'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

War Feminism (Part 1) 

Sadly, it's not very shocking to discover that The Feminist Majority has supported the invasion of Afghanistan and currently supports the ongoing US occupation. For them, the American Empire is a modernist project whereby women of color around the world can be liberated from the predations of the men of their allegedly excessively violent, antiquated societies, and the cultural constraints imposed upon them.

Like most such projects, it masks the use of violence and coercion with the rhetoric of personal liberation and the enshrinement of individual rights. Unlike the US, Europe and East Asia, countries like Afghanistan, as well as the tribal regions of Pakistan, must be subjected to military force in order to protect women. Indeed, in the case of Afghanistan, the US must invade, and subject the people of the country to indiscriminate raids, air strikes and drone attacks to elevate the status of women even if the women there object.

Because, you see, American women know best, as observed back in 2002:

It is easy to condemn the barbaric men of Afghanistan and pity the helpless women of Afghanistan. It is this very logic that drives the Feminist Majority's Gender Apartheid campaign for Afghan women. Far more interested in portraying Afghan women as mute creatures covered from head to toe, the Feminist Majority aggressively promotes itself and it's campaign by selling small squares of mesh cloth, similar to the mesh through which Afghan women can look outside when wearing the traditional Afghan burqa. The post card on which the swatch of mesh is sold says, Wear a symbol of remembrance for Afghan women, as if they are already extinct. An alternative could have been Celebrate the Resistance of Afghan Women with a pin of a hand folded into a fist, to acknowledge the very real struggle that Afghan women wage every day, particularly the women of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), who are at the forefront of that struggle.

Of course, it doesn't take much to recognize the absurdity of embracing the US military as an instrument for women's liberation. After all, are we to believe that air strikes only kill oppressive men? Unfortunately, they don't. Most of us understand that women, and, for that matter, most people, male or female, young or old, aren't going to fare very well in a place in which indiscriminate violence is pervasive.

There is also a more subtle point of great importance. By aligning feminism with the occupation, groups like The Feminist Majority are making it more likely that Afghanistan, post-occupation, will be even more inhospitable to women than before the invasion. Why? Because it persuades Afghans that the occupation and feminism are inseparable, thus making it more difficult for the women of Afghanistan to empower themselves.

By then, though, The Feminist Majority will have probably moved on to more favorable opportunities for fundraising and media attention. If only it would follow the example of Doug Ireland, a man who exposes violence against gays in Iraq and Iran, among other places, but never allows his commitment to mislead him into support for US military action there. In fact, he recognizes that our allies are involved in the violence as well. Unlike The Feminist Majority, Ireland understands that the US military has objectives other than the protection of women and gay people.

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