You may have missed it, but March 8 was International Women's Day, a holiday unconnected to a religious rite or person, and with no national or even seasonal significance. It is socialist in origin, and it was Lenin himself who made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union. Not surprisingly, it is now a rite of the United Nations.
In these origins lie the day's basic fallacy: that womanhood is an international -- global -- political state of being; that there is a universal female political condition, which urges, a la Marx, "Women of the world, unite!" Against what? The common foe -- men.
As with Marxism itself, for such a sisterhood to coalesce, even on paper or in elite committees and multinational organizations, the profound cultural and religious differences that shape and guide people's lives have to be minimized, denied or actually destroyed. In real life, however, culture and religion will out, as they did on this year's International Women's Day.
In post-U.S. Iraq, Reuters reported on the International Women's Day activities of "about two dozen" women -- a brave handful -- who demonstrated in Baghdad against new, sharia-based legislation now before Iraq's parliament. Known as the Ja'afari Law after an early Shiite imam, the legislation would allow Iraq's Shiite Islamic clergy to control marriage, divorce and inheritance. Among other things, this would permit marriage between a man and a 9-year-old girl, according to the marital example of Islam's prophet Mohammed. Indeed, by the Gregorian calendar, as The Associated Press pointed out, such legislation would apply to girls who are 8 years and 8 months old. (The Islamic calendar year is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year.)
Guess who has approved of this child rape legislation -- some den of social outcasts? No, the ministers of Iraq's cabinet. They preside, of course, over a government created in large measure by great expenditures of U.S. blood and treasure. The draft law now awaits a parliamentary vote.
The Baghdad protesters shouted: "On this day of women, women of Iraq are in mourning." At least two dozen of them are, anyway. But more than Iraq's women should be in mourning. After all, child rape -- not to mention marital rape and discriminatory divorce and inheritance practices also legalized in the draft legislation -- shouldn't be defined as "women's" issues alone. If they are so pigeon-holed, by feminist implication, the modification of "male" behavior will ameliorate all. What these women are protesting, however, aren't men or the "patriarchy" generally, but rather the brutal impact of Islam and its law on women, on children, on the family itself -- the basis of civilization. It is here, in the treatment of the weak and the young, of motherhood, marriage and childhood, where core, existential differences between Islam and most of the world's religions and cultures emerge. They are obscured as "women's" issues.
In pre-withdrawal Afghanistan, the celebration of International Women's Day took place inside the heavily guarded New Kabul Compound. It was an upbeat event, at least according to a Defense Department report, featuring several laudable and prominent Afghan women doctors, who naturally talked up education and the need to retain post-Taliban gains made on behalf of women in Afghanistan. Tragically, the State Department's most recent report on the shockingly low state of human rights in Afghanistan reveals that such gains for women -- not to mention children, boys and girls alike -- are already mainly on paper only. As the armed utopians withdraw, the dust of tribal Islam settles.
The elites who take International Women's Day seriously, however, probably won't ever notice. Consider the one American woman who spoke at the Kabul event, Rear Adm. Althea H. Coetzee. As director of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, operational contract support, Coetzee has a big job, a hefty salary, status and power that few women -- or men, for that matter -- achieve anywhere in the world. But she, too, the Defense Department report noted, took to the same podium as the Afghan women who preceded her, to speak of her "challenges beginning with her graduating in the sixth class of women at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985."
Poor thing. I wonder what the Afghan women really thought of Coetzee's "challenges" -- being among an early class of women at the elite military academy -- in comparison to the challenges of their countrywomen -- violence and degradation suffered at the hands not only of criminals and outlaws, but, as the State Department report makes plain, policemen and judges and other officials, too. As "international women," they all can relate, right?
The report continued: "Her career, by her standards, has been non-stop. She reminded the crowd that she holds herself to three mantras that have enabled her to minimize any missed opportunities, and allows her to live life to the fullest. Those mantras are, 'Carpe Diem! Semper Gumby! And, Insha'a Allah! That is, seize the day! Always be flexible! And, everything will turn out, God willing!,' said Coetzee."
That's Allah willing, actually. There's a difference -- and particularly for women and children. But not on International Women's Day.