Will Some Feminists Defend the Taliban?

The Taliban has now captured Kabul, a huge setback for women in Afghanistan. For many reasons, one may criticize the U.S. mission in that country, but some facts are undeniable: during the occupation, life expectancy improved by six years, and women’s time in school increased by at least four years. The Taliban is assuring girls that they can go back to school provided they “respect shariah,” but given the experience of past Taliban rule in the 1990s, there is good reason not to trust those assurances. In fact, under the Taliban, women are likely to stay at home and to be forced to hide under the burqa.

Needless to say, the Taliban is the epitome of ruthless patriarchal power, and feminists ought to raise their voices against it. But I fear some feminists will actually try to attack those who criticize the Taliban, if not defend it outright. For a certain brand of feminism, the real goal is not to defend oppressed women, but rather to attack anything that is Western. Deeply imbued in postmodernist ideology, these “feminists” will uphold the tenets of cultural relativism and, consequently, will walk away from criticizing the oppression of women in non-Western cultures.

We already know what some of these feminists are capable of saying. For example, feminist icon Germaine Greer writes in The Whole Woman: “Human beings have always modified the external appearance of their bodies in one way or another; one man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation. Looked at in its full context the criminalization of FGM [female genital mutilation] can be seen to be… an attack on cultural identity.” In other words: extracting the clitoris of young girls in unhygienic conditions without anesthesia (and thus denying those girls any pleasure in their future sexual lives) is fine because it is part of their cultural identity.

Sadly, Greer’s appeal to cultural relativism is not uncommon among feminists. Most gender studies departments in Western universities include Gayatri Spivak’s famous essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in required reading lists. As is often the case with postmodernists, it is hard to know what exactly Spivak is arguing for in that essay. For example, consider this passage loaded with nonsensical postmodern jargon: “This parasubjetive matrix, cross-hatched with heterogeneity, ushers in the unnamed Subject, at least for those intellectual workers influenced by the new hegemony of desire.”

But leaving this gibberish aside, Spivak tackles the issue of sati (the Hindu cultural custom in which widows threw themselves into the fire of their husbands’ funeral pyres) in British India during the 19th Century. Realizing that this was a horrendous practice that oppressed women, the British outlawed it. Commonsense would dictate that this was good for women, but Spivak disagrees. She thinks that the British prohibition of sati was an instance of “white men saving brown women from brown men”; in other words, the prohibition of sati was an instrument of British imperialist propaganda that served to justify the rule of white men over brown men, with the convenient pretext of saving brown women.

Actually, Spivak seems to think that sati was not so bad, because it was the manifestation of some important religious and cultural values: “Perhaps sati should have been read with martyrdom, with the defunct husband standing in for the transcendental One; or with war, with the husband standing in for the sovereign or state.” Spivak tries to pay lip service to reasonable feminists, clarifying that she is “not advocating the killing of widows,” but at the same time, she castigates the British for having outlawed the practice.

Spivak’s influence on Western (and especially American) academia cannot be underestimated. She is a renowned scholar, and young, impressionable feminists are frequently captivated by her sophistry. And just as Spivak criticizes the British for having outlawed sati, I predict that once the Taliban resumes its oppression of women in Afghanistan, some Western feminists will try to excuse it. They’ll argue that the oppression is not as bad as it seems, because the burqa fulfills some important social function, and staying at home is actually a form of protection. At the end of the day, these feminists will not want Western activists to criticize the Taliban, because doing so would be a form of “white men saving brown women from brown men,” and that is a major colonialist sin. These days, as per woke ideology, whiteness is an original sin, and for that reason, it is always more important to side with brown men—even if that entails excusing atrocities against brown women.

If in following Spivak, these feminists go out of their way to try to excuse the burqa and the restrictions on women’s education, they will become the Taliban’s useful idiots. That scenario would be yet another victory for the Taliban; apart from having militarily conquered Kabul, they would begin to culturally conquer Western universities. The U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan and let the Taliban take over. Western intellectuals must not pull out and let useful idiots take over.

Image: Voice of America News, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain


5 thoughts on “Will Some Feminists Defend the Taliban?

  1. The larger issue here is that the Chinese did to us the exact same thing that we did to the Soviets, they just did it a different way — while we used Stinger missiles to bring down Soviet helicopters, the ChiComs simply bought American politicians (not just the Bidens) and defeated us that way, with no small amount of help from American higher education…

    The Chinese are after the lithium and rare earth minerals that we ought to have been after as well — lithium for batteries and rare earth minerals for all of our high tech toys (including advanced weapon systems).

    Personally, I don’t think this is going to work out well for the Chinese as their political model won’t work well in a tribal Islamic society, and that the CCP’s approach to the Uyghurs won’t work well in Afghanistan…

    That said, higher education has spent 20 years attempting to subvert our military in Afghanistan and Iraq — everything from Cindy Sheehan on down — and there once was a consequence for funding subversion with governmental funds. The tragedy of Vietnam and the Killing Fields of Cambodia were caused by American college *students* and that is one thing — but this was caused by the self-described “tenured radicals”, faculty and administrators on the public payroll — and I believe that higher education is going to be held to account for that. Possibly as soon as 2023….

    Publicly funded higher education (even at private IHEs) openly subverted the Global War on Terror, and I fear that there inevitably will be more terrorist attacks on US soil. And this time, higher education will get blamed in a way that it wasn’t in 2001 (but really should have been) — Joe Sixpack is going to be pissed and a populist Congress will then take the meat cleaver to all of the funding lines upon which most IHEs depend.

    Iran of the 1970s is too far ago for people today to comprehend, but when the Taliban resumes mass executions as halftime entertainment during soccer games, a lot of the feminism, LBGTQ, and 57 genders stuff at the local university is going to be questioned by people who remember how much the very same people opposed the US efforts in Afghanistan…

  2. The treatment of women under the taliban is the example I throw back at these fools who bleat on incessantly about “all cultures being equal”. They’re not. And “who are we to judge?” they ask. Well, anyone with even a modicum of decency, that’s who.

    It has now become obvious that feminists don’t really care about anything except abortion rights.

    1. Patti, it is far worse than that — although I once thought that the feminists were merely the female equivalent of misogynists, seeking to reduce men to a second class status in society with the twin spears of abortion and child support giving the woman the ultimate power over the man.

      I also presumed that they were both intelligent and rational — that while I vehemently disagreed with them, that they actually had a coherent political agenda.

      They don’t….

      Instead, they they simply hate all of Western Society, which they reject on the false presumption that it was/is misogynist — and one need only read the correspondence of John & Abigail Adams to realize how much it wasn’t.

      And it isn’t that the Taliban treat women terribly, but the twisted concept of your enemy’s enemy is inherently your friend…

  3. If there is no Heaven, no Hell, then everything is permissible.

    If nothing is any better or any worse than anything else…if every culture stands entirely on its own merits….if every standard is but a relative standard, inapplicable to anything beyond the singular thing for which it was singularly devised….then who are we to judge — anything? Or anyone for that matter? It’s all good! (Isn’t it?)

    Certainly here, in this culture, at this particular Woke moment we ourselves can say with absolute certainty that for a man to look, with lingering glance, at a beautiful woman (without explicit and provable invitation) is nothing less than Sexual Assault (punishable, ideally, by jail time, job loss, & public humiliation)….but in any other culture, throwing that same, now screaming woman atop her husbands funeral pyre is, of course, quite perfectly fine. It’s a cultural thing (perhaps we lack a worldly appreciation of its murderous nuances?)! As is her genital mutilation (as per custom): it’s what they do, for goodness sake!

    Such moral parsing by culture is not an uncommon perspective. As Walter Williams presciently noted: “Liberals hold whites accountable to civilized standards of behavior, but not blacks. From a liberal’s point of view, it might even be racist to expect blacks to adhere to civilized standards of behavior.” We see this writ large in our universities as we ‘accommodate’ what becomes a 21st century version of the now-defunct (sort of) Ebonics or African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). A professor maintains a Standard English high-bar for all students equally and he risks disciplinary consequences. He wants an essay on Shakespeare’s Hamlet; she wants to write about Tupac’s rap (it’s essentially the same, isn’t it?)

    So yes, for the Progressively Woke the fully-expected and completely unsurprising pending obliteration of women’s rights (which were temporary at best) by the Taliban does present a rock & hard-place dilemma. ‘Shall we raise our voices in bootless protest because we, quite mistakenly, believe the Taliban cares what we think about their Unwokeness?” OR “Shall we demurely defer and chalk it up to Cultural Difference and bless that destruction as a kind of MultiCulturalism/Globalism thing (everything is equally good!).

    Smart money says they claim another victory for Global Moral Relativism and move-on to this year’s Harvey Weinstein.

    What else is new?

  4. Thank you for your brave defense of women in Afghanistan and calling out WOKE hypocritical feminism. I love to see men speak up and take a stand for what is right!

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