Why I’m protesting the protests of March 8
Apparently, the election of Donald Trump has awakened a major feminist protest movement in America, first with the massive marches of Jan. 21 and now with “a day of strike” planned for March 8.
In a type of manifesto published on The Guardian titled, “Women of America: we’re going on strike. Join us so Trump will see our power,” eight protest leaders assert that “it is not enough to oppose Trump and his aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies.” Women’s conditions in America, they write, “have steadily deteriorated over the last 30 years,” because “lean in feminism and other variants of corporate feminism have failed the overwhelming majority of us.”
What I found especially striking in the manifesto is the sense of global solidarity: “The kind of feminism we seek is already emerging internationally, in struggles around the globe… Together they herald a new international feminist movement with an expanded agenda.”
So, why do I feel like protesting this day of protest? Because of its hypocrisy.
While the March 8 organizers claim to care for women around the world, there is no mention in the manifesto of arguably the most severe crisis facing women today: The continuing oppression of Muslim women throughout Muslim-majority countries.
It’s not as if the organizers are not aware of this oppression. Groups like Amnesty International (AI) have been covering it for years. In a previous column calling attention to this suffering, I wrote about Kajal Khdir in Iraq, who, according to AI, was “tortured and mutilated; family members cut off part of her nose and told her she would be killed after the birth of her child.” Her crime? She was accused of adultery by her husband’s family.
I also brought up Hannah Koroma from Sierra Leone, who was “genitally mutilated at the age of ten as a rite of passage.” According to AI, “the ritual was performed with a blunt penknife and Hanna was denied any anesthetic or antibiotics during and after the procedure.”
These are hardly isolated incidents—they are rooted in cultures that routinely tolerate the suppression of women. According to a 2013 Pew report on Muslim-majority countries, “In 20 of the 23 countries where the question was asked, at least half of Muslims believe a wife must obey her spouse.”
In the same study, the majority of Muslims in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq believe that a woman should not have the right to divorce her husband.
None of this “aggressive misogyny” made it into the manifesto for March 8. Why? I’ve heard several explanations. One, going after Muslim countries is a form of asserting “white privilege” or “white supremacy,” a major no-no in leftist circles. Two, any criticism of Islamic societies can open you up to charges of racism or Islamophobia. And three, since much of the criticism for Islamic oppression comes from people on the right, leftist organizers are loath to do anything that might help them.
These are the women I worry about the most—the ones who don’t have the freedom to march or protest.
To be honest, I’m not very moved by explanations. What really moves me is suffering—real, horrible suffering. It so happens that a lot of this suffering is happening to women in male-dominated, Muslim-majority countries. That’s not my choice, it’s a fact.
Of course, if you’re planning a popular protest movement, it’s hardly risky or courageous to target someone like President Trump in America. It would take a lot more courage to march at the United Nations and protest the theocratic dictators who sanction the routine abuse of women.
My liberal friends love to say that “it’s not either/or.” Well, why do I never see them protest at the United Nations in support of oppressed women in Muslim-majority countries?
And why are they not protesting the fact that one of the March 8 organizers, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, is a convicted terrorist?
Odeh was convicted in Israel in 1970 for her part in two terrorist bombings, one of which killed two students while they were shopping for groceries. After spending 10 years in an Israeli prison for her crime, she became a U.S. citizen in 2004 by lying about her past. Her case will go on trial this Spring.
Maybe she’s hoping that her work organizing the protests will gain her leniency with the judge.
She ought to know that millions of suffering women around the world can never count on such leniency. These are the women I worry about the most—the ones who don’t have the freedom to march or protest.
Who’s writing manifestos for these women?
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.