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In February 2005 the Australian journalist Pamela Bone, already close to her death from cancer, published an article in the Melbourne Age entitled "Where are the Western Feminists?" Some of us would still like to know. 

The immediate spur to Pamela Bone's article had been the piercing silence from Western feminists on the subject of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's condemnation of how women were being treated in Islamic culture. In asking her question, Pamela Bone already knew why the Western feminists were saying so little. They were saying little not just about Islam, but about Hinduism or any other culture which, when the behaviour of its more extreme groups towards women attracts criticism, bridles as if it is being attacked as a whole. Of all the liberal democracies, Australia is the one where the idea is most firmly entrenched among the local intelligentsia that the culture of the West is the only criminal, all other cultures being victims no matter what atrocities they might condone even within their own families.

Perhaps the most successful example of how a Western liberal democracy can absorb migrant diasporas into its social texture, Australia would have reason to vaunt itself as a multicultural society if the supposedly universal unhappiness of the Aboriginals did not, in the eyes of its guilty intelligentsia, make the claim seem empty. But in Australia multiculturalism is not only a social aim, largely attained, it is also an ideology, in which form, to borrow Pascal Bruckner's useful phrase, it becomes the racism of the anti-racists. Australian multiculturalist ideologues will call anyone a racist who dares to suggest that another culture than the one in which they flourish might have aspects more repellent than their own. And it was just such accusations that Pamela Bone heard ringing in her ears when she made her exit.

The essay you are reading now has its own history, which will probably be part of its subject, because I have nothing original to say on the matter. Indeed, that was why I could never seem to get the thing written. That there were countries in the world where the culture visited hellish violence on women even when their governments professed a measure of equality, and that these governments were unlikely to temper the psychopathic inclinations of the culture unless there was a measure of democracy sufficient to separate the state from theocratic pressure: these conclusions seemed obvious. The only mystery was why so few female intellectuals seemed willing to reach them. 

Pamela Bone was still very much alive when I began making sketches for this essay back in the first year of the decade, before the successful attack on the World Trade Center. Her cancer had already been diagnosed but she was fighting it hard and had definitely not stopped writing. Indeed, she was producing some of her most adventurous things. She had made the inherent conflict between feminism and multiculturalism one of her subjects. 

To do so took bravery, especially in Australia, where the multiculturalist ideology — as opposed, often directly opposed, to the reasonable approval of multiculturalism as a desirable form of social organization — is not just a consensus, as I have said, but often thought to be fundamental to a liberal position, and therefore not to be questioned. The distinguished writer Helen Garner had been similarly daring when she raised the possibility that the occasional woman might be evil enough to accuse a man falsely of rape — a conjecture on Garner's part which drew the wrath of all those legions of Australian female pundits who seemed honestly to believe either (a) that if the occasional innocent man should get locked up it would be a small price to pay for the sure punishment of those men who were guilty, or (b) all men were guilty. Like Helen Garner, if on a less celebrated scale, Pamela Bone was a fine enough writer to make the onlooker toy with the possibility that these matters vital to women were being debated among them. 

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John Moseley
July 26th, 2014
10:07 AM
I loved this article for the characteristic excellence of James's prose and the passionate concern it expresses. But might the key to western feminist writers' silence on this subject be the same as the hey to James's own up to now? He says himself that he felt for a long time it was not his job, as a man, to take up cudgels on a feminist cause. Might western feminists not equally have felt that it was largely the job of Eastern feminists to argue for their own rights?

Prof. Dr. Wisam Mansour
November 25th, 2009
12:11 PM
Wonderful! I liked Clive's article. It is uncompromising and to the point. I enjoyed the occasional sardonic humor with which Clive describes oppressive cultures here and there and I couldn’t agree more with him. Screw multiculturalism when it interferes with a universal notion of justice! Now who is going to hang the bell for the mediation / eradication of systems and cultures that do not effectively practice the universal declaration of human rights?? The answer is simple and predictable: the west and those who adopt a western perspective. The Billion dollar question is how to do so?? I despair!!

PFFF
September 22nd, 2009
11:09 AM
The short answer is that any Western feminist/socialist etc is quite happy to criticise their own society but are quite frankly cowards when it comes to assessing and observing other societies. Those other societies could kill you, you know! They know that and will only scream/rant about those who will not harm them.

The Sad Truth
September 17th, 2009
12:09 PM
There is something westerners have failed to understand about ourselves vis a vis the Islamic world: THEY BELIEVE IN THEIR VALUES FAR MORE THAN WE DO AND ARE PREPARED TO DIE FOR THEM. Clive James, like most westerners today, hasn't risk a toenail for any principle, while Muslims blow themselves up daily in pursuit of beliefs. Asking western feminists to fight the cause of Muslim women is as useless as asking pigeons to fight global warming. They have far more resolve than we do and will never bend an inch in our direction We have to learn to live with that.

Annie
September 12th, 2009
1:09 AM
Bravo! One day in the not so distant future you western people will realise that you have been colonised and that the very tenants and fabric of your society have been erased. This implosion or indeed suicide is entirely lamentable but your own doing none the less.

Shakira Hussein
September 10th, 2009
3:09 AM
Apologies, I did not intend to post my previous comment (with the query about Helen Garner) anonymously - clumsy mouse-click. I would still be interested in a clarification from James on this one - it seems to me as though Garner, having been criticised for things she did say, is now being defended (by James) for things she did not say. Which, frankly, is at least as problematic.

Anonymous
September 7th, 2009
7:09 AM
I wondered whether Mr James could provide some more detail about his discussion of Helen Garner getting into trouble for saying that women make false claims of rape? Garner caused a major stir with her book "The First Stone", but that was about sexual harrassment, not rape - and she did not say that the womens' claims were false, just that they made much too much of a fuss about it. I don't remember her talking about false rape allegations, and if she ever did, they did not attract nearly so much attention as her discussion of sexual harrassment (and in that case, as I said, she concluded that the womens' version of events was basically true, she just disagreed as to its significance). Could James provide more detail about where Garner has talked about false rape allegations? I have not read every word she has ever written, so I don't deny that she may have done so - however I would repeat that if she did, they did not attract the level of attention that James describes - that was in relation to her discussion of sexual harrassment - and again, she did not claim that these allegations were false.

Anonymous
September 3rd, 2009
11:09 PM
Where are the Western Feminists? Would that not be you, Mr. James?

Boabhunter
September 3rd, 2009
3:09 PM
The point of this artical may be to wake up the silent west but it is the content that I find amazing. Amazing that people can still come on here and find cause to argue against the writer. People should be aware of the crazy actions that are happening on a daily basis and if in the correct position do something about it! I know I would if i knew how. And to all that are going to make comment on spelling and grammer, get a life and think about the consequences if you were born in the "wrong" country. Great Artical.

P
September 1st, 2009
2:09 AM
Kimserca resorts to "blah blah" as a supposed counter-argument. James's principal point is the *silence* of supposed intellectuals, whether inside Oz or out, and it's pretty hard to provide a quote of a silence. Plus, James refers to the extremity of the Northern Alliance that were used to displace the Taliban and by implication, the continuing Islamic misgyny of the present Afghan regime. He refers to the brutality of one of our principal allies, Saudi Arabia. He was clearly condemning all such oppresive regimes - does he have to list all of them? Harrah for Clive James. As he himself suggests, the only thing unfortunate about his piece is that it is not a woman who has written it.

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