyond pointing fingers and saying "bad bad bad" to supporting actually doing something about these problems.

If this doesn't make any sense, it's because I've had a quite frustrating day. I'll blog on it more coherently at some point in the near future.


Posted by: R. Alex on September 10, 2002 2:38 PM

Thank you, Chuck.

I think a lot of feminists have, like me, been really worried about how Bush was going to screw it up. We're all pretty happy to be rid of the Taliban, but we also know there's a great deal more that has to be done and Bush has been making it clear since before he even took office that he had no intention of paying attention to things like that.

There are a lot of things people think need to be done, but that they are important enough to be done by someone competent rather than Bush.

Posted by: Avedon on September 10, 2002 8:40 PM

Too right, Chuck! Feminists were the first of groups to get up-in-arms over the Taliban. And, the first U.S. official of any stature to pointedly speak about the Taliban was Madeline Albright...

Posted by: Tony Adragna on September 11, 2002 12:08 PM