Viewpoint: Susan Faludi convo raises questions

Scott Sandersfeld

(Brent Schwert)

The question of the apparent irrelevance of feminism in post-9/11 America was discussed in Tuesday’s convocation by journalist and feminist Susan Faludi. She claimed that since 9/11, feminism has suffered a backlash of sorts because the culture has turned back to ‘traditional values’ of manly men and homemaker women.
For evidence, she cited only exclusively other journalists and op-ed writers. She claimed that the “myth of the American man” originated in colonial America and appears whenever men are vulnerable, such as after 9/11. For that, she didn’t even need to cite journalists. In fact, she didn’t need to cite evidence at all, so I wondered if she just made it up on the spot.
Despite these shortcomings, I was struck most by what she said at the beginning of the convo, when speaking of 9/11. She mentioned that the hijackers came from a culture that oppressed women greatly, but said that she didn’t come here to talk about the sexism of the 9/11 terrorists.
My immediate question was, “Do feminists ever give lectures on the sexism of nonwestern cultures?” This led to a second question: What exactly has feminism been up to since 9/11? These questions are intimately linked and there are two answers to these questions, one false and the other true. See if you can guess which one.
1) After 9/11, American feminists largely decided that, whatever the failings of gender relations at home, liberal society was now under a very real attack by a culture of death which brutalizes and even mutilates its women. Many feminist professors and intellectuals spoke out against the evils of female circumcision, totalitarian regimes and state Islam. There were even occasionally protests calling for war on the anti-women regimes who were responsible for 9/11, and even if they didn’t’ advocate openly for war feminists generally agreed that sympathy for Islamic regimes was unacceptable. In an even greater display of intellectual honesty, feminists declared that liberal, Western society is the only society in which women have the same rights as men and is therefore superior to the governments of nonwestern nations, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.
2) After 9/11, feminists hardly waited for the dust of the twin towers (read: “phallocratic symbols of Western imperialism”) to settle before they began protesting the idea of an American war of self-defense. Oftentimes, they protested by spelling “peace” with their naked bodies, ironic considering that females in some Islamic countries can’t even show an ankle in public without severe punishment (In fact, in Saudi Arabia many young women have been burned alive because firemen are not allowed to rescue them without their hijabs on). Far from 9/11 discouraging cultural relativism among feminists, it is now stronger than ever. It used to be that you could count on feminists to unequivocally condemn female circumcision, or more accurately, female genital mutilation. No longer. Now, feminist “scholarship” defending the backward cultural practices of Muslims around the world, including the cutting of the clitoris without anesthesia, is abundant. More than that, feminists (especially of the so called third-wave persuasion) have renewed and restated their hatred for capitalism, corporations and Western “imperialism”.
Okay, it’s obvious which one is true. And unlike Faludi’s claims about American culture, this information can be verified easily. Search for the abundance of articles on feminist lectures, protests and conventions in which noted feminist thinkers condemn Western society as sexist, racist and imperialistic.
I don’t think it always used to be this way. The ye olde feminists were heroic women seeking to eradicate the worlds’ most ancient prejudice and were individualists seeking the right to live beside men as political equals.
But then something happened. Instead of rooting their ideas in Enlightenment principles and reason, modern feminists started to root their ideas in modern nihilism, the father of which was Nietzsche (ironic once again, considering his views on women) who held that values, morals and ideas were a “social construct.”
Modern feminists, starting with Simone de Beauvoir (or as stated by Dr. Harvey Mansfield, “Nietzsche in drag”) in her book “The Second Sex” declared the concept of “woman” to be a “social construct”. It was only a matter of time before everything became a “social construct” to modern feminists. Ideals of freedom and liberty? A social construct. Think girls shouldn’t be forced to have their clitorises sniped off? That’s just because you’ve been “socially conditioned” to think that way.
Now to be fair, Susan Faludi’s message was decently rational, especially for a modern feminist. But if you claim to be a feminist these days, you must take pains to distance yourself from the majority of what feminism is today if you want to be taken seriously by rational people. Otherwise, the people being “stiffed” are not going to be primarily American men and women, but the women of actual oppressive societies who need the advocacy of free women the most.