Jon Sanders

Right or wrong, leftists fault the United States for many things regarding women's rights. But those who profess to care for women's rights yet can't put aside their contempt long enough to view the global situation for women with perspective make a mockery of their cause.

Hibaaq Osman once argued before the United Nations than the only justifiable case for military force would be to oust the misogynistic Taliban from power in Afghanistan, then found herself in great distress arguing it unjustified when the U.S. did just that after Sept. 11. Nor was she alone among feminists with this rather bizarre dilemma; as described in a Village Voice article: "In heart-wrenching conversations and e-mail exchanges across the city and the globe, feminists find themselves split over how to handle possibly the most misogynistic regime in history. Many are deeply uncomfortable with the specter of a wealthy nation bombing a poor and already ravaged one."

How could anyone who truly cared for women's rights think it marginally better for women to go on being maimed and executed in soccer stadiums and girls to keep having acid thrown in their faces for attending school than for such a depraved regime to be overthrown if its vanquisher were the U.S.?

Feminist playwright Eve Ensler was another who changed her tone after Sept. 11. Her "The Vagina Monologues" originally included a monologue from Afghanistan, but she did a monologuectomy on that one after 2001 -- and started a campaign called "Afghanistan Is Everywhere," straight-facedly equating the most bloodthirsty, anti-female environment on the planet with ... everywhere else on the planet. She later equated women choosing to get botox injections with women forced to wear burkhas.

Examples of this device are legion; the question is, what compels it? Why cannot the left mount a positive cultural defense of the Middle East? The region is rich in history, philosophy, literature, wonders geographic and man-made, making its severe lack in human rights and individual liberty all the more deplorable. But those are Western values.

Still, why do the left strain themselves to pretend things here are just as bad for women? The tack requires admitting things are bad for women there, so why the reflexive action to seek parallels? Especially when there aren't any, as in the case of the climate for women: Yes, they stone women for being raped, but we have skinny models on magazine covers; yes, they have clitorectomies, but we have wage inequities ...

Is it that overtly admitting its cultural backwardness would imply admitting that Western values are better for the world? Or that the very act of arguing for better treatment of women requires adopting Western ideas about the value of women as individuals?

Put it this way: how many poor, oppressed, Third World women must suffer to keep your hipster multicultural disdain intact?


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.