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It is deplorable but unsurprising that the past 20 years have seen a cooling of a belief in the need for universal emancipation. Most women at the top of society are dependent on cheap and usually foreign labour. So, too, are their partners, who enjoy the benefits of a dual income. In these circumstances, going along with the belief that culture condemns certain women to servitude is a domestic convenience, the more so when speaking out against it is dangerous.

For at the root of the weird twists in liberal opinion I have been arguing against lies physical fear: the fear of provoking accusation of racial or religious prejudice; the fear of provoking trouble; the fear of provoking violent retribution. Generally, people do not own up to cowardice. They prefer to dress up it up in fine clothes and call it "respect for difference" or "a celebration of diversity". 

Julie Bindel, a veteran of radical feminist campaigns, remembers when such circumlocutions were unthinkable. She told me about a vigorous movement to force the police to investigate child abuse allegations in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in London.  Her sisters said that it would be racist for the police to leave it to the community to administer its own justice, as they had done in the past. They had to show that the same rules applied to everyone. 

"Now they say it is racist to intervene. They're so frightened of being called an Islamophobe, they will defend the right of men to force women to be shackled. They smugly declare that ‘we haven't got the right to impose our values on another culture' and think themselves liberal when they do it."

I accept that this may seem an odd thing to wish for, but what the world needs now is an uncompromisingly militant feminist movement.

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August 30th, 2009
5:08 PM
you're a magnificent writer (here as in so much of your work) mr cohen, and i am grateful we have you.

August 30th, 2009
3:08 PM
Of course the invasion of Iraq (which Cohen supported) did so much for women's rights. Women who opposed the war such as Cindy Sheehan and the Dixie Chicks came in for the full blast of misogyny from Cohen's hero Christopher Hitchens. Indeed Hitchens called them "f***ing fat slags". Finally, does Cohen consider the possibility that the Benson and Stangroom book got universally bad reviews because it is very bad book? Instead he peddles a bizarre conspiracy theory involving the literary editors of the broadsheet press. (Cohen's latest pot-boiler got a similar panning, so I detect a personal motive at work here.)

Ross Burns
August 29th, 2009
1:08 PM
This is serious stuff; and nowhere in this essay is there anything but someone throwing his intelligence in with the need for women to have better lives all over the world.

August 28th, 2009
8:08 PM
These people are cowards. The reason they won't speak in favor of the oppressed is because then they might have actually do something about the oppression. And, gee, what do you suppose we'd have to do to gain Islamic women the rights they deserve?

August 28th, 2009
6:08 PM
It seems to me that what you are describing is that men - a large number of them worldwide - hate women. Men 'invented' and 'police' god, ie religion, the religion itself is usually capable of being flexible. It's the way it is used for power, politics and control of women that is unacceptable. Any religion. So, guys, what are you going to do about it?

Tina Trent
August 27th, 2009
7:08 PM
It sounds that what the world needs now, primarily, is for "former Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips" to stop calling for "Sharia at the East London Mosque." Next, all the male lawyers can take equal responsibility with the female ones for calling for equality, and the columnists who imagine all of feminist liberation in terms of the tiny fraction of white females (ie. families) who have domestic help can actually check real demographics and also check with their non-feminist peers to survey the prevalence and race and income of their help before making presumptions about cause and effect. I know exactly no women with domestic help, and I know many, many, many people who otherwise fit the description. Caitlin Flanagan needs to put down her little mirror before taking up her little pen, and Germaine Greer has cabbage for brains: they represent precious little beyond their own neuroses and small portions of very select zip codes (well, Greer is on her own). On the other hand, you hit the hammer on the head in your last few paragraphs about the real reason why feminists remain silent but go no further to hypothesizing whether others remain silent for the same reason, which in that case would be a worse reason because they're relying on misdirection and scapegoating. You propose a radical feminist movement that can rise above accusations of racism? This article is an object lesson in the thin chances of that.

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