Monday, June 25, 2007

Weekend Thoughts About Women

Saturday's WSJ had an interview with Mario Vargas Llosa, (paid link) novelist, storyteller. politician. He is speaking about how "Dictatorships poison everything in their grasp, from political institutions right down to relationships between fathers and sons."

... another disturbing current in Mr. Vargas Llosa's work that is less often discussed -- mistreatment of women, ranging from disrespect to outright violence. The abuses are particularly horrifying in "The Feast of the Goat," a novel based on the life of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who terrorized the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Mr. Vargas Llosa describes traveling to the Dominican Republic and being stunned to hear stories of peasants offering their own daughters as "gifts" to the lustful tyrant. Trujillo and his sons, he tells me, could abuse any woman of any social class with absolute impunity. The situation in the Dominican Republic, which he refers to as a "laboratory of horrors," may have tended toward the extreme, but it underscores a larger trend: "The woman is almost always the first victim of a dictatorship."

Mr. Vargas Llosa discovered that this phenomenon was hardly limited to Latin America. "I went to Iraq after the invasion," he tells me. "When I heard stories about the sons of Saddam Hussein, it seemed like I was in the Dominican Republic, hearing stories about the sons of Trujillo! That women would be taken from the street, put in automobiles and simply presented like objects . . . The phenomenon was very similar, even with such different cultures and religions." He concludes: "Brutality takes the same form in dictatorial regimes."

... As for the value of freedom, perhaps he puts it best in "The Feast of the Goat": "It must be nice. Your cup of coffee or glass of rum must taste better, the smoke of your cigar, a swim in the ocean on a hot day, the movie you see on Saturday, the merengue on the radio, everything must leave a more pleasurable sensation in your body and spirit when you had what Trujillo had taken away from Dominicans 31 years ago: free will."

Larry Johnson at LGF had the following story right behind the Hamas Using 6-year-old as suicide bomber tale... There is video.

In a lecture on Saudi Arabian television, Saudi cleric Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan says Islam guarantees rights to women, and anyone who says differently is an Islamophobic, ignorant, insolent infidel who’s trying to damage the image of Islam.

Then he proceeds to explain that women are twisted, silly, ignorant, prone to errors, driven by emotion, and weak. And when a Muslim man wants sex, his wife had better drop everything else she’s doing and get right to it. (Courtesy of MEMRI TV.)

Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan: The Prophet Muhammad said about women: “I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you,” and so on. This hadith and others like it were misunderstood by the ignorant. Corrupt people interpreted it in a way that differs from its original intent. Because of their ignorance, their insolence, their stupidity, and because of their enmity towards Islam and Muslims, they turned this hadith into evidence that Islam disgraces women, diminishing her value, and describes her in inadequate terms. ...

These hadiths provide some of the most decisive evidence that Islam protects women and guarantees their rights. Islam has surrounded the woman with a fence of compassion and mercy. It has shown that the twisted nature of women stems from their very creation. This is how Allah wanted woman to be. Therefore, the husband must adapt himself to her and be patient with her. He should not giver her too many things to do, or things that she is incapable of doing. He should not make her do anything that is contrary to her nature, and to the way she was created by Allah. In addition, he should turn a blind eye to her mistakes, he should tolerate her slips and errors, and put up with all the silly ignorant things she might say, because this constitutes part of the nature of her creation. In addition, women have surging emotions, which in some cases, might overpower their minds. The weakness with which women were created is the secret behind their attractiveness and appeal to their husbands. It is the source of women’s seduction of men, and one of the elements strengthening the bond between husband and wife. This is one of the wondrous miracles of Allah: The strength of a woman lies in her weakness. Her power of seduction and appeal lie in her emotions, which might overpower her mind at times. ...

Both husband and wife should satisfy their spouse’s natural urges, and should try to gratify their desires, as long as nothing prevents this. This is why the Prophet said: “When a man calls his wife to fulfill his needs, she must go to him, even if she is busy with the oven.” Imagine this: There is fire in the oven, and she wants to bake bread. But even if she’s busy with this work that cannot be neglected, when he calls her, she must leave the oven and go to her husband. Another hadith says: “She must go to him, even if she is on the back of a camel.” She must go to him, even if she is riding.

At home in America we have our own view and version of the feminism and women in the political world. The Nation magazine has a story on how Hillary's star is collapsing among some feminists...

... she told the Wellesley class of 1996, "Understand: Every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you." Come late 2006, however, Ephron was the one on the attack as one of the self-described "Hillary resisters"--those who believe that "she will do anything to win, who believe she doesn't really take a position unless it's completely safe," as she wrote on her Huffington Post blog, "who believe she has taken the concept of triangulation and pushed it to a geometric level never achieved by anyone including her own husband, who can't stand her position on the war, who don't trust her as far as you can spit."

... Women don't trust Hillary. They see her as an opportunist; many feel betrayed by her," wrote Susan Douglas in a May In These Times article titled "Why Women Hate Hillary." A month later, in her Newsweek column, Anna Quindlen declared, "The truth is that Senator Clinton has a woman problem."

Not exactly true, as it turns out. Hillary Clinton was the number-one choice of 42 percent of likely Democratic primary women voters in a recent Zogby survey, compared with 19 percent for Barack Obama and 15 percent for John Edwards. And her favorable rating among independent women is a whopping twenty-one points higher than among independent men.

Let's be clear: Hillary has a "feminist problem," and more so with those who lean left

"Having a woman in the White House won't necessarily do a damn thing for progressive feminism," writes Bitch magazine founder Lisa Jervis in LiP magazine. "Though the dearth of women in electoral politics is so dire as to make supporting a woman--any woman--an attractive proposition, even if it's just so she can serve as a role model for others who'll do the job better eventually, it's ultimately a trap. Women who do nothing to enact feminist policies will be elected and backlash will flourish. I can hear the refrain now: 'They've finally gotten a woman in the White House, so why are feminists still whining about equal pay?'"

Jervis's views were echoed by her peers on the blog Feministing, where Jen Moseley wrote, "As women sign up to work with anyone but Senator Clinton, of course, they're being asked why. That's the bad news. The good news is they're all giving the same answer. Being a woman does not get you the automatic support of women. There's no vagina litmus test, people."

Back at the WSJ Peggy Noonan writes about the Hillary charm offensive under the banner of "What's Not To Like?" (paid link)

Hillary Clinton doesn't have to prove she's a man. She has to prove she's a woman.

She doesn't have to prove to people that she's tough enough or aggressive enough to be commander in chief. She doesn't have to show she could and would wage a war. She has to prove she has normal human warmth, a normal amount of give, of good nature, that she is not, at bottom, grimly combative and rather dark.

This is the woman credited with starting and naming the War Room. Her staff has nicknamed her "The Warrior." Get in her way and she'd squish you like a bug. This has been her reputation for 20 years. And it is her big problem. People want a president to be strong but not hard.

A longtime supporter of Mrs. Clinton's spoke with candor some months back of her friend's predicament. "We're back where we were in '92--likability. Nothing has changed."

Back then, when the Clintons were newly famous, their consultants were alarmed to find the American people did not believe Hillary was a mother. They thought she was a person with breasts in a suit. She had a briefcase and a latte and was late for the meeting, but no way did she have a child.

So the Clintons began to include their daughter, Chelsea, then 12, in campaign appearances. Which helped.

As for her attempts to appeal to centrists, two items deserve note. One is that Mrs. Clinton has taken, on the stump, to referring to herself as "born . . . in the middle of America in the middle of the century." This is interesting because it's word for word what George H.W. Bush said in 1988 when he introduced his choice of Dan Quayle. She has also taken to referring to herself as famous but unknown, which is exactly what was said of Vice President Bush the same year. Mrs. Clinton seems to have been studying 1988, which was the last time anyone won the presidency in a landslide.

But there is another side of the Clinton campaign, and I found some of it this week. It is a new Web site called It is rather mysterious. It does not divulge who is running the site, or who staffs it. It is not interactive; it has one informative voice, and its target audience seems to be journalists and free-lance oppo artists.

And it reads like The Warrior's Id. Hillary "took on" a journalist this week and "beat him into submission." Bloomberg has "stripped himself of allies" in "New York's cutthroat politics." "Expect stormy days ahead for Bloomberg," who will wind up "lonely." Republicans "will attempt to rip him to shreds." "A May surprise announcement will be met with mounds of research accumulated over the next 11 months."

In tone the site is very Tokyo Rose.

Encouraging readers to send in "confidential tips," its primary target and obvious obsession is Barack Obama. " (D-Senator Barack ObamaRezko) is busy lately lying about President Bill Clinton" and "attacking entire communities." "We have written extensively on Obama, and his indicted slumlord friend Antoin 'Tony' Rezko. We have repeatedly warned David Axelrod, Michelle Obama and Barack Obama that this story is not going away." The Obama campaign is "still posing as innocents incapable of doing anything unsavory even as evidence mounts that unsavory is their favorite dish." "Dirty Obama Smear" and "Obama's Dirty Mud Politics" are two recent headlines.

This appears to be the subterranean part of Hillary's campaign, the part that quietly coexists with the warm, chuckling lady playing the jukebox with her husband. It coexists with the Maya Angelou part, the listening tour part, the filmed parts.

It is the war room part. I suspect the site is a back door to that war room.

After steeping myself in the "inside baseball" details of feminism, politics and America-centric self indulgence it was a relief to turn to the book review section of Saturdays WSJ and read about a new book called "Girls Gone Mild"... (to be released on Amazon on Tuesday)

A Modest Rebellion Modern feminism's compulsory coarseness spurs a backlash By PIA CATTON
June 23, 2007; Page P10

Girls Gone Mild
By Wendy Shalit
Random House, 316 pages, $25.95

It is by now almost impossible for anyone to deny some acquaintance with the phrase "girls gone wild." It is the unavoidable title of a video series in which -- one must rely here, in part, on the candor of male friends -- college girls drink too much, bare their breasts and go all kinds of wild for the cameras, usually during an artless attempt at vacation fun.

Luckily, Ms. Shalit argues, a rebellion is under way. In "Girls Gone Mild," she claims that more and more young women today, put off by our hypersexualized culture, are reverting to an earlier idea of femininity. They wear modest clothing and even act with unbrazen kindness. They don't mind abstinence programs at school, and they prefer a version of feminism based on self-respect rather than sex-performance parity. They also take matters into their own hands when craven adults neglect to object to the objectionable.

ellingly, the National Organization for Women invited the Pittsburgh girls to one of their conferences, to honor them for "taking action," but the girls themselves were put off by what they saw there. As one of them put it: "I support equality and would never like to be controlled by a man, but the NOW conference was more like a brainwashing feminist summit than anything else. They had this artistic performance that was so much about sex and how much all men suck; it made me feel sick."

Ms. Shalit has little patience for the thinking of the older generation of mainstream feminists. They are, she says, "so committed to the idea of casual sex as liberation that they can't appreciate or even quite understand these younger feminists." To them, modesty is a step back, even a betrayal of the liberationist spirit. "They don't understand," Ms. Shalit says, "that pursuing crudeness is the problem, not the solution."

Ms. Shalit is in a good position to speak on such matters. As an undergraduate at Williams College, she caused an uproar by objecting to the school's coed bathrooms. In 1999, she wrote "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue." Based on the response to that book, she later launched the online community Mode

What does this all add up to? One would like to believe that such protests -- together with growing doubts about the sexualized culture and growing networks of support for more traditional ways -- are a groundswell of good. But it is hard to say. By Ms. Shalit's own account, we are surrounded by excess that is justified by an ethos of "empowerment." And many of the figures in her book are admirable precisely because they have the pluck to counter a nearly overwhelming majority force.

One would certainly like to see a return to time-honored ideas of goodness -- and homemade desserts. But something is needed beyond such self-help advice and spirited cheerleading. If the young are indeed crying out for a change, "Girls Gone Mild" documents their first wave of counter-rebellion, and good for Ms. Shalit for pulling together so many examples. But that's a big "if."

The round-up..... women are badly treated in dictatorships and other oppressive regimes. America is focused on itself and cannot deal with the larger world beyond; the next generation sees things differently. Or at least some do...

There is hope. I need not sink into the Summertime Blahs of doom and despair about the future. Of course, I didn't need the weekend paper, blogs or magazines to tell me... I have three daughters and a son... There's a "whole lot of living going all around" as Lyle Lovett said. The problems were not made in one generation. They will not dissipate in one either.

I spent the rest of the weekend dozing in the hammock... What did you do?

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