“Part of what it is to be courageous is to see reality accurately and to respond well in the face of it." ~ Jonathan Lear

10 September 2016

Why Islamists and feminists avoid confronting each other

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our system of diversity is the way feminists and Islamists avoid directly confronting each other. Their ideologies are utterly opposed to each other, but within the system they are allies, so maintain distance and attack others.

We can see this in how feminists resolutely avoid picking up on specifically Islamic-related instances of actual misogyny and discrimination in action. They nearly always stick to generalities and abstractions about the world or society as a whole, as Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers does in telling Owen Jones that, “We have a very misogynistic culture in the UK.” In this version of reality, there is a single culture – or at least all the cultures we have come from the same root - and it is ‘very misogynistic’.

This is the ‘patriarchy’ theory that is remarkably popular in the upper echelons of the liberal-left, just as it is among young feminists coming out of their Gender Studies courses at university.  You might wonder if Britain is “very misogynistic” what that makes Saudi Arabia for instance, but according to the generalities of feminist theory, they are just two different examples of the same thing – male oppression and female victimhood – but in different forms. The specifics of different cultures come down to the same root.

As Owen Jones puts it in his article:

“Men are conditioned from an early age to feel a sense of superiority over women, and to objectify women. Violence against women is the most extreme conclusion of a belief – nurtured over thousands of years – that women are subservient and exist to satisfy men. Rape, assault and murder exist on a continuum that begins with degrading jokes and comments; cat-calling in the street; images that objectify women; the shouting down of women for daring to have an opinion, often involving insults about their physical appearance on social media.”

This is universalist ideology – or ‘totalising social theory’ as we might call it – talking about the whole of society as something that we understand in its fundamentals – meaning we don’t have to pay much attention to actual reality as it shows itself. Jones’ use of the passive voice “men are conditioned” is instructive, for it abstracts away from any actual action of conditioning to the realm of universals where it just happens, and we all fall in to line doing it. We are all determined by it and have to join Jones and his fellow travellers and start propagating the same ideology in order to overcome it (thankfully of course, we don’t have to do that in reality, which is a relief).

What our actual culture is and our actual beliefs are irrelevant here, for they are conditioned into us – so Islamic codes on women’s dress and how they must live their lives aren’t fundamentally different in character from Western norms about womanhood. But you will rarely find feminists even confronting such questions – or at least when they do it is nearly always in order to withdraw back into the comfort zone of much broader generalities and ideological truisms. One of these is revealed by Jones in his article about male violence. He does bring in Muslims as an interested party, but only as victims – of white men. He says: “Misogynistic hate also intersects with other forms of bigotry: take the targeting of Muslim women on the streets by white men.” Of course, Muslim women are never targeted on the street by white women, and white women are never targeted on the street by Muslim men...that does not fit the narrative so it is not mentioned, while the accepted oppressor groups are highlighted.

This is the feminist standpoint, which is now virtually interchangeable with liberal-left identity and ideology. Both concentrate on what I’m calling ‘the administration of diversity’, which means keeping strictly to favoured/unfavoured identity group categories mapped on to victim/oppressor distinctions. Ideologues tend to call it ‘intersectionality’, as in the intersectionality of victimhood joining up all the different groups who are universally victims.

Islamists avoiding feminists - more about politics

For Islamists the tendency to avoid confronting feminists directly is rather different in character to that of feminists. It is much less ideological and more about practical politics (after all, their ideology concerns Islam and Islamic power and victimhood rather than the administration of diversity as a whole).

From the standpoint taken by Owen Jones above, making sure the correct victim groups and oppressor groups keep their places is a vital function – and it is a function that you can see him and others repeating again and again in what they say and do, almost as if by clockwork. It is a presiding perspective. It gives protection to the favoured groups, including by protecting them against criticism, while directing criticism either to broad generalities about society or to the unfavoured identity groups – of which ‘white men’ is a favourite given that it incorporates at least two unfavoured identity markers – of white skin colour and male sex (and also implies a third, of non-Muslim). 

We can see this protective stance in how liberal-left institutions like the Labour Party and the Guardian choose what to highlight and what they do not, but it also feeds out into general society through taboos of what we should all talk about and avert our eyes from. For us here, the point about Islamists* is that they benefit from this protection as the representatives of Muslims, including through representative organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Association of Britain and Islamic Human Rights Commission. The administration of diversity treats Muslims as a victim group (indeed with double victim status due to Muslims generally being non-white). So whenever these organisations and others speaking on behalf of Muslims claim victimhood – by crying ‘Islamophobia’ for example – they can expect the liberal-left to respond and support them, as with their opposition to the Government’s anti-extremism strategy ‘Prevent’.

These organisations and others routinely segregate women from men at events and invite speakers who preach about curtailing women’s rights in public life and against homosexuality. But they rarely if ever directly confront feminists who take the opposite standpoint. The reason is structural – for the protection and support they receive from administrators of diversity is at the very least allied to feminists if not actively feminist in character itself (as with Owen Jones). Any challenge to feminism directly would bring into question their place in the system and right to support and protection.

So it’s in the interests of Islamists to maintain that protection and access to wider public life and not remove themselves from the system which provides it. This means not offending those who preside over it or challenging the right of other favoured groups to favouritism. In consequence, rather than attacking and ridiculing feminists publicly, they stick to attacking broad generalities in their public pronouncements, like British society, the West, white racism and British foreign policy – keeping to the victimhood narrative. By doing this they do not challenge those who provide support to them, the system remains robustly intact, and politics can continue as it did before.

* I use ‘Islamist’ in the sense of a political standpoint that seeks to maximise the social and political power of Islam and Muslims. It is not the same as being a Muslim extremist or terrorist, but does include them just as the term ‘Irish republican’ includes peaceful nationalists and those who use violence to achieve their political ends.