Western feminists are NOT silent

Francesca Tronetti, MA Anthropology, Women & Gender Studies

Doctoral Student in Philosophy and Religion at CIIS

While flipping through YouTube videos I came across a segment of the Michael Coren show from May 25th of this year in which he and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch discussed Amina Filali, a young Moroccan girl who committed suicide after being married to her rapist for a year.  The marriage was ordered by a judge, a practice which is common in Islamic states if the woman is not killed to redeem the family’s honor.

During the show Spencer said, “We’re absolutely immured to this, the human rights organizations don’t care, the Western feminists don’t care… The Western feminists are really incredible about it.  You see all these feminists who are very quick to criticize Christianity, criticize Judeo-Christian values, criticize the West, the United States and Canada and Europe for its alleged mistreatment of women.  But when you come to Islam then they suddenly start making excuses and they say women who are wearing burqas and are essentially slaves of their husbands, well their happy and it’s ok.  And it seems clear that the idea of multi-culturalism trumps feminism.”  Now I had several problems with this segment besides the fact that it only involved two white Western men discussing women in the Middle East.

The idea that Western feminists are passive and forgiving on this issue, that we make excuses and allow women to be subjugated because of multicultural indoctrination, i.e. liberalism, is ludicrous.  No woman who heard that story would say to themselves, ‘well it’s their culture so it’s alright.’  In Western culture we had similar practices; though these practices were typically not part of the legal code, instead they were just how things worked.  Western feminists, even non-feminists are outraged when women and girls are treated in this manner, not even as second-class citizens but as third-class creatures.  I suppose since women did not gather together and march through Washington on national television that Mr.’s Spencer and Coren assume we do not care.

Feminists, male and female do care; but we pick which battles we will make public and which we will keep in secret.  Feminists work behind the scenes in global groups to support women.  Yes, there are well publicized letter writing campaigns to free rape victims from being sentenced to prison for adultery.  But, there is more subtle support such as fundraisers to donate money and resources to women’s groups in Islamic states to create schools, legal defense funds, clinics, and a network of safe houses and embassy staff to help women leave these countries.  Women in Great Britain pushed for the creation of the Forced Marriage Unit, a police unit which intercedes on behalf of women and girls who are being forced into marriage to men outside the country, or are already in an abusive forced marriage and protects their rights as human beings.  Feminist groups in the United States and Canada work within their local communities to make police and social services aware of the plight of women and girls in forced marriages and help to keep girls in the West from being shipped off the marry strange men in Islamic countries where they will have no rights in court, no protection from abuse, and no support system to help them.

Consider the case of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan girl of 12 who was married to a Taliban fighter to settle her father’s debts.  After she attempted to flee his family’s home she was taken before the courts and for dishonoring her husband he was allowed to cut off her nose and ears, while his brother held her down and leave her to die.  The members of her husband’s family would not help her, her own uncle turned her away. Finally a member of her family took her to a non-Afghan hospital to save her life.  A hospital run by a U.S. Army medical unit.  The doctors and nurses there saved her life, taught her some English and with the help of the organization Women for Afghan Women Bibi came to the United States, underwent surgery to have a permanent prosthetic nose and became a symbol of the treatment of women in Afghanistan.  Feminists who support groups like Women for Afghan Women and Women Living Under Muslim Law are supporting protections for women in Islamic states.

It simply is not feasible for Western feminists to try to force a change in the status of women in Islamic states.  These are not states in which majority rule will decide law.  These are states in which a specific interpretation of the Holy Quran has given men complete and total power over women.  A state in which a man can rape a woman or young girl without repercussions, where a father can sell a daughter to settle his debts, and where a feud between families does not have to be settle by the men fighting but instead by one group of men raping a woman from the other group.  Those in power believe they are right in the eyes of God and no amount of public outcry or petitions by Western women will change their beliefs.

But do no mistake the quietness of feminists for acceptance.  We are working to change things for women in Islamic states.  We provide money and support for schools for girls, for lawyers to help child brides out of arranged marriages and when specific cases of barbaric treatment of women hit the news we have even forced the king of Saudi   Arabia to pardon a rape victim.  We publish the biographies of women who have escaped these countries, we make it known how the women are treated in these countries, and we make it known to our own leaders what we will and will not tolerate when it comes to dealing with the countries.  But mostly, we have Muslim and Middle Eastern women take the lead on the work in their countries, because they understand better than any well read anthropologist what the true situation is and how to combat it.  Western feminists work from behind the scenes, not pushing our immediate agenda for total equality overnight because we know that is not going to happen.  Instead, we support our feminist brothers and sisters around the world in a variety of ways, and work to change the lives of Muslim women in our own countries because we know our laws and we know which buttons to push with our governments.

Michael Coren clip: “Michael Coren & Robert Spencer On The Suicide Of Amina Filali” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb1FWUPCIgI


“Though we live amid high-rise steel buildings, formica countertops, and electronic television screens, there is something in all of us, women and men alike, that makes us feel deeply connected with the past.  Perhaps the sudden dampness of a beach cave or the lines of sunlight piercing through the intricate lace patterns of the leaves in a darkened grove of tall trees will awaken from the hidden recesses of our minds the distant echos of a remote and ancient time, taking us back to the early stirrings of human life on the planet.  For people raised and programmed on the patriarchal religions of today, religions that affect us in even the most secular aspects of our society, perhaps there remains a lingering, almost innate memory of the sacred shrines and temples tended by priestesses who served the religion of the original supreme deity.  In the beginning, people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven.  At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?”

This is the first paragraph of “When God Was A Woman”.

Near the end of the seventies I was back in the broom closet after a life changing run in with the first wave of mega-church fundies in central Ohio.  I had been re-reading Frazer and turn of the century occultists and diving back into classics of Greeks and Romans.  And I knew I was missing something.  At a flea market in Marion, Ohio I saw a book sitting on the top of a stack of romance novels.  It was an American first edition of “When God Was A Woman” by Merlin Stone.  The dust cover was tattered then around the edges and the text underlined in places by the prior owner……but that book called out to me and it literally changed my life. I remembered in a flood of memories of my own life, the sacred places I had seen as a child throughout the world, the dreams of the Mother Goddess I had over and over when three and four years old.  Within a year of reading that book I had an unwanted and unexpected hysterectomy when I was supposed to be having an appendectomy.  And I had re-read many, if not most, of my collection of ancient texts, mythologies and accounts of ancient history armed now with the key to seeing the Goddess where She had been hidden before.

Everyone has a few authors who’s works significantly change their lives, for me Merlin Stone was among the most important.  The Goddess called Merlin back on the cusp of the Goddess awakening that became my life work.  Merlin, you changed my life, thank you and rest well in the arms of the Great Mother.

crossposted to cybelinecrone.blogspot.com

Yes, after a lifetime of feminist consciousness (well since I was nine years old anyway) I was told the other day I am no longer a feminist because I reject the victimhood hierarchy that passes for feminism among so many younger feminists today. I was told this in no uncertain terms by a young lady on her blog who then proceeded to lecture me, apparently in total absence of any knowledge of my body of writing or my actual life, about the evils of the second wave feminists, gender as having any meaning and, as has become strangely common among some like her, my own relationship with Goddess Consciousness.  Oh yes, I’m also an “ablist” too despite the fact I walk with a cane due to multiple back injuries and have chronic pain as a result.

What happened to Feminism?  I will freely grant I am not a Feminist by her definition but not a Feminist?  Hardly.

A brief history lesson might be in order.  “First Wave Feminism” spanned almost a hundred years beginning with abolishing slavery as it’s first goal then suddenly expanded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the famous Seneca Falls conference where she proposed womans suffrage to the shock of almost all who attended.  You might notice, because it is significant, that First Wavers were tied to what became the Civil Rights movement from it’s very beginnings.  Stanton, basically a stay at home mom, and her close lifelong associate and friend, Susan B. Anthony spent the rest of their lives dedicated to womans suffrage and Stanton continued until her death to keep pushing the envelop on woman’s rights and sexual equality, so much so that in her last few years she was so far ahead of the curve the Movement denounced her.  Women like Rebecca West and Alice Paul continued the fight using direct confrontation, picketing the White House and eventually hunger strikes when they were imprisoned.  If these women were anything, it was not victims.  And eventually they prevailed and won the right to vote for women. Frederick Douglass supported Stanton at Seneca Falls but later, when Black men were granted suffrage told the Suffragettes they had to wait their turn and denounced tying womans rights to voting rights for Black men.  It’s history people, read about it because the history of the Movement reads better than any thriller ever penned.

So called Second Wave Feminism began in the late 1950’s as essentially a Housewive revolution and has morphed many times into goals and positions  that are often contradictory as it moved through the sixties and seventies because it’s goal was less narrowly focused and much much wider in scope as a result.  The basic goal?  Full social, economic and educational equality of the sexes which we still have yet to achieve.  Younger women don’t remember but most of my lifetime, even want ads in newspapers were divided by sex long after it was supposedly illegal to do so under Title VII rights.  You had ads declaring they were from “equal opportunity employers” separated under “men” and “women”.  What is frequently decried today as “Second Wavers” was hardly monolithic movement and never was.  You had lesbian separatists, sex positive vs sex negative schools, liberated housewives, matriarchialists, andro positive and andro negative and the European school that preceeded it all by around twenty years or so that was just plain Espirt Feminique.   In the early stages the main message to women was self empowerment and the European Second Wave was very much about celebration and restoration of women’s strengths as of equal importance to humanity.

What is being called Third Wave Feminism today is all about oppression with every fraction within jockeying for position as more oppressed than the other.  This is the polar opposite of empowerment.  This is the school the young lady who told me I am no longer a feminist belongs to.    This is passing strange to me because it also, on a fundamental level, feels downright anti-feminist to me personally in that the focus is individual groups vying for position to advance individual “wrongs” based on dis-empowerment and completely at the cost of one of women’s greatest strengths, the ability to compromise and cooperate as a whole for the good of all.  The young lady in question compared me to Sarah Palen and called me a fascist right winger which is ironic because I see true feminism as essentially socialist (in the communal as opposed to communism sense) in nature and my studies of ancient history seem to confirm that egalitarian societies always had a primary socialist organization by their very nature.

I fear we have lost an entire generation of potential feminists to the disempowerment of the oppression Olympics who have been seduced from goal by self indulgent whining and finger pointing at others while crying “me me me” rather than “we, we, we”.  It is no accident that so called Third Wave Feminism began at the same time the “transgender” gender deconstructionist appeared and they are hopelessly entwined.  The supreme irony being the entire goal apparently is erasing women and womanhood.  Does it get more patriarchal than that?  Also interesting is that they decry women of history defining “transsexuality” in it’s original sense and claim the right to expand it to include those who clearly do not have the medical birth condition the word refers to and yet they then turn right around and narrowly define feminism to exclude anyone who disagrees with their position.  Their logic is so fuzzy one is at a loss how to point it out.

I remain a proud European school Second Wave Feminist who has dedicated the rest of her life to full economic and social parity with men and full valuation of so called “woman’s work” with male occupations.  I am not a victim, I am woman, hear me roar.

Postscript:  Susan’s Tranvestite Place linked to this blog and now a bunch of crossdressers are also engaging in revisionist history….way to prove my points.  In response to my reply that they engage in wholesale censorship of ideas, it was denied by a moderator then I received a “warning” and the entire discussion was erased.

Mary Daly passed away some time yesterday.  To many she is best known as the lover and mentor of Janice Raymond but among Pagans she is remembered for her ground breaking work in the formation of the Dianic Pagan traditions.   Her 1973 work,  “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation” was a seminal work in spiritually oriented feminism.

Mary Daly’s last book  “Amazon Grace” marked a departure from her former, often somewhat over the top,  radical feminist philosophy to embrace the model of the second wave European schools that emerged first in Spain and then later in France embracing the “esprit feminique” –the feminine spirit that embraces rather than reject those unique attributes of women as not weakness but indeed our strengths.  This is the essence of  “Wholistic Feminism”.

Rest in peace Mary, may the Goddess’ arms enfold and keep you.

“The Goddess Movement would not be the same without her. Contemporary Paganism would not be the same without the Goddess Movement. The radical essentialism of thinkers like Daly was a challenge to the pole that said “only men can communicate with the divine”. That pillar that she went up against? Mostly it has changed, leaving behind laughable relics, some of whom unfortunately still hold a measure of power. Yes, inequality still exists and yes, I am still a feminist, but things have gotten better. Much, much better. I don’t know if Mary Daly was able to see the battles she actually won.”T. Thorn Coyle

postscript...Do You Renounce Daly and All Her Works?
As a Pagan feminist theologian, the debt I owe Mary Daly is huge. As a feminist woman, that debt is also huge. As one with an intersexed/transsexed history I cannot and will not join the hate fest against her because my own experiences as a feminist woman taught me she wasn’t completely wrong. Please allow me to explain.

Almost none of the transwomen trashing Daly even knew who she was prior to her death, I can practically guarantee most of them never read any of her books. No, if they know her name it is because she was Janice Raymond’s mentor and among transwomen, Raymond is Satan. Now most of them never actually read Transsexual Empire either, it is an article of trans-faith one must hate Raymond with the irony being I’d never met a feminist who even knew who Raymond was until some transwoman told them about her.

Now was there ever any justification for the positions that Daly and Raymond held? Many years ago I used to argue with rad-fems on that and then a funny thing happened. Over and over I was personally exposed to exactly those same behaviours both complained about…..by those who claimed some sort of “sisterhood” with me by virtue of my having been surgically assigned male at birth (I was born intersexed) and transitioning as an adult. With one major difference to most of them beyond the intersexed thing, I had always been a lifelong feminist, always been aware of my own femaleness and hyper-aware of male privilege.

I watched feminist after feminist do a mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa on trans people when I was beginning to experience something I had to coin a word for, neo-gynophobia, in the various “trans communities”. It’s out there in plain view but any mention is immediately shouted down as transphobia. Now that’s rich. My need to make my body match my soul/central nervous system/whatever was downplayed and even insulted and the rationale to do so was exactly the same as Raymond expressed! My, and other’s like me, post corrected bodies were insulted as faux vaginas, inverted penises, mutilated crotches and we were told we would never ever ever be “real” woman. Not by rad-fems, by transgender identified people! My participation in NOW was criticized by trans women because I did so as a woman without modifiers!

And talk about hatred? I’ve been subjected to hate crimes, death threats, open attempts to destroy every aspect of my life, even turned in to Homeland Security as a terrorist and outed so I would lose my job. By evil rad-fems? By the Christo-fascist right?…….no, by transpeople because I named and talked about neo-gynophobia. I know first hand the hatred Julie Bindle has experienced.

So will I repudiate all that I gained from Mary Daly’s life work because she had issues with trans women? Not on your life. In this respect she was wrong in many ways but also she was no worse than many that now demand her life be judged on this aspect.

The violence done on the self esteem of women by the patriarchy is almost so universal it is often hard to grasp it’s full extent.  It spreads from economics to political organizational to religion and philosophy…and the underpinnings of all of those and more.

As long as feminist women use “oppression heiarchies” as the model to understanding all this, we lose.  As in total thermonuclear war, the answer is quite simple, the only way to win is not to play.  Personally I feel it is no accident that history is barely taught today in our schools and ancient history, when covered, rewritten completely to serve the political agendas of the patriarchy.

The logic of men is domination, the logic of women is cooperation.  This basic principle is clear throughout human history.  In political terms male logic yields monarchies, theocracies, dog eat dog captialism.  Female logic give us “socialized medicine”, the concept of the commons for communal raising and sharing of food resources, the idea that many hands make lighter labour.  In theological terms male logic give us gods sitting in judgement and handing out vengence and punishment while female logic gives us universal divinity, Gaia, understanding of the interdependence of all life, ecology.  Male logic gives us subdue the earth, rape it’s resources for our own immediate gain while women’s logic gives us the sense that we have an obligation to future generations and finite resources need to be preserved.

You can find male logic in a lot of women and female logic in a lot of men.  The difference is in style and gross numbers.

To me, a wholistic feminism is one that rejects the entire patriarchal model for Goddess Consciousness which has been slowly reawakening for the past hundred plus years in waves. Socialism, the Suffragettes, the rise in Pagan religious models over Abrahamic ones, socialized medicine, social security, Medicare, foodstamps and Welfare, worker’s comp, green movement, ecology…..these are all reflections of a Goddess awareness, a spirit of charity and cooperation as opposed to the sink or swim, you got what you deserved, no illegal aliens, social darwinism.

It’s feminism on a total global basis.  Can you be against socialized medicine and be a feminist?  How can you embrace a religious model that promotes your own original sin for being born without a penis and be a feminist?  How can you embrace politics that reject common humanity and the obligations not to mention promote the continued raping of the planet to the point it is in peril and still be a feminist?

Wholistic feminism transcends race, social status, physical bodies.  It is an entire way of being and make no mistake, the patriarchy knows this even if we are slow to understand it ourselves.  Think about it.  Those “matriarchies” of the ancient world weren’t, they were equalitarian.  It’s no accident that liberalism is called “effete”.

The women’s studies programs can take us only so far.  The “schools” of feminism are being used to divide us.  It is time to take a wholistic viewpoint, a global one of our feminism.  It’s not part of our lives, it is our lives and that of our children and partners as well.

Feminism in America was from its inception permeated with classism and racism. Sojourner Truth’s entreaty “Ain’t I a Woman” was a plaintive cry out to a movement that had by and large overlooked women of colour, immigrant women and women trapped in sweatshops. The working poor and the unemployed poor, unwed mothers, widows not only had no place at the table in 19th century American feminism but were covertly and frequently overtly excluded from not only the benefits of the “sisterhood” but also from the “sisterhood” itself.

The”sisterhood” of the 19th century, those women of privilege brought into being a style of feminism that narcissistically mirrored the privileged places in American society that they occupied. Often the wives of prominent man, their feminism was aimed at attaining the privileges held by their white Anglo-Saxon Protestant husbands. But, in addition to already possessing many of the social privileges of their husbands, they tragically reflected the prejudices of the narrow segment of community that brought them forth.

Successive waves of American feminism were built upon the bedrock`of this classist and racist movement. Overt hostility gave way to arrogant neglect. From its inception, the stratified hierarchy of American feminism, motivated by an arrogant sense of noblesse oblige functioned in loco parentis, that is seemingly with the powers of a parent over the agenda of women, whose issues and lives they were wholly out of touch with and made no effort to understand except in terms of their own culture and experience. The faces remained largely Caucasian; the issues remained largely upper middle class. At a time that women of color, immigrant women and single mothers were struggling for survival, mainstream feminism continued to be preoccupied with breaking the glass ceilings, pay equality for executives and reproductive rights. With HIV sweeping through women of color, American feminism politely ignored growing epidemic.

There have been repeated demands and pleas for change; the shortcomings of the feminist movement had been pointed out not only by the Right, which delights in doing so but also by the left, whose diverse spectrum is barely represented at all in the leadership of the feminist movement.

The structure of the movement is hierarchical and therefore vertical. Its goals have been defined from the time of its inception through the modern era by a leadership that in a very real sense rules sometimes more, and sometimes less benevolently over the image, demands, and agenda that it presents to the world on behalf of a majority of women far different than itself

Spanish feminism, as opposed to this, developed as a popular and populist movement of women living with nearly feudal oppression, dispossession and disadvantage. Closely tied with it were the first women attending universities in the country in many instances. It was philosophically allied with humanism, socialism and even anarchism.

As a horizontal rather than a vertical structure, as a populist rather than an elitist movement and based on a fundamental premise of mutual support and improving the welfare of all women as opposed to attaining privileges associated with empowered white males for a select few, Spanish feminism or horizontal feminism is more egalitarian and inclusive with a heavy emphasis upon nurturing support in assisting and uplifting an entire sisterhood with close attention to the individual needs of daily life as opposed to abstract ideals and privilege.

The issues of race inequality have to be addressed for horizontal feminism to truly function; women have the obligation be cognizant of and lend themselves to the improvement of the condition of their sisters as part of the improvement of the condition of women as a whole. Healthcare, child care, safety from assault, employment equality all become issues for the entire movement. The agenda is generated from the far reaches of the community through the center to the opposite side, permeating the whole with a co-responsibility for human welfare

There is one defining feature of the group, the divine feminine, esprit feminine or woman’s spirit. To truly function, to truly reflect the nature of women as a whole, the group must be inclusive, must be diverse and must reflect both empathy and advocacy for the entire membership.

It is time to finally part with the fatally flawed structure that has been the model of American feminism and embrace a different, inclusive, co-responsible model, horizontal feminism too and the racial and class distinctions that poison the well of women’s rights

Another guest blog and I am opening this blog up to others who also wish to guest blog in the hopes this might become yet another community nexus of those of us who wish to promote this new (old) vision of feminism. It should be apparent that Maura and I share a similar vision here.

“It was a true sisterhood. What bound us together was the spirit within, the spirit of the feminine. Equals.”

We were walking together on the grounds of the Complutense University in Madrid when my mentor and former profesora spoke those words to me. We were discussing the feminist movement of the last years of the Spanish Republic, known as “feminismo.” Feminismo gave rise to the Mujeres Libres, the Free Women of the Civil War.

“The Americans are crazy, Maureen. They will replace the Patriarchy of men with a Patriarchy of women. Who speaks for the poor or for the Moors(her word for African)? No one. It is a vertical feminism, and it will oppress and marginalise in the name of liberation, and I tell you Chica that no greater abomination exists than women denying their spirit of sisterhood and instead becoming the oppressor. They will, you watch.” Her lesson of the day to me had begun.

The feminism of 1930’s Spain had its roots in Existentialism and in Humanism. It was pro-active rather than reactive. Women advocated for each other and on behalf of each other. It was not exclusive to any class or race, or even sex; its nature would not permit that. “You find the feminine within all willing to recognise it, Maureen. Some people more than others, for they have been taught to shut it away or that it is weakness rather than strength.”

It was a horizontal feminism, as she expained to me, rather than a vertical feminism. Vertical implies a power structure, horizontal implies equality. Sisterhood demands equality and therefore a horizontal feminism was the trademark of the Feminismo and the later Anarcho-Feminism of the Civil War and the Mujeres Libres.

Horizontal feminism was born eight thousand years before Christ, two thousand years before the beginning of the chronology of the Bible. It began in rooms of women sifting grain or weaving, and was given voice by the singing of the women and by their drumming, using the grain sieves. Women lent their skills and time to each other for the benefit of all.

As a sisterhood, horizontal feminism demands responsibility for the welfare of all of the members of the community. That which women have in common, the divine feminine which marks us as sisters, is precious and is to be nurtured and cherished whatever the form it takes and in whomsoever it appears. By its nature defining us as women, it would therefore be that force which brings our sisters of unique journeys such as our trans sisters to the table of the Espirit Feminine.

Horizontal, not vertical. Therefore there is no superior position, no special privilege recognised. No racial preference, no class distinction. Women function as a family, as a community and by consensus.

During the Civil War, with the disappearance of services and resources, Femisimo and horizontal feminism was put to its most practical test. Communities of women created schools, hospitals, established militias and brigades, raised each other’s children as a communal family, worked as doctors, soldiers, teachers, engineers, writers, nursemaids cooks, and succeeded in sustaining an idea of equality while under attack from the Falanagist/Franquistas/Nationalists and the Luftwaffe. The women, Las Mujeres, yielded to no control but their own.

Horizontal feminism reaches across all lines and distinctions. It is not exclusory, it thrives by inclusion and what each sister brings into it. The sisters of the community are defined by a force within, a flame that each member, each sister, each woman has an obligation to nurture, cherish and to protect in one another.

The Lesbian must bear responsibility for, cherish and nurture the feminine spirit within her straight sister, her trans sister, her “moorish” sister, her poor sister, her Islamic sister; in short, the totality of womankind. The others are moved from within to do the same.

“We are one or we will be none, Maureen” she told me in English to emphasise the point with the alliterative accents.

Equality merely begins with horizontal feminism; a first step if you will, but without this step there is no possibilility of equality at all.

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