Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS — The Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
Women’s Rights and Intersectionalism Don’t Go Hand in Hand
JNS.org — At a time when the achievements and struggles of women dealing with sexual assault and harassment in this country are finally gaining the attention they deserve, there are many important stories to tell about how far we’ve come — and how far we have yet to go to eliminate the toxic legacy of sexism. But as long as those who are being treated as leaders of a movement that champions this cause are mired in alliances with hate, there’s no point in ignoring a problem that goes deeper than Louis Farrakhan and his deluded admirers.
That Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, is still playing any sort of role in public discourse is a disgrace and something of a mystery. His open espousal of hatred in which he scapegoats Jews for the problems of African-Americans and the rest of the world has been a matter of public record for decades. Yet he still manages to maintain a mass following in the African-American community, as well as commands the respect and the support of prominent figures who are considered mainstream political voices.
The willingness of some members of Congress, including some who have received endorsements from left-wing groups like J Street, to continue to associate with Farrakhan is a scandal. But the embrace of the Nation of Islam leader by Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women’s March, which has led the “resistance” to President Donald Trump, is of special importance on International Women’s Day.
In Mallory’s case, the attention given her supportive presence at a recent Farrakhan speech — during which he accused the “satanic Jew” of controlling the government and seeking to undermine black men — has caused those involved with the Women’s March no small amount of embarrassment. But in its effort to back away from Farrakhan while still embracing Mallory, the March movement issued a statement that tells us everything we need to know about why they are in this mess.
Their embrace of intersectionalism — the belief that all forms of oppression are related — lies at the root of not merely the left’s soft spot for hate groups like the Nation of Islam, but also why they aren’t speaking out loudly enough about the plight of oppressed women in the Third World.
After being a silent for a week as a social-media storm about Mallory’s embrace of Farrakhan raged, the March movement finally issued a statement seeking to distance themselves from the controversy without actually condemning Farrakhan or ditching Mallory. At the same time, organizers acknowledged that “intersectional movement building” is difficult work. As such, they put forth: “Minister Farrakhan’s statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people are not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles, which were created by women of color leaders and are grounded in Kingian Nonviolence . . . We love and value our sister and co-President Tamika Mallory.”
If you think that sounds tepid, if not downright pusillanimous compared to their rhetoric about Trump or Republicans, you’re not alone.
But that’s the problem with those who have flung themselves into the moral abyss of intersectionalism. In that universe, all offenses against women or various sorts of bigotry are not created equal. If you buy into the notion that sexism in America is somehow linked to any issue identified with minorities or Third World causes, you wind up deciding that some hate-mongers or oppressors of women aren’t so bad.
That’s what makes a woman like Linda Sarsour, a vicious anti-Zionist who seeks the destruction of Israel — the only nation in the Middle East that is a democracy, and where women not only have equal rights but lead in every sector of society — an apt leader of the Women’s March.
It’s also why individuals associated with the March have condemned a champion of oppressed women in the Islamic world like Aayan Hirsi Ali, and why she is not welcome at their gatherings.
And it’s the reason that the same Women’s March and its intersectionalist leaders, like Mallory and Sarsour, have been conspicuously quiet about the courageous efforts of Iranian women to protest against the way they are treated by their country’s theocratic tyrants. Iranian women have been taking off the hijabs they are forced to wear by the ayatollahs and being thrown in jail for their defiance of Islamist laws. Yet a group that is supposed to be all about women’s rights hasn’t lifted a finger to help them or protest the regime that’s repressing them.
It has, instead, been expending energy trying to dance around their connection with a man like Farrakhan, who shares the Iranian regime’s irrational antisemitism. It has also continued to align their movement with those determined to destroy a Jewish state where women hold positions of power in the government and just about everywhere else.
The problem here isn’t that the Women’s March and its leaders have been too timid in its approach to Farrakhan. Nor is it the fact that they lack interest in events in Iran, where a real war on women is being waged. The real issue is that their intersectional ideology compels to them view those forms of hatred as irrelevant.
Advocates of intersectionalism like to pretend that the #MeToo movement that has exposed the routine victimization of women is just another part of the struggle against all forms of oppression. But if intersectionalism requires you to be silent about some oppressors of women and not others — and ambivalent about the country’s most flamboyant antisemite while you take to the streets to denounce Trump — then maybe it’s time for those who have embraced the Women’s March to realize how much damage it is doing the cause of women, as well as efforts to oppose hate.
The #MeToo moment is far too important in creating a better world for all of us to squander it on a crackpot leftist ideology that remains indifferent to Jew-hatred and Islamist theocrats.