Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Grasping At Straws (or Straw Feminists)

Debbie and Laurie say:

We didn’t even know it was Blog Against the Strawfeminist Week until we got caught in a tendril of the newest wave of strawfeminism! (Click through the intro screens on the link above; they’re funny and true.)

Here’s what happened: Cinnamon Stillwell, self-described conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle is promoting a comparatively new strawfeminist argument. She says “today’s true heroes” are not being honored.

Meryl at Yourish, in promoting Ilyka’s week, points out one big part of what Stillwell is doing.

Conservatives take the fringe and use them to tar all feminists with the same brush. They go on and on about how the fringe is not the fringe, because it’s leading NOW or some other women’s organization. They say that feminists never protested radical Islam’s treatment of women, when a simple look at feminist websites would have found dozens of articles against the Taliban, against the treatment of Muslim women, against the treatment of women in Bosnia, in Darfur, in Afghanistan, in Iran, in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia — but it’s a lot more fun to build a Strawfeminist and say she has never protested the Muslim world’s mistreatment of women, because then you can bash feminists with your Strawfeminist argument. Never let the facts get in the way a good rant, eh?

But there’s another piece of Stillwell’s strategy. Feminists who fight our enemies are heroes. Feminists who fight our power structure are … [you fill in the blank].

Meanwhile, we should soon find out which model for Women En Large was one of the heroes named by Radical Women on International Women’s Day, along with an abortion advocate, a labor and anti-war feminist poet, and a retired socialist feminist educator and revolutionary writer–the list of unnamed people whom Stillwell calls “the same old tired ’60s model ad nauseam.”

Excuse us? In the 1960s, fat activism was unheard of. If abortion activism is so old and tired, why is the country trying so hard to shift the other way?

Instead, Ms. Stillwell goes on at great length about Wafa Sultan, and other Islamic advocates for women’s rights in Islam. Islamic feminists are engaged in a heroic and crucial struggle. So are Japanese feminists, Indian feminists, Russian feminists, and … yes … American feminists.

Most likely, Sultan and her companions in struggle take some comfort in seeing American anti-war feminists being honored. After all, the war that tired old 60s feminists oppose with such passion is killing Islamic women and men at breakneck pace; does anyone think that the majority of Islamic feminists think that’s a good idea?

We’ve spent twenty years preaching the gospel that calling fat women beautiful doesn’t make thin women ugly. Calling American feminists heroes doesn’t make Islamic feminists into chopped liver.

We need heroes; lots of them. There’s room enough for Wafa Sultan, Ilkya, the Women En Large models, and more. Don’t let the straw feminism arguments fool you for a second.

<br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Cinnamon+Stillwell” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Cinnamon+Stillwell” rel=”tag”>Cinnamon Stillwell</a><br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/feminism” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/feminism” rel=”tag”>feminism</a><br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/International+Women’s+Day” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/International+Women’s+Day” rel=”tag”>International Women’s Day</a><br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Islamic+feminist” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Islamic+feminist” rel=”tag”>Islamic feminist</a><br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Women+En+Large” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Women+En+Large” rel=”tag”>Women En Large</a><br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/straw+feminism” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/straw+feminism” rel=”tag”>straw feminism</a><br /> <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Body+Impolitic” mce_href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Body+Impolitic” rel=”tag”>Body Impolitic</a><br />

2 Responses to “Grasping At Straws (or Straw Feminists)”

  1. Alan Bostick Says:

    This particular strawfeminist argument is a small variation on something that Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky documented in Manufacturing Consent: distinguishing between the treatment of “worthy” and “unworthy” victims in the media. Worthy victims are the victims of our enemies, and unworthy ones are the victims of us or our allies. Twenty years ago the identified enemy was the Soviet bloc; today it seems to be the Islamic world. Herman and Chomsky compare and contrast the major media coverage of the murders of Polish priest Jerzy Popieluzko and Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Using the worthy-victims model, the only oppression of women worth mentioning is oppression by Islam.

    (Under Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship in Iraq, women walked bareheaded in the streets. Since the US has ended his reign of terror, women who walk in public unveiled risk beatings or worse. Which state of affairs do you think Cinnamon Stillwell thinks is better?)

  2. Body Impolitic - Blog Archive - » Making Feminism Up - Laurie Toby Edison: Photographer Says:

    [...] Meanwhile, his whole post is excellent. He chose not to use the term “straw feminism,” which we blogged about a few months back. I’m disturbed to see the particular straw feminist argument coming up more and more: how can you complain when things are so bad for women in the Middle East? Since no one in her right mind would deny the urgent problems women in that part of the world face (and children, and men, and everyone else), this nasty rhetorical trope works on two levels. [...]

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