Thursday, November 29, 2007

Enough of the "Right Wing as Liberators of Women" Crap!

Back in the Fall of 2003, I was at a conference in NYC and arranged to meet up with a good friend from college, who was a NYTimes journalist. Over fancy cocktails in a Sex in the City like enclave in the West Village, I told her what really bugged me about the Bush Administration's appropriation of feminist rhetoric to justify their invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. All of a sudden, US foreign policy cared about how women were treated under radical factions of Islam like the Taliban. (Never mind that the US was all too happy to support warlords and the Taliban to drive out the Russians in Afghanistan). My friend told me I should write something about this. I was flattered, but demurred, figuring that what I was saying was obvious.

I was reminded of this episode today as I read over an article from FOX News sent to me for comment. The article is about a British teacher who incited the wrath of Sudanese Muslim Clerics for allowing a young boy to call his teddy bear Mohammad. The point of view of the article is outrage for the backward way in which Muslim clerics treat this innocent teacher and exasperation in general for how Islam treats women. Then, toward the end of the story, the following line of analysis shows up:

In the U.S., a spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women said the situation is definitely on the radar, and N.O.W. is not ignoring it.

But she added that the U.S.-based organization is not putting out a statement or taking a position.

Radio personality Tammy Bruce, former president of the Los Angles chapter of the National Organization for Women and past member of their board of directors, criticized the organization for not taking a stand.

“We have a duty to make a difference for women around the world,” Bruce told FOX News. “The supposed feminist establishment is refusing to take a position in this regard because they have no sensibility of what is right anymore. They're afraid of offending people. They are bound by political correctness.”

“The American feminist movement has not taken one stand to support the women of Iraq, the women of Afghanistan, the women of Iran,” she said. “It is the United States Marines who have been doing the feminist work by liberating women and children around the world.”

So this comes at the end of a news article and turns it into a denouncement of U.S. Feminism. How does that happen? Enter Tammy Bruce, the Fox News correspondent, who pretends to be a progressive feminist who hates NOW. Who is Tammy Bruce? A good place to start is to read this account of her at the Daily Howler. Essentially she is a shock jock, with Don Imusesque racist tendencies, who has been propped up by Fox News as a token progressive in the pathetic effort to appear "fair and balanced."

Bruce's claims above are totally factually inaccurate at best and meaningless rhetoric at worst. Notice the classic Fox Newspeak buzz phrases "political correctness" "no sensibility of what is right." She has said, essentially, nothing. And, the sad fact of this article is that it gives the irresponsibly false impression that U.S. feminists have not been championing the rights of women around the world.

Of course, as the basis of my idea for an article that I never wrote, I was going to demonstrate how the U.S. feminist movement and organizations like Feminist Majority and magazines such as Ms. Magazine had been decrying the treatment of women under horrific regimes such as the Taliban for a decade before "W" decided to bomb them. Did anyone listen? Did US foreign policy give a fig about the dire situation of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban or other Warlords who we supported in our fight against Russia?

What has been the main US foreign policy contribution to aiding women's plight by the Right Wing? The global gag rule. That is right. Women find themselves beaten, raped, kidnapped, tortured and sequestered by ruthless regimes and we tell prevent NGOs from mentioning abortion as an option for a woman who was brutally raped.

It pains me to know how many well-meaning folks get their propaganda from Fox News. I so rarely read or listen to Fox that I lose sight of how insidious their influence is. History, facts, real balance and journalistic ethics are abandoned by these folks in order to spin a particular world view that denounces all they disagree with.

If you are a Fox News reader/listener and find yourself here, then do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes studying what U.S. Feminist organizations have been doing for women around the globe for decades.