Like what? Who does the dishes at home?


The Daily Beast talks to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and gets yet another scornful Dear Muslima out of her. We get it, Ayaan: you have contempt for feminists in the US. Thanks a lot for the solidarity.

There’s an argument, which I’m sure you’ve heard, that Western women face their own forms of oppression, which are different but may be just as bad, or almost as bad—

Like what? Who does the dishes at home? That’s what it boils down to: How can we balance work-life.

Of course that’s challenging. But can you imagine how far we’ve come from the points when women weren’t allowed to get out of the house, couldn’t be in public, couldn’t take public office, weren’t allowed to vote, couldn’t own their own bank accounts. Even the money they inherited wasn’t theirs, it was for the male guardians to look after. And now, [it’s], “Who loads the dishes in the dishwasher, who does the unloading?” And I think it’s still very important; I have massive fights with my husband about who does what at home. But that is more on the micro level, and it’s a luxury. And I don’t think that the government can do anything about that. What kind of law are you going to pass that says who does the dishes, who does the diapers, who looks after the children, who’s going to work and whose career is going to go up or down?

First: no, that’s not all that’s left. Far from it – or to put it another way, don’t be ridiculous.

Second: who the hell said feminism is only about what the government can do? What’s that got to do with anything? Feminism is about how everyone thinks about women, views women, makes assessments of women – everyone including, of course, women ourselves. It’s not just about laws, and never has been, not even in the first wave. There have been some feminists who focused only on laws, and there still are, but that doesn’t mean feminism itself has focused only on that or that it does (or should) now. And no, that is not trivial, it is not “the micro level” in a pejorative sense, and no it fucking is not a luxury. If a peaceful secular coup replaced the Saudi monarchy this afternoon and all the anti-woman laws were repealed, that wouldn’t mean everything was perfect, or so close to perfect that the remainder was a “luxury.”

Brandeis was wrong when it invited Ayaan HA to speak and receive an honorary degree and then grabbed the invitation and the honorary degree back, and Ayaan HA is wrong when she says US feminism is about who washes the dishes. She’s insultingly wrong, scornfully wrong, Christina Hoff Sommers wrong. Phooey.

Comments

  1. k_machine says

    Lolbertarian thinking: private citizens are incapable of oppressing others, only the evil collectivist state is capable of that. Individual über alles

  2. yazikus says

    So, here is my question, is she just class unaware? Because for very wealthy, very well educated western women, perhaps that is true (I don’t think it is, but I’m trying to be charitable here). For any other women, the struggle is still huge! I don’t get her. And from reading her bio (thanks, wikipedia!), it seems like she benefited greatly from a country with a really strong social safety net that allowed her to do the things she is now doing.

  3. resident_alien says

    @ yazikus : Yup, she was well served by the Dutch social safety system ( which of course isn’t perfect, but head and shoulders above any other I could think of ) , but she
    blamed the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on that very system , claiming that if the killer had been forced to find work or some other way of supporting himself rather than relying on welfare, he wouldn’t have had the time and energy to plan and execute the murder. Given that , for instance, the US has one of the highest murder rates in the world and nothing resembling a stable social safety net , I find her analysis….lacking.

  4. Al says

    @5

    Indeed. And after benefitting from the Dutch immigration system, she work within the Dutch Parliament to shut down the very immigration avenues which gave her a shot in life.

  5. Anne Fenwick says

    I understand it more as we’ve passed the stage where inequality can be legislated away. This may be broadly true for sexism, racism and may soon be true for gay rights. It can seem as though there is no clear route to dealing with the remaining discrimination, although I think we’re already seeing that widespread access to public speech is starting to make a difference.

  6. says

    She might want to talk to some of the people here in Canada who believe that the disappearances and murders of aboriginal women haven’t been taken seriously enough because of sexism and racism. Or the women in the US who end up giving birth when they don’t want to , because they live in places where abortion is hard or impossible to get. Or talk to Western women about a whole bunch of other issues they’re trying to correct. And those women whose partners won’t do the dishes? Some of them face domestic violence for even bringing up the issue.

  7. says

    Anne Fenwick @ 7 – You understand what that way? What she said? But she didn’t say we’ve passed the stage where inequality can be legislated away. She said:

    And I don’t think that the government can do anything about that. What kind of law are you going to pass that says who does the dishes, who does the diapers, who looks after the children, who’s going to work and whose career is going to go up or down?

    That says what it says: that it’s hard or impossible to pass laws covering that kind of thing.

  8. says

    She says some eye-raising things in that interview, alright. Like: “The best place in the world to be black/woman/gay is in the USA.” That is just wrong, on its face. Iceland has a gay, female prime minister–can anyone seriously imagine that happening in the USA at this time? And to be black in Ferguson, Missouri–is that honestly preferable to being black in, say, Stockholm? Are Swedish police regularly beating their black citizens? Or killing scores of them? And since I am an engineering professional, my personal experience leads me to believe that women have a better chance at leading a successful career in engineering in, say, Norway, than they do in the USA, since even living in the USA rather than Norway, I know more female Norwegian engineering colleagues than American ones. Personal anecdote does not equal reality, of course, but it’s not hard to google actual research statistics that will support the thesis that there are any number of places where it’s “better” to be black, or a woman, or gay, that are not the USA. And it’s offensive to me, to hear her claim otherwise, and then deride people who are trying to change that and actually make her assertion into some kind of reality.

  9. David Sucher says

    Hirsi’s remark about “USA is better…etc etc” when accurate compared to
    1. the vast majority of nations
    2. ALL large populations (> 50 million)
    but I agree that it is probably a bit of hyperbole and probably a bit unnecessary.

    But not by a huge factor. Sure the USA has HUGE problems. So how are they doing in France? or Turkey? or Saudi Arabia? NO NATION is doing very well.

    And comparing USA of 325 million people to Iceland (250 thousand — the size of TACOMA!) doesn’t really get us very far except for laughter. Iceland? The size of Washington State with a population of Tacoma? Almost entirely pure Aryan? With a stable history in which everyone knows everyone else going back 20 generations? Iceland is such an outlier as to be irrelevant.

  10. says

    Oops, that should really be Aryan=white Northern European, given that a lot of white folks likely don’t count to those who’d use the term un-ironically.

  11. David Sucher says

    Thanks :) I probably missed a comma too.

    Meanwhile, back at what was obviously my point….

  12. Blanche Quizno says

    uh…the Aryan Nations people darn sure aren’t talking about Iranians!!! Adolf Hitler absolutely didn’t have Iranian people in mind when he was talking about the Aryan Master Race! So can we please be a little less hair-splitty and a little more to-the-pointy?

  13. says

    I’m not entirely certain what the point was, David. AHA stated unequivocally and in absolute terms that the USA is the best place in the world to live for several classes of people, as a way to attempt to delegitimize some very real concerns of those people. I came up with a few easy examples that call her conjecture into question. That my examples do not meet some arbitrary population criterion that you have assumed, is absolutely irrelevant to that fact. Yes, it’s very nice that many* of the issues that people face in the USA are not matters of life and death as they are in other places, but that doesn’t mean that we should just brush aside their concerns with some flippant comment that is the rhetorical equivalent of “oh, stop yer bitchin’ already.”

    *(but notably, not all!)

  14. David Sucher says

    Sheesh. I am laughing. I make an arguable but trivial reference — use of term “Aryan” to mean people of Nordic descent — in a statement that
    1. while Hirsi may be sorta correct
    2. but that using ICELAND (which I have visited and love!) as point of reference to the USA (where I live and also love!) is comical for a host of reasons such as size of population and ethnic homogeneity.

    Yes, I used Icelandic people as “Aryan” and that is obviously incorrect and meant loosely and someone could mis-take that as a slur and relate them to Hitler’s misuse of the term.

    So, I mis-spoke and for the record, Iceland is a fine country. I had a great time there and I found the people lovely and admire their basically “Scandanavian” welfare-state decency and politics.

    But of course EVERYONE knows that people refer ironically to “Aryans” as people of Nordic heritage so I bet that everyone here knew very well what I was saying.

    So, please let’s get over the side-show. If there was editing software here I’d change it and add (INACCURATE BUT IRONIC USAGE INTENDED!).

    OK?

  15. David Sucher says

    And I don’t read Hirsi as saying “Stop yer bitchin’.”

    There’s quite a bit more nuance.

    It’s more like “Put it in perspective.”

  16. says

    Well, I made no comment about the usage of “aryan,” and yes, I understood your reference and have no quibble with it, David. I don’t find it particularly relevant to my point, however.

    My point–and it still stands–is that AHA was wrong. By almost any measure, the USA is not “the BEST” country to live in. Yes, it’s very high on the Human Development Index, but there are other countries ahead of it. Choose another metric, and you’ll find the USA still probably not in the top slot. When you focus specifically on race, or gender, or orientation, the USA falls sharply in the rankings.

    I don’t think that anyone disputes that the USA is a fine country to live in, but if you’re an interracial couple in rural Montana or a gay black woman just about anywhere, your perspective on just how fine is probably quite a bit different than a single white guy’s perspective in Portland, for example, and the concerns those people have about trying to make the country a better place for people like themselves are perfectly valid. It’s arrogant and disrespectful to tell them that their lived experience is less important.

    And let us at least be honest: AHA is not bringing this stuff up (and in the manner that she does) just in order to helpfully provide perspective. She does it as a silencing tactic because she has goals that she finds to be important, and is clearly frustrated that not everyone’s priorities align with her own. That’s bullying, rude, exclusionary behavior.

  17. says

    And I don’t read Hirsi as saying “Stop yer bitchin’.”
    There’s quite a bit more nuance.
    It’s more like “Put it in perspective.”

    Those two statements are not necessarily in contradiction. Indeed, the latter tends to be how you say the former, if you also want to give yourself cover from criticism.

    Moreover, Ali’s framing of the issue is simply, undeniably wrong. She’s blatantly ignoring some very serious issues. E.g. there are areas in the US where abortion is effectively illegal. It’s not an option unless you’ve got the money to take several days off and travel to another city.

    Reducing the concerns about women’s rights in the West to a question of who cleans the dishes is dismissive, offensive and just plain dishonest.

  18. Anne Fenwick says

    @9 – Ophelia, I don’t understand why you think your sentence is not synonymous with my sentence. I understand it exactly the same way.

  19. Deepak Shetty says

    @David Sucher
    >It’s more like “Put it in perspective.”
    Ok. Let us all agree that People (women , gays , atheists), on average , have it far,far (you can add as many fars as you wish) worse in Saudi Arabia (or whichever god forsaken hellhole you wish to choose) than in the USA.
    Is that put in perspective – enough?
    Now what do you want me to do about it? What is Ayaan Hirsi Ali (and her defenders? asking us to do, once we have the same perspective?
    a. Stop supporting the US when it supports such regimes – Like Saudi Arabia (ha ha)
    b. Stop making excuses for Islam ?(You’ve confused us with people who defend Islam)
    c. Stop blogging about issues people in the US face to target only Islamists ?(but why?)
    d. Stop complaining because we have it better?

  20. Jenora Feuer says

    Iceland has a gay, female prime minister–can anyone seriously imagine that happening in the USA at this time?

    And the province of Ontario has an openly gay female premier in Kathleen Wynne. She had been married to her partner Jane for over seven years before becoming premier.

    Living here, I found it quite interesting how little her orientation made it into the electioneering on either side during last year’s election. Even Conservative leader Tim Hudak (who mostly acted sort of like a Junior version of Wisconson’s Scott Walker, with only slightly better advice on when to shut up) didn’t really comment on it. One wonders if he had staff that realized that trying to drive in that particular wedge could only backfire badly. Wynne had already been premier for a year, and had been Minister of Education for four years before that; people knew her.

  21. johnthedrunkard says

    I don’t see any one noting that Ali is sniping BACK at safely tenured academic ‘feminists’ who kowtow to Islamism in the name of multiKulturalismus.

    They are the ones who set up a ‘dear muslima’ mirror by discounting the oppression of women by brown-skinned men.

  22. David Sucher says

    What you should do about it?

    I have no idea. It never even occurred to me that I would have an opinion that you should do anything at all, except now, giving it a thought, maybe give AHA a break and remember that she is still under 24/7 security because she is under death threat and has been for years and probably will be for many more. If you don’t like her tone or think that she overstates, then put in perspective that she is under enormous, _enormous_ personal pressure. My sense — and I am no particular defender of AHA — is a lot of people don’t like her because she is really quite remarkable: extremely intelligent, very bold & brave, and, frankly, very beautiful, which of course can tend to make people jealous.
    —–
    Now, reading back over the interview, I am also curious about the question Cathy Young raised:
    “There’s an argument, which I’m sure you’ve heard, that Western women face their own forms of oppression, which are different but may be just as bad, or almost as bad.”

    Do any feminists offer such an argument? that North American (European?) women face oppression “almost as bad” as found in (name any one of) dozens of of hellholes? (And let’s use Saudi Arabia as an example, bearing in mind that there are some odd contradictions about SA — I speak from first hand experience.) I’d like to read such a claim because it seems to me to be preposterous. Did Cathy Young ask an inaccurate question to get the kind of heated answer she wanted AHA to offer?

    I mean, I am astounded that anyone could take seriously the idea that oppression of women in the USA is “almost as bad” as found in Saudi Arabia. So is Cathy Young’s question accurate? Seems hard to believe, unless one is ignorant. But if so, then I can fully understand AHA’s fury at such a statement.

  23. says

    My sense — and I am no particular defender of AHA — is a lot of people don’t like her because she is really quite remarkable: extremely intelligent, very bold & brave, and, frankly, very beautiful, which of course can tend to make people jealous.

    Really. Can you point to anything anyone has said here that would support that?

  24. David Sucher says

    No, I have no idea of your opinion, Ophelia, much less any of the commenters.
    But there is a vast world outside this site.

  25. Drolfe says

    We’re all jealous of AHA, it’s not that we disagree on substance or ideas.

    Aryan isn’t a dogwhistle for white supremacists, it’s just a safe, normal, common, everyday euphemism for “white people” (and definitely not meant to mean actual Aryan people).

    David, do you hear yourself?

  26. Deepak Shetty says

    David Sucher
    I have no idea.
    So two things –
    1) What does AHA want me to do ? I believe she said it in her talk – something along the lines of stop going after Christians and based on views she has expressed elsewhere and her affiliations – I believe that it really is part of her goal. That she has somehow bought the Islam in any form is really that evil , that one can ally with lesser(granting for the sake of argument) evils like conservative christians – rather than opposing both.
    2) But you chose to defender her , stating that it wasnt a matter of her telling us to Stop , it was more of a matter of put it into perspective – Well fine then , what is it that you think she wants us to do ? Surely you don’t think she wants us to put it in perspective and then go on doing whatever we were doing? Your answer above is a cop out – you are being questioned on a view you have.

    ecause she is under death threat and has been for years and probably will be for many more.
    If your point is you can understand why she has certain views – well , granted. If I lived her life , i’d probably have views that are probably worse than anything she expressed. I understand why , I cannot justify it.

    is a lot of people don’t like her because she is really quite remarkable: extremely intelligent, very bold & brave, and, frankly, very beautiful, which of course can tend to make people jealous.
    As someone who gave up on Hirsi Ali long ago – She should have been a role model. But she made her choices – because of which , she is someone whose views I dont respect – To attribute that to jealousy is silly. at no point of time has anyone on this side made the argument that she isnt intelligent, bold, brave (and that a lot of her views , we agree with) – The problem is that she has crossed where I draw the line (on what I expect in an ally) –

    Not sure why you bring up her beauty.. Do you wish to imply women don’t like her because of her looks ? or that men dismiss a pretty face(that wouldnt be jealousy though)?

  27. David Sucher says

    I am going to repeat my question:

    Now, reading back over the interview, I am also curious about the question Cathy Young raised:
    “There’s an argument, which I’m sure you’ve heard, that Western women face their own forms of oppression, which are different but may be just as bad, or almost as bad.”

    Do any feminists offer such an argument? that North American (European?) women face oppression “almost as bad” as found in (name any one of) dozens of of hellholes? (And let’s use Saudi Arabia as an example, bearing in mind that there are some odd contradictions about SA — I speak from first hand experience.) I’d like to read such a claim because it seems to me to be preposterous. Did Cathy Young ask an inaccurate question to get the kind of heated answer she wanted AHA to offer?

  28. says

    No, I don’t know of any feminists who claim that, and yes, I absolutely suspect Cathy Young asked that absurdly loaded question to get the response she wanted. Young is a big fan of Christina Hoff Sommers and vice versa, so it all fits into a nice little parcel of feminism-bashing. I want to do a part 2 post on that interview to touch on that and other things.

  29. David Sucher says

    Yup, that is what it seemed like.

    I like some of Cathy Young’s work (e.g. her interview with the Columbia guy) but I would have preferred a specific such as “X is a well-known feminist and she says that quote _______________ closed quote. How do you respond, Ms. Hirsi?”

  30. David Sucher says

    Btw, I was suspicious (beyond that horrible interview technique of “People say ….”) because — while I don’t know any famous feminists — EVERY woman I know personally is a feminist and while some may not be very up on international affairs, I simply don’t believe that any woman I know would even remotely state that the USA is “almost as bad” as Saudi Arabia. In fact unless I set up the question correctly I think they’d look at me like an idiot.

  31. says

    I know. Same here. That’s why last week I was objecting to an interview in which Richard Dawkins kept insisting – on a stage, in front of an audience – that it’s terribly important for him to explain to the world that FGM is worse than sexual harassment…as if there were anyone who wouldn’t agree with that evaluation.

  32. =8)-DX says

    @David Sucher
    Generally, on your point concerning:

    “There’s an argument, which I’m sure you’ve heard, that Western women face their own forms of oppression, which are different but may be just as bad, or almost as bad.

    I’d say that there is an argument similar to this which is being misrepresented: that Western women face their own forms of opression, which may be just as bad, or almost as bad for specific, individual women. There are many women in the US/West who have been beaten/raped/killed because of their gender, for religious reasons or as a result of extreme patriarchal opinions. Also, some individual women in the West are refused employment, harassed in education and the workplace to a degree that makes their lives impossible to live. These women are those who are being dismissed and ignored through “Like what? Who does the dishes at home?” Saudi Arabia or India or wherever have higher rates of violence against women on average, higher legal restrictions, culturally-specific horrific forms of violence such as FGM or child brides. But a statistically better position for women in one country than another doesn’t give AHA the right to offhandedly dismiss the concerns of feminists in the West, when the goal of everyone should be universal equality for all, not just an improvement for the majority.

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